March 31, 2017

Spring weather and spring break!  This morning it was great to have enough light and a bit more warmth for my first bike-to-work ride of the season. Now that break is here, I’m planning on riding every day and catching up on leisure reading, binge-watching TV, and responding to emails – of which there are presently too many. I hope you have some fun plans for your family, too.

Turning to news, this Weekly Message will be uncharacteristically brief because we are sharing our monthly district newsletter, Community Connection, tomorrow. It contains important news, videos, and a slide show with pictures that we have taken at various special moments at the schools. We call this summary of teaching and learning moments, events, and happenings, This is PAUSD, because this is truly what happens each day in every classroom across every district campus. For this month, these photos provide a close look at Hoover’s Invention Convention, Family Engineering Night at Nixon, Read Across America at Addison, and much more. After you read this month's Community Connection, please let us know what you think. 

This week had its share of intensity with the presentation of the Weighted Grade Report and discussion of the recommendations. We will be returning for further discussion for a vote in May – not in April as originally reported – as well with information about how we handle students currently in the system. We decided to postpone action on the grading practices because we have a more pressing priority – the 2017-18 budget. Much of the meeting – we are estimating up to two hours – will be devoted to discussing the budget adjustments staff will be recommending.  The list of proposed budget-balancing measures will be posted in mid-April, and we expect that eliminating or consolidating District office positions will account for about a third of the amount. We are also recommending we not add additional teachers to reduce class sizes beyond current levels, and some of the Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) who have served our schools so well will be returning to the classroom.  It will be a challenging discussion and hard decisions will need to be made, but they must be made.

We will also be making other challenging yet rewarding decisions about hiring new staff. You may have heard by now our Jordan principal, Katie Kinnaman, who has served our students, their families, and the Jordan staff so expertly this year, will be moving to Texas with her husband. Her upbeat approach to each day, willingness to make courageous decisions, and countless contributions to Jordan and our district have left a sound legacy, despite her short time at Jordan’s helm. We are conducting a comprehensive search for the next principal. Shortly after we return from break, our Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and I will be meeting with Jordan stakeholders to discuss the key qualities and qualifications that students, teachers, and parents want to see in the next principal.

Speaking of Human Resources, we have already scheduled interviews for Dr. Bowers' replacement, and are screening the applicants for the new Special Education Director. Both Dr. Scott Bowers and Ms. Chiara Perry have made far-reaching positive differences in so many ways. I will be writing more about them later in the year, but I have to share one quick example. This past week, I observed one of our second-year elementary teachers, and she was extraordinary. Her students were attentive and engaged - she had them working individually, in small groups, and in large groups; at different times they were in their seats, up and moving, and clustered in comfortable areas of the room; differentiation of instruction was evident; she clearly cared deeply for each child and they in turn were connected to her; the classroom felt like a buzzing family; and the kids' learning was evident as they eagerly shared their work, articulated their ideas, and listened to their classmates. Only later that evening did I learn that she had three students with significant special education and behavioral needs. I had no idea who these three were, which was additional evidence of how well she and the school had made our inclusive practices work. Dr. Bowers and the school principal hired her, and Ms. Perry and her team helped hone her skills in working with students who have special needs. Thinking of all the teachers that Scott and Chiara hired and trained, I am deeply grateful for their leadership and their service. Their work in the District office literally impacted hundreds of teachers and thousands of kids. We have big shoes we need to fill and we are getting down to it right away!

Once again, have a wonderful spring break and treasure your family time together. It really matters to all of our kids, no matter how young or old. They grow up in the blink of an eye. Jan and I are looking forward to some dinners with our own kids and especially excited about taking grandson Trent to the White Sox Opening Day. Though most of our hometown jumped on the Cubs bandwagon, our roots with Sox baseball are long and deep, and we can’t wait to belt out “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.