Superintendent Message – Board Meeting October 8, 2019

  • Welcome back school site staff and students! And welcome to our Board meeting to the audience here in the board room and all of you watching our Live Streaming!
  • We are holding our meeting tonight instead of the originally scheduled Oct. 14th date to meet the State requirement of bringing a revised 2019-20 budget to the public and our Board of Trustees by October 8th. Dr. Salkeld will provide more information during the public hearing.
  • Yesterday, Student Board Member Ethan Collier, as President for the California Association of Student Councils (Region 12), organized, facilitated and lead a day-long student leadership conference. In attendance were student leaders from several of Sweetwater schools as well as students from Imperial Valley. It was very impressive to see our youth engaged in leadership skill-building activities. I know Ethan will share more with everyone tonight so I’ll just share the CASC values: the power of youth to change the world; acceptance of all people, respect, empowerment and encouragement of youth, integrity, the belief that people can continuously develop and change, and the power of the individual. I also want to thank Hilltop advisor Louise Williamson for supporting our Region 12 student leaders at their conference.
  • Tonight, I want to talk about why I am proud to be part of the Sweetwater Union High School District and this governance team. A lot has happened over the past 4+ years since this Board and superintendent, along with the district leadership team, has been in place. One of our first actions back in 2015 was to re-write our LCAP Goals with the deliberate intent to clarify our message and direction as a district. One reason I am proud is that I believe the majority of staff, many parents and community members know and understand our LCAP goals.
  • From the beginning, the Board and district leadership team have been and continues to be committed to transparency. It is the main reason the Board adopted LCAP Goal 4: Develop coherent and transparent systems for operational excellence to support each student’s success. It is rare districts across the state have written an LCAP goal that communicates something close to the specific language and message. That goal is intentional because we knew there were and are a lot of areas of the district that needed to be analyzed and improved.
  • As a result, our Board welcomes and invites stakeholder input and feedback, perspectives that both agree and disagree with district decisions and actions. Staff, students, families and community members have direct access to the Board and staff daily and during board meetings. Every person who attends our board meeting and requests to speak is given their time and respect. I am very proud we actively listen to all comments and perspectives.
  • We would like to think that “we” think of ALL the ideas that have improved our systems across the district. The reality is we have determined some areas we needed to improve; AND, staff and community have called out other ideas and ways to improve. This is another reason I am proud – the improvements we have made have been the result of a collective effort and purposeful collaboration. We recognize we still need improvement. What’s important is that we continue to be open to making these improvements. It’s also important to know that all of these changes do not happen overnight; however, we are committed to staying the course.
  • LCAP Goal 2: Create a safe and healthy learning environment for each student by building a culture of equity and a positive climate that promotes excellence throughout the district. Five years ago when we created this goal, we were one of the few districts that included the topics of equity, culture, and a positive climate. Now, many districts in California and across the nation acknowledge that paying attention to equity, culture, and climate are critical for student and adult success. I am proud that Sweetwater is ahead of most districts in California and nation-wide in regards to focusing on these areas. Are we there yet? No way; BUT, we are not afraid to acknowledge or own past inequities and we have the courage to stay the course and keep moving forward!
  • Here is a perfect example – the entire Educational Leadership magazine for the month of October 2019 is about the theme of Making School a Safe Place. The first article is on “Refining School Threat Assessments.” Thanks to our Security Coordinator and Manager John Czajkowski (who has been in his role for the last seven years), our school safety training has been recognized by external entities, like the San Diego County Grand Jury, as being rigorous, researched, and relevant .
  • Other article titles include “Trauma-Informed Teaching Strategies,” “Getting Started with Restorative Practices” and “Rethinking Conventions: Keeping Gender-Diverse Students Safe.” Sound familiar?? These are topics we have provided professional development on for the past three years. Again, we have not accomplished implementation district-wide yet, but we are well ahead of many districts because we included internal and external stakeholders in the development of our 4-year Equity Plan.
  • Tonight, we are going to hear a presentation from our Counselors. They are going to talk about all they do to positively contribute to a positive school culture and climate via developing positive relationships. There’s an article from the National Counselor of the Year who talks about “a safe school environment is one in which all students and educators feel free to be themselves.” He also talks about counselors having a structured curriculum; Sweetwater Counselors do their best to align to the American School Counselors Association standards! You’ll hear more about that during their presentation tonight.
  • Another article is titled, “For School Leaders, a Time of Vigilance and Caring.” Our principals, assistant principals, and psychologists are doing their part to address the physical and social-emotional safety of our students on a daily basis.
  • We also understand that “teacher (staff) mental health is vital to safe and healthy schools, but it is often neglected,” according to another article in EL. Our Board and district leadership realize this reality and want to offer the same mental health services to our staff as well as our students. As recently as yesterday, TOSA Lauren McLennan, offered a PD session for teachers about Self-Care. We do recognize that we need to provide PD for social emotional learning for staff, too! This is another reason I am proud of the work we are doing in Sweetwater.
  • Finally, I am most proud of the quality of employees we have in Sweetwater! Employees who sincerely and deeply care about the students they serve and who are dedicated to their craft, whether it be teaching, counseling, administrating, or providing support, all focused on students and families each and every day. I am proud to serve with this Board and all of you!  We are #Sweetwater Strong!
  • Here is another example of why I’m proud…a video of Montgomery Middle. Here is the link.
  • Budget_Presentation_Oct 8 2019 – PDF
  • Counselor_Presentation_October_2019_pdf – PDF
  • Thank you for your support and collaboration!