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Superintendent's Update - September 10, 2021


The Board of Education calendar is tentative and subject to change prior to official posting. The calendar can be found HERE.


The PAUSD Promise was formally adopted on June 18, 2019, after tremendous input from stakeholders. Momentum was strong throughout the first semester of 2019 with many reasons to be optimistic about our efforts positively impacting student outcomes. The COVID pandemic closed schools in March of 2020, and undeniably derailed our efforts in the Promise while turning our attention to navigating unprecedented times.

PAUSD schools were the first to return to in-person instruction in our region during the 2020-21 school year. We believe that providing opportunities to return in-person, combined with a dramatically improved distance learning program, were our success markers for the year. Our thanks go to everyone who made the transition possible despite incredible challenges.

We enter the 2021-22 school year with renewed optimism and enthusiasm. The original PAUSD Promise has been modified to reflect the realities of returning after a prolonged and unimaginable closure. It is time for us to return our focus and energy to improving outcomes for students, while providing a safe environment for staff and students. We are up for the challenge!

The priority goals for 2021-22 reflect a desire to identify and influence things that are important and within our control. Of course, PAUSD will make progress in many areas beyond the five priority areas. We also understand that a long list of activities is a poor substitute for concise priorities. Hopefully, our stakeholders will see themes in our priority areas:

Nothing is more important than the Mental Health of our students, staff, and families. Starting with early routine checks with students, our mental health practices and service will be at the front of the line for priorities.

A year and a half of isolation makes Service to Others one of our priority areas. It is important for staff and students to consider giving of themselves with no expectation for anything in return. We all need each other.

A child who enters fourth grade reading at or above grade level is on their way to a successful journey through our school system. There is a science to teaching and learning how to read. PAUSD is making a massive investment in the area of Early Literacy with the expectation of all students reading proficiently.

Equity has been a theme for many years in PAUSD. Student outcomes in this area have been mixed. This is the year to make significant gains for the students who need us the most. Attendance is tricky when we are in a pandemic.

Healthy Attendance is a way of clarifying we want everyone to attend when they are healthy and able to be with us safely.


The information below is part of our agenda for the upcoming meeting of the Board of Education. It was too strong to not share… so enjoy!

Key Takeaways

  • Merging the Offices of Student Services and Academic Supports under the Department of Equity and Student Affairs provides greater alignment of goals and response to student needs.
  • A Student and Family Engagement program evaluation, with clear metrics, is being developed to monitor success of the SaFE Program.
  • Adding two full-time specialists creates opportunities to increase support for Pacific Island and Black/African-American students and families.
  • Student Success Coaches report that 100% of the senior students identified and referred for coaching graduated from high school and are currently enrolled in either a two- or four-year college.
  • SaFE Specialists provide daily support and check-ins for all students in the Virtual Independent Study Program (VISP).
  • The Department of Equity and Student Affairs will expand parent education opportunities, with the SaFE Team providing monthly language accessible opportunities for LatinX, Pacific Island, and Mandarin families.


The SaFE Team seeks to ensure that socioeconomically disadvantaged (SED) and historically underrepresented (HUR) students and families have the resources, support, and knowledge necessary to successfully navigate the PAUSD education system.

Goal 1: Ensure that families across the District understand school processes, how to interact with school staff to support their students, and have the knowledge to utilize the resources that exist in PAUSD.

Goal 2: Support the existing work of schools in regard to attendance, academic growth, participation, and student sense of belonging, utilizing a variety of culturally responsive practices aimed at promoting student success.

Goal 3: Allow parents and students to consistently interact with a diverse team of staff that help to validate, include, and foster positive mindsets of families in the historically underrepresented (HUR) groups.

The goals of the SaFE Program align with the PAUSD Promise in supporting student success. The five priority areas for the 2021-22 school year include attendance, mental health, equity, early literacy, and service to others. The SaFE Team is committed to focusing on supporting schools and families in making progress in these areas, with a primary focus on linking families to resources, providing support for attendance and engagement, and ensuring that each identified student has a caring and trusted adult on campus. To meet these goals, the SaFE Team created a dual-approach model to support both students and families.


Who We Serve

The Student and Family Engagement Program supports students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged throughout PAUSD. Below is a breakdown of the demographics of all students in PAUSD identified as being socioeconomically disadvantaged.

  SED Latin Black / African American Pacific Islander Mandarin / Cantonese-speaking Families IEP VTP
# 1,352 722 88 54 143 333 405
% * 53% 6.5% 3.9% 10.5% 24.6% 29.9%

*All the percentages are based on total number of SED.

