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Superintendent's Update - October 1, 2021

BOARD OF EDUCATION CALENDAR

The calendar is tentative until officially posted. The calendar can be found HERE.

GOVERNOR NEWSOM VACCINE MANDATE

Earlier today, Governor Newsom held a press conference to announce a vaccine mandate for California "in-person" students and all school district employees. Since the announcement will gain a great deal of attention, I will try to summarize what I heard, read, and discussed with his staff. Please understand that these announcements are often made on Fridays and typically require additional clarification. Expect some of the information contained in this update to change over time.

Governor Newsom announced that the vaccine mandate will occur in two phases. Many people interpreted his message to include a mandate for all school employees by January of this school year. It was not entirely clear if students 12 and older will be in the first phase, meaning a vaccine mandate in January. News organizations have reported different interpretations of his remarks, including full FDA approval of the vaccines before mandates are enacted. Again, this is out of our hands.

Children under 12 years of age will be in the second phase, meaning July 1. Unofficially, we have been told vaccination approval for children under 12 may occur around February. Again, this is unofficial.

What does this mean for employees? We don't know yet. Less than 30 days ago, Governor Newsom said they were not looking at a vaccine mandate. PAUSD already has a testing requirement for all employees currently unvaccinated, in process of vaccination, or declining to state. If the mandate is executed in January, we should expect a lot of information coming our direction from multiple sources. We will work with our partners in CSEA (classified), PAEA (certificated, including teachers), and PAMA (administrators) beginning next week to make sense of the best information we have.

What does this mean for families who choose to not vaccinate their children? Again, we are not sure yet. Governor Newsom stated that the COVID vaccine would be added to the mandatory list and that schools would follow established guidelines. I would be surprised if California would be willing to exclude large numbers of students across the state as early as three months from now. Virtual or Independent Study programs are not widely used for students who refuse other vaccinations. This topic will require extensive clarification and planning.

Finally, the vaccine mandate will evoke strong opinions on both sides. PAUSD has stated from the beginning of the conversation that we would follow state mandates. That position has not changed. It will take a little time to work through details that nobody has seen. We will provide information as it becomes available to our valued staff members and students.

We do know that PAUSD employees are vaccinated at a very high rate. The Santa Clara County has stated that our students 12 and older are also highly vaccinated. We have weekly testing on our school sites and plan to further expand our testing efforts. Additionally, we plan to increase our outreach to serve as a testing option for residents. Finally, we are in discussions with a group to provide vaccination and flu shots as part of our service to the community.

PAUSD PROMISE - COMMITMENT TO EQUITY

The PAUSD Promise establishes our commitment to equity and our staff is working hard to deliver on the promise that "all students shall experience an environment characterized by high expectations, acceptance, respect, and support to become invested in the pursuit of learning and excellence without fear of threat, humiliation, danger, or disregard."

When we hear of concerns that we are not living up to our commitment, we do our best to try and address them. We were made aware that on September 24, the PTA hosted a Heritage Family Picnic at a local park and displayed flags of countries across the world at Barron Park Elementary School and several countries were not included in the display. This omission caused some concern from the community. We have confirmed that this omission was not intentional.

We will continue to partner with the PTA to ensure that cultural events and displays are reviewed to ensure that we have considered any unintended consequences. Sincere thanks to the PTA for their efforts to honor the heritages represented in our community.

RECENT EARLY LITERACY ASSESSMENTS

The Districtwide Teachers College Writing (TCW) formative assessment is an informational writing prompt that is administered in fall and spring to students in TK-5.

The purpose of the prompt is to set a baseline that aides in tracking writing growth for a student over the course of a school year, and ultimately over the course of many years. Student responses help guide teachers in determining the next steps for teaching, as well as students as they reflect on their next steps for continued learning. Amanda Hartman, Teachers College Senior Staff Developer, described it this way, "On-demands are to show what each student, kindergarten through fifth grade, can do in one sitting. It won't show all that a student can do in writing. Rather, the purpose is to show growth and success over time."

DYSLEXIA SCREEN

The Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen is a dyslexia screener for K-3 students who may be at risk for reading difficulties. It emphasizes phonological, linguistic, and academic performance from teacher observations. A teacher completing Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen rates statements regarding a student's language and frequency of academic behaviors.

All PAUSD students in grades K-3 will be screened by classroom teachers using the Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen each school year to identify those students who may be at risk for reading difficulties, such as dyslexia. First through third grade teachers will complete the screening of their students in the next few weeks. Kindergarten teachers will complete the screening in April, after students have received their first year of instruction in reading and are beginning to develop academic behaviors.

SEEKING COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO SERVE ON THE CITIZENS' PARCEL TAX OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (CPTOC)

The PAUSD Board of Education seeks applicants for appointment to a 10-member, independent, volunteer committee. The committee reviews and report to the public on the District's parcel tax expenditures. Applicants must reside within the Palo Alto Unified School District. An applicant may not be an employee, contractor, consultant, or vendor of the District. The successful applicants will serve a term from the date of appointment through December 31, 2027.

The purpose of the CPTOC is to advise the Board on the expenditures funded by Measure O in order to help ensure that said funds are spent for the purposes approved by the voters. The committee will monitor the expenditures of these funds by the District and will report on an annual basis to the Board and community on how these funds have been spent.

Application forms can be obtained and submitted by emailing Beti Loomis, or by writing to:

Carolyn Chow, Chief Business Officer
Palo Alto Unified School District
25 Churchill Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94306

You can also obtain information by calling 650-329-3980. All applications must be received no later than 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 19, 2021.