Gearing up for a new school year

Over the weekend, the Board and the district’s new leadership team met in retreat to set our priorities for the new school year (the first day of school is just about three weeks away!). Though most people know our new Superintendent Richard Carranza, you may not know our new Deputy Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero (until recently the Assistant Superintendent in charge of the Mission Superintendent’s Zone schools).  With his promotion, Guadalupe will now oversee all of the Area teams supervising school sites, Academics and Professional Development  (APD), Special Education, Early Education and Student Support Services. We have also hired Luis Valentino, a LAUSD veteran, to run APD as our Chief Academic Officer (DeeDee Desmond, who has been the interim CAO for the past two years, will now be running the Bayview Superintendent’s Zone schools — Dr. Patricia Gray retired from that position in June). General Counsel Don Davis is also newish — he joined the school district in January.

At the retreat, Luis, Guadalupe and Richard told the Board that all of the work this year will emphasize strengthening what they call the “instructional core” — the three interdependent components of teachers, content and students — to expand teachers’ knowledge and skill, provide academically challenging content, and fostering highly-engaged and joyful learners. To do this, they will focus on a group of interdependent, high-priority actions:

  • Beginning to implement the Common Core state standards in English/Language Arts and Math;
  • Building teachers’ and administrators’ capacity to access and use student learning data to better inform instruction and meet each student’s individual needs;
  • Build professional learning systems to expand the capacity of all staff;
  • Provide tiered levels of support and intervention to support all students;
  • Provide students with disabilities specially designed instruction in the least restrictive environment;
  • Create a coherent and cohesive alignment between preschool and elementary school.

Richard told the Board that he has several longer-term priorities, including trying to advance the long-discussed plan to move Ruth Asawa School of the Arts closer to the City’s cultural and arts hub at Civic Center, as well as transforming our student nutrition program.  Finally, Board members discussed communication protocols with Richard — how do we want the Superintendent to communicate with us, how does he want us to communicate with staff, and what in general are the “ground rules” for the Board-Superintendent-Leadership relationship.  One thing I’m very pleased about is that our new Superintendent is  open to experimenting with social media and will be tweeting using the handle @SFUSD_Supe.  This will get the  Superintendent out of the central office “bubble” a bit, and will  help build his relationship with the broader district and City residents. 

For anyone interested in the learning more about the district’s progress on various initiatives, I highly recommend downloading the latest strategic plan progress report, “Walking the Talk,” which was released in June. It’s a very comprehensive overview of where the district is today and where we seek to go next.

Finally, tomorrow (August 1)  is another big day: administrators report back to work for the 2012-13 school year, beginning with the two-day Administrator Institute. It’s a professional development extravaganza that seeks to set the tone and frame the work for the coming year; it’s sometimes tough to strike the right tone between being honest about the many challenges the district faces (budget, gaps in achievement between groups, etc.) and getting people “pumped” for the work ahead.

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