Each year in December, I look forward to the California School Boards Association's (CSBA) Annual Education Conference, where school board members from across the state convene to discuss legislative, fiscal, policy, and curriculum issues in public education. Keynote speakers included Freeman Hrabowski, Amanda Ripley, and a conversation with Sal Khan of Khan Academy. I attended sessions on Linked Learning high school pathways, creating middle school academies, innovations for inclusion from a CA Special Ed. task force, issues in state funding of public education, authentic School Board communications for strong governance, critical legal issues facing districts in 2015, the positive effects of summer school, and multiple pathways to biliteracy for students preK through 12th.
2014 CSBA KEY TAKEAWAYS: Governor Brown will most likely not use $6.4 billion in additional state revenue to accelerate LCFF funding, but he will pay off years of state deferrals to local school districts. Still, an inadequate per-pupil base grant is inadequate education funding. Our per-pupil funding level currently ranks us 50th in the nation. Also, 1/4 of the growth in education spending will go towards our statewide teacher retirement fund (CALSTRS), which currently has an unfunded liability of $74 billion. Predictions are that any additional public education funding from the state will be for one-time expenses, not ongoing revenue.
MEMORABLE QUOTES FROM CSBA: (also, check out my Twitter feed from the conference: @heidiemberling)
Freeman Hrabowski - "Teachers touch eternity through their students."
Sal Khan - "People tell me they're more 'creative' types. What do you think an engineer is??!!"
Amanda Ripley - "In strong education systems around the world, a low grade means work harder and get help; not that you are inherently bad at a particular subject."
"Summer Matters" session: "2/3 of the achievement gap between low and middle income 9th graders is due to summer learning loss."
Attorney in Vergara (teacher tenure) case - "Firing teachers based on seniority is like firing them based on height. This is an equity issue: students are entitled to a quality teacher."
ACSA (Assoc. of Calif. School Administrators) Rep - "You wouldn't want an 'adequate' wife or 'adequate' children, why are we fighting for 'adequate' education funding?"
GUNN CENTRAL BUILDING PROJECT: We did have one regular Board meeting in December, where we welcomed our two newly-elected members, Ken Dauber and Terry Godfrey. We were presented with a revised schematic design for the new Gunn Central Building Project, which Principal Denise Hermann explained would include a comprehensive "wellness center" incorporating the nurse's office, guidance, counseling, psychologists, ACS (Adolescent Counseling Services) staff, and a conference room. There will also be a classroom so that larger functions of the wellness center (such as yoga classes) can be accommodated.
CHKS AND PARC SURVEYS: The Board heard results from the Calif. Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and Palo Alto Reality Check Survey (PARC). Every two years since 2002, PAUSD has participated in the statewide CHKS, a tool that measures risk and resiliency factors for 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th graders. The PARC survey (developed in 2008) is given annually to our middle school students and measures risk and resiliency, as well as student perceptions. Positive results include a decrease in incidences of bullying. Areas for improvement include a need for more student connectedness to caring adults on campus. To see full survey results, click HERE. To see the key findings presented to the Board, click HERE and download the December 9th Board packet.
ENROLLMENT PROJECTION: The Board reviewed the district's demographer's report, which predicts a decline in elementary enrollment over the next five years, as the smaller cohorts (a result of the new Transitional Kindergarten program) move through the system. Because of the larger "bubble" classes at the higher elementary grades, moderate growth is predicted for our middle schools and significant growth is predicted for our high schools. Because of the nearly-completed Stanford housing project in College Terrace, the highest enrollment growth is predicted for the North West cluster near Escondido and Nixon. Keep in mind that these enrollment projections are based primarily on new housing projects that have already been approved by the City of Palo Alto. To see the demographer's report in its entirety, click HERE and download the December 9th Board packet.