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Superintendent's Update - September 11, 2020

From the Office of the Superintendent:

SUPERINTENDENT'S UPDATE

BOARD AGENDA TOPICS
Board agenda topics are subject to change until officially posted. The next two meetings are still in draft format.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020
(Items due: September 11)
(Board packet review: September 15)

  • Progress of Cubberley Facility
  • Attendance and Engagement
  • Safety Protocols & Preparation
  • Reopening Plan Update - Potential Return Dates by Level
  • Unaudited Actual
  • Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan (LCP)
  • Special Education

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
(Items due: October 2)
(Board packet review: October 6)

  • Uniform Complaint Williams Settlement
  • Developer Fees
  • Career Themed Pathways
  • Physical Safety and Start of the Year Procedures
  • A-G Report
  • Budget Update
  • Temporary Releases, Furloughs, Layoff Notices
  • Athletic Conditioning/Competition
  • Parcel Tax Oversight Committee Report
  • PAUSD+

COMMUNICATION OF SAFETY AND REOPENING PLAN
Communicating complex situations during times of change to diverse audiences is a little like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Some see our correspondence and detail as overwhelming. Others see our efforts as lacking the detail they need. There is no doubt that dependence and reliance upon social media has changed the way we absorb, disseminate, and produce content. We are doing our best to strike a balance that is honestly challenging during an unprecedented time and the polarization of opinions.

Upon reflection, we have determined that much of the information reported lacking or missing is in existence, but not connected. We are creating a single "master" document with safety, programmatic, and sequential details in one place. Our team is diligently at work on the project and will have a published version ready by next Friday.

We have been asked why some groups are surveyed and others are not. Our employees are represented by professional organizations. Representative democracy is at the core of our country and a foundation for unions in general. Our collective bargaining agreements guide our work and outline expectations. Parents are surveyed for decisions where choice is an option, such as selecting between distance learning and an eventual return to a hybrid model. Employees are entitled to an interactive processes (IP) when they have health conditions or concerns tied to established criteria. Satisfaction surveys are specific to students and families as our primary customers. No response will satisfy everyone, but I did feel that a brief explanation was warranted.

SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL
Last year more than half of PAUSD students walked and biked to school. The pandemic has led to even more students and families walking and biking for daily exercise. PAUSD has partnered with the City and the Palo Alto Council of PTAs to coordinate yearly in-school K-8 in-school bicycle and pedestrian safety education for more than two decades. Beginning with 6th grade bike safety education, this year's program will continue on schedule with modifications to support distance learning and safe social distancing guidelines.

Although PAUSD has not officially re-opened, traffic from daily meal pickups, Kids Club arrivals and departures, alternative learning arrangements, classroom material pickups, etc. is increasing. Please consider walking and biking for campus and school related activities. If you must drive, please share the road safely by putting away your cell phone, moderating your speed, and providing bicyclists with three feet of passing distance.

EDUCATIONAL SERVICES

EQUITY & STUDENT AFFAIRS

PAUSD+ OPENS ITS DOORS TO STUDENTS
September 9 marked the first week of PAUSD+ for students in grades 6-12. All five secondary school sites welcomed the first round of students. Out of the 91 invited students in the 1st round, 33 attended on the first day, and we expect the number to grow. The focus of the program right now is simply to provide a quiet, structured, and supportive environment that is conducive to student learning. For these students, gone are the worries of spotty internet access, noisy backgrounds, and other distractions. Students are provided with plenty of space to work and a nutritious meal each day. Most centers are housed in the most inviting place on campus, the school library!

Many sites took extra care to make the environment special for students. Greene Middle School, for example, wanted students to experience a warm return to campus. Staff strung lights and festively decorated student workspaces with a greenscreen and privacy dividers. Some were busy during the soft launch, cutting, laminating, and gluing to make the space as inviting as possible.

PAUSD+ welcomes students back in person
PAUSD+ student workspace

STUDENT SUPPORTS & OUTREACH WORKGROUP WRAPS UP FIRST-ROUND RECOMMENDATIONS
In response to the COVID-19 related school closures, PAUSD established the Student Supports and Outreach Advisory Workgroup to amplify the voices of the community and get different perspectives on needs and solutions to better serve students and families.The goal was to jointly assess student and family needs and develop creative solutions to address them.

The Workgroup is composed of a diverse group of students, staff, and community members who meet bi-weekly to discuss progress and solutions to some of the District's most pressing challenges.

After three meetings to discuss concerns and needs, the group was asked to make recommendations to address the concerns that surfaced. Below are some of the recommendations made. A full report will be provided to the Superintendent at the conclusion of the final meeting.

