Superintendent's Update - February 3, 2023
From the Office of the Superintendent:
BOARD OF EDUCATION AGENDA CALENDAR
The Board agenda calendar can be found HERE.
TOPICS IN THIS UPDATE
As your superintendent, I write most of the content for the weekly updates. This week, I have asked staff to write about safety measures in greater detail. I would like to add my own context before getting to their report.
School safety is a top priority. Many aspects of school safety are uncomfortable to think about due to the high stakes involved. Philosophies on school safety are as varied as views on any complex topic. States, regions, and individual school districts have different approaches.
Comprehensive formal safety plans are detailed and include many words. I would like to share a few basic core beliefs that largely drive the District’s actions in this area:
Desired public access points to school sites should be clear and intuitive (especially at elementary schools).
Authorized visitors should be easily identified through check-in systems.
Students will participate in age-appropriate drills and discussions to prepare for emergencies.
Systems, including phones, cameras, public announcement equipment, alarms, and notification tools, will meet or exceed the industry standard.
Partnerships and collaboration with local law enforcement and response agencies are essential.
Reporting suspicious or concerning behavior and threats is vital to maintaining safe schools.
Threats made by students or adults will be treated seriously and will typically involve law enforcement. We strongly encourage our staff and parents to reiterate this point with our students. There is no room for inappropriate threatening comments. This includes verbal, physical, or posts on social media. The fear and disruption caused by threats is significant and negatively impacts the learning environment for everyone.
The best time to prepare for an emergency is well before it occurs. Taking a proactive approach to emergency planning helps to ensure the best possible outcomes for the District. The following are just a few of the things we have been working on this school year.
Through PAUSD’s new phone communications deployment, emergency alerts have been enabled. This allows us to immediately notify all appropriate stakeholders within the school or organization when 911 is called from a District phone. The notification includes the exact location of the extension being used to call in the event of an emergency. The location is also shared with 911 dispatch.
Alert buttons have been configured into the unified communications deployment in every classroom. These buttons can be tied to messages and groups to send alerts when the button is pressed. This makes it an easy and discreet way to call for assistance. The message also includes the location of the panic button being used.
Intercom speakers have been tied into every classroom, every main office area, and strategically placed in other indoor/outdoor locations for emergency preparedness. By integrating mass notification and overhead paging, we are now able to send live or pre-recorded audio messages through our intercom speakers. Pre-recorded messages allow us to build message templates that can be quickly deployed, and with LCD displays, we can also post visual messages inside the classroom.
With the installation of video cameras at all entry points, we have found multiple uses for them. Not only do they serve as a way to review footage involving an incident, but it can help us for other things such as monitoring school sites during major storms in order to avoid potential flooding. They served us well during our last major storm, helping us to avoid thousands of dollars in flood damage.
Planning with Local First Responders
With the help of the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services (OES), we have been planning for both on-site and off-site evacuation points. Student reunification processes have been established along with on-site check-in and release protocols for large scale disasters. Stay tuned for more information to be released by your school principal.
Incident Command System Training (ICS)
PAUSD trains staff on how to respond to emergencies using the Incident Command System (ICS). ICS is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response for managing incidents of any kind or complexity (i.e., it expands or contracts as needed). It allows staff and local first responders to meld rapidly into a common management structure with common terminology, avoids any duplication of efforts, and provides a unified, centrally authorized emergency organization.
In line with state law, PAUSD implements multi-hazard practice drills including fire drills, earthquake drills, and active shooter drills. As required, fire drills are scheduled once a month for elementary, once a quarter for middle school and twice a year for high school. Earthquake drills are done once a quarter for elementary and once a semester for both middle school and high school. Active shooter drills are done once a year. Going above what is required, sites also conduct full scale disaster drills where the ICS is practiced.
