Superintendent's Update - May 26, 2023
From the Office of the Superintendent:
BOARD AGENDA CALENDAR
The Board agenda calendar can be found HERE.
As we approach the conclusion of the school year, it is time for us to reflect on our journey and plan for the future in the 2023-2024 academic year. Recent events have prompted us to expedite certain actions that were previously in the planning stages and introduce new measures to address concerns regarding behavior issues, communication, and student support.
The unfortunate incidents involving injuries to staff, along with other impactful events throughout this school year, have compelled us to take swift action for the coming year. We have listened attentively to the valuable feedback provided by our staff members, families, advocates, and other stakeholders, which has guided us in formulating the most effective steps forward.
While there may be additional initiatives on the horizon, the plans we are sharing today represent the necessary initial measures to enhance our school community. In order to thoroughly examine our practices, policies, training, and oversight, we have initiated a third-party external investigation into the recent incident at JLS Middle School. By conducting a systemic review, we aim to gain beneficial insights to inform improvements across our schools.
In response to the feedback from our Behavioral Support Team, classroom professionals, and additional stakeholders, we are committing to a significant increase in the number of Behavioral Intervention Coaches (BICs) at our school sites. We are actively planning to add twelve new positions, ensuring that our support system is strengthened and able to provide the necessary assistance. These twelve new positions will secure consistent behavior support at each school site. We recognize that this increase will have budget impacts; however, doing so is a top priority based on the feedback from our professional team of district educators and the concerned community.
Additionally, we have taken note of concerns expressed by our professional unions, Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) and California School Employees Association (CSEA), regarding staff members' training involving de-escalation techniques and handling physical altercations. To address these concerns, the district will be providing a modified Safety Care training for all employees next year. This training will equip our dedicated staff members with the skills they need to navigate challenging situations effectively.
To further enhance our support services, we will be fully staffing a second Therapeutic Services (TS) program at Fletcher Middle School, alongside the existing program at Greene Middle School. Furthermore, the elementary and high school TS program will continue operating at Duveneck Elementary and Palo Alto High School respectively, ensuring that our students across all grade levels receive the necessary therapeutic support.
In our upcoming June meeting, the Board of Education will be considering the adoption of a districtwide Social Emotional Learning program called Second Step, which will provide consistent support and guidance to our elementary programs. This program aims to foster healthy emotional development and build strong interpersonal skills among our students.
Recognizing the impact of social media on our school community, we have formed a new partnership with Josh Ochs and SmartSocial. Together, we will address the challenges associated with appropriate conduct on social media platforms. This collaboration will provide learning opportunities for both our families and students, empowering them to navigate the digital world responsibly.
Additionally, we are pleased to introduce the PAUSD Speaker Series, an engagement including six districtwide events designed for parents and students. These events will cover a range of relevant topics and offer valuable insights to our community, fostering a sense of togetherness and shared learning. We will work directly with our PTA and local partners to create the programs, with a calendar coming out prior to the start of next year.
Next school year, we will establish an ad hoc committee consisting of parents and staff members to facilitate collaborative discussions on district communication strategies and the establishment of clear expectations. This initiative will enhance our communication channels, promote better understanding, and reduce any potential confusion, creating a more connected community through established and sanctioned channels.
While some efforts may require negotiation and further implementation, we firmly believe in exploring additional avenues for improvement. It is important to acknowledge that implementing these initiatives comes with a significant financial investment. However, we are fully committed to prioritizing the well-being and success of our students, and we believe that the cost of not taking action would far outweigh the investment required.
We understand that the ending of this year has been challenging for some members of our community, and we empathize with the difficulties you have experienced. As we move forward, we are optimistic about the positive changes that lie ahead. By working together and implementing these measures, we can create a safer, more inclusive, and supportive learning environment for all members of our school community.
Gunn High 2023 Honorees: Assistant Principal Courtney Carlomagno (center) joins Sofia Hussain (11th grade), Chania Rene-Corail (11th grade), Madison Yue (12th grade), and Heeseo Jeong (11th grade) on May 23.
