New PUSD superintendent gives update on staffing, campus access, COVID, and leadership changes

Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hawn

From a letter to the school community on Aug. 3 from Superintendent Jennifer Hawn:

Dear Piedmont USD Families,

I would like to take this moment to express gratitude and appreciation for our families at the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Piedmont Unified School District faculty and staff are committed to delivering the finest educational experience available. I have a firm belief in the potential of every one of our students, and I look forward to collaborating with our staff, families and students to help every student belong and thrive.

I have a number of items to share with you as we approach the start of school on August 9.  Below you will find information on the following topics:

  • COVID Safety Protocols
  • Access to Campuses – Wildwood/Witter Field 
  • Access to Campuses – City Pool Project/PHS/MHS/PMS
  • Staffing Update
  • New Leadership Team
  • Future Communication Topics

COVID Safety Protocols

First, please note that we are still taking health and safety precautions linked HERE according to guidance from the Alameda County Public Health Department. We will update families as new information becomes available.

Access to Campuses – Wildwood/Witter Field

I would also like to share safety measures/protocols regarding access to and around our campuses as work is completed on the Witter Field Renovation Project. These changes to the path of travel will be strictly enforced and adhered to by the Witter contractor:

1. All drop off and pick up activity will need to take place on Wildwood Ave via the front door entry, directly in front of the campus. The City has extended the white curb drop off area on Wildwood Ave to help accommodate a few more vehicles in the drop off/pick up queue.  And, thanks to the gracious donations via the Wildwood parents/Dads club, students can now wait to be picked up on the newly installed benches located in the front of the school.

2. Drop off or pickup via the Winsor Ave driveway or rear stairs will not be permitted.  All gates leading to the rear of the school and to the lower Wildwood playground will be locked. (refer to the site map/path of travel linked HERE showing the entry points on Wildwood Ave)

3. Parents and students who typically walk from the El Cerrito/Jerome Ave neighborhood will need to walk up the left side of PE Hill, past the yellow gate, past the softball field and walk up the stairs or wood ramp to Wildwood Ave. (refer to the path of travel linked HERE)

4. PHS/PMS students will not be able to travel through Witter Field from Winsor Ave. All students walking from the Palm Dr/Winsor neighborhood will need to walk to Magnolia Ave and then access PMS/PHS via El Cerrito Ave then walk up the left side of PE Hill. (refer to the path of travel linked HERE)

5. Via PPD, a crossing guard will be stationed at the front of the school for drop-off and pick-up every school day.

6. A double fenced traffic lane has been constructed on the Wildwood lower playground to allow a safe path of travel for all construction vehicles to and from the Witter Field construction site. The traffic lane will be staffed with a monitor during the school day. 

7. Regarding the Witter Field Renovation Project, refer to the technical reports linked HERE, from the PUSD environmental consultants.  We will closely monitor Bothman Construction, the Witter Field contractor, to ensure strict adherence to all of the guidelines and recommendations set forth in the technical reports. We will be holding regular Wildwood Elementary/Witter Field Renovation Project Committee meetings.  The committee meeting schedule will be forthcoming. 

Access to Campuses – City Pool Project/PHS/MHS/PMS

Today, the City notified us that on August 10th and 11th, there will be the pouring of concrete for the perimeter foundation along Magnolia and Bonita Avenue. This work will involve multiple trucks starting at 7 a.m. and finishing at 7 p.m. on both days. Flaggers will be onsite to direct traffic traversing along Magnolia Avenue and Bonita Avenue, directing concrete trucks and cars to avoid delays and facilitate the flow of traffic. There will also be a crossing guard at Magnolia and Bonita for the entire duration of the City pool construction project. We recommend avoiding driving in this area on these days, if at all possible.

Staffing Update

I would also like to share some updates on matters related to our schools.  First, I must share that we are still in the process of hiring staff for our schools.  We have experienced some late summer resignations, which has challenged us to fill some positions at the last minute.  One vacancy that we may have to start the school year with is high school Chemistry.  Please know that we have posted the position and leveraged our connections to find a teacher; however, I believe we can do more.  Although new to PUSD, I have already felt the remarkable support our families have offered, and I am wondering if we have families with connections in our local colleges and universities, in particular in schools of education.  Parents/Guardians, I can certainly make calls myself; however, having a direct connection would be ideal as I build a more robust pipeline of teachers. Although PUSD is a destination school district, finding a highly qualified Chemistry teacher at the last minute is quite a challenge, and one that most school districts in California are experiencing.  Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you can offer information.  And, please know that we are doing everything we can to fill all positions.

New Leadership Team

My thanks to our staff for their great work in preparing for the start of school.  We have a fantastic new leadership team, including Melissa Daymond as our new Principal at Wildwood, Ariel Dolowich as our new Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Cassandra Famy as our new Assistant Director of Food Services, and Joseph Marik as our new Assistant Principal of Piedmont High School.  We have also promoted Irma Muñoz to Principal of Millennium High School and Jean Takazawa with an expanded role as our new DEIB Director.  

Future Communication Topics

Over the next few weeks, you will see more communication on various topics.  Updates will include a report on our early literacy program, a communication from the California Department of Education on firearm safety, and information on how to apply to be part of the Superintendent’s Advisory Council.  As always, please be on the lookout for messages from our school principals with information about your child’s school, including messages this week regarding registration and the first day of school.

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