Mobile/Tablet Menu

Desktop Menu

Search Container

Superintendent's Update - November 12, 2021

BOARD OF EDUCATION AGENDA CALENDAR

The Board of Education agenda calendar is a tentative look at upcoming items. It should be considered tentative until each agenda is posted the Friday before meetings. You can find the current calendar HERE.

SERVICE TO OTHERS

One of our five priority goals for this year is Service to Others. We have asked each of our schools to look for opportunities to engage in service on behalf of others. If community members have ideas, please contact your site principals or PTA presidents.

Green Space Project

Gunn High School students, under the guidance of mentors, work experience and Social-Emotional Learning and Functionality (SELF) teachers, are working to restore and nourish the gardens at Barron Park. Students have already weeded and planted native plants and vegetables and are excited to engage in this outdoor learning experience. They will later see the fruits of their labor blossom. Upcoming projects include renovating signs and adding a space for students to relax and read.

Haunted House Project

PAUSD continues the tradition of having Gunn engineering and robotics students create a Halloween haunted house experience for elementary students. This October, Gunn students served Briones Elementary School students by building a haunted house for them to explore and enjoy. In past years, they also created a fun and spooky experience for Fairmeadow Elementary School students.

Playground Stencil Project

Through the Family Consumer Science pathway, participating elementary schools (Barron Park, Escondido, Greendell, Fairmeadow, Hoover, Palo Verde, El Carmelo, Nixon, and Ohlone), will install outdoor stencils that aim to help the physical and mental development of children in a fun and engaging way. Greene Middle School students created lesson plans for the stencils in advance of the expected installation in December 2021. In addition, Paly early childhood development students are creating activities, for use upon completion of the stencil installation, to support social-emotional learning of Greendell students.

Creativity Cart Project

Paly and Gunn students have been helping to provide creativity cart activities for elementary students by assembling activity materials. These activities are delivered monthly to all participating elementary schools, in an effort to nurture creativity and innovative skills, while exploring monthly themes connected to various careers. In September and October, high school students supported this initiative by providing 1,337 "Future You," and 1,383 "Spooky Spectacular" activity kits for the youngest learners. For November, teachers have requested 1,764 kits. The theme, incorporating the book, "Gratitude is my Superpower," by Alicia Ortego, will encourage students to reflect on agriculture, community, and gratitude.

RETURN TO THE STAGE

Many things have returned to our schools after our prolonged closure. One of the last things to return was performing arts. We are happy to share that drama, music, and choral performances are back on stage with audiences. Our students prepare like professionals and deserve the opportunity to hear applause for their efforts. Thank you to everyone involved in bringing back performing arts safely and at a high level.

MENTAL HEALTH AND THOUGHTS FOR THE HORIZON

We knew that many people would struggle for a variety of reasons when it was time to return. This has been true. The holiday season is traditionally challenging for some people under normal circumstances.

Staffing shortages across the country have also impacted workers in the mental health profession. We have lost services from CASSY (therapeutic counseling) due to their challenges in recruitment and retention. We would hire our own therapeutic counselors, but they don't exist right now.

While still in the developmental stages, we are considering an approach to leverage local licensed therapists to assist in our efforts to support students. Assistant Superintendent of Student Affairs and Equity, Lana Conaway, is spearheading an exploratory effort to gauge interest with local professionals. If successful, there may be a way to provide space to local therapists who can utilize students' health insurance to provide services on our sites during the school day. Of course, PAUSD would assist with those without insurance. It is just an idea at this point, although we think it is worth highlighting. If you are a licensed therapists and have an interest in helping, please contact Ms. Conaway at yconaway@pausd.org. We will share more as the idea develops.

FLETCHER MIDDLE SCHOOL ENROLLMENT LOTTERY

Fletcher Middle School is the smallest middle school in PAUSD. As a result, Fletcher has lost support staff and has limited some programs based on enrollment declines. Fletcher has capacity for over 700 students, yet currently serves less than 520. Fletcher's current 6th and 7th grade students combine for a total of 319 students.

I recently met with the full Fletcher staff to discuss the idea of a controlled lottery to increase enrollment. The initial plan under consideration is to allow a number of students yet to be determined to enroll in Fletcher regardless of their attendance boundary. Fletcher is a "feeder" school to Gunn High School, meaning students matriculate from Fletcher to Gunn as a group. Students who utilize the lottery to attend Fletcher would also matriculate to Gunn with no further action required.

The exact numbers of lottery slots have not been determined at this time. It is proposed to take steps to move the Fletcher enrollment in the direction of 600. Without an intervention of some kind, Fletcher could conceivably drop under 500 students in 2022-23.

The proposed lottery would have no impact on established attendance boundaries. The proposal is being discussed at the next meeting of our Board of Education. No action will be taken at this meeting. There are no proposed changes to attendance boundaries at any PAUSD schools for next year.

VACCINATION CLINIC

PAUSD was contacted today as a possible vaccination site to serve this region of Santa Clara County for children 5-11. We have accepted the invitation and are awaiting more information. The event is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, November 21. They still have many details to work through on their end. We will send out information directly once everything is confirmed.

HOMEWORK

As part of our ongoing work in mental health, PAUSD will survey secondary students regarding homework soon after we return from Thanksgiving. We are interested to see how student experiences have been impacted after additional focus on homework and adherence to our existing policies. The survey will only take a few minutes and will be important to calibrate our progress.

FIELDTRIPS & VOLUNTEERS

We have received questions about overnight fieldtrips and adult volunteers on campus. Both have been restricted due to COVID protocols. We plan to reevaluate overnight fieldtrips in January. At that point, we will have a better idea of our vaccination rates at all levels. We expect to lift the overnight fieldtrips restriction for secondary sites first. We also believe we are nearing the time to allow more volunteers on campus. Like fieldtrips, we plan to reevaluate our protocols in January and appreciate your patience.

EARLY LITERACY

Assistant Superintendent of Student Affairs and Equity, Lana Conaway, gave a compelling presentation to the Elementary English Language Arts Pilot and Adoption Committee members regarding one of the PAUSD Focus Goals: Equity and ways to evaluate this critical element within the District Lens or Criteria. The three curricula piloted this year are each assessed using the District Lens or Criteria by committee members.

Ms. Conaway provided context for our committee, citing PAUSD SBAC data and the Every Student Reads Initiative, "Before we attribute the outcomes to the characteristics of the students, we will take a closer look at the following, educators, environment, curriculum, and pedagogy." Ms. Conaway led the committee through a dynamic session providing an equity tool that is effective teaching all content areas. At the end of the day, one teacher shared, "Thank you for setting a great tone for the work today." Another teacher commented, "I loved today's opening. I was already super impressed by Lana from the first time I heard her speak at a professional development day years ago. I so appreciated her setting the lens this morning."

Our students and families depend on educators who continue to grow and develop their instructional practice in how children learn to read and equitable pedagogical methods, including understanding the diverse student populations we teach. Our equity focus and this year's professional development on foundation skills through the Orton-Gillingham (OG) methodology are a part of that regular improvement to meet the distinct learning needs of our students. We will grow our readers and transform student lives as we provide representative, rigorous, and relevant intentional reading instruction across PAUSD.