Always remember to celebrate

I was reminded, reading an article in the Mercury News on October 26 (Evergreen schools campaign: Cash boosts profile of normally quiet race) that sometimes we forget to celebrate our successes. The article, mostly about candidates running for seats on the Evergreen Board of Trustees, made an offhanded reference to the District as being “once-touted.” It struck me as an odd turn of phrase given all we have seen accomplished here in recent years. The reference was made in regard to declining enrollments which we know are largely driven by demographic changes as fewer families with school age children live here, and post recession, put quite bluntly, families stopped having as many babies. As families age out of elementary and middle school there are fewer children to replace them. Our job is to handle these changes as effectively as possible but not to wallow in a sense of self-imposed woe.

Removed from the enrollment question, I would argue the reference in the Mercury News should have perhaps simply read, “Touted.” Our District remains on the cutting edge of education trends, and remains much celebrated. When we look at Evergreen School receiving the county’s only national Blue Ribbon designation, or the launch of the new Lobo School of Innovation, or the amazing project-based learning going on at several schools, Evergreen being accepted as one of just 19 Districts in the National Network of Innovative School Districts or K. Smith School being named a New Tech Exemplary Demonstration Site, we see a thriving District that we can all be proud of. Let’s always remember to look at the big picture when talking about our schools and districts, lest we forget to note the many successes that live there.

– Kathy

Why public schools matter

I just finished reading a recent NPR blog post about Rocketship charter schools that called into question their practices around behavior management and their relentless pursuit of high test scores.

As a life-long educator, I understand the importance of summative assessments and the mixed feelings of joy and frustration that spring forth after getting your class, school, or district’s CAASPP results. I also understand that if we want to be a country that is proud of its schools, we must engage students much more deeply. We have to set the conditions that allow them to think critically, collaborate effectively, persevere in finding creative solutions, and communicate well, orally and in writing. These things don’t happen in classrooms where student behavior and engagement is scripted and restricted. They happen in classrooms and schools where students are respected and empowered to have an authentic voice in how things get done. They happen when students encounter natural consequences for their behavior. They happen when students are challenged to make connections to what they are learning in the classroom and how it applies to real life, outside the classroom. These things can and are happening in public, neighborhood elementary schools, particularly in Evergreen.

We’re proud of the way we work with families to deliver a balanced education that looks at a holistic approach to learning. The conversation around the value of a public school education must be had and we’re happy and proud to engage. Watch this space for more on this important topic – we have lots more to say.

Equity

I think most of us understand the concept of equity; it means giving the other what he or she needs so that he/she can be as successful as the one who has more. This means that in some cases you give more to those who have less to start with. It’s a bit sensitive because the idea of allocating resources “unequally” doesn’t always feel right. I was raised to share – if I have one cookie and one sister, I need to share the cookie 50/50. Thinking in terms of equity rather than equality though would mean that if I’ve already had a cookie, I give a bigger share to my sister who’s had none. Now cookies are pretty easy to talk about but for a school district, what does equity mean about the distribution of resources?

Equity is at the heart of Title 1 funding and it’s also at the heart of the Local Control Funding Formula that provides additional dollars for students who are on the free/reduced lunch program, are English learners, or are foster youth. The thinking is that these students have greater needs and will require more support to be on a level playing ground with other students. therefore the additional Title 1 and LCFF dollars can be used to provide that support.

Equity is an important concept in education but it only exists in an environment of limited resources and that’s where the rubber meets the road.

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Here we go…

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To connect the work of the District to our families 

To link families with the District

A nexus between our schools and families

 

I’ve been resisting starting this blog for a while. It’s not that I don’t like writing or sharing my thinking with folks because I do! My reluctance to begin is rooted in my fear that this blog won’t be viable or of interest to readers.

Before launching, I researched several superintendent blogs and found them to be filled with information that was accessible many other places and also filled with the types of things one would expect… “We passed the bond!” “Test scores came back great!” “Kids watch too much TV” Don’t get me wrong…these are all fine topics but is it what people want to hear? I’m not so sure.

I really want to go deeper to explore the challenging questions that plague education in general and Evergreen School District in particular. I want to address the questions that our community has. I welcome the opportunity to respond to your questions and invite you to email them to me at kgomez@eesd.org.

Kathy Gomez, Superintendent, Evergreen School District