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Message from the Superintendent

Rick Schmitt Superintendent Letterhead

August 2019


Happy New Year!

This time of year is one of smiles, happiness and goodwill as we eagerly welcome back our students, staff and families for a new school year. Throughout the summer, our District staff has worked hard to freshen up, renovate and modernize our schools, prepare training for staff and keep our schools on the cutting edge of educational initiatives that prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world.


2019-2020 Leadership Priorities

Each summer, we reflect on our work from the previous year using feedback from staff, students and parents, as well as data. Based on our reviews of the progress, we annually update our leadership priorities for the coming year. Our new priorities build upon the previous year’s work. You can view the history of our priorities on the District website. As you will see, this year’s priorities focus on supporting our students in reaching personal and academic success, ensuring safe learning and working environments for our staff, and accomplishing all this with a commitment to ongoing improvement while being fiscally prudent.


Safety

SRVUSD remains committed to identifying and implementing best practices that support the safety of our schools and campuses. 

One of the incredible successes of our safety measures is last year’s launch of the Anonymous Tipline on each school website. We believe one of the best safety measures is to create a culture in which sharing information is encouraged by students and adults alike. That culture has taken root in our school district as the message spreads: “If you see something, or know something, say something.” The Tipline was embraced by the community and used to successfully report and respond to 270 incidents that posed potential danger or harm.

I’d like to share with you the following breakdown of the types of incidents reported last year through the Tipline:    

Catapult Report

The Tipline is just one of the measures we have taken to improve safety on our campuses. 

Another big undertaking this summer has been the implementation of a plan to place cameras at ingress and egress areas of all our schools, as well as near the outside of restrooms and other behavioral hotspots at middle and high schools. All together, the cameras represent more than $1 million investment through our voter-approved Measure D Facilities Bond. Installation at all 36 schools will continue through the school year. 

Also new this year, to further improve security on our campuses, is a computerized visitor pass system. Operated by our volunteer management system, “Be A Mentor,” the new “Sentry, Visitor Pass ID System” will mean that all visitors, including volunteers, must slide a photo ID card into the system to be registered as a visitor before being issued a guest or volunteer pass. This step, along with the continued installation of new gates and fencing at our schools through the Measure D program detailed below, will help ensure that visitors are funneled through the front office and checked in before being allowed on campus. 


Social Emotional Learning

As you view our priorities, one change you will see this year is a focus on a multi-tiered system of support to ensure that each student reaches high levels of success through learner-centered experiences. We want to ensure that each student feels safe, secure and respected in the least restrictive and most inclusive setting. Our commitment to the community is that each of our students receive the support they need to succeed. One of these supports is an emphasis on Social Emotional Learning, which prioritizes the well-being of our students through a focus on safety, mental wellness and cultural responsiveness. 

Eleven of our elementary schools successfully piloted the Sanford Harmony social-emotional curriculum in 2018-19. We are excited to extend the program to all 22 elementary sites for the 2019-20 school year. Sanford Harmony is a research-based program that promotes problem-solving and cooperation among classmates, with the goal of creating classroom communities that provide tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness. The activities are designed to bring students in a classroom together to work and play as a team. Students learn about each other and connect on levels they might not otherwise have with one another. 

By using the Sanford Harmony TK-5th grade program, students and teachers focus on five specific areas: diversity and inclusion, empathy and critical thinking, communication, problem solving and peer relationships. Together, they learn a  common language, have discussions and participate in activities that provide opportunities to share, think, collaborate and have fun. The grade level and schoolwide activities promote joint problem-solving and cooperation. Research tells us that self-esteem emerges as early as preschool. By kindergarten, a child’s self-esteem is as strong as an adult’s. Dr. Dario Cvencek, Research Scientist at the University of Washington, says the warm, supportive connections a child develops with others are probably the most important factors in fostering the development of a healthy sense of self. We believe the Sanford Harmony curriculum embraces this work and helps develop these important connections. Together, it all supports California’s standards on social emotional learning curriculum.


