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Superintendent's Update - September 3, 2021

Nothing beats school visits. As a rule, I try to get to 20+ classrooms a week for several purposes. First, it is important to see and communicate with our students. Our youngest learners are eager to share their projects, stories about books, artwork, and things they can do! Middle school students are hilarious. It's a time when some are unsure and quiet, and others are outgoing and comfortable with extended conversations. Our high school publications are always insightful to confirm our future is in great hands. Frequent interactions with our student reporters provide a window into the things that matter most to their peers.

When it is not disruptive, I try to connect with our teachers and support staffs. It helps to hear from them directly about what is working and what could be improved. My favorite moments are when we have a few minutes to problem-solve things. That happened this week with an office staff discussing the first week of COVID testing on our sites. The logistics are complicated and often fall on people who do not have all of the background information. It's a strong reminder that getting onto sites is a priority. Thanks to everyone working hard to keep our kids healthy and progressing in school.

At the request of some stakeholders, the PAUSD COVID dashboard was redesigned to show cases at individual sites. We will continue to update the site every Tuesday. The public can view the data HERE.

We appreciate masking compliance on all sites. Asymptomatic testing occurred this week for the first time on our sites. Staff members are either vaccinated or test daily. Our filtration efforts have set the bar for our region. Hand-washing continues to be stressed on our sites. Our local vaccination rates lead the area, and our community cases are low. All of these facts are contributing to very low cases rates at our schools. This is encouraging, but our best collective efforts are still essential. PAUSD respectfully asks for the support of the community during non-school hours. Schools will mirror the community and non-compliance after hours or on weekends will be manifested in cases reported at school. We are all in this together.

There has been an increase in vehicular traffic congestion around the schools. This impacts student safety and air pollution. Let's work together to support safe and healthy school commutes in Palo Alto. Please consider walking or biking for 1-2 mile school trips. If you must drive, please share the road safely. Put away cell phones and pass bicyclists with at least 3 feet of distance as required by law. Your Walk and Roll Suggested School Route Map provides more safety tips and route suggestions. More information, including student walk/bike data, is available on the Safe Routes to School website. Please direct general traffic enforcement concerns to the Police Department non-emergency line at 650-329-2413, or by using Palo Alto 311. PAUSD will continue partnering with the City to provide in-school bicycle and pedestrian safety education for all K-8 students.

On August 30, the ELA Adoption Recommendation Committee held its first meeting.

The committee is comprised of 46 members representing parents, teachers, specialists, and administrators from every elementary school and grade level in the District. The purpose of the first meeting was to get to know one another, review the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA and establish the goals for the committee's work this year.

The Committee will follow Board Policies (BP) 6141 and 6142.91. Activities will include:

  • Review eight ELA, CCSS aligned curricula for grades K-5
  • Choose three curricula for piloting
  • Teachers pilot each curriculum for one month, parents and specialist observe teacher implementation
  • Review and analyze the committee members' feedback after the pilot rounds are complete
  • Recommend one curriculum for adoption to the PAUSD School Board in April of 2022

The following are the eight curricula under consideration for piloting:

In addition to the Every Student Reads Initiative focusing on early literacy, all five secondary schools continue to explore and expand supports for struggling readers in the upper grades. To provide teachers with insights about the literacy needs of their students, grades 6-12 will complete the Universal Protocol for Reading Accommodations (uPAR) in the coming weeks.

The uPAR protocol is a screener that evaluates a student's reading and determines if a reading accommodation would help students to better access the curriculum. Students independently read a passage silently to determine their reading level and comprehension skills. Next, they read a passage accompanied by a human-audio voice and then a computer-generated voice to determine the effect on reading level and comprehension with these two types of interventions.

Results of this screening will provide teachers with information about how their students learn and who might benefit from using audio books. The District has purchased a three-year license to an audiobook platform called Learning Ally which provides access to many books including most PAUSD textbook. Snap&Read and Co:Writer are two additional universal tools that are available to students to support their reading and writing. Some features include translation to 100+ languages, reading text out loud, removing distractions when reading on a website, word prediction support when writing, and much more. This tutorial will help you learn more about these two Chrome extensions. Learning how to integrate these tools into instruction is supported through site staff and product specific sessions.

The PAUSD professional learning plan for 2021-22 identifies a focus on Universal Design for Learning, a framework for designing lessons with all learners in mind, for secondary teachers. PAUSD has partnered with the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) and the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) to provide ongoing professional learning this year. The work will kick off in October with an overview session designed to provide common vocabulary and foundational understanding. In January and March, teachers will work in department teams to deepen their understanding of UDL and connect the concepts to ongoing District initiatives. The Secondary Leadership Team will complete a foundational course to prepare for leading the work with their sites and departments. We are excited about this yearlong focus on designing instruction with student learning needs in mind.

The PAUSD Consortium Induction Program provides a two-year support system for teachers in their first steps as professional educators leading to a recommendation for a Clear credential. The overarching goal of the Induction Program is to prepare teachers to address the academic and social needs of all students, allowing each student to meet or exceed academic content standards. Induction programs are accredited through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and periodically undergo a review to ensure programs are high quality and aligned to standards and policy.

Thirty PAUSD teachers are participating in induction during the 2021-22 school year. All will be supported with weekly mentoring sessions as they work towards their induction goals. Mentors are current PAUSD teachers, most of whom work part-time as mentors. Mentors attend monthly professional learning sessions to focus on mentoring skills, teacher leadership, and induction program goals.

The program will be supporting teachers with a unique set of needs related to COVID impacts on credentialing programs. Many teachers were unable to complete assessments that are normally part of their preparation program, including the Reading Competence Instruction Assessment (RICA) and their Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA). Our mentoring team is currently being trained to understand expectations of these assessments and to embed support for teachers into our existing Induction Program.

Finally, the program will complete the final stages of the accreditation cycle this year with a virtual site visit from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The site visit team conducts interviews with a wide range of stakeholders, reviews documents, and makes an accreditation recommendation based on the team's findings on the standards. Over the past two years, the program has utilized time in both Mentor and Steering meetings to conduct a self-study to inform the accreditation process. These conversations have ensured that our program meets our local needs within the context of state requirements.

PAUSD has many job opportunities currently available. We are always looking to add to our outstanding staff who have contributed to helping PAUSD schools consistently rank among the best in the state. Many of our employees are from our local communities and we are looking to continue that practice and strengthen our workforce by sharing information with stakeholders. We have a wide range of full and part-time positions including:

  • Campus Supervisors
  • Nurses
  • Food Service Driver
  • Instructional Aides
  • Maintenance-HVAC
  • Mental Health Specialist
  • Language Tutors
  • Student Attendants

If you or anyone you know is interested, please share the following link to apply: