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Superintendent's Update - September 23, 2022

From the Office of the Superintendent:

BOARD AGENDA CALENDAR

The Board of Education calendar can be found HERE.

IN MEMORY OF CHUCK MCDONNELL

We are sad to report the passing of Chuck McDonnell. Chuck embodied the spirit of our #Builders theme and was committed to serving others.

After graduating from PAUSD schools and serving our country as a paratrooper, Chuck worked for the school district for over 40 years. His gruff exterior made him iconic, but those who knew him understood his soft and caring side. Chuck was a hard worker and took pride in everything he touched. He loved his team and spoke highly of others. People knew that he would drop everything to help, although it may come with a grunt! Chuck will be missed by all who knew him.

We were able to honor Chuck earlier this year at our Chow Down event. He was the recipient of one of our #Builders awards and was honored with a standing ovation by District employees. If you have a minute, please enjoy the segment of Chuck's tribute in August of this year HERE.

SHORT-TERM AD HOC COMMITTEES

PAUSD has formed eight short-term ad hoc committees to tackle specific issues. Please find more details HERE. Committee member names are listed, with the exception of our parents and students.

This week, there have been robust discussions from the Celebrate and Serve Others, Childcare, Athletic Funding, and Enrollment Trends and Options committees. We appreciate staff and community committee members for their enthusiastic participation to bring diverse perspectives on these topics.

Meeting notes will be posted online and will also appear in the information section of the Board of Education agenda. For example, everyone can follow the first meeting of the Bell Schedule Committee HERE. The first meeting notes regarding athletic funding can be found HERE. Several committees are scheduled to meet for the first time in September.

PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER

PAUSD has made an offer to a Public Information Officer (PIO) finalist. It is rare for a district of our size and complexity to not have a PIO. In our case, the same people making and implementing decisions are also charged with handling all aspects of communication. This was especially challenging during the pandemic and the reopening of schools. I would like to thank all of the staff members who contributed to publishing plans that were shared throughout the state. A PIO will improve our efforts to inform and engage the community as a whole.

The Board of Education will consider the PIO appointment at the October 11 meeting, with an anticipated start date in November. The position will create a communication plan that addresses internal and external efforts. As a rule, I will continue to write our Friday updates and handle inquiries from the press.

PAUSD PROMISE (STRATEGIC PLAN) UPDATE

I am sometimes asked why PAUSD does not have a strategic plan. This is mostly a matter of semantics. The PAUSD Promise is our strategic plan. The five priority goals are serving us well and focus our efforts. The recently shared gains in early literacy are an example of progress attributed to focus and prioritizing. This focus also resulted in improvements in healthy attendance rates during a time when many districts experienced massive declines.

Mental health is also one of our priority areas. While our secondary students typically know where to find help, our parents may be less aware. I wanted to share a quick overview of how students may be paired with members of our team for assistance.

If students are unsure of whom to turn to, they can start with their teacher, school counselor, or school administration team. We will get them to the right people. Our Mental Health website is also being updated with new resources.

SECONDARY SCHOOL COUNSELORS

  • Support with academic scheduling
  • Academic challenges / concerns with classes
  • Academic planning
  • Referrals to Mental Health and Wellness Associates for help with personal issues

WELLNESS COORDINATORS & WELLNESS OUTREACH WORKERS

  • Drop-in services for students who need to talk to someone
  • Referrals for additional help, when necessary

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS ASSOCIATES

  • Students who are feeling sad, anxious, or stressed
  • Students navigating relationship issues, including friends, family, and social groups
  • Students dealing with substance abuse

STUDENT AND FAMILY ENGAGEMENT SPECIALISTS (SaFE)

  • Provide support to historically underrepresented students and families
  • Reach out to families to increase school success, including attendance
  • Work with families for essential needs

PSYCHOLOGISTS

  • Assessment for special education and 504 accommodations
  • Behavioral support
  • Consultation with teachers and families
  • Targeted intervention groups

Stress and mental health are complex topics. PAUSD dedicates roughly $17 million per year for mental health-related services and supports. Proactive efforts to model kindness, civility, and decency are important to creating healthy students and staff. Our students are watching adults inside and outside our system. They see amazing volunteers, giving adults, and those who invest in others. Conversely, they read personal attacks, anonymous posts, and hear disparaging comments. Our biggest resources are time and leading by example. We are all in this together. There is no finish line for championing the mental health of all.

COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA LAUNCHES 988 PHONE NUMBER DEDICATED TO CRISIS MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE USE SERVICES

On July 16, the County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services Department (SCC BHSD) transitioned to the new national three-digit suicide prevention lifeline number, 988 - free and available 24/7 for anyone. The new number is a quicker and more direct way to get support in times of need. Callers with 408, 650, and 669 area codes dial 988* to get compassionate support and connection to local crisis service.

Reasons to call 988 include:

  • Mental health or substance use crisis
  • Mental health distress, including thoughts of suicide
  • The need to just talk

The line provides interpretation for more than 200 languages and includes services for the hearing- and visually impaired. Trained counselors answer all calls to give needed support. Calls are anonymous and confidential. Information will not be shared unless in-person assistance is needed.

Area codes other than 408, 650, and 669 may call (800) 704-0900, and press 1, to receive the same support in Santa Clara County.

In step with launching 988, SCC BHSD is also making non-crisis service access easier. Those looking for mental health and substance use treatment services can call one number: (800) 704-0900. Anyone can call this number regarding:

  • Referrals to mental health or substance use treatment services
  • General information about BHSD services

COMMUNITY AND FAMILY ENGAGEMENT FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION AND INCLUSION

This past Sunday, the Palo Alto Community Advisory Committee of Special Education (CAC), PAUSD Special Education Department, and the Palo Alto Council of PTAs co-sponsored the annual "Family Fun Day" for families of children with individualized education plans (IEPs), 504s, and/or learning differences. Children enjoyed the Inclusive Playground at Addison Elementary and had fun participating in the following: Creativity cart activities, offered by PAUSD Curriculum & Career Education; story time hosted by Paly Child Development Pathways, art and science hosted by Innovation Youth and Boy Scout Troop 52; and listening to amazing live music by Son and Dad Garageband.

Additionally, participants enjoyed artisan cookies & lemonade provided by Ada's Cafe. PAUSD Special education co-directors, Amanda Boyce and Cindy Loleng-Perez, Superintendent Don Austin and other administrators were available to meet and greet families. It was an exciting day, as this event was the first large-scale inclusive community gathering after returning to in-person school. Partnerships with organizations including CAC, PAUSD Special Education Department, and other community organizations will continue to be resources for family support and engagement.

STRONG SCHOOLS BOND - CITIZENS' OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE

The PAUSD Board of Education is seeking two volunteers for the Strong Schools Bond Citizens' Oversight Committee (COC). The purpose of the COC is to inform the public concerning the expenditure of bond revenues, as required per state law.

Volunteer applicants must reside within the District's boundaries and may not be an employee, contractor, consultant, or vendor of the District. The volunteers chosen will serve a two-year term that will start immediately and end on June 30, 2024. The COC meets quarterly.

Application forms can be obtained and submitted via email or written request to:

Veronica Melero
Building D - Facilities Department
25 Churchill Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94306
vmelero@pausd.org

The application deadline is Friday, October 28, 2022, at 4:30 pm. For more information, please call (650) 329-3927.