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SJ Scene News and Announcements

Superintendent's Message (Mr. Kern)

Leveling the playing field for all students is our work

March 22nd, 2018

An open letter to the students, families, staff and community of San Juan Unified School District from Superintendent Kent Kern:

Conversations about diversity, discrimination, equity and harassment are not new to San Juan Unified School District. Our schools have struggled with these issues alongside our community, state and nation for decades. As we continue this conversation, I want to be clear about two things. First, we have reason to take great pride in our efforts, especially in recent years, to remove barriers that have long stood in the way of underrepresented students. And second, that we will intensify our efforts as we still have a long way to go before we can say that we provide equity to all students and provide each of them with an equal opportunity to succeed. The position we are in is not the reality we want, but it is our reality and we are committed to changing it.

We know that our community is changing and how we help educate our students must change too. Since 2000, the Hispanic student population San Juan Unified serves has more than doubled, growing to represent more than 22 percent of our current enrollment. We’ve also seen growth in the African American, Asian, and multi-racial student populations. The English language learner population has almost doubled, and the diversity of languages we serve changes and grows. In recent years, our district has become a welcoming home for thousands of refugee students, further diversifying the English language learners that we serve.

The most dramatic and impactful demographic shift may be in the socioeconomic status of our students and families. In 2000, 29 percent of our students qualified for the free or reduced lunch program. After a targeted outreach effort this school year, more than 54 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

So, how does a school system build the capacity in skill set, support services and other resources to meet the needs of an ever-diversifying student body?

We must call out the need to understand and focus on equity.

In 2015, we created the office of Equity and Student Achievement to bring a focus to identifying barriers to student success and the importance of providing differentiated services based on individual student need. The result has been a greater level of dialogue around the issues and actions taken to support students.

Research, and our own results, will show that in many cases we can predict which students will succeed and which will fail based on their demographic profile. That is not acceptable. As part of our work we have developed a better understanding of what it means to have an equitable system and how to measure when we’ll know we’ve arrived at our goal. I look forward to the day when our only indicators of which students will succeed are their grades, peer feedback and teacher observation.

After community conversations, the Equity and Student Achievement Office has spearheaded a number of initiatives, including intensive professional development for district administrators, school administrators and school staff members. This work has focused on developing understanding of equity
and personal development to identify our own unconscious biases and other roadblocks toward advancing.

We must listen to the voices of our students and families.

There are talented teachers, administrators and support staff in San Juan Unified with years of experience, empathetic hearts and a passion for ensuring all students succeed. To understand the needs of individual students and families, we must provide them with opportunities to share their voice with us.

We have implemented a variety of input processes all designed to diversify and expand the voice and thoughts we hear from students, staff and community:

  • Student listening circles have been deployed on topics ranging from race and racially-based discrimination to the supports needed to be successful at math. This format allows our students to engage with each other while adults hear the conversation and then work collaboratively to develop answers to issues raised.
  • Thoughtexchange processes allow us to gather both large scale input and very targeted conversation with smaller groups. The power of Thoughtexchange is that it not only allows us to hear discussion, but it allows our stakeholders to receive and weigh in on the dialogue of others.
  • Community meetings, forums and events allow for a variety of exchanges. This year we implemented “Data Equity Walks” that invited a broad cross section of our stakeholders together to review multiple points of data and discuss their meaning and the needs the data uncovered. Our Local Control and Accountability Plan Parent Advisory Committee (LCAP PAC) has held community forums prior to their meetings throughout the district geographically.
  • I value authentic voice, especially authentic student voice. That’s why, last year, we created a Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee comprised of students from each high school who did not already have a voice as a student leader. I’ve been excited to see their level of candor and honesty develop in their conversations with me. More importantly, I’ve been in awe of the group’s willingness and desire to take on issues directly and move to action. They’re currently working to gather student views on social-emotional supports, mental well-being and needed academic supports.

We must reduce barriers to access.

San Juan Unified schools offer a variety of quality programs including many with a special focus or design to challenge our advanced learners. But, when we look at enrollment in many of our programs, we find they do not match the make-up of our schools and community. If every student is to have the same opportunity for success, we must ask what stops some students from enrolling in programs and how can we help remove those barriers.

I’m proud to say that we have moved beyond just asking those questions and started to take action based on what we’ve found. Two years ago, we began offering the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) to ALL of our high school sophomores (and juniors this year) at no cost. Using the results, we have been better able to identify the students who are ready for advanced coursework but not yet enrolled.

