Big news in the Palo Alto Unified School District! Our long-time Superintendent, Dr. Kevin Skelly, announced his resignation as of June 2014. While most Superintendents stay in a district for 2-3 years, Dr. Skelly has served for the past seven years, making him the second-longest serving Superintendent in our history. He is a champion for our school district, and his unwavering optimism, visible presence at all our school sites, and emphasis on teachers and teaching will be missed. During his tenure, he worked with the Board and community stakeholders to update our Strategic Plan, adding a focus on student social and emotional health. He moved the district to adopt A-G requirements, requiring a high standard of excellence for all our students. He and the Board set aside $5 million for a teacher professional development fund and he made ongoing learning an integral part of the teacher contract. He embraced innovation in the classroom with blended learning courses, partnerships with our local community college, and the adoption of new Common Core State Standards and assessments. And he has been a strong representative voice for community-funded districts at the local, county, and state level.
SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: The Board is beginning the process of finding a new Superintendent. Proposal requests went out to three highly-reputed search firms, who will present to the Board in an open public session on March 10th, from 9am-2pm at the district office. Once the search firm is chosen, community input will be solicited about desired qualities for the new Superintendent. I will post upcoming town hall meetings on my events page at: www.heidiemberling.com. In reviewing materials from the last search in 2007, there were more than 600 desired traits collected from administrators, teachers, PTA, CAC, PASS, former Board members, Principals, Site Council reps, asst. Principals and Deans, PAEA, parents, PiE, cabinet, childcare, boosters, CSEA, high school students, and two community open forums.
LOCAL CONTROL ACCOUNTABILITY PLAN (LCAP): One requirement of the Governor's new education funding formula (LCFF) is to develop, adopt, and annually update a three-year LCAP plan. The Calif. State Board of Education will complete a template for districts by the end of March. The LCAP will include district goals (aligned with state priorities), the action plan for accomplishing those goals, and the budgetary resources to support the action plan. Feedback will be solicited from teachers, principals, school personnel, local bargaining units, parents, English-Learner parent committee, and a public hearing, similar to our Strategic Plan process. A community survey will be distributed in March, consultation with stakeholders will begin in April, and a public hearing is currently set for May 13.
BUDGET: The Governor's education budget includes $6.1 billion in K-12 deferrals and an additional $4.5 billion for LCFF, none of which goes to community-funded districts like Palo Alto, which rely instead on property taxes as a primary source of revenue. Although the LCFF presents a complete overhaul of how the state distributes education funds, it is not a formula that adds revenue to education. As Assemblymember Joan Buchanan says, "we are simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic." We are still 49th in the country in per-pupil spending for education. I recently attended a Santa Clara County School Boards Association (SCCSBA) Legislative Forum on Education where legislators are searching for less volatile revenue sources than capital gains. Split roll tax, which separates businesses from residential properties, is being discussed in Sacramento, but Prop. 13 has proved to be quite resilient so this is an uphill battle.
PENSION FUND: There is currently an estimated $71 billion shortfall in the Calif. State Teacher's Retirement System (CalSTRS). The State Assembly is discussing this issue. The most likely recommendation will be to split the cost of this shortfall three ways: the state, the district, and the teacher. Statewide, an extra $4.2 billion is needed for the next 30 years to pay off this unfunded liability. Locally, this means an extra $12 million needed each year, which would mean a $4 million shared burden beginning as early as July, 2015.
TRANSITIONAL KINDERGARTEN (TK): I also attended an Early Care and Education Legislative Forum organized by the Santa Clara County Office of Education. There is a bill in the State Senate to expand TK to include all four-year olds. Legislators strongly believe that a high quality preschool experience greatly benefits the state long-term by reducing costs of juvenile corrections, grade retention, and prison offenses. Research has shown that for every $1 spent on early education, society saves $7 later on. Revisions will be made to this new bill as it moves through committee. Questions remain about funding, facilities, capacity, teacher preparation and credentialing, and public/private partnerships with current high quality preschools. There is a lot of momentum for early care and education right now, including support from President Obama in his State of the Union address. Districts are concerned that Prop. 98 funds dedicated to K-12 education will be diluted with the mandate to provide services to preschool-age children with no additional funding mechanism.