A Community Oriented Safety Program
For those interested in a more hands-on approach to school safety, PAUSD will soon be looking for volunteers in a new community-oriented safety program. Unlike PAUSD’s pre-pandemic School Safety Committee, we are now looking at a more site-specific approach for stronger support in each school community. Much like the original Safety Committee concept, PAUSD Safety teams are to include district and site admin, certificated and classified staff, parents, and secondary students. The new approach will include training, bi-weekly site meetings, monthly Districtwide meetings, and team leads to offer support at each site. More information will be released by your school principal.
MATH VALIDATION PLAN FOR THIS SPRING
The Middle School Math Program covers four years of math in three years, with Algebra 1 taught in the 8th grade. For current 5th grade students considering math choices and wishing to accelerate to 7th grade Concepts in Math courses during their 6th-grade year, there will be an opportunity to take the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project (MDTP) 6th Grade Readiness assessment (approximately one hour) during a school day in late April or early May 2023. In addition, students who meet all critical levels will be invited to participate in the math validation process in May 2023. More detailed information will be provided at a later date.
FLETCHER MIDDLE SCHEDULED TO RECEIVE SCHOOL TO WATCH HONOR
Fletcher Middle School is being honored as a California and national School to Watch. This award follows a detailed application process and various classroom visits by the California League of Schools committee members. Additionally, results from interviews with school staff, community residents, district staff, and Board members proved worthy in this invaluable outcome for FMS. The award now deems Fletcher a “model and mentor” for middle grades and educators.
Selected schools in this process prove to actively focus on the need to: advance academic excellence, demonstrate sensitivity to developmental challenges, embrace social equity and fairness, and strengthen learning through organizational structures and processes. Schools to Watch honors are granted for a three-year time frame across an intercommunity of more than 600 schools in 17 states. Schools may reapply for the award.
STUDENT NUTRITION SERVICES PROGRESS
The Student Nutrition Services Department is having a strong year and continues to improve while making strides to use methods reflecting pre-pandemic days. Prior to the pandemic, the department served approximately 225,000 meals through the end of each January. As of January 31, 2023, almost 650,000 meals were served.
In 2022, the Student Nutrition Services Department received a Kitchen Infrastructure and Training Grant, which allowed the team to improve scratch-cooking techniques by joining Chef Laura Stec. The first Staff Development Day was utilized as a training to enhance both knife skills and scratch-cooking.
The second Staff Development Day allowed staff to recreate the scratch-cooked entrees, including salads, and share them with students, staff, and the community during the PAUSD Annual Tasting Day. Entrees and salads featured at Tasting Day are becoming available on the PAUSD menus. Please see the blog posted on The Almanac website.
Menu Advisory Meetings are held with parents, administrators and a group of students to review menus and focus on all aspects of the program. Student Nutrition Services also meets with Student Council groups and works directly with students to receive input on menu ideas and other suggestions, including thoughts on areas of improvement.
The department is in the process of restarting the Reusable Lunch-Ware Program. This program was in place prior to the pandemic. Addison, Walter Hays, and Fairmeadow Elementary sites are active with this program. Duveneck, Barron Park, Briones, and Hoover are scheduled to restart during February and March of this year.
AD HOC COMMITTEE UPDATE
As the District works towards launching four new ad hoc committees on topics involving English learners, elementary behavior support, dual enrollment, and mental health, we are seeking diverse stakeholder feedback. Community, staff, and student applications have been created to promote inclusive participation for these new committees. Please show your interest through the forms linked above.
The Consent Education Committee met this week. While the committee is working on areas of need, they also drafted the PAUSD definition of consent education: “Consent is the ongoing power to define and communicate what is comfortable for me and to recognize and respect the boundaries of other individuals.” Another highlight to add is that the Secondary Bell Schedule Committee recently completed its charge. The committee focused their efforts on potential allocation of minutes within the school day and within parameters to share with staff. The committee also met state requirements and complied with collective bargaining agreements and District priorities. Determining start and end times of schools were not part of the charge. Key takeaways and recommendations to the Board of Education are scheduled to be shared at the Feb 14, 2023, Board meeting. For more information, visit our webpage.