February 19, 2016

We have had a most productive week, and I even found time to spend a couple of hours at El Carmelo and Nixon elementary schools.  The quality of teaching was terrific, and I was especially impressed with the reading and writing activities.  The impact of our professional development was evident as teachers shared their practices with me and clearly brought out the best in their students.  Seeing the students collaborating in their “book club” groups, hearing them read and present original stories, and watching them engage with their teachers was both reaffirming and inspiring.   

Turning to the agenda, the Superintendent’s Report will begin with student and staff successes as we highlight some accomplishments, including the entrepreneurial Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) endeavors of our students.  Also, our own Esther Wojcicki, Paly English teacher, recorded her TED talk (nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas) this past week, stressing the importance of student-driven and purposeful learning.  She joins the ranks of some of the greatest and most inspirational minds on the planet, and we are so proud of her.  In addition, if we have received any new information regarding our pending Office for Civil Rights cases, I will share that along with the progress we have made in catching up with Public Records Act requests and our contracting with Lozano Smith law firm to complete the redactions.  The annual Youth Community Service (YCS) luncheon is this Friday, and at the Board meeting, I will take a few minutes to recognize this valuable partnership.  We will be closing with slides from last Thursday’s Professional Development Day, which, as noted in our “weekly” last Thursday, was a grand success in terms of professional learning, engagement, and dialogue around teaching practices.

A.  Approval of High School Courses for 2016-17

Faculty members will present two new course proposals: AP Physics 1 (Gunn) and Principles of Biomedical Science (Paly).  The former is a redesigned Physics class, and the latter is the introductory course from the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Science program.  These classes will use project and problem-based learning combined with a challenging curriculum to help students attain a deep conceptual understanding of important notions.

B.  One-Time State Funded Professional Development

This item was tabled due to time constraints at the last meeting.  California has allocated funds to support professional learning for public school educators, specifying that funds may be directed towards implementing state standards; supporting administrators and coaches; and augmenting supports for beginning teachers and any other teacher in need of specialized support.  Educational Services team will present our Educator Effectiveness Program Plan for discussion at this meeting and adoption at a subsequent meeting.

C.  Second Interim Financial Report

Since the first interim report, we have had some adjustments to revenues and expenses that have resulted in a net increase of approximately $530,000.  On the plus side, there are increased tax revenues, savings in legal costs, and a decrease in projected personnel costs.  On the debit side, we have a decrease in Special Education revenue, payments to school districts for inter-district transfers, and the Hanover Research contract.  In addition, Ms. Cathy Mak, Chief Business Officer, and her team will update the Board and the community on the Governor’s proposed state budget and both designated and undesignated reserve funds.

D.  Addison Project Donation, Pre-Construction Budget and Contracts

For the past eleven months, we have been in conversations with an anonymous donor who expressed an interest in funding necessary renovations at Addison School.  After receiving a planning grant for $25,000 from the donor, the District retained Gelfand Partners, the architect for the three previous Strong Schools Bond elementary school projects.

The donor’s remittance letter called for a master plan to be completed by November.  To that end, a number of site-based visioning working group meetings, site meetings, and a family workshop were held at Addison.  By November 2015, the architect produced a conceptual design booklet.  After additional discussion, the concept design (and subsequent cost) was scaled back to align with earlier renovation plans, albeit updated based on the group meetings.

The Addison School currently has seven K-5 portable classrooms.  This is a small site and the footprint of the portables causes a significant reduction in usable site area.  The current library and administration wing at Addison is located in the interior of the school site.  This is a poor location.  The multipurpose building has not been modernized and is undersized in that it does not accommodate the full school population.

The proposed $16,959,766 project addresses these issues through a new two-story administration and library building, the relocation of classroom uses into a renovation of the administration/library wing, and the construction of a new three-classroom permanent building.  The current multipurpose building will be replaced with a modern and larger facility.  Landscape improvements will include an expansion of play space at the current portable location, redesign of the courtyard to expand usefulness to the adjacent classrooms, and a new courtyard at the new classroom wing.  The District has received an Award Letter for $1,330,000 from the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund.  District staff has been working with Harold Freiman of Lozano Smith extensively on award language.  The language in the Award Letter is acceptable to both District staff and this attorney.

