June 15, 2017

I hope you are enjoying these first days of summer break. The weather has certainly been fabulous for outdoor activities, and with the late sunsets, I have had some great cycling, though I swear that Old La Honda Road has gotten even steeper since last summer. I have also been busy, as have our Board members and leadership team, as we wrap up the 2016-17 school year and prepare for the next year. We have hired some terrific new principals for Jordan and Terman Middle Schools and are announcing more district level hirings next week. Also, you will be impressed when you meet the new teachers we have hired. They are caring, creative, engaging, intelligent, and ready to get to work. It is an exciting time!

We have also been working with our temporary Title IX Compliance Officer, Mr. John DiPaolo, who is advising us on current investigations, helping us improve our systems, and working with us to develop a job description for - and then hire - a permanent Civil Rights Compliance Officer. In addition, we have a webpage devoted to keeping you informed of current matters and source documents related to Title IX compliance. Here’s the link:  https://www.pausd.org/board-education/title-ix-compliance

Next week we have three - count ‘em - three, Board sessions. There is a regular meeting on Tuesday, our annual Board retreat on Wednesday, and a special Board meeting about policies on Thursday. Much of Tuesday’s meeting is routine business, with the exception of the approval of the district’s Equity Plan. We are grateful to our Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD) team and to Dr. Martha Castellon, who crafted the document, and I cannot wait to put it into action. The Board has generously allocated funding for some components of it, and we are hiring a certificated Coordinator of Equity and Secondary Supports to assure we give all students access and opportunities to excel, to fulfill their intellectual, social, and creative potential, and to ensure participation in our more rigorous classes, full span of electives, and robust extra curricular activities. 

The feature item at Wednesday’s meeting is the review of our annual goals. As you probably recall, we have three goals - high quality teaching and learning, equity and access, and wellness and safety.

For each of these, we have several action steps and will be reporting on the progress we have made. It is a long and detailed report with some fascinating data. Please take a look at the packet.  I hope that you will be as proud as we are of what we have produced and the progress we have made. That said, there is also room for improvement, and at the meeting I will be sharing ideas for next year’s action steps based on data and feedback received through numerous surveys. Also, I was recently asked to reflect on some of our district’s more noteworthy accomplishments related to our goals. Here are a few excerpts from that list:

Shadowing students.  At our June administrative retreat, all leaders were required to bring evidence of something they had done to make a tangible contribution to our district’s goals. I chose the shadowing experience. Not only did this give principals and other administrators insights into improving their own coaching for fostering high quality teaching and learning, it is also driving priorities in rewriting our evaluation system. Moreover, the team has enthusiastically embraced the experience and committed to shadowing next fall, focusing on historically underrepresented (HUR) and special education students. 

Advanced Authentic Research (AAR).  This program is outrageously successful, and I am mystified that our local press has not given it the attention it deserves. Even our student publications have featured it, and one of their titles still resonates: AAR: The Real Deal. The students’ work products are truly high quality examples of student-driven project-based learning. The program won the Hoffmann Award and is poised to receive national recognition in the near future. We received additional grant funding, Stanford has provided a fellowship for AAR student researchers who continue in college, and we are literally receiving requests to support programs in other schools from near and far. We also are collaborating with Stanford to produce a journal of student research - Journal A2I3R ! We had eleven students at the end of the 2014-15 school year and now have more than 180. 

Expanding communications.  This year, we have added an electronic newsletter with Board action items that we call The Board Report; we have a weekly message from the Superintendent’s desk written for the community and our employees; webinars; a monthly newsletter, Community Connection, which features our progress with the strategic plan and district goals along with feature stories; community “town hall” forums to engage our community in the decision-making processes of the school district; video productions to feature the work and progress of the school district; and have significantly improved the web content. 

Implementing Full Day Kindergarten.  Although survey data indicate that improvements can be made, parents are highly supportive of the program. Most importantly, from direct observations of our administrators and the Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) team, the students appear to thrive. While we will not have student data on reading and mathematics achievement for a few years, parents say their students are benefitting. I am especially pleased with how the Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP) parents surveyed report that it has met their needs.

Making the LCAP matter.   At the end of last year, we resolved to change how we wrote this report and the attention we gave it. More important than the work product itself is what we learned during the community engagement sessions, and what the data tell us about where we need to focus efforts next year for our underrepresented and special education students. The California School Dashboard can be viewed here.  

Weighted grading.  We devoted significant hours to researching, to obtaining stakeholder input, and to preparing a detailed report. The final recommendations that the Board approved represented a delicate, important balance between the academic and mental health needs of our students.

Elementary math adoption.  The real credit goes to Chief Academic Officer for Elementary Education Ms. Barbara Harris and the Elementary Math Committee of teachers, parents, teachers on special assignment (TOSAS) and administrators. They spent two full years with extensive exploration and piloting of three programs. During the process we were able to obtain thorough third-party validation and gather abundant information from parents and teachers. Our selection of Bridges 2017 was a resounding success. The books are ordered, training is scheduled, and we are excited about teaching this curriculum to our elementary students. 

At next Thursday’s special Board meeting on policies (June 22, 8:00-10:00 a.m.) we hope to put the final touches on a class size policy, and may have an update on the policies being reviewed and revised as part of our Resolution Agreement.

Please note that District Office summer hours of operation (through July 21) are 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. We are closed on Fridays. That said, you can always shoot me an email at mmcgee@pausd.org and/or provide feedback on this message - as well as ideas for content you would like to see in future messages - by clicking the feedback button below. 

Have a great weekend and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and grandpas.  Being both a father and a grandfather (aka Papa) is THE greatest blessing EVER.

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