June is always a packed month with graduations, final reports on our focused goals, and a two-day School Board retreat to plan for next year. I was honored to attend graduations and promotion ceremonies at Paly, Jordan, Barron Park, and Hoover this year. Congratulations to our 492 Paly Vikings and 509 Gunn Titans who graduated this year! Our summer school program is also up and running, with 600+ high school students taking advantage of courses in Algebra, Geometry, and Living Skills, 300+ middle school students enrolled in a STREAM-focused curriculum (science, technology, reading, engineering, art, and math), and 350+ elementary students working on reading, writing, science, math, design thinking, and problem-solving skills.
SCHOOL BOARD RETREAT: During the Annual School Board Retreat, the Board received reports from the Calif. Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and Palo Alto Reality Check survey (PARC), initial results from an analysis of our Special Education services (given via Skype by Dr. Thomas Hehir from Harvard), a goals update from the 2015-16 school year including progress made on the MATD (Minority Achievement and Talent Development) recommendations, and an initial look at our annual Strategic Plan survey results. The Superintendent and Leadership Team, together with the Board, then discussed priorities, goals, measures, and deliverables for the coming school year, which will be finalized in August. The Board also completed the Superintendent's annual evaluation. To read the extensive reports prepared in advance of the School Board Retreat (297 pages), click HERE (Special Meeting on June 13th).
BUDGET: On June 21st, the Board approved an estimated budget for 2016-17 at $230 million. Property tax growth estimates for 2015-16 are at 11.51% increase over last year. Program augmentations for 2016-17 include $150,000 for secondary math intervention specialists, $1.8 million to mitigate large class sizes at the high schools and middle schools, $400,000 for full-day kindergarten, $200,000 for wellness outreach workers for high schools, $140,000 for breakfast at our Title 1 elementary schools, $300,000 for additional reading specialists at our elementary schools, and $100,000 for high school athletics. For 2016-17, staff is projecting 8.67% in property tax growth for 2016-17, 7.83% growth for 2017-18, and will use City of Palo Alto projections in the 5% range for 2018-19 through 2021-22. While the budget situation continues to improve, the District still needs to be cautious, as economic growth is cyclical and we do not know when the next downturn will hit. To see the final budget report in its entirety, click HERE (Item B, June 21 Board Mtg.)
ELEMENTARY MATH ADOPTION: In 2015-16, PAUSD math teachers and TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment) began a math exploration year to explore a variety of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) aligned math curricula for elementary school. This process included: developing a teacher survey to identify supplemental materials in use across the district for our current Every Day Math curriculum (74% of our teachers currently supplement Every Day Math), sending a team of teachers to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference in Boston to analyze current trends and practices, choosing from 8 math curricula on exhibit at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, distributing curricula to 60% of teachers across the district to explore in lessons in their classrooms, forming a committee of interested parents and community members, and narrowing the selection from 8 curricula options to 3 for the pilot year. The Board shared a concern that the community input came very late in the exploration process (Apr. 27/May 23), and, according to Board policies BP 6161.1 and AR 6161.1, selection and evaluation of instructional materials shall include community input from the beginning. The Board recommended the committee reconvene in August and ensure that community members actively participate in the narrowing down of selections, before the pilot commences. To read the full report, click HERE (Item A, June 21 Board Mtg.)
ELEMENTARY IMPROVEMENTS: In 2011, the School Board made a decision to set aside funding from the Strong Schools Bond for potential elementary enrollment growth. Last year, the Elementary Sub-Committee of the Enrollment Management Advisory Committee (EMAC) concluded that with current shrinking elementary enrollment numbers, new elementary classrooms and a possible 13th elementary school are not needed at this time. (Three members of this committee chose to submit a "minority report" advocating for a new school.) District staff recommended to the Board that the $60 million that was set aside be released into the elementary reserve fund, to be used for existing school improvements. In June, the Board approved this request and authorized $150,000 from that reserve for start-up activities related to Hoover Elementary improvements. To read the report, click HERE (Item H, June 21 Board Mtg.)
LCAP PLAN: Every California school district is required to prepare a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), aligned with our overall Strategic Plan, to look at conditions of learning, student outcomes, and school engagement for English learners, foster youth, and low-income students. This Spring, the district held several community LCAP input meetings and received valuable feedback including: a need for communication protocols for families entering school after the first month, varied notification efforts for district events and meetings, regular, ongoing parent meetings to understand the school system, translation of materials, and targeted after-school supports. LCAP efforts this year included adding parent liaisons across the district and future goals include: increasing English learner specialist time in elementary schools, adding a community partner liaison for middle school, increasing College Pathway counselors and extending the mentor program, and adding a RISE UP junior program. To read the full report, click HERE (Item F, June 21st Board Mtg.).
EVOLVE RESOLUTION: Following the City of Palo Alto's lead, the PAUSD School Board voted this month to pass a resolution in support of Evolve, a community organization working to restore funding to California schools by modifying how the values of commercial properties are reassessed, while maintaining Prop 13 protections for residential properties and small businesses. To read the full resolution, which advocates for equitable and fair education for all students in California, despite differences in language, poverty, parental education level, and other social, educational, and economic factors, click HERE (Item L, June 21st Board Meeting).
CAMPAIGN UPDATE: I anticipate a competitive race for School Board this Fall, with at least four people running for three seats on the Board. Thank you to those of you who have pledged your good name, made a donation, or offered to host a coffee or take a lawn sign as we get closer to election season. I am honored to have early support from Assemblymember Rich Gordon; State Senator Jerry Hill; current Palo Alto City Councilmembers Liz Kniss, Marc Berman, Tom DuBois, and Cory Wolbach; School Board colleagues (current and former) Terry Godfrey, Camille Townsend, Barb Mitchell, and Dana Tom; and, of course, many of YOU, who work, live, and play in this community. My list of supporters is growing and I would be grateful if you added your name. I am committed to increasing transparency in local governance. If you enjoy reading my newsletters and find them informative, please take a moment to endorse me by clicking HERE.