Our partnership with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) takes this work a step further. All San Juan Unified high schools have surveyed their grade 9-11 students and entire staff to identify academic expectations, barriers to enrollment in advanced programs, and supports needed to be successful. Based on that data, we have identified specific students from underrepresented groups whose academic profile suggests they should be attempting more challenging coursework. Each school is hosting rallies, pairing students with staff mentors and reaching out directly to parents and family members to encourage students to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) and other challenging options like the International Baccalaureate program at Mira Loma High School.

I recognize that barriers don’t start at the high school level. Even in our elementary students we see disparities in enrollment in specialized programs that tell me there are barriers in the way. That’s why I have asked our Director of Equity and Student Achievement to convene a K-8 Equity Taskforce. This group of staff, parents and community partners will be charged with identifying barriers to equity in elementary, K-8 and middle school programs and reporting back to me with recommended actions to address their findings.

We must partner with our community.

Our district is fortunate to have many valuable community partners who help provide for the social-emotional, academic and basic needs of our students and families. We have long recognized in our district’s strategic plan and LCAP that strong partnerships are essential to our success.

The number of partners supporting us on our journey to equity continues to grow. For several years we’ve worked with the United College Action Network (U-CAN) to give students a chance to gain admission to some of the nation’s best historically black colleges and universities. A partnership with Improve Your Tomorrow, Inc. at Will Rogers Middle School and Del Campo High School is allowing us to partner trained mentors with young black men for academic and other supports. A group of teachers from multiple schools in the district take part in the Social Justice Institute with CSU Sacramento to embed equitable classroom practices in teaching. A variety of organizations work with us to support immigrant and refugee families new to our community and schools, including Opening Doors, the International Rescue Committee and the Mexican Consulate.

We are open to collaborative relationships with any potential community partners who can help us meet our mission to ensure that we educate and inspire each student to succeed and contribute to our radically evolving world. I expect and hope that our partners not only help us to do our work but challenge our thinking and processes to ensure we reach the best outcome for students.

We must provide a mentally and physically safe environment.

Ensuring the systems and supports are in place to remove barriers and reduce the predictability of which students fail is only one part of the work that we must continue to engage in and strengthen. No matter how hard we work, if a student feels unwelcome or unsafe they will struggle to learn. Ensuring that our school cultures are inclusive and supportive is essential.

A group of alumni and current high school students recently spoke before the Board of Education to share their personal experiences and frustrations with harassment and bullying. Harassment and bullying are not okay. Period. Our school district will not stand by and allow students, staff or others to be discriminated against based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexuality, age, disability or medical condition.

If a concern can’t be resolved between parties, it should be brought to the attention of a school administrator. Multiple other ways to report issues are also available, including our Tell Someone feature that allows anyone to report a safety issue to staff. All complaints will be investigated and appropriate actions taken based on the findings.

I have directed staff to expand efforts to ensure that all students and staff know how they can and must report bullying or harassment. These efforts will include enhancing information relayed in student handbooks distributed each year, additional signage on campuses and enhancements to our website information. Additionally, we are working to establish a single individual on each school campus where concerns of discrimination or harassment can be shared or referred to that ensures they are properly addressed.

During an investigation, we will look at all evidence available, we will ask questions, we will protect the confidentiality and rights of everyone involved and we will take appropriate actions to end harassing and bullying behaviors. I know investigations can be frustrating, especially when the privacy rights of the individual responsible for the behavior prevent the actions taken from being shared. Know that we will do our very best to find resolutions quickly and have implemented a multi-level process to ensure opportunities for additional review if someone feels an issue had not been resolved.

We must do it together.

As I said, conversations around discrimination, equity, harassment and diversity are not new to us in San Juan Unified. We are fortunate to have amazing partners in our students, staff, families and community organizations that support not only these conversations but also our actions being taken to address the underlying causes. While progress is being made, we must do what’s possible to strengthen and broaden our work to expedite results. Our students deserve no less and to do it, we will need your help.

Thank you for taking the time to read this message and for being a part of the conversation. If you have thoughts, ideas or suggestions, please reach out to me at superintendent@sanjuan.edu.

Sincerely,

Kent Kern

Superintendent

Employee Offer

Teachers – apply now to get a classroom supply kit

January 10th, 2018

If you are a teacher in Sacramento County, CLICK HERE by Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 to apply for a classroom supply kit from “Helping Teachers. Helping Students.” You will be notified by email if you are selected, along with all the relevant pick-up information. Each kit will include: dry erase markers, pocket folders, copy paper, glue sticks, sticky notes, highlighters, pencils, tissues, and colored pencils. MORE INFORMATION:  http://weloveourteachers.org/

News/Announcements

Focus groups for website redesign

December 8th, 2017

San Juan Unified is currently in the process of designing a new district website, which will include new school websites. The current website has design issues that make it incompatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other accessibility laws. The new website will launch sometime in 2018.

