Following the resignation of PAUSD Equity Coordinator Keith Wheeler last month, the District has elevated Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) Coordinator Dr. Jeong Choe to Director of Agile Teams, a position where she will assemble small flexible teams of teachers to address the issue of the achievement gap.
Wheeler, who was hired in July 2017, was the District’s second equity coordinator after a recommendation from the Minority Achievement Talent Development (MATD) committee to create the position in 2016. The purpose of the recommendation was to have a single person spearheading efforts to address the achievement gap in PAUSD.
According to Supt. Don Austin, Wheeler’s position had stopped being necessary for the District.
“I believe the creation of the position made sense at the time,” Austin said in an email. “Most of our data points show a disparity between our general population and specific subgroups (…) Mr. Wheeler impacted the awareness of the issues at a critical point. With his departure, it is time to shift from awareness to impactful actions to change the outcomes of our students.”
Instead of placing a single person in charge of equity, Austin has recommended all administrators be responsible for addressing equity in the District.
“At this point in time, I am recommending using our Chief Academic Officers and principals to positively impact academic measures through focused effort. Working with our teachers, I believe the people closest to our students are in the best position to create conditions for all students to realize success.”
Superintendent Don Austin
This is where Choe’s new role comes in. According to Austin, one of her major responsibilities will be to assemble small flexible teams of teachers to attack the issues together.
“Teachers, site administrators, and the district will be working closely to identify and deliver a series of both short-term–“sprint”–and long-term–“marathon”–goals to expand students’ pathway options and provide more personalized support to students and their families,” Choe said in an email. “For example, we are developing new opportunities for elementary students through the Creativity Carts program, which is now being used by the “big buddy” peer mentoring program for “EleMENTORy” collaborative projects. This project offers Big Buddy mentors the opportunity to work with their younger buddies to foster creativity and innovation through the utilization of the Creativity Carts.”
Choe added that the teams will continue to support current programs, such as AAR, AP Capstone, CTE Pathway Programs, Elementary Creativity Projects and Work Experience Education.
“Currently, we are supporting (these) programs (…) agile teams will help strengthen this work,” Choe said. “We just completed the process of establishing dual enrollment for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) program at Paly so that ECD students can earn college credit through Foothill…students are being prepared with hands-on learning to enter a wide range of careers, including becoming licensed as early childhood preschool assistants…teachers, pediatricians and more.
By working with PAUSD’s community partners, we are starting to explore ways to improve these pathways for students to benefit from their own personalized choices.”
Although Choe will take on the achievement gap issue, she plans to continue her work with AAR too.
“Please also note that Director of Agile Teams is an expanded role from AAR Coordinator that is focused on implementation, and it is not intended to replace the Equity Coordinator,” Choe said. “There is potential to expand the work and concept of Agile Teams to many areas of our work in the District.”
ASB School Climate and Social Justice Commissioner Noor Navaid agrees with Choe and Austin that the achievement is an important issue that deserves more attention.
“Although equity is a high priority of ASB, we haven’t really looked into the academic side of things yet,” Navaid said.
Austin has stated that his decision not replace Wheeler’s position is not a move away from equity efforts, but rather is intended to strengthen the District’s efforts to address the achievement gap.
“The most important part of our future plan is that it is not turning away from an Equity Coordinator,” Austin said. “Instead, this plan is a full investment of the entire organization to support our students as a team. A more complete global plan is under development and will be presented to the Board of Education at a Special Study Session in January.”
Wheeler’s district email has been deactivated, and Austin said Wheeler wanted a quiet exit and did not have permission to share his contact with The Campanile.