Welcome back to the 2014-2015 school year. I hope you had a terrific summer. For those of you new to my newsletter, this is a monthly update of PAUSD school board discussion topics and activities. As your publicly elected official, I believe in open and transparent communication about what goes on at the school board, where we work with the Superintendent to provide direction, evaluate student learning and achievement, and create budget priorities for the entire District, serving nearly 13,000 students in our community. I appreciate those of you who occasionally send me feedback, questions, and comments. These are helpful in informing my decisions as your representative. If you do not want to receive these newsletters, feel free to use the "unsubscribe" link below. If you think others would be interested in receiving this newsletter, anyone can subscribe on my website at: www.heidiemberling.com. On the website, you will also find information about upcoming events and a blog of my activities around the district.
FOCUSED GOALS 2014-2015: The Board met with our new Superintendent, Dr. Glenn "Max" McGee, for a two-day, open session Board Retreat (see blog) on August 12th and 13th, where we discussed Amanda Ripley's book, "The Smartest Kids in the World" (our summer reading homework). At our first Board meeting on August 26th, Dr. McGee introduced five focused goals for our district, aligned with our Strategic Plan:
1. To prepare students for a future that necessitates global collaboration and competition, cultivates support for a district-wide culture that expects, advances, inspires, and promotes academic excellence, hard work, academic achievement, and perseverance for every student.
2. Create conditions that assure consistent high quality and fairness in curriculum, instruction, and assessment while affording individual schools autonomy to design, develop, implement, and evaluate innovative practices and programs aligned with the District's Strategic Plan.
3. To provide all students the highest quality learning environment in every District school, assure that all certificated and classified staff are continuously engaged in Professional Learning that is aligned with the specific, strategic school improvement goals that are tied directly to the District Strategic Plan.
4. Develop clear accountabilities for ensuring implementation of key Strategic Plan initiatives.
5. Anticipate, respond, and promptly resolve potentially distracting and disruptive issues in order to maintain focus on the District's vision of "developing our students' knowledge, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, deepening their knowledge, and nurturing their curiosity, creativity, and resilience -- empowering every child to reach his or her fullest intellectual, social, and creative potential."
With each of these goals, Dr. McGee included a list of Measures and Deliverables, in order to evaluate our successes in the coming year. To see the entire Board report, click HERE and download the packet for Aug. 26th.
RESOLUTION AGAINST LOCAL RESERVES CAP: At the 11th hour, a Trailer Bill (SB 858) was added to the California State Budget, creating a cap on local reserves. Local school boards are being urged by the California School Boards' Association (CSBA) to pass resolutions against this cap on reserves, arguing that local budget decisions are best made by local elected officials. The California Teachers' Association (CTA), a sponsor of this Trailer Bill, argued that many districts in the state are maintaining high reserves, keeping taxpayer money out of the classroom. Palo Alto maintains a reserve of about 10%. The City of Palo Alto maintains a reserve of about 15%. The CTA asserts that some districts have reserves at 40%-80% or higher. CSBA counters that smaller districts in particular must maintain higher reserves to cope with unexpected costs, school construction projects, major textbook adoptions, deferred maintenance, and potential economic downturns. Our Board agreed to support a resolution against a local reserves cap and will vote on this at our next meeting on Sep. 9th.
UPCOMING ISSUES OF INTEREST: Stay tuned for some interesting discussions this fall, including increases in health care benefit costs, a dramatic increase in pension fund costs (reflecting a burden shift from the State to local districts), and an eagerly-anticipated 14th day enrollment report. Also, we will hear about the continued integration of our new California State Standards, the ongoing achievements of our hard-working students, teachers, and staff, and the continuation of our excellent building program funded by community-supported bond measures.
CONVENIENT AND INFORMATIVE APPS: Yes, there's an app for that. You can download the new California State Standards in an app called "eStandards." The standards for every grade are listed in an easy-to-read format for both literacy and mathematics. There is also an app for both Schoology (Classwork) and Infinite Campus (Grades). Check the PAUSD website or call the District Office for more information. (HELPFUL HINT: JLS has a useful library webpage for how to set up your account with Schoology and Infinite Campus. Click HERE.) These tools are currently geared more towards Middle and High School families.
LIAISON SCHOOLS: Although we all try to be accessible to everyone, each School Board member is assigned a set of liaison schools for the year. This year, my schools are Hays, Duveneck, Gunn, and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital School. I'm looking forward to getting to know these schools and families better. Please let me know of any upcoming events that you'd like me to attend. For a complete list of school and committee assignments, click HERE.