September 15, 2017

When I visited Nixon Elementary School this week, one of the teachers mentioned that my weekly messages generally are more about high school happenings and less about elementary and middle schools.  Fair enough – so this week I’ll start by sharing a couple examples of what I saw at Nixon in both writing and mathematics being implemented across the 13 PK-5 schools. 

My morning started with the kindergarten teachers and Principal Mary Pat O’Connell meeting with a staff developer and coach from the Teachers College Reading and Writing division of Columbia University.  We use this reader’s and writer’s workshop model in every elementary grade at every school.  The consultants provide expert coaching in four of our Project Schools, Nixon being one of them. The staff developers provide support for teacher development by working side by side with the teachers and facilitating literacy learning sessions. 

During this session, the focus was on using play as an opportunity for children to develop skills that help them learn to write. Teachers shared examples of struggling students and got immediate feedback from the consultant and colleagues about how to first address the particular problem in play, and then move the learning into writing. From this session, the teachers went right back to their classrooms to incorporate what they learned. This high level of support makes a tangible difference in helping all students reach and exceed reading and writing benchmarks.

Bridges Math

The next stop was a fourth grade class where the students were learning about surface area not by memorizing formulas, but by deriving them from using multiple strategies to figure out the least expensive packaging for 36 baseballs.  After agreeing on the optimal shape, one student and one adult in the room (a baseball coach) noted that their teams had baseballs in a bucket, which got them thinking about surface areas of cylinders compared to rectangular solids. Another student mentioned he had an autographed baseball in a pyramid-type box, which spurred additional discussion, thought, and calculation.  Welcome to Bridges Mathematics!  It was refreshing to see students thinking about mathematics and not just doing arithmetic.

If you would like to learn more about Bridges and try your hand at some of the program’s lessons and activities, please join us for Elementary Mathematics Parent Night on Monday, September 25.  The elementary education team will lead some sample lessons to give parents a firsthand experience with Number Corner, math games, and helpful apps.  Childcare will be available, and both Spanish and Mandarin translators will be on hand to support parents as needed.  This special event will be held in the District Office from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  Look for a registration form to come home soon or RSVP

PTA

Finally, I wanted to recognize our elementary schools’ PTAs – and for that matter, ALL of our PTAs – for their extraordinary community engagement work.  Their wellness and safety efforts, Green Team outreach, parent education sessions, communication networks, etc., represent the best of our community spirit.  This year I will be visiting each PTA Principal’s Coffee and hope you will join me for “the second cup” to discuss matters germane to the school, catch up on district events, and have your questions answered and ideas and concerns heard.  If you haven’t already done so, please join your children’s schools’ PTAs.

Webinar & Cozen O’Connor Report Rescheduled

Due to the observance of Rosh Hashanah, the Board has moved the public presentation of the Cozen O’Connor report from Wednesday, September 20 to Thursday, September 21.  The meeting will be held from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. in the Board Room at 25 Churchill Avenue.  The legal team will present a summary of the findings of their investigation of the PAUSD investigation into incidents of sexual misconduct.

Because we moved the date of the Cozen O’Connor report, my webinar is being rescheduled for Tuesday, October 3.  If your schedule does not allow for interactive daytime meetings at PTA Coffees, please plan on joining me.  Along with some members of our leadership team, we will open with a few brief remarks regarding timely topics impacting our schools and then answer questions and take comments from any and all individuals.  For this first webinar, we will be summarizing district goals, the 2017-18 budget, and the Cozen O’Connor report regarding Title IX issues.  Last year our webinars were a great success.  We had more than a hundred folks join our webinar on weighted grading and answered at least fifty questions live.  Some excellent ideas emerged from that discussion which resulted in important new policy.

To join the webinar, please use the following link: https://zoom.us/j/325590159 or join by phone at +1 408‑638‑0968 (US Toll).

This webinar is accessible via computer, mobile device, or telephone (landline). If this is your first time joining a webinar via zoom.us, please plan on launching the web session five to ten minutes early to avoid any technical issues. We have room for 500 on the webinar – if you happen to be locked out, please try throughout the session. We look forward to a great discussion!

Board Meeting Brief

At the Board meeting this past Tuesday, the Board unanimously approved polices that the Office for Civil Rights required to be revised:

  • BP 1312.3 Uniform Complaint Procedures
  • AR 1312.3 Uniform Complaint Procedures
  • BP 5145.3 Nondiscrimination Harassment
  • AR 5145.3 Nondiscrimination Harassment
  • BP 5145.7 Sexual Harassment

These policies were also approved by the Office for Civil Rights and will be used for training all staff, beginning with the administrative leadership team next week.  Guidelines from these will also be developed and shared with staff and students.

At the meeting the Board also approved an amendment to the contract of Assistant Superintendent Karen Hendricks, and agreements for working with student teachers and interns from 28 colleges and universities.

In other business, the Board had a lengthy and productive discussion related to the need to revise the 2017-18 budget to account for an unanticipated increase in teacher and support staff compensation due to the mistake in not filing a written request to reopen the union contracts.  This matter will also be discussed at the September 26 Board meeting.

Staff also shared a detailed enrollment report that included detailed class size data.  Both a PDF and Excel spreadsheet of the data can be examined here.  As you will see, our principals have worked hard to keep class sizes below contractual averages of 28.5, and to limit the number of classes over 30 at the middle schools and over 32 at the high schools.

We hope everyone makes the most of a fine family weekend.  Sunday afternoon the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Special Education is hosting its annual Family Fun Day at Mitchell Park, and I will be there at 4:00 p.m. to join in the festivities.  It's going to be a wonderful event, and I look forward to seeing familiar friends and meeting new ones.  And to top it off, I won't be wearing a tie!