  1. Incorporate class schedules with links on the actual CALENDAR tab of Schoology to keep students on track.
  2. Allocate FEV tutoring hours to students recommended to PAUSD+ who might not need in-class personal support; frees up space for children in severe need of childcare.
  3. Collaboration groups with each site and Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) to build more communities for families - PTSA efforts can sometimes get sidetracked or recalibrated to reflect individual volunteers' interests, rather than overall needs.
  4. Parent psychoeducation series on how to support students in distance learning.
  5. Ensure there is a robust feedback system in place that connects student mental health with the design and practice of Fall 2020 distance learning. Train teachers to identify indicators of distress.
  6. Free childcare for families in need.
  7. Provide technology kits for those who need them (hotspot, Chromebook, headsets, and possibly printers).
  8. "Fishbowl" Town Halls with discussion around mental health needs and supports, families discussing needs, and/or social justice impacts.
  9. Sensitivity training for all front office staff to ensure a positive experience.
  10. Homeless families are more visible at this time and under extreme hardship. Staff who could check in daily with these families are essential. A staff member is assigned to one or two specific families to check on connectivity, hotspots, materials, and to report issues to the site.
  11. Lead a Digital/Technology/Online Learning Success Initiative to ensure all PAUSD families have access to the distance learning technological resources to connect and learn online.
    • Confirm the Goal: One North Star could be that "100% of PAUSD students have the Online Learning Success Package that PAUSD deems all students need for a baseline level of success in distance learning." We could also replace, "100% of PAUSD students," with "100% of PAUSD's most vulnerable students." A North Star should be confirmed with data.
    • Create a Baseline: Leveraging feedback from our most vulnerable families, SaFE specialists, and teachers; determine what key technological items are needed to ensure a baseline of connectivity; and access to online learning classrooms/experiences. (Hypotheses: hotspot to connect to classroom link; computer to be a part of class online; headsets to hear class with less distractions; and maybe printers to print out assignments)
    • Quantify the Need: Once the package is finalized, start from a data-based foundation on what the need is. Survey our most vulnerable families first (with the goal of serving all PAUSD families), or all PAUSD families from the start, to determine what everyone has vs. what everyone needs. This will quantify the resources needed and establish a budget. Data cited here show a deep digital connectivity divide for vulnerable families. This data could also apply to our vulnerable families.
    • Fund the Need: Seek internal funding from the District and external funding/donations from institutions, investors, large corporations, etc.
    • Track the Progress: Complete another survey in 3-6 months to confirm that all students covered by the goal have been served. (100% of vulnerable PAUSD families or 100% of PAUSD families).

CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION, & ASSESSMENT

MODERN PEDAGOGY: WHAT IS INSTRUCTION?
In the distance learning model, educators and parents have pondered what high quality teaching and learning looks like. Many of us recall the lecture format as a commonly used method of education from our high school and college days. Research on long-term retention and deep understanding, however, indicates that several other "ingredients" are required to make learning stick. Learning from more experienced others is important because it provides access to new ideas and information. Our brains also require time, practice, and interacting with new information to develop deep understanding, procedural fluency and/or connections across ideas.

The summer course for teachers, Modern Pedagogy for All Modalities, included a framework for considering the various aspects of instruction that support student learning. Fisher, Frey, and Hattie (2021) define the following four elements as comprising effective instruction:

  1. Demonstrating: Providing access to thinking, information, and cognitive processes
  2. Collaborating: Peers working together to deepen learning
  3. Coaching and Facilitating: Teacher moves to guide student thinking
  4. Practicing: Applying skills to build fluency and mental models

When students are physically in their classrooms, teachers plan learning experiences that allow students to move between these four aspects of instruction to take in new information, deepen their understanding through collaboration and practice, and receive feedback and support from teachers. In the distance learning environment, teachers strategically address these four quadrants in synchronous and asynchronous learning times. Below are some examples of how instructors might address the elements of the quadrants across the synchronous and asynchronous environments. As you talk with and observe your student in action, consider how teachers are providing a balance of activities to support their learning

Demonstrating

  • Provides access to the thinking and cognitive processes of others.
  • Synchronous: Mini-lessons, demonstrations, read-alouds, worked examples (math problems, writing revision, labs, etc.), modeling
  • Asynchronous: Videos of mini-lessons, read-alouds, etc. Readings to build or deepen content knowledge.

