Letter to the Editor | Three P’s for Piedmont schools

A sweatshirt worn by one of our students that was designed by another Piedmont High School alum. Look no further than “we synthesize beauty from chaos” on the shoulders of one of our students to understand my optimism.

I am embracing the opportunity to serve in my new role with APT very optimistically. While the first two weeks have provided challenges, they have also been immensely rewarding. The joy on the faces of students has been heart stirring. The dedication and resilience of my colleagues has been inspiring. Since we have already begun navigating our first instances of COVID positive cases — see the new district case dashboard HERE — I want to give an immense shoutout to our too-frequently unsung APT heroes – our nurses! Their duties with family notifications are understandably crucial in providing precise clinical information while supporting people’s emotional needs as well. 

But beyond the challenges of so many issues constantly at play, as well as “fractures” that begin to heal from the 2020-21 school year, we can see the students of PUSD, and they are truly amazing. Their relentless pursuit of excellence is inspiring, their graciousness and appreciation is uplifting, and their worthiness of the best we can offer is unquestioned. 

APT is heralding three priorities for the coming year. The first of these is positivity. Aspirational messages for our students are critical for their mental and emotional wellbeing. The ability to frame problems as opportunities that can be solved rather than barriers that cannot be overcome is paramount. They deserve as much as any generation to believe and experience that the world is a better place because of what they have done. I admire my colleagues ability to teach as “warm demanders” in the classroom since research has proven that operating in this quadrant far surpasses all others in affecting positive student outcomes. I have said it before and continue to proclaim, I have the enviable pleasure of working with my heroes. PUSD has some of the finest educators around! We would also invite the rest of the PUSD community to join us in a renewed pursuit of positivity.

Our second priority is partnerships (this is a convenient “P” word for “working together”). As teachers, we are the direct provider to our students of the vast majority of their educational experiences. There is nothing more crucial and nothing more rewarding than serving in this sacred role. Ironically however, there are few things that can be as isolating. This does not need to be the case. Our teachers will be prioritizing the building and strengthening of relationships with their fellow teachers and administrators as well as parents and the entire community.

In coaching new teachers as they are developing their classroom management, an analogy I frequently use is a game of tug of war. In order to win, the teacher and the student must be pulling together on the same end of the rope. Similarly, we adults must all be pulling on the same end of the rope in order to win at providing our students the education they deserve. Like our focus on positivity, we invite our community to continue to work together forming and strengthening relationships to serve our students in the very best manner possible.  Let us work together and not divide. We can disagree and we can be passionate, and yet we can along with those be collaborative and mutually respectful. We are modeling for our students how to navigate difficult times with differences of opinion. Let us model well for them!

Our third priority is one many would suspect to see first from APT, that of teacher pay. It is not lost on us that Piedmont goes to extraordinary lengths to subsidize the minimum funding that our district receives per student. Measures G and H and the PEF are but two of many examples of Piedmont’s sacrificial generosity. This reality demands recognition and applause. Thank you Piedmont for all that you do!

Another reality that cannot be ignored however, is that we are beginning to lose the challenge to attract and retain exceptional faculty that our students absolutely deserve. This has rapidly moved beyond conjecture as we have been told by recruits while declining our offers of employment that the salary was inadequate for living here. This deficiency overshadowed the many other advantages we would bring to their attention such as our remarkable student body and in the case of PHS, the new state of the art STEAM building.

APT is not presenting the case that teacher pay needs to be increased merely from a point of fairness to ourselves. We are sounding the alarm that the teacher shortage has found its way to PUSD and it will not be going away with a turn of luck. A blind eye mindset, assuming that we cannot afford to raise teacher pay, simply won’t work. We need to address the reality that teacher pay must support the exemplary faculty we desire to provide our students, and then work creatively to discover how it can be done. Our students’ educational experiences are delivered predominantly through the classroom teacher. Let’s assure that these teachers are the very best! 

I must give attribution to Cory Smegal for coining the phrase “Three P’s for Piedmont” which she did quite off the cuff when I shared them at a summer board meeting. APT welcomes your feedback and suggestions around our Three P’s for Piedmont: Positivity, Partnerships and Pay.

I can be reached at president@aptca.net

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