Welcome Back to School from Superintendent Booker

Dear PUSD Families,superintendent-randall-booker

I hope each of you had a wonderful summer, and I’m looking forward to seeing your students in the coming weeks. I’m writing to share some important information about the year ahead but, before I do, I want to reiterate our reasons for the shifted academic calendar.

The shortened summer was necessary to implement the District’s new academic calendar, which is intended to promote the social and emotional health of students. The early start of the school year will make it possible for middle and high school students to complete exams and projects before the December holidays, spend vacation time relaxing and recharging, and then start the second semester rested and refreshed.

This approach — which is endorsed by Challenge Success, a project of Stanford University’s School of Education — reduces unnecessary student stress by ensuring that school vacations are in fact vacations from school.  This summer was shortened in order to implement this calendar change.  Going forward, summer vacation will be restored to the more typical 10 weeks, starting in early June and ending mid-August.

Changing the academic calendar to reduce student stress was just one of the major initiatives we accomplished last year.  Other changes include adoption of new curriculum, new instructional technologies, and new bell schedules.  (For a more complete overview of the changes implemented over the last year, click here).

This year, our goals are equally ambitious.  Following a year-long goal-setting process last year, the District is committed to implementing several new initiatives during the 2016-17 school year, to promote the social and emotional health of students, implement new Science curriculum, integrate learning among related disciplines, and ensure that facilities adequately support educational programs.

Specifically, goals for this school year include the following:

  1. All students should feel physically safe, emotionally cared for, and academically and socially included in their school environment.  To further this goal, the District will:
    • Review the health standards and social emotional learning guidelines taught at each level, identify gaps, and begin developing a plan to address gaps.
    • Form a high school Healthy Relations Committee to review and expand curricular programs that address students’ physical and mental health and social emotional well-being.
    • Provide training on gender identity for all staff and students at Beach, and for counselors at Havens and Wildwood, as one means of supporting transgender students.
    • Create a Board Policy on sexual assault prevention.
    • Pilot a Coordination Calendar of major tests and projects at PHS to reduce the number of tests and major projects due the same day/week.
  2. All students should graduate with the 21st century learning skills needed for college and careers.  To further this goal, the District will:
    • Ensure that 6-12 English language arts instructional materials are aligned to the Common Core ELA Standards.
    • Create an Engineering Lab at PMS, add an additional 3D printer, and add small-group presentation spaces.
    • Define and articulate the scope and sequence for K-12 Technology/Media/ Information Skills and Computer Science.
    • Form a Next Generation Science Standards Implementation Team consisting of teacher representatives from elementary, middle school, high school, special education, and administrators.
    • Propose a ballot measure to the voters at the November 2016 election to improve PUSD school facilities (the culmination of a comprehensive facilities master planning process to address antiquated middle and high school facilities that do not adequately support our educational programs), and hold a variety of community stakeholder meetings and conduct other outreach concerning facilities work.
  3. All students should engage in rigorous, relevant, and differentiated learning experiences where they make connections among disciplines.  To further this goal, the District will:
    • Hire a part-time Differentiated Instruction (DI) Specialist to coach teachers who request DI support.
    • Provide stipends and training for teachers to serve as Site Level GATE coordinators to support teachers and administrators in meeting the needs of gifted and advanced learners.
    • Develop and begin implementation of a long-term K-5 professional learning plan on integrated learning and arts integration.
    • Provide additional math support for K-5 students who are below grade level.
    • Provide multisensory training in reading and mathematics for elementary special education teachers.
    • Provide general dyslexia training for all teachers and specialized training for teachers who work with dyslexic students.

Finally, I would like to note a change that is already being implemented this year, designed to promote student health and safety.  PUSD’s new online registration system ensures that all health, medical, and emergency information entered by parents and guardians, whether during August registration or during the school year, is immediately available and easily accessible by school staff.  For example, new allergy information entered by a parent mid-year will be accessible in real time by PUSD’s nursing staff.  Similarly, PUSD’s new e-Commerce site (“The Piedmont Store”) is designed to make it easier for families to donate to the schools and school support groups, make school-related purchases, and explore volunteer opportunities District-wide and at their school site.  In response to community feedback, both the online registration system and the Piedmont Store are mobile-device-friendly.

PUSD educators are hard at work preparing for the new school year and eager to see your students on August 16.

Best wishes for the final week of the summer!

Sincerely,

Randall Booker
Superintendent of the Piedmont Unified School District