School is well underway and my kids and I are enjoying the cooler temperature of fall. The School Board is hard at work planning for future growth, managing budget and goal priorities, and creating intellectually-stimulating as well as safe and welcoming schools for every student, every day.
ENROLLMENT GROWTH: This year, we have 12,488 students enrolled in PAUSD schools, a decrease of 44 students from last year. Our elementary schools decreased by 171 students to a total of 5,514, including a decrease in kindergarten enrollment. Our middle schools increased by 61 students for a total enrollment of 3,013. And our high schools increased by 66 students for a total enrollment of 3,961. Enrollment growth in K-5 is projected to be stable over the next five years. We have a "bubble" class moving through our 5th grade classes right now, so the middle school enrollment is expected to increase one more year, and then taper off. Our high schools were built out to accommodate the projected growth over the next five years. 58% (37 of 64) overflowed students (students placed in a school other than their neighborhood school) were placed in a nearby "cluster" school. The Board will have a study session on elementary enrollment on Monday, Oct. 5th from 6-9pm at the district office to plan for the near and future growth in our district.
SBAC RESULTS: Districts across California received the first baseline results of the new state standardized testing, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), aligned with the new Common Core State Standards. Results are mixed. Overall, 79% of boys and 86% of girls scored at the highest levels of English/Language Arts (ELA) and 83% of boys and 82% of girls scored at the highest levels for Math. When the scores are disaggregated for ethnicity, however, African-American and Latino student scores dropped to the 40th-50th percentile for the highest achievement in both ELA and Math. And for students with disabilities, socio-economic challenges, or language learners, the scores drop as well. And although our K-8 participation rates were high, at 97% and 92%, our high school participation rate was a dismal 37%. District administrators blame bad timing, as the test was given in the Spring right before the SAT test, and will try alternative strategies this year to increase participation rates. In addition, the district is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD) Advisory Committee, and will continue to work on course alignment, co-teaching models, and ways to increase student connectedness to school. To see the full SBAC Report, click HERE.
BUDGET: The California State Budget signed in June provided $6 billion in additional funds to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which is welcome news for many districts. However, Palo Alto will not receive any of this funding because it is a community-funded (formerly "basic aid") district. On the positive side, the State Budget also provided one-time discretionary funding (for prior year mandate reimbursement claims) of $3.2 billion to school districts, which equates to about $6,377,130 to PAUSD. (To simplify--this is prior funding the State already owed districts.) Also, the State is providing one-time educator funds for professional development of new and seasoned teachers. PAUSD will receive $1,278,509 of this funding. And the State is establishing an ongoing funding source of $500 million for Adult Education. $1,283,035 will be directed to PAUSD to match the amounts we were required to spend on Adult Education in each of the last two years. Employee pension costs are increasing this year to 10.73% for CalSTRS and 11.847% for CalPERS. In property tax news, our adopted budget included a projected 5.24% increase, and the Santa Clara County Controller's office just reported an actual 10.25% increase over last year. This is an increase of $6,742,487 over the budgeted amount in June. The Board will hold a study session in November to discuss the budget in more depth.
SAVE THE 2,008: Marc Vincenti, former Gunn teacher and Campaign Coordinator for "Save the 2,008," presented his ideas to improve the daily lives of Palo Alto high school students to the school board earlier this month. His plan includes six ideas: reduce class sizes so teachers can connect with more students, moderate the amount of homework and clarify course expectations, implement a rigorous application process for multiple AP courses, ban cell phones during the school day, reduce the number of grade reports during the year, and address the climate of cheating. The Superintendent and Board thanked Mr. Vincenti for bringing these issues forward. The Superintendent added some resource materials and documents that support the district's efforts in each of these areas. The Board and district will continue to have these conversations about student social and emotional health throughout the year, taking into account some of these valuable ideas. To read the entire report, click HERE.
BOARD POLICY REVIEW COMMITTEE (BPRC): I serve as Chair of the BPRC this year, which is a sub-committee of the School Board tasked with developing new policies and/or making changes/updates to current policies due to recent legislation. The Board has spent the past few years developing robust policies around bullying, non-discrimination, and sexual harassment, in addition to developing clear complaint procedures aligned with current law. This month, BPRC is moving forward new guidelines on Gender Identity and Access, to ensure equal access and non-discrimination of our transgender and gender non-conforming students. Our LGBTQQ Committee has worked hard for the past two years with the district to align practices with the law as we maximize inclusion and social integration and minimize exclusion and stigma. The full Board will vote on this new administrative regulation in October. To read AR 5157, click HERE. On a related note, at our last Board meeting, both Paly and Gunn student Board representatives reported that the 2015-16 Homecoming Court, recognizing individual student contributions to the school, will be the top-voted 10 seniors, regardless of gender.