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    Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter - April 2016

    Thank you for your kind e-mails of support, your endorsements, and your donations to my re-election campaign for the PAUSD School Board.  It's been an honor to serve you the past four years as your elected representative and I look forward to talking with you in person at an upcoming event or house party over the next few months.  I can't win in November without YOUR help--please take a quick moment to make a donation online.  A heartfelt thanks for your support. 

    CAMPAIGN PRIORITIES: Over the next few months, I will share my priorities for the PAUSD School District, beginning with my full support for innovations in teaching and learning across our schools.  One of our focused Board goals this year has been around more individualized and personalized learning experiences.  We've added high school "pathways" in fields such as social justice, engineering, sports, child development, and biomedical science.  We've piloted flipped classrooms, maker spaces, and a new Advanced Authentic Research program in which students are paired with a mentor in a field of their interest to do a year-long, in-depth research project.  We've partnered with Teacher's College to introduce Reader's and Writer's Workshops, deepening our elementary students' literacy skills and knowledge.  And we are piloting new elementary math curricula in the coming year, in order to increase our students' mathematical abilities and exploration.  One goal for me is to increase student engagement and establish closer connections between students and teachers, as we model a culture of continuous learning for everyone.  Next month: a focus on youth health and well-being.

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    Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter -March 2016

    Spring Break is here and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to relax and regroup before the final few months of the school year.  For those of you who do not have a child in PAUSD schools, you will experience a lovely week with less school traffic!  I hope you are all able to enjoy some time with your families.  

    LANING/TRACKING STUDY SESSION: We began March with a study session on "laning," "tracking," and "ability grouping" practices and what that looks like in PAUSD schools.  Ability grouping is a pedagogic practice of pairing students of similar ability into small, flexible groups, usually for reading or math instruction.  Tracking is a school's practice of separating students into different classes based on academic achievement.  And laning is the practice that allows students to move out of a current "track" and into another, based on certain learning criteria.  One concern about these practices voiced by the Office for Civil Rights in the US Dept. of Education is that school districts have a responsibility to ensure that they do not use ability grouping or tracking practices that result in discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin. This is an equity and access issue.  If tracking results in courses with substantially disproportionate enrollments of minority or non-minority students, it is a violation of Title VI protections.  The research on these practices is mixed, although some studies show that when the curriculum is differentiated, it benefits high ability students.  Other studies show that heterogeneous classes appear to benefit low ability students, but could depress the achievement of average and high achieving students.  To read the full packet from the study session, click HERE.

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    Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter -February 2016

    This month, the Palo Alto School Board made significant progress towards our focused goals for this year.  As a reminder, our six aspirational goals include: a more personalized approach to learning that is engaging, challenging, purposeful, and encourages mastery; an alignment of our course curricula, grading practices, homework load, and assessments; a more strategic use of data; improving equity and access for historically underrepresented students; managing our enrollment effectively; and promoting safe and welcoming schools for both students and teachers.

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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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