Live webinar outlines new district goals

District hopes to increase consistency of education at all schools

In his first ever public webinar, Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Superintendent Max McGee discussed the District’s goals for the coming year and the progress made in 2015 through a live video stream that was available online.

According to McGee, one of the District’s main goals for 2016 is the implementation of suggestions from the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Advisory Team.

“[The Minority Achievement and Talent Development Advisory Team,] of course, wanted to work with one of the historical challenges we’ve had in this district, and that’s closing the achievement gap,” McGee said in the webinar. “But even more than that, we want to make sure that every student’s talents and potential are developed to their maxima or in the words of our mission statement, [which is] to empower every child to reach his or her fullest intellectual, social and creative potential.”

McGee went on to describe the progress the team has made so far.

“This committee worked throughout the year to identify problems and then develop solutions,” McGee said. “So at this point, we are in the implementation phase.”

A major recommendation that is being taken into account is the addition of parent liaisons to communicate between groups of parents and the school district.

“We want to ensure that when we have school or district committees, we have historically underrepresented students’ parents, faculty and staff representation on those committees,” McGee said.

McGee also discussed the expansion of summer school and its potential to close the achievement gap.

“We’re looking to expand summer school beyond credit recovery,” McGee said. “So the board has already allocated more than $300,000 for summer school programming. That’s to provide opportunities and access for our underrepresented students and others.”

There is also an aim to incorporate a more consistent level of teaching and learning into all PAUSD schools. The district plans to do this primarily by focusing on standardizing learning foundations while still allowing teachers to customize their teaching to best fit their own students. McGee explained that the main goal of this was to ensure teachers could teach in their own style while still having students across all classes leave with the same knowledge.

Data-driven instruction is another main goal of McGee’s, which will be achieved partially through the implementation of assessments in reading, writing and mathematics in early elementary school. Though concerns from parents were expressed around an overuse of testing, McGee justified the addition of tests with this goal by explaining the importance of collecting data.

“If we are using data from these assessments to make better instructional decisions so we can provide interventions as soon as they’re needed … we will be doing [students] a great service,” McGee said.

Additional goals McGee mentioned include an ownership of personalized learning, as well as enrollment management. The final goal he mentioned was to make all district schools safe and welcoming. According to McGee, this is meant to encompass social, emotional and physical health for students.

During the webinar, McGee also discussed changes that have been implemented this year, including a new block schedule at Henry M. Gunn High School, the Advanced Authentic Research Program and new writing workshops at elementary schools.

McGee was joined by various other district leadership during the webinar. McGee hopes to hold a webinar at least once a month in the future, to cover a variety of specific topics.