To help design a user-friendly website, the Communication and Tech Services teams are reaching out to employees to volunteer to participate in a focus group. A registration form and short survey can be found by following this link.

Thank you for your help in building a better website experience for the San Juan Unified community. If you have any questions, please contact Bret Van Blaricom at bret.vanblaricom@sanjuan.edu.

News/Announcements

Don’t forget! Student Thoughtexchange process runs through Nov. 17

November 9th, 2017

The student Thoughtexchange process is open now through Friday, Nov. 17 and we need your help to increase student participation!

Students in grades 5-12 are asked to participate by visiting www.sanjuan.edu/studentvoice. Step-by-step instructions for the exchange are available here.

If you have students who would prefer to review the questions in Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic and Farsi, translated questions can be found here.

Students younger than grade 5 and those who are not able to independently access ThoughtExchange (students with more severe disabilities) are likely to also have input as in these areas.  For that reason, we are providing a classroom discussion protocol that teachers can use with their class.  Class ideas can then be submitted directly for consideration along with the Thoughtexchange results.

Listening to student voice is vital as we continue to improve San Juan Unified and make decisions about how resources are used at school and district levels. To make that happen we need your help! Please contact Chatty Richier or Raj Rai if you have any questions.

News/Announcements

2018 employee benefit open enrollment

November 1st, 2017

Employee benefit open enrollment runs from Nov. 6 – 17, 2017. Our current benefit plans will renew on Jan. 1, 2018 with no changes in benefit plan design except for changes mandated by federal health care law.

Open enrollment is your annual opportunity to make the following changes:

  • Enroll in or change your current healthcare plan

  • Decline healthcare coverage (proof of other coverage is required)

  • Add or remove eligible dependents to your healthcare plan

  • It is your responsibility to remove over age dependents.

  • Enroll or re-enroll in a Section 125 reimbursement account for dependent care and/or medical expenses through American Fidelity in late November or early December

After open enrollment, the only time you can make changes to your healthcare coverage is within 30 days of having a qualifying life event (such as marriage, divorce, birth/adoption of a child, change of dependent eligibility, or change in employment status). If you are adding a new dependent during open enrollment, you will be required to provide proof of that dependent’s eligibility (i.e., a marriage certificate or birth certificate) as well as each dependent’s Social Security number to comply with district policy. Actions you take during open enrollment go into effect Jan. 1, 2018 and your new payroll deductions begin with your January paycheck.

How do I make changes?

  1. Go to the San Juan Unified School District Intranet and follow the links to “Employee Benefit Open Enrollment” or go to www.sanjuan.edu/BenefitsOpenEnrollment.

  2. Enrollment/Change forms are available online for you to print and complete and then bring to the Benefits department.

  3. Contact the Benefits department via email at benefitshelpdesk@sanjuan.edu.

  4. Contact the Benefits department at 916-971-7662.

If you do not want to make any changes to your healthcare choices, you do not need to do anything unless you wish to waive healthcare coverage.

News/Announcements

Board Briefs: Oct. 24, 2017

October 25th, 2017

Here are a few highlights from the San Juan Unified Board of Education’s most recent regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24 (the full agenda packet can be found here).

Board hears updates on high school intervention and support programs

The board heard an update from the Division of Teaching and Learning regarding the newly created high school intervention and support programs implemented in the 2016-17 school year and continuing into this school year.

In the spring of 2016, each high school was given the opportunity to choose the types of support they felt would best support the social/emotional programs already in place at their site. Six high schools had medium to high densities of targeted students and could choose between hiring a social worker, psychologist, behaviorist, or a school community intervention specialist. The three low density high schools were given off-ratio certificated staffing to provide additional interventions and support to students.

Along with the added support offered, a number of high schools developed learning support teams at their sites. Casa Roble Fundamental High School, a low density school, and Mesa Verde High School, a high density school, both developed unique intervention and support plans for high risk students and are continuing to follow the same model this year. As the district provides academic and social/emotional support for all students to succeed, we will continue to monitor and review our systems for the best models in moving forward.

The full presentation can be found here.

In other news…

  • The board adopted a resolution proclaiming Nov. 13-17 as School Psychology Awareness Week.

The Board of Education will hold its next regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 14 in the district office Board Room. Agendas are posted online Fridays before each meeting and can be found here.

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