Superintendent's Update - March 10, 2023
From the Office of the Superintendent:
BOARD AGENDA CALENDAR
The Board agenda calendar can be found HERE.
NEW BIRTH REMINDS US OF HOPES AND DREAMS
I became a grandfather a few days ago for the first time. My son and his wife brought Jack into the world, along with a million pictures. They are out of state, so I will not get to hold him until next weekend. I'm looking forward to it!
Babies are born every day, and I am certainly not the first new grandpa! It has been a while since a baby was born in our family. I was struck by how quickly thoughts turn from checking on the health of everyone involved to thinking about the future. The first thing everyone asks for is the stats. How long? How much does he weigh? Isn't it funny that the competition begins minutes after entering the world!
Everyone hopes for a healthy child. Once that box is checked, those hopes evolve. Will he be 6'4" (probably not)! At what age will he read his first book? When will he take his first steps? When will he say his first words? How will he perform at his kindergarten readiness assessment? What??? When you write it down, it reads like a series of competitions. Is the question: when will he read, or will he read faster than other kids? It is a fair question.
I get caught up in the competition stuff as much as anyone. I am more mindful about what really matters at this point in my life than I was when raising my own three kids. I wish we could have celebrated who they were becoming as people more than how they performed against their peers. They were pretty advantaged and did perform well. This was true academically and athletically. They all turned out to be caring people who have strong beliefs about the way others should be treated and represented. Reflecting back, I wish THAT was the competition. Competing on behalf of others. That's worth "winning."
So...my hopes for Jack...I hope he is able to laugh at himself when he gets old enough to know when he has made a mistake. I hope he is a great friend to many. I hope he sticks up for people who are less able to self-advocate. I hope he has a heart full of love. I hope he has fun at school and shares stories with his family when he gets home. I hope he lives a long and healthy life full of contributions to humanity. I hope he invests in others and is a part of their successes and a confidant when they fall short. I hope…
SCHOOL-BASED MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS PROGRAM UPDATE
The District's commitment to schoolwide wellness and high-quality mental health care for our students, staff, and families is a priority. The new School-Based Mental Health Model provides the opportunity for District-employed mental health staff to provide consistent mental health support and services for our students, staff, and families who align with the District’s overall vision for mental health and wellness.
Since the start of the school year, there have been approximately 400 referrals for therapy across elementary schools and approximately 100 referrals for middle schools. Mental Health and Wellness Associates are an integral part of the school community. They collaborate with families and staff to provide services for students and the community. Currently, seventeen percent of referred students are on a waitlist. Meeting the mental health needs of the smaller elementary sites that share an associate has been a significant challenge. Additional support is also needed at the middle school level to alleviate an extensive waitlist.
Mental Health and Wellness Associates support students for a variety of needs. In elementary, students are most often referred for concerns resulting from behavior, peer relationships, emotional dysregulation, and anxiety. In middle school, students are often struggling with internalizing problems such as anxiety, sadness, and self-esteem/self-confidence. Challenges with family relationships and academic stress present more of a concern as students enter adolescence.
Wellness Centers are present at each middle school this year. In the Wellness Center, the Mental Health and Wellness Associate develops activities and holds space for students who need a calming and supportive environment involving a trusted adult. Wellness Centers are open before school and during lunch. Each week, approximately 100 students visit the Wellness Center. Since the beginning of the school year, there have been more than 3,600 visits to the middle school Wellness Centers.
Parents are an integral part of the therapy process. Parents meet with the associate to discuss progress on goals, share strategies, and modify the plan as necessary.
Daily presence of mental health and wellness associate who is fully integrated as part of the school team and community
Positive relationships with students as another trusted adult on campus
Progress in destigmatizing mental health by making this subject a priority and part of the regular school program
An update of the School-Based Mental Health and Wellness program and recommendations for next steps will be presented at the March 14 PAUSD Board meeting.
HOFFMAN AWARD FOR CHILD DEVELOPMENT PATHWAY
PAUSD's Child Development Pathway has been recognized by the Santa Clara County School Boards Association with a Hoffman Award. The District's Director of Innovation and Agility, Dr. Jeong Choe recognized the leadership of innovative teacher, Hilary McDaniel, who has been instrumental in providing unique experiences for our students.
The Hoffman Awards were initiated in 1984 by the Santa Clara County School Boards Association to provide recognition to successful school programs that have a significant impact on student success in the county. Named for the former County Superintendent (1967-84), these awards exemplify Dr. Glen Hoffmann’s strong belief in educational leadership as the key factor in educational reform.
Each fall, Districts are invited to identify programs they consider worthy of commendations and consistent with a free, public education for all students. PAUSD's program will be honored at an upcoming awards ceremony this May.
SPECIAL EDUCATION DEPARTMENT PARENT ENGAGEMENT AND INFORMATION NIGHTS
It was wonderful to see many families attend the following events co-hosted by the PAUSD special education department, Palo Alto CAC for special education and the Palo Alto Council of PTAs.
On Wednesday, February 22, the fourth Annual Transition Individual Educational Plan (IEP) Parent Night was held at the District Office. Rising sixth, ninth, and post-secondary parents were invited to this informational presentation to hear an overview of the District’s special education programs for middle school, high school, and postsecondary including general course selection, placement, and Q & As.
On Tuesday, February 28, the Palo Alto Inclusive Resource Fair for summer camps and afterschool programs was held at the JLS Middle School Cafetorium. Dr. Lee, San Jose State University associate professor, gave a presentation called Physical for All and PAUSD Adaptive Physical Education teachers demonstrated activities during the interactive presentation. More than thirty exhibitors participated and covered various topics for a variety of age ranges and needs from early elementary through young adulthood. A creativity cart and art activities were offered for children while parents enjoyed the exhibit.
On Tuesday, March 7, the annual CAC Sweetheart Award Ceremony took place at the Addison Elementary School MP Room. More than sixty-five PAUSD staff and students were nominated for their kindness and outstanding support of our students with disabilities, 504 plans, or learning differences. The event started in 2005 and was presented by Palo Alto CAC to demonstrate appreciation for individuals who make a positive impact on our students and families. Congratulations to the Safe Routes to School program. It was recognized at the CAC Sweetheart Awards for sponsoring the adapted bikes rodeo supporting mod-severe student groups.
STUDENT NUTRITION SERVICES SUGAR REDUCTION EFFORTS BEGINNING IN MARCH
As of this month, PAUSD staff are targeting the amount of sugar in the breakfast menu by providing reduced sugar alternatives to students. Here are the changes:
Supplied reduced sugar cereal options (Cheerios/Corn Flakes/Golden Grahams).
Removed items that may have contained corn syrup or corn syrup solids and replaced those items with Greek Yogurt/Nut Free Granola/Fresh Fruit for a build-your-own parfait option.
Added a hot entrée on Fridays to the Secondary Breakfast menu.
Introduced a pilot option at the elementary level that includes hot entrees with fresh fruit and no syrup. The entrees offered include:
Egg & Cheese on a Whole Grain Biscuit or English Muffin;
Egg, Cheese, & Sausage Wraps in a Whole Grain Tortilla; and
Silver Dollar Pancakes served with fresh fruit.
The next steps include working with site principals to remove assorted juice from the breakfast selections.
PAUSD staff are conducting a survey concerning the targeted changes to the elementary lunch and breakfast menus. Elementary parents are encouraged to respond to the survey being sent this weekend.