Collaborating

  • Allows peers to build knowledge together and support each other in learning.
  • Synchronous: Discussions, Zoom chat, breakout room activities, Schoology discussion boards, group projects
  • Asynchronous: Schoology discussion boards, creating shared slide decks or other virtual partner/group products

Coaching & Facilitating

  • Teachers guide student thinking as they solve problems and gain skills. Teachers draw upon their content knowledge, knowledge of developmental levels of students, and individual student needs.
  • Synchronous: Small group or individual support, questioning strategies, feedback, interactive writing, etc.
  • Asynchronous: Formative assessments (i.e., EdPuzzle or Schoology quizzes) that provide instant feedback to students about their progress.

Practicing

  • Supports students in developing mental representations of learning. Practicing is most effective when spaced over time and with clear goals.
  • Synchronous: Practice with developing skills, such as reading, writing, speaking, math procedures, utilizing vocabulary, etc.
  • Asynchronous: Practice with developing skills; i.e., reading, writing, math procedures, etc.

LEXIA ROLLOUT BEGINS WITH ADMINISTRATOR TRAINING
PAUSD recently signed a contract with Lexia, a personalized, research-based literacy improvement program to support the current Language Arts program. During the 2020-21 academic year, elementary students will be using Core5 Reading, and middle school students and some qualifying high school students will be using PowerUp Literacy. The District is in the process of rolling out a series of Lexia trainings as part of its implementation plan. The first session, directed at administrators, took place on Thursday, September 10, and two following sessions, directed at elementary and secondary teachers, are slated to take place later this month. After these initial trainings, administrators and teachers will have the opportunity to participate in a second wave of professional development, focused on examining site-level literacy data at a more granular level.

ELEMENTARY STUDENTS TO COMPLETE WRITING ASSESSMENT IN SEPTEMBER
All elementary students will be given an initial writing assessment in the month of September. This is a formative assessment that will help teachers identify areas for individual and class instructional lessons. Parents are asked to not help their child during this assessment, in order for the teacher to understand the unique needs of every student. Though it may be tempting to support your child, please help them log on, but let them try their best on their own. For tips on how you can support your child with reading and writing at home, please read below.

TEACHERS COLLEGE READING & WRITING PROJECT PARENT WORKSHOP
Last week, Teacher's College held parent office hours entitled, "How You Can Best Support Reading and Writing Education at Home During the Year Ahead: Tips from Internationally Known Literacy Leaders, Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenwort."

For those of you who were unable to attend the workshop, below are a few simple tips for parents that were shared at the event.

  • Model curiosity of the world. Curiosity is contagious and leads to exploration. We are learning ALL the time. The power of natural play is gigantic!
  • Invite literacy experiences. Lean into moments of curiosity and read a book about it. Explore together.
  • As parents, our job is not to fix writing. No! We are there to grow our children's confidence and esteem by showing interest. Writing development happens when kids talk through their writing. Be interested, really interested. Listen carefully. We all say more than we write. Allow space for this. Verbal processing is just as important as the written words. So is drawing. Write and draw across pages.
  • Lean into kid choice. Whatever they love, let them read it and become avid readers. For children who are learning English, try to provide books in their native language. Literacy growth in one language helps the other.
  • Read across days and across different genres. Read together, read a little more each day. Consider starting book clubs with friends.
  • It is imperative that we model positive reading and writing habits for our children. Perhaps you'll want to start your own writing journal, and make time each day for yourself, or for the whole family to write. Write often and share it with your child.
  • And of course, let your children catch you reading!

SPECIAL EDUCATION

POST-SECONDARY OPEN HOUSE AT CUBBERLEY
An open house was held on Wednesday, September 9, to welcome Post-Secondary families to the start of a new year at Cubberley, the new site for their program. The event was well attended by adult students and parents. Teachers shared a brief overview of the program and were available to answer specific questions. Adult students are very excited to begin school again and look forward to continued growth and development in the areas of vocational training and life skills.

HUMAN RESOURCES

INTRODUCTION - STUDENT SERVICES DIRECTOR

Jason Krolikowski


On September 8, at the PAUSD Regular Board Meeting, Jason Krolikowski was unanimously approved for the position of Student Services Director.

He brings to us specific commitments to high-quality teaching and learning, equity, wellness and safety, special education, and inclusion. Mr. Krolikowski is a student advocate who places student success and well-being at the core of every decision. Most recently, he served as the principal of San Ramon Valley High School in Danville, CA. His official start date in Palo Alto Unified School District is September 21, 2020.

Mr. Krolikowski stated, "I am extremely excited to begin with the Palo Alto Unified School District. My work has always placed students first, and I plan to continue using this lens as the Student Services Director. I look forward to learning about the culture of our community, and building upon the many successes of PAUSD. Support and service are hallmarks of my leadership style, and I look forward to being able to foster strong, collaborative relationships so that we may align our work to meet all of our students' needs. Please do not ever hesitate to contact me."

We welcome Mr. Krolikowski to our District.