Aligning Efforts

In August 2021, several offices were merged under the Department of Equity and Student Affairs to facilitate the creation of a coordinated system of support. Offices that oversee student and family engagement, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), Volunteer Transfer Program (VTP), English Learners (EL), academic supports, attendance, mental health and physical health, social work services, 504 plan, social-emotional learning (SEL), home/hospital school, and other support services now function as one team, with each area having a single point of contact and oversight from the Assistant Superintendent of Equity and Student Affairs. This alignment increases opportunities to collaborate within and across teams and minimizes duplicative efforts at the District level.

SaFE Program Evaluation and Metrics for 2021-22

A program evaluation will be conducted in the 2021-22 school year designed to assess parameters, needs, components, and outcomes, with an eye toward improving student outcomes. While the impact of the SaFE Program on student outcomes is inextricably intertwined with numerous factors at the site and District level, systematically collecting, analyzing, and using data to review the effectiveness and efficiency of the SaFE Program still allows for continuous improvements each year. Some of the indicators that will guide the evaluation process include:

  • Program's capacity to deliver services
  • Participation rates
  • Level of student/family satisfaction
  • Amount of intervention exposure (how many people were exposed to the program, and for how long they were exposed)
  • Changes in participant behavior
  • Changes in perceptions of the environment

The program evaluation will include the two SaFE components of support, the Student Success Coach and the Family Engagement Specialist. A description of the focus and goals of each element of the SaFE Program is provided below.

Student Success Coach (SSC)

As part of the dual-approach model of the SaFE Program, Student Success Coaches work with students one-on-one at the secondary level. Students who require support for attendance, academics, behavior, or a variety of markers of disengagement and are in need of culturally relevant mentorship, are referred. Through this program, Student Success Coaches create individualized Student Success Plans that identify goals, create action steps, and follow up with students consistently. Weekly check-ins focus on socioemotional development, school and classwork, improving study skills and habits, and conversations that elicit relational capacity between coach and student. For most of the students on the caseload, the SSC becomes integral to their success and becomes a trusted adult in schooling. The goals established to measure outcomes are as follows:

Goal 1: Identified students will attend 90% of all of their periods at the end of the year.

Goal 2: All caseload students will have completed 75% or more of all homework assignments.

Goal 3: Tutoring programs, community organizations, mental health supports, and similar resources will be provided to identified students, as needed.

Goal 4: On an end-of-the-year survey, 95% of SSC students will report feeling connected to an adult on the campus and having a sense of belonging to the school through working with SSC.

Family Engagement Specialist (FES)

The Family Engagement Specialists serve elementary families Districtwide with a focus on increasing parent engagement, knowledge, skills, and providing the resources for parents to feel empowered while navigating through the District. This includes attending school meetings alongside parents to help them feel comfortable, clearing up information, helping to schedule teacher and school check-ins, and assisting in understanding the tools PAUSD uses, such as Schoology, Infinite Campus, and ParentSquare. These specialists work side-by-side with elementary principals, teachers, and support staff to create wrap-around supports for families. The outcomes and goals established for the program are as follows:

Goal 5: Increase average attendance of parent groups, as well as overall number of sessions provided across all cultural groups.

Goal 6: On an end-of-year survey, schools will report that parents participate more frequently in school-based events and meetings, such as English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC), Principal's Coffee, Back-to-School Night, ease of scheduling Individualized Education Program (IEP)/Student Success Team (SST)/Parent-Teacher Conferences and other meetings, and that they make proactive calls (survey results from the school).

Goal 7: Parents will report having been supported by specialists on specific occasions, the specialists help parents with making decisions, understanding/navigating the school system, and participating in school events with parents.