The donation of $1,330,000 includes all activities up to and including bidding the project, but NOT the award of the project to a contractor or any other expenses incurred after contract award.  Staff prepared this budget and therefore is comfortable that this amount will be sufficient to fund the pre-award activities.

If the project proceeds on schedule, the Board can expect to review progress as follows:

Schematic Design - June 2016
DSA Submittal - February 2017
Authorization to Bid - November 2017
Award of Contract - February 2018

Additional donations up to the total amount of $16,959,766 will be received at different stages of the project. 

Assuming this Addison Project is approved and further funded when the project bids are received in late 2017, Addison will be the fourth school to have its portables replaced and a two-story building on campus.  It will be the first school to have its multi-purpose building replaced or renovated, although earlier plans called for expansion and/or renovation of these rooms in all the elementary buildings.  In keeping with the concept of “progressive parity,” staff is also recommending using $148,000 from the Strong Schools Bond project to develop and update conceptual design work at the eight other schools. 

E.  Funding For High School Mental Health and Wellness Support

At the last meeting, the Board of Education reviewed and discussed mental health expenditures in order to consider providing additional funding to student health and wellness programs.  This item was presented for discussion, and pending approval, action will be taken to use additional funds from this year’s current budget to address the development of a coordinated student health and wellness approach to benefit all students and staff, as well as to increase direct service to students and families.  At the last meeting an addition of $56,800 was proposed.  Following questions and comments from Board members, we have not increased that amount after a series of conversations with Dr. Philippe Rey from Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS).  We are proposing to hire a senior ACS specialist who will focus on counseling and support for issues related to drug and alcohol use.  The cost for this position is approximately $60,000 annually, bringing the total request up to $120,000.  We will strive to fill this post prior to the end of the year, and while we will not be paying the full salary this year, the $120,000 amount also provides a cushion to obtain extra counseling from Asian American Community Involvement (AACI), ACS, or other partners and providers if the need arises later this spring.

Staff is recommending a strategic and comprehensive plan to develop a wellness continuum of integrated supports to coordinate and minimize duplication of services, and increase direct service to students.  As will be discussed at the Budget Workshop in the morning, having a dedicated person coordinating mental health and wellness services from PK-12 is essential for the most cost-effective investment of funds in this area.  While any new coordinator level staff would need to be built into next year’s budget – and continue into following years - at tonight’s meeting, we are asking for the Board’s approval of current year expenses; specifically: 1) to extend the remainder of the contract with AACI to increase services to Mandarin and Korean-speaking families, and to increase additional agency for more support to Spanish-speaking students and families ($31,800); 2) $25,000 to be allocated immediately to support the exploration of Wellness Model programs for students and staff; and 3) $60,000 for contracting with ACS for a senior level specialist with additional funding availability in case additional direct services are needed for students later in the year.  

F.  2016 California School Boards Association Delegate Assembly Election

This is an annual item.  The Board first discusses then approves the delegates receiving the PAUSD vote from the slate that California School Boards Association (CSBA) presents.  As is past practice, one Board member who has taken the time to familiarize themselves with the candidates and their platforms makes the recommendations.

G.  Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) Meeting – March 3, 2016

As we discussed at the off-site in January, we are making it a practice to include the Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) upcoming policies for review, as an agenda item for the regular Board meeting that precedes the next BPRC.  In addition to informing the Board and public regarding what will be on the agenda, Board members now have the opportunity to request that any particular proposed policy be pulled for a separate discussion before it is considered at BPRC. 

In closing, we are looking forward to the Lunar New Year Celebration at Mitchell Park this Sunday and to resting up for the full week ahead.  While the Budget Workshop and Board Meeting are certainly highlights, truth be told I am most excited about teaching a section of Creative Writing at Gunn next Wednesday!  Having first-hand experience with the block schedule will be a great learning opportunity, and I can’t wait to have some quality, extended time with a class.