June 29, 2017

The final week of the school year, May 26 – June 2, was one of the best of the school year, both professionally and personally. Our elementary schools were in full celebration mode that Friday; Jan and I went to a concert at the Greek Theater; we spent all of Saturday hiking, eating, and lounging outdoors; we were dazzled by the Paly students at Baccalaureate; we flew back to Chicago to see Trent’s opening game (3 for 4 and spectacular fielding if I do say so…but I digress); and we helped our kids begin to navigate a rough patch. Upon returning Tuesday, I got swept up in the exuberance of both Gunn’s and Terman’s graduations, was inspired by the students’ speeches, and was intrigued by Fred Luskin’s talk to the Titan graduates touching on happiness, forgiveness, and what matters most. 

Over that weekend, as we talked about that past week and our school years (Jan is a faculty member of North Central College and Director of the Center for Success in High Need Schools), it hit me that this coming year will be my 30th as a superintendent and 45th in education, dating back to teaching middle school in 1972. In the fall of 1987, I moved from being an elementary principal to the superintendent of Aptakisic-Tripp School District, where we scrambled to build a new school and two massive additions in three years. Since then, I have served in two other Illinois school districts, been the Illinois State Superintendent, led the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, founded a private school in Princeton after retiring from Illinois, and have been fortunate to lead and serve PAUSD. Whew! Anyway, that weekend, we decided that when my Palo Alto contract ended on June 30, 2018, it would finally be time to retire retire (that’s not a typo), and the following week I told the Board of my intentions. 

So, as we close out this fiscal year, I am writing to let you know that I am deeply honored, highly energized, and intensely committed to making my final year in the superintendency the very best one yet for our PAUSD students, our staff, and our community. With full support of our Board, I am going to make the final year of three decades as a superintendent one that is distinguished by collaborative, focused efforts on our three big themes: 1) strengthening and sustaining high quality teaching and learning distinguished by joy, purpose, and meaning; 2) assuring every student has the opportunity, access, and necessary supports to excel – and I mean EVERY.SINGLE.STUDENT - especially our historically underrepresented students and children with special needs; and 3) providing for the social, emotional, and physical health needs of students and staff. 2017-18 will be one of connection, engagement, wellness, and academic excellence. We will continue the good work we have started the past three years on some innovative initiatives, including readers and writers workshop, social emotional learning frameworks, project-based classes, blended learning, Advanced Authentic Research (AAR), the work of the Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD) advisory committee, standards-based grading, and more. While I am not intending to launch any particularly new initiatives, I am intending that those we started together will be advanced and that our district is in terrific shape for the next leader in 2018-19.

Finally, I am grateful for the support of staff, students, parents, and our greater community. I have loved every minute of this job, I love our schools, and I love Palo Alto, and these thirty years at the helm of great districts, schools, and a state have been exciting and extremely rewarding. So, I will close by pledging my best efforts to all of you for the duration of this contract and that I will continue to work with our Board of Education and leadership team to assure a smooth, successful transition for your next superintendent.

I hope you are thoroughly enjoying your summer, and I can’t wait to see your children back in school in August. I will be visiting each school the first month to assure we are off to a terrific start. In the meantime, we are busy hiring new staff and preparing for a phenomenal year. Thanks for reading these messages, and after a brief vacation, I will send the next one mid-July.

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