Heidi's Education Newsletter - September 2013

CELEBRATE: Last month saw the Grand Opening of the Gunn Titan Gym, and this month, we celebrated the Grand Opening of the new two-story classroom building at JLS Middle School (see my BLOG for the story and a photo).  It was a wonderful evening, with hundreds of parents and community members sharing dinner and dessert with talented student musicians, energetic student tour guides, and, of course, the JLS panther mascot.  We also celebrated the opening of the Palo Alto High School Stadium with an exciting 28-7 win for the Vikings.  49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, a 1982 Paly graduate, served as honorary captain of the coin toss.  These impressive school projects are all funded by the 2008 Strong Schools Bond.

ENROLLMENT GROWTH:  The 14th day enrollment numbers were reported to the Board this month.  Elementary school enrollment grew by 17 students, below the conservative growth projection of 73.  This is the second of the three-year implementation of the new statewide kindergarten age law.  We will most likely see a similar trend next year, the last year of implementation.  Middle school enrollment grew by 54 students, below the conservative projection of 69.  We expect higher growth in middle schools over the next three years due to the current large 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes.  High school enrollment grew by 16 students, below the conservative projection of 55.  The Board will meet in early November for an initial study session dedicated to enrollment growth planning. 

STRATEGIC PLAN GOALS AND 2013 GROWTH API: The district shared with the Board that API scores are flat for the district overall (932 this year; 933 last year), although scores for socio-economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and African-American students improved.  Other top-scoring districts around the state managed to have higher scores for these subgroups, so we need to focus our efforts on understanding this discrepancy.  Great news: the number of students "not yet proficient" in ELA (English/Language Arts) and Math has declined dramatically.  In fact, the district has virtually met the goal of reducing this number by 50% since 2008.  (To see the detailed power point presentation, click HERE for the Sept. 24th Board Packet.) 

FACILITIES: This month the Board approved the Schematic Design for the Palo Alto High School indoor physical education and athletic facilities.  It looks beautiful.  The design incorporates many of the elements found on existing buildings on the campus, for a seamless integration of the new buildings.  The current pool will remain a centerpiece of this design.  Check out the district website: Paly Gym Schematic Design.  This project is funded by a generous donor from our community.  All design and construction oversight goes through the regular DSA (Division of State Architect) process for public schools.  We also approved the schematic design for four new science classrooms directly across from the new gym. 

BUDGET: California overhauled the way K-12 school districts are now funded.  The LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) is a weighted student formula that contains a "hold harmless" provision for community-funded school districts like ours (those that are funded primarily through property taxes), although we will permanently lose our "fair share" reduction of around $7 million per year.  The state is also directing some $2.4 million in one-time restricted funding for Common Core, the new Federal curriculum standards.  Property tax growth for 2013 is estimated at 6.56%, above our budget estimate of 2%.  Staff is asking the Board to approve additional resource allocations with details to be provided in November's First Interim report.          

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: This year, we dedicated $5 million towards Professional Development of our teachers and staff, hiring Dr. Kelly Bikle, former Literacy TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) to coordinate these efforts.  Earlier this month, we learned more about professional development opportunities for our Administrators as well.  Retired Palo Alto Assoc. Superintendent Dr. Marilyn Cook and retired Palo Alto Asst. Superintendent Dr. Irv Rollins outlined how they support our new Principals and Administrators through an intensive coaching and mentoring model.  The objective: to provide context, broaden vision through focused reflection, and promote growth by providing the best possible support to be effective and successful leaders.

ANNUAL FOCUSED GOALS 2013-2014: Click HERE (Amended 2013-2014 Focused Goals) for a one-page printout of our 12 focused goals for 2013-2014.  These are taken directly from our new five-year Strategic Plan and will guide our work this year. 

Keep up-to-date by checking my BLOG and EVENTS calendar!  If you would like to add your school district event, click HERE.  As always, if you know anyone who might be interested in the work of the PAUSD School Board, please forward them this newsletter or direct them to my WEBSITE to sign up! 

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