Albany Unified School District

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Superintendent Williams' Fall Newsletter (click here)

November 21, 2017
Dear AUSD Community,
Every time I step onto one of our campuses and see students learning, playing, competing, performing, and supporting each other, my heart is filled with so much pride for our Albany community. I am so thankful for our amazing AUSD staff who are not just committed to creating a culture of academic excellence, but also one of caring, compassion, inclusion, and acceptance. A lot has been happening this fall in AUSD, and I would like to showcase a few of our accomplishments.
 

Albany Coming Together

Our ACT committees continue to meet, and our Steering Committee meets every two weeks to provide guidance and assistance and to plan for our all ACT meeting on November 30th. An email invitation was sent to current ACT members this week, and the meeting will be held in the Cornell Multi-purpose Room from 6:15 - 8:15 p.m. Childcare will be provided, and there will be a light dinner provided (sandwich, chips, and water). The purpose of the all ACT meeting will be to bring together current ACT members to communicate clearly the work of ACT and AUSD, share the great work that is already in place in our schools, surface key issues we need to address as a community, and identify next steps. Our facilitator, Itoco Garcia, has been meeting with parents, students, and staff, and he is working with the ACT Steering Committee on a parent, student, and staff survey.

 

The purpose of the Albany Coming Together (ACT) Task Force is to mobilize students, AUSD staff and parents as equal partners to foster an equitable and inclusive school environment for all students. Our charge is to initiate a change process that empowers students to be culturally aware, civic-minded, and steadfast allies for one another. ACT’s recommendations support AUSD teachers and administrators to interrupt bias, promote social justice, and affirm a welcoming and supportive learning environment for all students, staff and families.

 

No Place for Hate Designation: Albany Middle School was recognized as a No Place for Hate school by the Anti-Defamation League. In order to receive this recognition, school staff received training, all staff signed the No Place for Hate resolution, and AMS students signed a No Place for Hate pledge. On November 30th, there will be a parent education event that is open to AMS and AHS parents. Our three elementary schools and the Albany Children’s Center are also working with the Anti-Defamation League to become designated No Place for Hate schools. Our goal is to create a learning environment that is one of acceptance and inclusion.

 

Albany High School Student Engagement: At AHS, student groups are at the forefront discussing issues of racism and oppression. Students are engaged in a poster campaign to encourage understanding, empathy and acceptance of all citizens and promote being a responsible world citizen. The Student Equity Advisory Council worked collaboratively with the Black Student Union to host a Town Hall 2.0 where students revisited the events of last spring and shared suggestions for moving forward. STAND, another AHS student group, sponsored the DACA immigrant rally on Saturday. This rally included several speakers and information on the rights of immigrant families. The SPEAK student group has been working with our elementary principals to schedule visits to elementary classes. SPEAK students are providing lessons that engage younger students in discussions around the topic of equity.

 

The AHS student body leadership also revamped the 9th grade orientation program to increase a sense of community for Freshmen. Freshmen students were given tours of the school so they knew where their classes were on the first day of school, and they met with older students in small groups to discuss several topics. These students are also available as mentors for 9th graders this year.

 

National Blue Ribbon Award: Albany Middle School was awarded the 2017 National Blue Ribbon Award as an Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School. Albany Middle School principal, Deborah Brill & Teacher, Jen Morris represented Albany Middle School at the National Blue Ribbon School recognition ceremony in Washington, DC where they received a plaque and flag to be displayed at the school as symbols of this honor. The award recognizes Albany Middle School students, staff, and parents for their commitment to excellence in education for our middle school students.

 

Curriculum & Instruction: Our staff has been collaborating within departments and between schools (PreK - 12th grade) to ensure that our students are provided with relevant and engaging curriculum and lessons. Our elementary schools provide the Welcoming Schools as well as Second Step curriculum, and our Albany Children’s Center has an Early Childhood Second Step kit which is being used with our preschool and transitional kindergarten students.  Second Step provides instruction in social and emotional learning as well as empathy, emotion management, friendship skills, and problem solving.  Welcoming Schools addresses all aspects of student and family diversity.

 

Elementary school staff are also researching books that are culturally relevant and that focus on anti-bias. Our English Language Development specialists are providing support to classroom teachers through site based professional learning around vocabulary development. Our teachers on special assignment are facilitating a pilot for reading comprehension materials and are beginning to explore options for expanding classroom libraries.

 

Facilities: On November 14th, we broke ground on the AMS Annex project. Over the next year, construction crews will be working to build twelve classrooms, a computer lab, and a drama theatre. This project will be environmentally responsible and will meet the CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools) Verification requirements. And, with special funding from the State, we will be able to install solar. The project is scheduled to be completed in early 2019.

 

Budget

Thank you for everyone’s input on the Budget Priorities Survey. Several things were clear that we can take action on: Phase in the approach to reducing the budget shortfall; look at ways to provide more usable financial data; research opportunities to increase revenues; keep any reductions as far away from the classroom as possible; and due to the fact that this is a Statewide issue, we need to advocate across the State to address this issue long-term. Please attend our Special Board Meeting on December 5, 2017 from 7pm to 9pm at the Cornell Multipurpose Room to discuss how we are addressing the above items.

 

Have a wonderful weekend, and a happy start to the holiday season!

 

Val Williams

Superintendent