Heidi's PAUSD School Board Newsletter - December 2015

December was busy, right up until winter break, with three days spent in San Diego at the California School Boards Association's (CSBA) Annual Education Conference, two PAUSD School Board meetings, one Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC) meeting, one Palo Alto Comp Plan committee meeting on Land Use issues, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

CSBA'S ANNUAL EDUCATION CONFERENCE: All five PAUSD School Board members along with Superintendent Max McGee gathered in San Diego Dec. 3rd-5th, along with thousands of school board members from around the state, to discuss educational policies, practices, finances, and innovations throughout California.  This is a great opportunity to learn from experts in education, hear about statewide advocacy efforts, and connect with colleagues.  I don't tweet very much, but if you check out my Twitter feed (@HeidiEmberling), you can find out more details about the workshops I attended.  One of my favorite quotes from the conference is: "Democracy is never a final achievement.  It is a call to an untiring effort." -JFK  Some of the workshops I attended focused on: Joint City/School Land Use agreements (City of Dublin has done some creative partnerships), Early Learning-3rd grade alignment (Oakland Unified has a Deputy Chief of Early Learning!), parent involvement (Fresno Unified created a "Parent University" program), a dynamic and inclusive LCAP process from Berkeley Unified that engages all stakeholders in the continuous cycle of progress towards its goals, the first research study about the positive effects of Transitional Kindergarten, and a discussion about fostering more Latino Leadership in district administration and school board representation.  Did you know that 54% of California's students are Latino?  But fewer than 15% of school board members are Latino, and only 18% of California's teachers are Latino.  Keynote speakers included Author and Harvard Professor Sarah Lewis, speaking about creativity and the gift of failure, and Dr. Pedro Noguera, speaking about equity in education ("Poverty is not a learning disability.  Equity is about giving students what they need to succeed.")  It was an inspiring conference.  I look forward to sharing and implementing some of these innovative ideas with our district over the next year.

NEW HIGH SCHOOL COURSE: Gunn High School is creating a new year-long math elective course for 2016-17 called BEAM (Business, Entrepreneurship, and Math).  The course is designed to teach students how math applies to the real world through business applications and project-based learning.  During the first semester, students study business, marketing, and finance modules.  During the second semester, students gain hands-on experience through volunteer work for local small businesses and non-profit organizations.  BEAM is currently a club in its second year at Gunn, with nearly 100 students participating.  This program has been developed in partnership with the City of Palo Alto and the Silicon Valley Talent Partnership.  Gunn hopes to provide an opportunity for youth to connect with the innovation community of Palo Alto, especially historically underrepresented minority students who might not have these mentorship opportunities available through family or friends.

ENROLLMENT PROJECTION: On Dec. 8th, the Board heard the Enrollment Projection report from the district demographers, DecisionInsite.  The projection is based on the 2015-16 11th day enrollment data, the most current birth data for PAUSD residents, new housing information, and historical enrollment trends.  Overall K-12 moderate projection includes 3% growth over the next 5 years (377 students).  Total enrollment peaks in 2019 and then begins to slowly decline as the smaller cohorts of students pass through our school system.  Although the prediction includes an increase in 44 kinders next year, the overall elementary population is predicted to decline by 84 students.  (This is largely due to a big 5th grade class moving into middle school.)  Student population will increase in the West Cluster, due primarily to new Stanford housing developments.  Middle schools will see significant growth next year (about 143 more students) and then enrollment will decline as the smaller elementary cohorts enter middle school.  High school growth will continue to expand by about 632 students and peak at 4,481 students in 2020, before declining.  The DecisionInsite report is on the PAUSD website, (Dec. 8th School Board Meeting packet).

FIRST INTERIM FINANCIAL REPORT: In November, the Controller's office revised the estimated property tax revenue to be 10.99%, an increase of $1,024,000 from the September revised budget.  Also, the proposed State budget included one-time discretionary funds (used for Common Core teacher prof. development, instructional materials, and technology infrastructure) of $601 per ADA (average daily attendance--basically, per student) or $7.2 million, which was reduced in the enacted budget to $530 per ADA or $6.4 million.  The district proposed program augmentations totaling $773,000, including several one-time expenditures as well as two critical need requests for on-going expenditures.  One-time requests included: special education program review (currently underway), solar feasibility study, curriculum committee (living skills, computer science curricula, and counseling models evaluation), elementary math pilot, and elementary classroom leveled libraries.  On-going requests included a full-time athletic trainer at each high school to ensure safety of our student athletes, and parent liaisons to connect families of English learner and historically underrepresented students with teachers and staff in our elementary schools.  (This is one of the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Advisory Committee recommendations).  Based on the year to date budget changes and the proposed budget adjustments, the estimated unallocated revenue is $8.1 million.  The district is currently engaged in a process to determine the allocation of these funds, which includes negotiations with our employee bargaining units.  The Board will meet for another budget study session in February.

ELEMENTARY SPSAs (Single Plan for Student Achievement): On Dec. 15th, the School Board held a special meeting to hear reports from all 13 Elementary School Principals (including our Early Learning Principal from Greendell).  These are comprehensive, thoughtful, informative meetings that reflect the highest quality of teaching and learning going on at our district elementary schools.  The Board heard about Common Core State Standards implementation, including alignment in teaching and learning practices, ownership for personalized learning, data-driven instruction, incorporation of new science standards, inclusion practices, co-teaching efforts, and RTI (Response to Intervention), and core competencies in social and emotional learning, including a focus on student self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.  If you only watch one School Board meeting through the Media Center website this year, I recommend this one.

SAD NEWS:  Former PAUSD Duveneck Principal, Fairmeadow teacher, and Director of Elementary Education, Kathleen Meagher (age 53), died in December from a scuba accident while vacationing with her partner, Ann Dunkin (former PAUSD Chief Technology Officer) in the Carribbean.  The two moved to Washington DC in 2014, when Ann was appointed to the Obama Administration.  Kathleen became the Director of Secondary Education for the Arlington School District.  I attended her Memorial service here in Menlo Park and PAUSD was well-represented by both current and former school board members, administrators, principals, and teachers.  Kathleen and her team created the Powerful Practices teacher professional development conference, an annual district event that brings teachers together across the district to share best practices, learn from each other, and hear from experts in education.  Her contributions to our district will be a lasting legacy for our students and staff.                                  

SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION: On Dec. 8th, I was unanimously elected President of the School Board.  Terry Godfrey was unanimously elected Vice-President.  I am excited to serve the community in this new role.  Thanks to those of you who write me with your thoughts and feedback.  I appreciate your passion and enthusiasm for our students and for public education.              

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