Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter - August 2015

Welcome (back)!  This is the beginning of my fourth school year on the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education and I thank you all again for entrusting me to be your elected representative.  Thanks to all of you who have subscribed to my monthly newsletter for the past three years and welcome to those of you who joined recently.  As always, you are welcome to unsubscribe anytime, using the link at the end of the e-mail.  If you think others would enjoy reading about the activities of the School Board, please let your friends and family know--anyone in the community is welcome to subscribe or read past issues at: www.heidiemberling.com

BACK TO SCHOOL EVENTS: I attended the Back-to-School welcome for all PAUSD teachers (known as the "Chow Down," most likely because of the awesome breakfast) at Gunn on Thursday, August 13th.  PAUSD welcomed more than 80 new teachers across the district!  Superintendent Max McGee addressed the group, sharing a vision of specific teaching targets for everyone this year (adapted from "The Twelve Touchstones of Good Teaching" by Goodwin and Hubbell):

Be Intentional: Help students develop deep knowledge, make the most of every minute, and help students do something with their learning.
Be Demanding: Make performance expectations clear and measure understanding against high expectations.
Be Supportive: Engage student interest with every lesson and interact meaningfully with every student. 

I visited both Hoover Elementary and Barron Park Elementary on the first day of school, as Principals welcomed families and teachers for the 2015-16 school year.  I also attended the first PTA Council meeting as Board Liaison.  And I will stop by and greet families at the JLS Principal's Coffee on Thursday, Sept. 3rd.  Looking forward to getting to know these school communities this year.  

PAUSD FOCUSED GOALS 2015-16:  On Friday, August 21st, the Board met for an all-day Retreat to discuss goals for this year, which we discussed at our first Board Meeting on Tuesday, August 25th.  These goals are aspirational and aligned with our District Strategic Plan.  Specific measures and deliverables for the year were discussed in depth at the Retreat and will be presented to the Board for final approval in September.  Goals are as follows:

1. To assure that every student's individual educational experience is engaging, challenging, purposeful, and ensures mastery of academic standards, the district will provide faculty and site leadership with the supports for designing, implementing, and evaluating teaching methods that will deepen conceptual knowledge, understanding, and applications for every child.  (Innovation and Differentiation in Teaching)

2. Ensuring all students have consistent and equitable opportunities and access to high quality educational programs and services aligned with PAUSD's vision and Strategic Plan, the district will foster conditions providing a coherent district approach for aligning course curriculum frameworks, grading practices, homework expectations, project and testing schedules, and summative assessment instruments. (High Quality, Fairness across Courses)

3. To meet the unique educational needs of every student, site and district leadership will coordinate the collection, analysis, and use of formative assessment data and other information in developing and modifying instructional methods and materials. (Strategic Use of Data)

4. To raise the achievement of historically underrepresented (HUR) students, increase participation and success in rigorous classes at the secondary level, and both realize and maximize their full intellectual, social, and creative potential, the district will assure equity of preparation, access, opportunity, and support from Pre-K to grade 12 and implement essential recommendations of the Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD) Advisory Committee with fidelity. (Decrease Achievement and Opportunity Gap)

5. To manage and plan for projected enrollment growth and to foster conditions for current and future family connections to our schools, the district will develop a strategic enrollment management plan consistent with planning standards and community values in Board policy. (Enrollment Growth)

6. To promote safe and welcoming schools and to assure the social, emotional, and physical health of our students and staff, the district will develop and implement a comprehensive system for monitoring, supporting, and improving the social, emotional, and physical learning and working environments at every site.  (Safe and Welcoming Schools)

HANOVER RESEARCH REPORT: Last year, the District hired Hanover Research Group to do an in-depth study on course alignment, in order to pursue the Strategic Plan initiative: "Align learning goals and key assessments across grade levels and courses to improve consistency in curriculum, grading, and homework."  On August 25th, the Board heard a presentation from Hanover and received an in-depth report of the findings. (Read [or Skim] the 290-page report HERE: Hanover Report) Findings included:teachers need more support for implementation of Common Core standards, a discrepancy between what teachers estimate in terms of time to complete homework and what students report they do to complete homework, varied grading scales across courses and schools (Example: At Paly, an "A" grade is 88% or higher; At Gunn, an "A" grade is 90% or higher.), teachers feel there is insufficient time for collaboration across the district, students report that inconsistent scheduling across departments lead to test and project stacking, and a gap exists in course curricula among similar subject courses.  In focus group discussions, students reported they want syllabi that are clearly structured and communicate assignment deadlines, challenging homework that is goal-oriented and tied to course outcomes, and homework and assessments that are regular, consistent, and predictable.  Our two student Board representatives both agreed that it would greatly alleviate student stress if the district, faculty, and staff work to align courses.

CITY OF PALO ALTO COMPREHENSIVE PLAN 2030: I am the School Board Liaison to the Community Advisory Committee for the City of Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan 2030 Update.  This month, we discussed the Community Services and Facilities Element, which includes the health and well-being of residents and visitors (including children, teens, seniors, and citizens from diverse cultural backgrounds), community partnerships (including Stanford, PAUSD, non-profits, and businesses, maintaining parks and facilities (including expanding access for all), planning for the future, and a commitment to high quality public service.  In September, we will discuss the Transportation Element.  The City is encouraging all community members to participate in this process via an online feedback tool called "Peak Democracy."  Here's the link: Digital Commenter.  To find out more about the Comp Plan update process, go to: www.paloaltocompplan.org.  

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