Welcome to the 2020-21 School Year. As I begin my fifth year as Superintendent in SUESD, I can say with all certainty that this year is unlike any other in our school district’s history. The dedication and commitment of our teachers and staff continue to inspire me daily. We have 192 employees in our school district, and they are all working with a singular goal of enhancing our students’ education. This has been true in previous years, and it’s even truer now. Our highly skilled teaching staff continues to develop exciting and engaging lessons in our distance learning platforms. Support staff continues to offer all types of services to students and families, including school meals, Chromebooks, counseling services, etc.
Our district will continue to focus on continuous improvement in spite of the challenges presented by COVID-19. In past years, we have set goals that have included building trust with our school community, improving our facilities, Social Emotional Learning, and Next Generation Science Standards. We have achieved a lot of success with those focus areas and must continue to be mindful of them to sustain the momentum. I would like to share my goals for the 2020-21 School Year; they are shown below:
Racial Justice Task Force
Our district believes in equity. We realize that a lot of self-reflection of our practices and a willingness to “get uncomfortable” come with that belief in equitable practices for our students and families. In that vein, a Racial Justice Task Force will be formed. It will consist of multiple stakeholders from the school community and be grounded in research and literature on equity and racial justice. The Task Force will create action steps and report on the progress of those steps. The Task Force will develop and document its purpose and vision. The group will seek short-term “equity wins” where possible. The team will also invest in forming a long-term vision, given that the nature of this work is one that will last forever.
Student Services Team Development & Support
There is no more critical team in the district than the Student Services Team. They support some of our most vulnerable students. They deserve to feel valued and supported. The Student Services Team consists of 12 staff members; Director, Data Analyst, Program Coordinator of School Counseling, Supplemental School Counselor, two School Psychologists, an Occupational Therapist, MBIT Lead (currently vacant), two MBIT Aides, an Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, and a School Nurse. Input from team members will be regularly sought. The team will engage in Social Emotional Learning practices, such as forming a team charter. As any team develops, there will inevitably be stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing (Tuckman’s stages of group development). Discussion about what stage the team is at will regularly occur while acknowledging that a team doesn’t get through all the stages immediately. The goal here is to ensure the team is supported in their development.
Leadership Through The Pandemic
We have not seen anything quite like COVID-19 before. Leading a school district through this requires listening, learning, communicating, and making decisions. All stakeholders must be communicated with, and their voices must be heard, even when there is disagreement. The safety of all staff and students must always come first. There is no playbook for leading through something like this. In this situation, the goal of leadership is to stay engaged with stakeholders of all types, including staff, parents, county office, city and county officials, district partners, and more to ensure we are making the best of a challenging situation.
Alternative Education Site: Opal Cliffs Home-Based Learning Model (OC HBLM)
The district now has what was a missing piece in our Alternative Education Site, the OC HBLM. While COVID-19 has accelerated the program’s development, it’s something that helps round out the district regardless of the pandemic. Other neighboring districts have offered flexible programs in an alternative setting that appeal to some families more than the traditional, comprehensive school site. We are proud that we now have something to offer these families. This year’s goal is to ensure that the program gets up and running with a successful start. The long-term goal will be to shepherd the program in a way that it continues to thrive at a time where our comprehensive schools are not in a distance-learning-only mode. At that time, the OC HBLM can meet families’ needs by continuing to be primarily virtual and include regularly scheduled in-person, hands-on learning, and socialization opportunities.
Dual Immersion (Bilingual English/Spanish)
Like Alternative Education, a Dual Immersion program is something the district should consider offering first to embrace the admirable goal of producing biliterate students and second, to ensure we are offering programs that keep our community’s families in our schools. This goal is about going through the steps and using the process of beginning a Dual Immersion program outlined by the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE). The outcome of properly going through that process will either be that we start a Dual Immersion program in the 21-22 School Year or that the process informs us that our school community does not yet desire such a program. Either way, it won’t be guesswork; the process will be the evidence that informs us.
It is my honor and privilege to lead this school district. Responsiveness is the value that I most significantly emphasize. I say this because I have learned that this community cares deeply about its schools. Engaging in respectful and meaningful discourse is crucial to creating the best schools for our community. “None of us is as smart as all of us” is a motto that I always keep in mind. Regardless of the issue, and regardless of whether there is agreement or disagreement, all community members deserve timely and courteous responses to questions, comments, and concerns.
I look forward to working with you this year and ensuring that this community’s children have a world-class education.