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    Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter - January 2016

    The School Board got right to work in 2016 with two main issues that commanded the majority of the Board's time in January: managing our enrollment growth and a proposal to rename Jordan Middle School.  The first came out of a Board focused goal for 2015-16; the second came to us from the community.

    ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT (ELEMENTARY):  After nine months of work and several interim Board reports, the Enrollment Management Advisory Committee (EMAC) presented its final report to the Board this month.  For elementary enrollment, the Board voted to absorb the students who will move into the new Stanford housing units into Nixon Elementary School by adding 1-3 portables over the next few years.  This may be a short-term solution if enrollment eventually exceeds capacity in our district.  The elementary subcommittee also submitted a "minority report," advocating for a new elementary school at Greendell/525 San Antonio (and possibly re-opening Garland Elementary), in order to increase acceptance rates into district choice programs and reduce overflows from neighborhood schools.  Two additional elementary issues surfaced: whether the district should add "neighborhood preference" to the choice programs and whether the district needs to re-align boundaries of our elementary schools to accommodate the areas of growth around town.  Some districts re-align boundaries every few years, to be more responsive to new housing growth.  Historically, boundary changes in Palo Alto are met with passionate outcry from district residents who expect to attend a certain school, so our district has only changed boundaries when absolutely necessary.  These two topics will likely come back to the Board over the next few months.

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    Visiting Tamalpais Union High School District's Wellness Program

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    On Friday, January 8, 2016, I was fortunate to be included in a district site visit to Redwood High School's Wellness Program in the Tamalpais Union High School District.  Senior Director of Student Services (and former PAUSD Administrator) Wes Cedros took us on a tour of their new wellness center and spoke about the process of creating a comprehensive wellness program throughout the school (and district).  Wellness Director Jessica Colvin shared her thoughts about how the health and well-being of students is equally important to their academic success.  Our group consisted of school psychologists, our district social worker, a district nurse, our Directors of Student Services, and a secondary assistant Principal--all folks who focus on the social and emotional health of our students.  It was exciting to see what positive changes a coordinated effort can achieve.  Looking forward to our Board discussions about wellness, beginning in February.   

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    Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter - December 2015

    December was busy, right up until winter break, with three days spent in San Diego at the California School Boards Association's (CSBA) Annual Education Conference, two PAUSD School Board meetings, one Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) meeting, one Palo Alto Comp Plan committee meeting on Land Use issues, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

    CSBA'S ANNUAL EDUCATION CONFERENCE: All five PAUSD School Board members along with Superintendent Max McGee gathered in San Diego Dec. 3rd-5th, along with thousands of school board members from around the state, to discuss educational policies, practices, finances, and innovations throughout California.  This is a great opportunity to learn from experts in education, hear about statewide advocacy efforts, and connect with colleagues.  I don't tweet very much, but if you check out my Twitter feed (@HeidiEmberling), you can find out more details about the workshops I attended.  One of my favorite quotes from the conference is: "Democracy is never a final achievement.  It is a call to an untiring effort." -JFK  Some of the workshops I attended focused on: Joint City/School Land Use agreements (City of Dublin has done some creative partnerships), Early Learning-3rd grade alignment (Oakland Unified has a Deputy Chief of Early Learning!), parent involvement (Fresno Unified created a "Parent University" program), a dynamic and inclusive LCAP process from Berkeley Unified that engages all stakeholders in the continuous cycle of progress towards its goals, the first research study about the positive effects of Transitional Kindergarten, and a discussion about fostering more Latino Leadership in district administration and school board representation.  Did you know that 54% of California's students are Latino?  But fewer than 15% of school board members are Latino, and only 18% of California's teachers are Latino.  Keynote speakers included Author and Harvard Professor Sarah Lewis, speaking about creativity and the gift of failure, and Dr. Pedro Noguera, speaking about equity in education ("Poverty is not a learning disability.  Equity is about giving students what they need to succeed.")  It was an inspiring conference.  I look forward to sharing and implementing some of these innovative ideas with our district over the next year.

