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.

ALGEBRA 1/1A (GUNN): In our April 19th Board Meeting, the Board discussed the Gunn Math Department's request to pilot a combined Algebra 1 and 1A course (potentially called Algebra 9).  The Gunn Math Department was represented by IS (Instructional Supervisor) Kathy Hawes and Mathematics Teacher Toni Smith, who presented the issue as one of equity, access, and opportunity for students, citing these reasons for combining the courses: the similarities in content (Algebra 1A covers one additional chapter), the amount of students with IEPs in Algebra 1 (55 out of 70 students enrolled this year), and the limitations on students who take Algebra 1 (even with a summer bridge program, those who do well cannot access the highest level math courses in their senior year).  While I am in support of equity and access, I don't believe all our students need to be funneled onto a path that leads to taking AP Calculus in their senior year.  Some students are ready for that challenge, but while only 16% of US high school students take Calculus, 72% of Gunn students take it.  Kathy Hawes, our Math IS suggested we add math alternatives for our seniors such as AP Statistics or an equivalent.  This increases choice and may alleviate undue pressure to take Calculus even though a student may not be entering a STEM field of study in college.  If Gunn combines these two algebra courses, it would be essential to keep these class sizes small and to ensure supports for struggling students, who may not be ready for an accelerated course.

ENROLLMENT PLANNING: Following up on the recommendations of the Enrollment Management Advisory Committee (EMAC), the Board responded positively to the Superintendent recommendation to release the Strong Schools Bond Elementary funds ($60 million), which had been reserved for potential new elementary schools, back into elementary improvements at our existing schools.  At the same time, a majority of the Board (myself included) voiced support for a comprehensive staff report on the feasibility, costs, and benefits of opening up a fourth middle school and/or a K-8 school that could balance school sizes at the elementary and middle schools.   

SCHOOL LIAISON VISITS: This month, I was able to visit JLS for Walk & Roll to School day, as well as a Not In Our Schools lunchtime activity around drowning stereotypes.  Students were invited to write down a stereotype (like "girls are not good at sports"), and literally "drown" the piece of paper in a small wading pool.  Very cathartic activity!  I was also able to attend a JLS Principal's Coffee with Sharon Ofek, where we discussed body image, subtle forms of bullying, screen time, expanding our community definition of "success," and societal expectations of both boys and girls.  It was a great conversation and I thank Principal Ofek for leading such a substantial conversation with parents.  I also stopped by Barron Park Elementary for a brown bag lunch with teachers and this week, I will visit Hoover Elementary for the final PTA Meeting and Cinco de Mayo celebration. 

MAY 10TH: Looking forward to an important Board meeting on May 10th where we will be discussing our final budget priorities for the coming year.  Thank you for all your emails regarding the district's proposal to move towards a full-day kindergarten model, expand the TEAM/Small Learning Community high school transition programs, dedicate district funds for high school athletics, provide breakfast to our elementary students in need, and increase our math and reading intervention specialists across the district.

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