Advanced Placement (AP) Results

The SRVUSD continues to realize tremendous success with its Advanced Placement classes. This year, more students than ever took AP exams in our District. The confidence that our students demonstrate in these AP exams begins with the rigor and outstanding teaching they receive in elementary and middle school. Our students arrive at high school ready for the high level coursework that prepares them for college and careers. In 2018-2019, 88 percent of SRVUSD students who took an AP exam passed the test. What is most impressive about this accomplishment is that not only do we have more students with the confidence and ambition to try AP classes, but the growth in the number of students taking AP exams is evident across all groups. The results tell us more students are attempting AP classes and succeeding in those advanced studies. Staff and students alike are to be commended for this tremendous accomplishment. 


Personalized Learning

We continue to make strong progress in providing personalized learning options to create a more student-centered experience for all students. More and more students and families are taking advantage of options that reflect year-round, learner-centered experiences both on and off campus. Some of these options include online and college-level courses, Heritage Language schools, our partnership and opportunities with Diablo Valley College, Independent Study PE and internships. This past school year, 2,600 students enrolled and successfully completed courses that could be placed on the official SRVUSD transcript for graduation and college credit. We are pleased that these options are being embraced by our students and families.


Summer School

Our summer school participation across all programs this year was extremely high, with significantly increased enrollment from 2018. This summer, we had a total of 4,941 students enrolled in our summer programs. Many students enjoyed enrichment opportunities and advancement options, while others took courses to remediate a class or to strengthen their foundational skills in English and/or math. Some needed to recover graduation credits at the high school level. Whatever the reason, by offering a variety of summer school options, students were further able to customize their learning to meet their needs.


Specialized Elementary Magnet Programs

With the expansion of the personalized learning initiatives at the secondary level, we recognized that we can extend unique learner-centered opportunities to our elementary schools. For the 2019-20 school year, we are launching three new specialized learning programs at Coyote Creek, Green Valley and Walt Disney elementary schools. Often referred to in education as “magnet” programs, each school will offer a specialized curriculum. For example, at Coyote Creek, students will have an opportunity to engage in the performing arts with a focus on theater. At Green Valley, the focus will be on identifying students’ individual strengths and applying them to project-based learning. At Walt Disney, the specific emphasis will be on instrumental music, with a wider exposure to the performing arts. In addition to these three new programs, we currently offer a Mandarin Language magnet program at Quail Run Elementary School. While our new programs have not yet been opened beyond each school’s resident community, we envision in the future, as space becomes available, students from other SRVUSD schools can choose to transfer to one of these magnet schools. We look forward to your feedback on these programs.


Declining Enrollment

There is good news and bad news on this front. First, the bad news: like many other school districts across California, we are in declining enrollment. Now, the good news: we knew we were in declining enrollment and took action to mitigate the effects on our programs and people. Our proactive efforts paid off, and I am pleased to report that after enrolling more than 500 students this summer, our District enrollment currently stands at about 32,000. That number is still 200 students fewer than the 2018-19 numbers, but it is substantially better than the beginning of the summer, where we were anticipating a decline of 300 to 500 students from the prior year. Our numbers continue to change on a daily basis. New students enroll and current students exit. While we are still in decline, we are relieved that our situation has improved over what we expected. As you know, more students mean more revenue for the District. As we do each summer, we are in the process of placing students and staff to accommodate the ever-changing numbers. Thank you for your support in getting the word out about our great schools. Slowing the decline in enrollment is one of the best actions we can take as a community to preserve existing staffing and program levels. We will continue to keep our community updated as these numbers evolve.


Measure D Project Update

We are so grateful to the community for its support of quality facilities through Measure D. Over the summer months, you may have seen construction crews at many of our sites. Work on our Measure D funded construction projects happened from one end of the District to the other. Modernization took place at Green Valley, Golden View, Montevideo, Rancho Romero, Sycamore Valley and Vista Grande. In addition, work continued on our two biggest Measure D projects, Stone Valley Middle School and San Ramon Valley High School. The new classroom buildings at both sites are receiving their finishing touches and will be open for staff and students on the first day of school on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. These long-awaited facilities are state of the art and will serve our community for many years. You can get detailed information about Measure D, as well as view pictures of Measure D funded work, by visiting www.BuildSRVSchools.org.

 

We have much to celebrate this year and even more to look forward to. I hope you have a great start to the new year!

 

Best wishes,

 

Rick

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