In a letter to the school community sent to families on Oct. 28, interim superintendent Dr. Donald Evans shares what he’s been working on and his observations on the district to date:
It’s now been over 90 days since I joined PUSD. In these three-plus months, I’ve spoken with students and staff from all school sites. I’ve attended many meetings of District committees and organizations. I’ve enjoyed introducing myself to parent groups and have met with members of the City Council, Police Department, and other community leaders.
I’ve come to know that Piedmont is about relationships. These relationships are essential to the success of the District. During my 90 days of discovery, I noticed that in some areas, our infrastructure doesn’t adequately address our operational needs, preventing us from optimizing our support of students and staff. I’ve identified Curriculum and Instruction, Human Resources, Budget, Facilities, Title IX, Diversity and Inclusion, Technology, Student Services and Special Education as areas needing a build up of infrastructure. In the next three months, we will be developing policies, procedures, and protocols for providing additional layers of support for each area. Throughout the development process, we will hold true to our ‘all means all’ philosophy, where every family will be informed of where to find and access key information to help their child be successful.
In listening to the community, we’ve acted on the concerns raised to better serve all of our students participating in our Reading program. The District’s reading curriculum was discussed extensively at the October 12, Board Meeting. During the meeting, staff gave presentations on students’ progress with Scholastic Reading Inventory and the District’s efforts regarding dyslexia. As a result of conversations with staff, teachers and parents, we’re moving forward with a single screener, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) as our early
literacy assessment tool that will be used to identify students at-risk for dyslexia. In addition, we’re reviewing our phonics program for K-2. Thank you to everyone participating in the process.
I’ve had conversations with parents and community members on academic excellence, rigor and equity. Regarding academic excellence, Piedmont has built a reputation as one of the top-performing school districts in Alameda County and throughout California. On Monday, the California Department of Education released school, district and state aggregate results from the annual California Assessments of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). While the results confirmed expected declines state-wide as we recover from the pandemic, PUSD students showed improvement. Over 87% of our students ‘met or exceeded’ the state standards in English Language Arts – second-highest in the state – and 81% ‘met or exceeded’ state standards in Math – third-highest in the state (read more on the District website). In addition, PUSD showed a reduction in achievement gaps in student groups and growth in overall distance from ‘met the state standard.’ While that is certainly something to be proud of, we know work remains to be done.
To continue the upward trend, my recommendation is to examine “best teaching practices” such as differentiated instruction, Socratic Seminar, and Bloom’s Taxonomy, as tools to be woven into everyday instruction. I want to note that many of our teachers are doing this right now and we will plan to incorporate these tools into our professional development program for the summer.
Last January, the District hired Dr. Vanden Wyngaard (Dr. V) as its Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Our equity and inclusion work is critically important to our students being able to navigate and excel in an ever-changing society. What does that work look like in the classroom and in our community? Our goal is to develop and equip a culturally-competent staff that will understand, challenge and motivate all students of all backgrounds. This means narrowing the focus of her responsibilities so that evidence of her work is impactful and meaningful. In fact, it’s more meaningful now as the country is experiencing an increased level of hate crimes and speech – including in our own community and district. On that topic, based on current events in our nation, I want to be very clear that we stand in solidarity with our Jewish students and families and strongly denounce anti-semitism in all its forms. We are committed to creating an environment where all feel safe and included.
Two other items to be aware of……
The District started the school year negotiating with the Teachers’ Association, Classified Staff and Administrators. We recently reached an agreement with our teachers including a 7.5% salary increase, $1,500 one-time bonus, and an increase in cap for health care to match a previous agreement with Classified Staff. We are currently in negotiations with CSEA and the Administrators. We hope to provide an update soon.
Finally, at Wednesday’s meeting, the Board selected Leadership Associates to oversee the process for selecting PUSD’s next Superintendent. The Superintendent position will be posted in the winter with interviews to take place in the winter/spring. PUSD’s next Superintendent will be named in the spring and will assume their new position on July 1, 2023. Other details about the process and timeline will be discussed at a Special Board Meeting on Wednesday, November 2, at 5:00 pm.
I truly believe a successful school district is built on relationships. Teachers, Principals, Staff, Students, Parents/Guardians, and the Community must all work together toward common goals and stand side-by-side to face the challenges ahead. Despite the obstacles of the past three years, I see those relationships at work here in Piedmont and am excited for what lies ahead for the remainder of the school year and beyond. Moving forward, I will be sending out a monthly Superintendent’s newsletter updating our community on what’s happening in our District.
This ‘first 90 days update’ is so refreshing when compared to the communications from the last superintendent, who seemed under the impression that parents did not want to know what was happening with the district. Those communications were short on facts and status, and very long on self-congratulatory language. I am not surprised that there are infrastructure deficiencies and I am glad they are being addressed. I am looking forward to monthly updates outlining the policies and procedures which will address the infrastructure needs.
Too bad Dr. Evans can’t continue as Superintendent, I like his approach and communication style. Hopefully the newly selected Leadership Associates will choose a Superintendent who leads PUSD through a changing and challenging educational landscape with transparency and skill.