Last week, I got to hang out at Ohlone. I attended a Principal's Coffee/PTA Meeting with parents. Principal Bill Overton and I discussed the Common Core rollout in the district and how much the new standards already align with the teaching methodologies at Ohlone. We also talked about the change in testing and how that will affect students. Second graders will no longer be tested under the new system, which is more developmentally-appropriate. The new assessments will be given online, however, so there is discussion among teachers about getting our third graders ready for digital testing. I also did a brown bag lunch with teachers and heard glowing reviews of the Staff Development Day for elementary teachers on Oct. 18th. I met some of our fabulous traveling team teachers in music and heard about some large class sizes and the grouping of different instruments all together in one classroom. Teachers are very interested in what summative assessments will be expected this year, in addition to sampling the new Smarter Balanced assessments in the Spring.
I visited Addison this month, chatting with parents at a Principal's/PTA Coffee in the library and enjoying a brown bag lunch with teachers as well. Everyone is curious about the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards, including the new Smarter Balanced Assessments, which will replace the CST (or STAR) bubble tests. Great conversations as we move forward with our Focused Goals for this year. I was lucky enough to show up on the day the Palo Alto Motorcycle Police Officers were visiting. There was a palpable excitement among students and teachers! Here's a photo:
On Sunday, October 13th, from 4:30-6:30pm, we celebrated the Grand Opening of Fairmeadow Elementary School's new Classroom Building! Superintendent Kevin Skelly, along with Principal Gary Prehn and hundreds of Fairmeadow families came out for a potluck dinner and guided student tours of the new facilities. The highlight of the construction is a two-story, eight-classroom building with 16,358 sq. ft. of instructional space, outdoor seating along with updated technology, speaking systems; and multiple environmentally-friendly components. In addition, students will enjoy a 600 sq. ft. addition to the library, a new kindergarten play area, and a natural play yard for all grades. These projects, along with most of our district construction projects, are part of the 2008 Strong Schools Bond passed by enthusiastic community supporters. It was great to come out and meet so many families and students, who will enjoy these terrific improvements to their school. Here's a photo of the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the new classroom featured in the background.
October was a productive month! We celebrated the new two-story classroom building at Fairmeadow Elementary School, honored bullying prevention efforts across the district on Unity Day, got out of our cars and opted to "walk and roll" to school, and learned more about Common Core State Standards implementation at two district-wide parent information nights.
COMMON CORE/SMARTER BALANCED: Over the next two years, PAUSD will receive $2.4 million from the state to support Common Core implementation, including funds for Professional Development, Technology (the new assessments will be given online only), and Instructional Materials. The district is now fully immersed in preparing for the new federal standards and Smarter Balanced assessments.
This week we celebrated PAUSD Unity Day throughout our district. Everyone wore ORANGE as individual schools held classroom conversations and organized school activities promoting respect for all, how to be an "upstander" in your school community, and preventing bullying behaviors. Thanks to SPEAC (Special Education Advisory Committee) for organizing and co-sponsoring events and activities at many of our schools. At Duveneck Elementary School, children created orange paper links carrying messages of social kindness and tolerance. Visiting school board members, school district staff, and representatives from City Council, Palo Alto Police, and Palo Alto Fire helped join each classroom "chain" together. The final product, a school-wide paper chain of unity, is now on display in the multi-purpose room.
I hosted a Principal's Coffee event this week at the Young Fives/Transitional Kindergarten programs at the Greendell/Cubberley campus, another one of my liaison schools. Principal Sharon Keplinger welcomed families to come meet the Board Member and ask any questions about our district. Many parents stopped by and asked a range of fabulous and detailed questions about enrollment growth issues, the district's financial health, Common Core State Standards, and the role of the Board of Education. We had a lively discussion about these and other issues, including our Strategic Plan, the complexities of district and Board decision-making processes, and how we support our youngest students. Parents are an integral part of the Greendell campus and everyone shared very positive experiences under Principal Keplinger's dynamic leadership.
I was invited to attend a PTA Coffee and Project Cornerstone's ABC (Asset Building Champions) Parent Program at one of my liaison schools, Palo Verde Elementary. It was great to connect with Principal Anne Brown, a much beloved Principal by parents, teachers, and staff alike. After greeting all the smiling, energetic students at the outdoor Assembly, I was able to sit in on a parent meeting for the Project Cornerstone ABC program, a parent engagement program to promote positive youth development. Palo Verde is in its third year of the ABC program and there are 1-2 parent volunteers for each classroom for a monthly commitment throughout the school year. The goals of the program include:Read more
CELEBRATE: Last month saw the Grand Opening of the Gunn Titan Gym, and this month, we celebrated the Grand Opening of the new two-story classroom building at JLS Middle School (see my BLOG for the story and a photo). It was a wonderful evening, with hundreds of parents and community members sharing dinner and dessert with talented student musicians, energetic student tour guides, and, of course, the JLS panther mascot. We also celebrated the opening of the Palo Alto High School Stadium with an exciting 28-7 win for the Vikings. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, a 1982 Paly graduate, served as honorary captain of the coin toss. These impressive school projects are all funded by the 2008 Strong Schools Bond.Read more
It was a beautiful evening last night, September 11, 2013, for the more than 1,000 families and community members attending the Grand Opening of JLS' new 7th Grade Classroom Building, Outdoor Amphitheater, Basketball Courts, and Landscaping projects. Students led guided tours of the new facilities after some wonderful performances of beautiful music. Also, a delicious dinner and dessert was provided before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The classroom is 9,300 square feet of instructional space, including updated technology, speaking systems, and multiple environmentally-friendly components. These projects are all part of the Strong Schools Bond, passed by our supportive voters in 2008.
Here I am celebrating with some JLS panthers. Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate!
Welcome back to the 2013-2014 school year!
STRATEGIC PLAN: The School Board held its Annual Retreat in June, where we discussed last year's accomplishments, areas for improvement, and progress towards our goals. We also celebrated the district's new Strategic Plan, which will guide our work for the next five years. You can find the 2013 Strategic Plan HERE. With students at the center, we focus on five areas: Academic Excellence and Learning (A), Personal Development and Support (B), Innovative Staff Development and Recruitment (C), Optimized Budget and Infrastructure (D), and Transparent Governance and Communications (E). The plan was developed over four months with input from nearly sixty one-on-one interviews, ten focus groups and more than 4,000 survey responses from parents, high school students, teachers, administrators, and classified staff. This input allowed us to build the strongest plan possible to move us forward as an organization.