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    CSBA Conference 2015

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    All five PAUSD School Board members along with Superintendent Max McGee gathered in San Diego Dec. 3rd-5th, 2015, along with thousands of school board members from around the state, to discuss educational policies, practices, finances, and innovations throughout California.  This is a great opportunity to learn from experts in education, hear about statewide advocacy efforts, and connect with colleagues.  I don't tweet very much, but if you check out my Twitter feed (@HeidiEmberling), you can find out more details about the workshops I attended.  One of my favorite quotes from the conference is: "Democracy is never a final achievement.  It is a call to an untiring effort." -JFK  Some of the workshops I attended focused on: Joint City/School Land Use agreements (City of Dublin has done some creative partnerships), Early Learning-3rd grade alignment (Oakland Unified has a Deputy Chief of Early Learning!), parent involvement (Fresno Unified created a "Parent University" program), a dynamic and inclusive LCAP process from Berkeley Unified that engages all stakeholders in the continuous cycle of progress towards its goals, the first research study about the positive effects of Transitional Kindergarten, and a discussion about fostering more Latino Leadership in district administration and school board representation.  Did you know that 54% of California's students are Latino?  But fewer than 15% of school board members are Latino, and only 18% of California's teachers are Latino.  Keynote speakers included Author and Harvard Professor Sarah Lewis, speaking about creativity and the gift of failure, and Dr. Pedro Noguera, speaking about equity in education ("Poverty is not a learning disability.  Equity is about giving students what they need to succeed.")  It was an inspiring conference.  I look forward to sharing and implementing some of these innovative ideas with our district over the next year.

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    Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter - November 2015

    As we approach the end of the first semester, there are wonderful opportunities to see our students shine in a wide variety of musical and theatrical performances and shows.  (Find out more detailed information on the individual calendars on the school websites.)  Also, check out one of the many student publications from Paly and Gunn and read in-depth stories about current issues in our community, as well as student perspectives, interests, and passions.  Here are a few to check out online.  Gunn--Oracle: http://gunnoracle.com/, Paly--Campanile: http://www.palycampanile.org/, C Magazine: http://issuu.com/c_magazine, Verde Magazine: http://verdemagazine.com/, Viking Sports: http://www.vikingsportsmag.com/.

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    Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter - October 2015

    October was an extremely productive month, with two School Board meetings, two study sessions on Enrollment Growth, and a Board Policy Review Committee meeting.  I also attended a California Suburban School Districts (CALSSD) meeting in Sacramento, a Schools for Sound Finance (SF2) meeting in Hillsborough, a Los Altos Hills Town Council meeting, the annual Santa Clara County School Boards Association (SCCSBA) dinner focusing on raising expectations for "at-risk" kids, and a day and a half internship program called Packard 101, which introduces local elected officials and community leaders to the world-renowned Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.

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    Unity Day 2015

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    On October 21, 2015, Mayor Karen Holman and I joined Hoover Elementary for their Unity Day celebration.  The students each made paper links, which joined together to represent the entire community coming together towards inclusion, tolerance, and efforts to prevent bullying behaviors.  The Hoover Librarian read the book, "Bully" with the kinders, and the kids discussed what it means to be an "upstander" in the school community.

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    Powerful Practices 3.0

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    Powerful Practices 3.0: A day of learning for teachers by teachers!  I enjoyed stopping by this year's third annual Powerful Practices Staff Development Day for district elementary school teachers and Principals, held at Gunn High School.  Keynote speaker Dr. Thomas Hehir from Harvard spoke about how the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) support differentiation and personalized learning in the classroom, without additional stress on teachers.

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    Dr. Thomas Hehir Visits PAUSD

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    Dr. Thomas Hehir is a Professor of Practice in Learning Differences at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  He is in Palo Alto for a week to consult with PAUSD around our special education programs, inclusion efforts, and co-teaching experiences throughout our PK-12 district.  He hosted a parent evening conversation, morning coffee presentation (the photo above is from that event at JLS), and provided the keynote at our Professional Practices 3.0 Staff Development Day of Learning.  It is such an amazing opportunity for the district to hear from and work with Dr. Hehir and his team.  Thanks to Dr. Holly Wade at the District Office and her entire team for inspiring us to improve our services for ALL students.

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    Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter - September 2015

    School is well underway and my kids and I are enjoying the cooler temperature of fall.  The School Board is hard at work planning for future growth, managing budget and goal priorities, and creating intellectually-stimulating as well as safe and welcoming schools for every student, every day. 

    ENROLLMENT GROWTH: This year, we have 12,488 students enrolled in PAUSD schools, a decrease of 44 students from last year.  Our elementary schools decreased by 171 students to a total of 5,514, including a decrease in kindergarten enrollment.  Our middle schools increased by 61 students for a total enrollment of 3,013.  And our high schools increased by 66 students for a total enrollment of 3,961.  Enrollment growth in K-5 is projected to be stable over the next five years.  We have a "bubble" class moving through our 5th grade classes right now, so the middle school enrollment is expected to increase one more year, and then taper off.  Our high schools were built out to accommodate the projected growth over the next five years.  58% (37 of 64) overflowed students (students placed in a school other than their neighborhood school) were placed in a nearby "cluster" school. The Board will have a study session on elementary enrollment on Monday, Oct. 5th from 6-9pm at the district office to plan for the near and future growth in our district. 

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