Year-to-Date Progress

The SaFE Team played critical roles in communicating and engaging with families in the 2020-21 school year. Specialists created open channels of communications for families weighing returns to hybrid programs, facilitated connections to support programs such as PAUSD+ and FEV Tutor, and continued to provide resources critical to daily life (food, medical care, mental health supports, financial assistance, etc.). Specialists made over 4,000 calls during the year, and participated in over 200 meetings with students and families. In surveys administered at the end of the year, 97% of Latin families said SaFE specialists helped them resolve issues or answered questions, and 100% of Mandarin-speaking families voiced the same. SaFE specialists recruited and helped to oversee the implementation of FEV Tutor for almost 250 students, and connected families with resources such as Care Solace, InPlay for summer opportunities, and city/community programs such as DreamCatchers, College Track, Foundation for a College Education, East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring (EPATT), and Youth Community Service (YCS). Student Success Coaches also saw their students attending more and performing better, with all schools showing increased Average Daily Attendance (ADA) for those on a caseload, as compared between 2019-20 and 2020-21, cumulatively averaged at 6% increase year-to-year. While 44% of caseload students did have at least one D or F, the numbers prompted to restructure and create a tiered approach to coaching, including Monitor Cases, Level 1, Level 2, and Referral to Increased Services. This tiering approach helped to guarantee that all seniors working with a coach graduated from high school and all are currently pursuing two or four-year degrees. All seniors on the coaching caseload were Pacific Island and Chinese students. (See February 9, 2021, Board Meeting.)

In the current school year, the goal is to expand outreach and increase the number of eligible students who receive targeted support. To that end, two full-time specialists were hired, increasing the team to eight full-time and one part-time (0.625) specialist. The primary focus of this increase is to have the capacity to serve a projected 120-150 students, with a specific increase in support for Pacific Island and Black or African-American students.

Student Success Coaches have been trained to provide SEL focused check-ins and support with study skills (such as note-taking, organization, and time management), homework completion, class and school connection, and home life discussions.

Expanding Our Reach

With the passing of AB130 Virtual Independent Study Program (VISP), the District sought to provide a viable option for families, with the understanding that parents would have to take on a critical role in supporting the education of their child. To support families, the SaFE Team expanded its reach to serve any student regardless of income status. Each student is afforded the opportunity to participate in daily check-ins with PAUSD staff to foster connectedness and engagement. Daily check-ins are provided through "Homeroom," where students can drop in for a check-in. Check-ins are conducted by the specialist who is assigned to the school that the student would ordinarily attend. The specialist uses this time to deliver SEL mini-lessons to encourage group connectedness and communication, hold meetings related to attendance, work completion, and overall student well-being.

Students or parents can request a 1:1 check-in with their SaFE Specialist, who will take notes to follow-up with additional support for specific students, as well as reach out to appropriate staff for other District support as necessary.

To ensure VISP students are meeting attendance requirements, the SaFE Team will monitor attendance data and respond when there is evidence of an attendance issue. The SaFE specialist will work with the student and family to address any barriers to attendance and engagement in VISP. If absences and/or disengagement continue, SaFE Specialists will reach out to school sites to continue to support the student and family. All SaFE Team interactions will be tracked and recorded through an online tracking sheet that will also flag the reasons for re-engagement. The specialists will then reach out to the school site to help further create a network of support.


The next steps for the SaFE program are the development of a comprehensive evaluation system to serve as a baseline and inform revisions to the program. Information will be collected on mid-year and end-of year parent, student, and school surveys on the work of Family Engagement Specialists and Student Success Coaches. An end-of-year report will be shared with the Board for discussion. In the meantime, the Coordinator for Student and Family Engagement will continue to track the progress of Student Success Coach caseloads on attendance, homework, and senses of belonging, validation, and motivation, as research clearly articulates these areas have direct impacts on student grades and success. Coaches directly influence these intermediary variables and will continue to support skills necessary to improve those areas. PAUSD stakeholders can expect to see increased opportunities for parent engagement, including Parent Information Nights for cultural groups throughout the year, focusing on a variety of important topics parents and students need to successfully navigate school.


Early Literacy is one of the five focus areas for our District this year. Literacy is a combination of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. PAUSD students are constantly engaged in literacy development; whether they are listening as a principal reads a book at a school assembly, using a rubric to self-evaluate writing to determine what the writer is doing well and areas for growth, or learning to use Orton-Gillingham (OG) strategies to become better readers and writers.

Teacher reading a book to students Student writing on a paper pad Students observing an image shared on a screen Student tracing letters with their finger

On Thursday, September 9, the elementary principals gathered at Duveneck to visit classrooms. During their second Professional Learning Collaborative, the principals observed phonics instruction in the first-grade classrooms.

Principals observing at a classroom Principals gathering outside a classroom

The first-grade teachers at Duveneck graciously welcomed the elementary principals into their classrooms. They planned lessons so that the principals could observe different aspects of the OG methodology, teaching a new concept, red words, and handwriting practice. The elementary team was able to get a glimpse of what they should expect of all teachers in TK-3 at their sites when effort, collaboration, and focus on students is central to their practice.

Our Principal Learning Collaborative is growing stronger every day.