Heidi's Education Newsletter - November 2013

This week, I'm getting ready to attend the California School Boards Association Annual Education Conference in San Diego.  I'm looking forward to learning more about Common Core State Standards, Smarter Balanced Assessments, and the new funding mechanism (Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF) for education across our state.  I'm also eager to find out more about federal and statewide efforts towards providing Universal Preschool for all Pre-K children. 

HIGH SCHOOL MEASURES: This month, the Board heard the results of our Advanced Placement (AP), SAT, and ACT measures, in addition to results from our Annual Alumni Survey.  The number of AP exams taken has gone up 25% in the last six years, with a consistent 95% scoring a 3 or higher, and 48% scoring a perfect 5 (scale is 1-5, with 3 or higher being a passing exam).

SAT scores increased in critical reading, math, and writing this year.  PAUSD students rank in the 92nd percentile when compared to California's SAT scores overall.  Our Alumni Survey, part of the 21st Century Consortium of high-achieving high schools around the country, reported that students feel well prepared academically for college, particularly in math, technology and English.  They would like more preparation with writing and science lab reports.  Balancing school work and a social life is a challenge for students across the consortium.  For more information, click on the PAUSD research and evaluation page.

STRONG SCHOOLS BOND: The Board heard the results of the Annual Strong Schools Bond Financial and Performance Audit, in addition to the Citizen's Oversight Committee Annual Report.  Measure A, passed on June 3, 2008, is a $378 million bond authorization measure supporting growth, modernization, and improvement of the facilities and fixtures of the Palo Alto Unified School District.  $215 million (57%) has been issued and $167 million expended.  The audit found the district in compliance with the terms of the ballot measure.  One item of noncompliance related to retention of trade journal advertising was found.  The district maintained its historical AAA bond rating and did not include any capital appreciation bonds (CABs), which have been significantly restricted by the state legislature due to the controversial use of these bonds in other districts.  To see some terrific photos of all projects completed or in progress around the district, click HERE and download the Board Packet for Nov. 5th Regular Meeting, Item 005.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SITE PLANS: Principals from all 12 elementary schools presented their annual SPSA (Single Plan for Student Achievement) reports to the Board.  Common goals include focused work around the new Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments, implementing more co-teaching models to support classroom instruction and differentiation, and promoting safe and welcoming schools through strengthening skills in our students, teachers, and administrators.  As one Principal emphasized, "We want every student to have the courage and strength to stand up for themselves and others."  Elementary schools across the district are working to provide individualized access, assessment, and engagement across the curriculum for every student.  There is also a committee working to revise the elementary report card.  Two main questions being considered are: what knowledge/skill do we want for this student, and where is the child in meeting that expectation?  Pre-K Principal Sharon Keplinger summarized the presentation well when she stated, "We want our schools to be the best possible place for students to be every day." 

BUDGET: Chief Business Officer Cathy Mak presented the First Interim Financial Report for the district.  Property tax is projected to increase 6.58% over 2012-2013, an increase of $5.2 million over the adopted budget.  Proposition 30 is projected to bring in $2.4 million annually for the next six years, half of which to be used on site level technology.  In November, the District tentatively settled with our unions, PAEA and CSEA, for a 4% ongoing and 2% one-time increase to the salary schedule.  And the district proposed $1.9 million in additional resource allocations including additional secondary school staffing to reduce class sizes, adding a reading specialist and campus supervision for elementary schools, and strengthening technology systems staff to support schools across the district. 

CALENDAR UPDATE: We are very close to finalizing the next three years of calendars for our district (to be approved by the Board at our December meeting.)  The Board heard from the Calendar Committee (consisting of district staff and PAEA, CSEA, and PAMA representatives) and discussed the values of starting as late in August as possible while still having finals before winter break.  We also discussed ending in the first week of June and reiterated our goal of spreading out high-stakes stressors and student breaks throughout both semesters.  This has been a complicated process and the Board thanked all the volunteers on the Calendar Advisory Committee for their passion and dedication to student health and well-being during this process.  

NEW VISION/MISSION STATEMENTS: As part of the Strategic Plan this past year, a smaller committee (my colleague Melissa Baten Caswell and I served on this brief committee) was formed to discuss a Vision and Mission statement for our district.  The Board heard the recommended final versions:

VISION: We support all PAUSD students as they prepare themselves to thrive as global citizens in a rapidly changing world.  We develop our students' knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving skills, and nurture their curiosity, creativity, and resilience, empowering every child to reach his or her fullest intellectual, social, and creative potential.

MISSION: We are a public, pre-K-12 school district that unites our teachers, staff, students, and parents to deliver on our collective vision by offering a rich and challenging academic experience to all students within a supportive community; dedicated to preparing our youth for the challenges of living in a fast-changing world.

I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy the crisp weather and warm holiday spirit with your families this fall!

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