May 2013 Newsletter

As the school year winds down, the Board is gearing up to celebrate student graduations, plan the June retreat to set our annual goals, and reflect on the successes and setbacks of the past year and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

STRATEGIC PLAN: I've been honored to serve with my colleague Melissa Baten Caswell on the Strategic Plan sub-committee for the past five months.  After a robust Board discussion about metrics on May 7, we are now set to adopt the district's Strategic Plan that will guide our work for the next five years.  This plan was informed by 30 individual interviews, 11 focus groups, 6 surveys and multiple school board discussions.  Thousands of you weighed in on academics, student wellness, budget priorities, professional development, communications, and governance.  More details on the individual initiatives can be found HERE.

COMMON CORE: In addition to our preparations for the new California Common Core State Standards (CCCSS), we are beginning to discuss the demands of the new Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) that will become operational as the new state accountability measures in Spring of 2014-2015.  These assessments are slated to be given ONLINE only and will replace the California Standards Tests (STAR testing).  The technology will enable these tests to be adaptive, basing the difficulty of future questions on previous answers, possibly providing more accurate measurement of student achievement, particularly for high and low-performing students.  Questions?  CDE website. Or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. For sample question (with animation!), click HERE.

BUENA VISTA: Many of you know that the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, located in the Barron Park neighborhood may close.  If this happens, 103 PAUSD students currently enrolled at Barron Park Elementary, Juana Briones Elementary, Terman Middle School, and Gunn High School will be displaced.  12% of Barron Park Elementary students currently live at Buena Vista.  The 375 families who live at Buena Vista are predominantly low-income and 82% are Latino.  I formed a sub-committee with my colleague Camille Townsend to partner with the Friends of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in crafting a Statement of Support towards favorable educational outcomes for these students, which was well-received by our colleagues on the Board.  Click HERE for the full statement from the May 7 Board Meeting Packet (Item 17).

SAFE AND WELCOMING SCHOOLS: The Board held an initial study session to discuss the District's Safe and Welcoming Schools Action Plan.  All children should feel safe and connected on every school campus.  The District is working with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to improve policies and procedures around the important issues of bullying, race-based discrimination, and disabilities-based harassment.  As we continue this work, I will be looking for consistency across school sites, support and training for our teachers and administrators in identifying and dealing with these concerns, and ongoing educational opportunities for our students and families.

EDSOURCE SYMPOSIUM: I attended the 2013 EdSource Symposium on "Transforming Public Education: What's Next for Students, Teachers, and Schools" at the San Jose Convention Center, in partnership with the California State PTA.  Keynote speakers were Stanford Professor of Education Linda Darling-Hammond and Obama's Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter, former Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.  Topics included: Funding inequities and Governor Brown's Local Control Funding Formula, raising teaching and learning standards, and the continual search for authentic student and school performance measures.  The most exciting part for me was how many of the speakers and panelists cited the research stating that a high quality preschool experience is one of the most influential factors for student success.  Follow my conference experiences on Twitter: @HeidiEmberling.  Also check out: Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State."   
  
As always, you are welcome to write me with any comments or questions: hemberling@pausd.org.  My website now includes all upcoming Board meetings, events, newsletters, and more.  www.heidiemberling.com

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Emberling for Education
Heidi Emberling,
Palo Alto School Board