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Superintendent Board Meeting Report - October 14, 2021

Good evening Trustees,

National Principals Month and Week of the School Administrator

The past year and a half has ushered in some dark days, yet principals here in Santa Clara Unified, as well as those across the country, have persisted as beacons of light in their communities. Not only have our principals gone above and beyond to ensure their students’ academic success, they’ve also worked tirelessly to protect the health and safety of every person in their learning communities — often with little or rapidly changing public health guidance. With every new challenge, they’ve risen to the occasion and led their learning community forward with the bold leadership it deserves because they are the experts in what their students and schools need.

Principals are among the hardest working, yet often least recognized individuals in education. Principals set the academic tone for their schools, and it is their vision, dedication, and determination that provide the mobilizing force for achieving student success. Each October, American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) seek to honor these unsung heroes for their tireless efforts in pursuit of excellence in education.

Celebrated every October, National Principals Month is an opportunity for district leaders, elected officials, parents, students, teachers, staff, school leaders, and communities to celebrate and honor our incredible principals for their visionary leadership and tireless pursuit of success for each student.

National Principals Month is a widely recognized celebration of the principalship, marked by national and state resolutions supporting the event, as well as acknowledgements from U.S. Senators and Representatives, and top government officials. However, the most important National Principals Month celebrations are the ones that take place in schools and communities across the country, including our board resolution last month to recognize this week, October 10-16, as Week of the School Administrator. Through the generous support of community partners, our administrators will gather at the end of this month for an afternoon of much deserved fun and networking time at Top Golf. This event is sponsored through our Santa Clara Schools Foundation by Strawn Construction and LPA Architects.

TikTok Challenges

I want to share with the Board that I’ve been in contact with TikTok leadership regarding the “devious licks” challenge and concerns about the potential of future challenges. Two weeks ago, when I heard about the posting of potential social media challenges targeting schools on a different social media platform, and having heard from our principals about the impact that these were having on their schools, I sent an email to the TikTok leadership. Today, I met with their Director of Public Policy who shared about the proactive measures TikTok has in place to remove hashtags and postings from their platform that promote users to perform unsafe and unlawful acts. They have also partnered with National PTA to share information and resources with families and I further recommended their leadership share these same educational messages and resources with other organizations such the National Schools Boards Association (NSBA), the national school Superintendents Association (AASA), and the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) in an effort to arm school leadership with information they can share with their communities to quell concern with facts. I was encouraged by the conversation and the open door for future discussions with their leaders should the need arise again. 

SCUSD will continue to share facts and resources with our families, and educate our students regarding online safety and potential consequences for engaging in unsafe and unlawful activities. A resource we use in Santa Clara Unified, and which is also helpful for families, is Common Sense Media (see: Parents’ Ultimate Guide to TikTok). I encourage parents to visit their website and resources as they lead discussions in their families.

Equity and Social Justice Committee 

On September 27th, the Equity and Social Justice Committee kicked off it’s first session.

The evening began with an optional outdoor dinner and mingle opportunity for committee members to meet each other, meet the core planning team, and myself. 

The outcomes for the session included getting to know one another through personal stories shared through a cultural artifact and beginning to build a community asset map using TJ Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth Model. 

  • Personal stories:
    • We invested the time to begin establishing a sense of community and trust which is essential for the work ahead. We spent the first meeting getting to know one another, honoring and valuing each person’s lived experiences and cultural background through personal stories. We plan to complete our story telling exercise at the next meeting for the three members who were unable to share their stories at our kickoff.
    • We heard positive feedback from members in the session that the personal stories exercise was powerful, bonding and made them feel connected, vulnerable, yet safe.
    • We collectively heard a variety of lived experiences and perspectives: the Asian-American experience from completely different places but with some commonality, families with students with learning and physical disabilities and neurodiversities, LGBTQ, Latinx, English Learners, biracial experiences and some white members describing struggle to identify with “culture.”  We heard from students, parents, staff, community members and from “voices” of generations before us.
    • Finding common ground, while there are differences, we all care about equity - why we might be different, but a shared passion for equity connects us and has brought us together

The committee started building out collective asset maps through a community cultural wealth map - shifting from culture to culture as capital. Begin individual exercises which we will share and reflect upon at a later meeting.