COUNTY AWARD FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
Four Gunn High School students received the Community Champion award at the Santa Clara County Office of Education Civic Engagement Expo this week. The county-wide recognition salutes their engagement as board members of the Gunn High School Student Equity Committee. The four students have organized and facilitated regular meetings where larger groups of at least 50 students engage in conversations about equity issues on the Gunn High campus. They also plan events to increase awareness of equity issues. The students have participated, alongside the student body, in workshops facilitated by Dr. Lori A. Watson from Race-Work. These workshops invite students from all four grade levels to build a “toolkit” while having conversations regarding their identities. They also engage individuals who commit microaggressions.The Student Equity Committee members are supported in their work by Principal Wendy Stratton, Assistant Principal Courtney Carlomagno, Multicultural Affairs Liaison and social studies teacher Tracie Carroll, and Multicultural Affairs Liaison and Wellness Outreach employee Rosie Castillo.
EQUITY LITERACY LEADERSHIP COHORT
Serve and Celebrate Others was the theme of the night as district leadership recognized the Equity Literacy Leadership Cohort (ELLC) for exemplary leadership and dedication to equity. Awards were presented to ELLC members and schools on May 24 in recognition of commitment to equity-focused leadership and action. These recognitions underscore the many hours spent learning, sharing, reflecting, and acting to create a more equitable and inclusive learning environment. Involved educators and staff serve as inspiring role models and ignite a sense of joy and hope in their peers. Their action reminds the entire community that although we still have far to travel, progress towards equity is achievable. Because they care, participants continuously step up and speak out with courage, and their gifts empower others to do the same in a way that generates a ripple effect across Palo Alto Unified.
This year’s Attendance and Engagement award recipients are Addison Elementary, Walter Hays Elementary, and Gunn High. Social Justice Warrior Awards honored ongoing commitment from Jessamy McKinney and Susan Turner (Fletcher Middle) and Courtney Carlomagno and Wendy Stratton (Gunn High).
Social Justice honors were also given for the active participation and training to step in and speak up in support of LGBTQ students. Walter Hays Elementary, Fletcher Middle, and Nixon Elementary received this year’s award. The Social Justice award for Leadership and Excellence was presented to Gunn High for fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
The Cohort consists of district wide educators and staff. It includes Addison Elementary (Jeff Downing, Taline Cox, Amanda Gantley, Annie Harrier; Barron Park Elementary (Judy Argumedo, Jessica Clancey, Nicholas Foote); Briones Elementary (Katy Bimpson, Kristin Howell); Duveneck Elementary (Leslie Crane, Linda Henigin); El Carmelo Elementary (Leonel Argumedo, Dina Kim); Fairmeadow Elementary (Iris Wong, Nayely Cortes Garcia, Lara Jarvis); Fletcher Middle (Melissa Howell, Jessamy McKinney, Susan Turner); Greene Middle (Sebastian Benavidez, Jedd Bloom, Danae Clohan); Gunn High (Wendy Stratton, Courtney Carlomagno, Tracie Carroll, Rosie Castillo); Hoover Elementary (Jim Sherman, Daniel Mendez); JL Stanford Middle (Chris Grierson, Diane Luu, Kari Nygaard, Steven Shirley); Nixon Elementary (Amy Sheward, Sarah Bloom, Christina Nosek); Palo Verde Elementary (Annora Lee); Walter Hays Elementary (Mary Bussman, Shawn Harvey, Michael Hauss, Kendra Williams);
Student and Family Engagement Specialists (Stacey Davidson, Christian Munoz); District Office (Yolanda Conaway, Robert Andrade, Kelly Bikle, Herb Espiritu, Kelly Martin, George Pinckney, Dawn Yoshinaga).
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH
The area of mental health is one of the five priorities of the PAUSD Promise. The staff understands the critical need to support our community, both through preventative measures and impactful interventions. Caring for the mental health of our students, staff, and families is essential. The Mental Health team is shining a light on its commitment to ensure the mental health and well-being of the district wide family. Through wellness activities and the sharing of resources, school sites are raising awareness about mental health in order to reduce stigmatization and increase accessibility to mental health support.