Community Activity

I am excited to report that, as our community starts to open up, I’ve been attending a number of in-person meetings and events including a beam signing ceremony for Kathleen MacDonald High School last week. Agnew and Huerta students signed the beam on Wednesday and, on Thursday afternoon, Kathleen MacDonald — and her family and friends — joined founding principal Dr. Vivian Rhone-Lay, our board, school district officials, and local dignitaries in celebrating the milestone. It was exciting to hear from Ms. MacDonald, sign the beam, and watch it be raised and placed on the final building of the project. We look forward to opening the school next fall.

I also attended the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce Annual State of the State Breakfast where we heard from our elected representatives about the economic outlook from the local, state and federal levels. 

To support our efforts to inform the public about our CVRA process, I attended the Santa Clara and Sunnyvale City Council meetings the last week of September to speak during unagendized public comment about the transition that we are engaged in. We are on track with this work and expect to have the maps early next week. We are ready to post and communicate to our SCUSD community as soon as these maps are available. Our first community feedback session is scheduled for October 20th at Huerta Middle School. 

I also continue to visit schools. 

I visited Central Park where I had the opportunity to observe many classrooms. A couple things stood out including the instructional alignment in the third grade classrooms, the second graders who were sharing their personal narrative stories and the thoughtful questions to guide students to analyze these stories. 

I visited Buchser Middle School who shared that the school is focusing on students speaking to develop content understanding. The principal shared the math placement, a student tool used to support math talks and vocabulary development. 

The last week of September, I wrapped up by visiting Braly. One highlight from my visit to Braly were the student’s fall poems in Ms. Lee’s classroom. 

Last week, I visited Washington Open with Mr. Stam and Principal Berman. We observed the Open Sing and visited a number of classrooms. As we know, one of the key aspects of the WO community is the parent engagement program. Principal Berman shared her plans for this year’s parent engagement program. I also visited Westwood elementary last week visiting grades 2 - 5 classrooms. I learned from the teachers the enhanced strategies that they have implemented to support students following the pandemic. I was excited to be able to stop in to observe one of our student teachers. She is well mentored as I observed outstanding use of manipulatives in the 2nd grade math class. 

This week, my visit to Santa Clara High was cut short, but in my time on campus, I was able to stop in to observe one of new teachers, Ms. Penn, who teaches in the Culinary Arts Program, where I observed part of a homemade biscuit demonstration.  I also stopped by Mr. Woodman’s art class where students were completing perspective drawings.  I look forward to returning to SCHS Friday for the Homecoming Parade and visiting more classrooms later this month. 

I also participated in the Santa Clara Parade of Champions. SCUSD staff Steve Neese and Michelle Schmitz, Santa Clara Schools Foundation board members, and volunteers from Lockheed Martin Space operated a booth at the parade’s community village. The booth offered hands-on STEAM activities, Lego education kits, and goodies from Lockheed Martin Space. An estimated 150 children and adults stopped by to build a sailboat and test how placement and number of sails affects how a hand fan moves their boat across a tub of water. 

And, finally, Rotary and Santa Clara Schools Foundation are partnering up for this year's Steps 4 Success event scheduled for Friday, October 29th. I’ll be visiting the event, which is expected to serve 225 of our elementary students in need, with a new pair of Under Armour brand shoes.

KUDOS

Donations

I would like to recognize and thank the donor listed on tonight’s consent agenda:

 

  • SCHS Athletic Boosters for their generous donation of $10,500 to Santa Clara High School’s ASB Football Club to be used for equipment and expenses.

 

Closing

As we come out of the pandemic, regular school attendance is critical. I want to share the first project from our social work intern program, which is focused on increasing engagement and attendance. The Every Day Counts video is available in multiple languages on our district website and will be shared in school communications, our District Update newsletter, and on our social media.  Our social work intern program, overseen by our new district social worker, Myrna Zendejas, is responsible for this resource.  Our interns are actually the narrators!  :)  

We have six San Jose State University interns — four placed at targeted elementary schools, one at the Family Resource Center, and one at a high school. Our intern program is primarily focused on attendance and engagement at the elementary level, as this is where we see a significant need this year. This video is part of our larger attendance campaign, which we are piloting at four elementary sites this year. The resources produced for the campaign will be included in regular districtwide communications throughout the school year. 

This concludes my report for this evening.