Superintendent's Corner

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

 

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August 21, 2017

 

Dear AUSD Students and Families,

 

Welcome to the 2017-18 school year! I am very excited to greet students on August 28th when they return to school, and I want to extend a special welcome to our newly enrolled students and their families. I know you will enjoy attending AUSD schools. School Board President Paul Black and I toured our schools, and our classrooms are well on their way to be ready for student learning. Thank you to our incredible maintenance and custodial staff for their hard work this summer to ensure that our schools are first day ready. I also want to thank our teachers, counselors, librarians, support staff, and administrators who are already working to provide the best education possible to our students.

 

AUSD is committed to and focused on providing a safe, inclusive, and nurturing environment for all students. We value the variety of cultures, experiences, religions, and beliefs that our students and families bring to our school community, and we welcome ALL of our children to Albany schools. Equity and excellence are our goals, and there is a lot happening at each of our schools. First and foremost, our schools are focused on teaching and learning. Please notice the following initiatives across the district and help us support our teachers.

 

Equity and Excellence: At the Elementary Schools, teachers are working on two major initiatives. They are redesigning the reading–language arts program and will adopt new instructional materials for implementation in 2018-19. Our goal is to serve the needs of both native English speakers and English Language Learners with ONE comprehensive set of materials and instructional practices. This will ensure that all students learn together using an integrated approach. Concurrently, teachers are diving deeper into the assessment practices embedded in our newly-adopted writing program. Students will demonstrate their skills in Narrative, Opinion/Argument, and Informational writing.

 

At the Middle School, teachers will deepen their understanding about how issues of equity and social justice impact learning. Teachers will review materials that better reflect the diversity in our community. They will also refine a set of essential standards and assessments in order to strategically support student achievement and growth over time. AMS has also applied for No Place for Hate status through the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Anti-bias, diversity & equity training will be provided to our staff, students, and parents.  

 

At the High School, all teachers will be implementing the new 'Powerschool Learning' grade book program. The software provides us with state-of-the art features that improve communication about coursework and content, standards-based grading, and learning progressions over time. Also important, each of the high school departments has set goals for ongoing instructional improvement. In English, for example, the teachers are piloting a new set of novels that will provide a broader spectrum of various cultures and points of view. In Math, teachers are implementing the new Integrated Math III course for Juniors. And, in History/Social-Science, we are excited to offer a new Ethnic Studies course.

 

Engagement Opportunities: We are an amazing AUSD community, and that includes our parents who support our school programs, services, clubs, and extracurricular activities. While teaching and learning is our focus, we would not be successful without our parents and community members. You all play a critical role in our efforts to provide our students with meaningful connections to their school community. Please join your school’s PTA/PTSA, volunteer at your child’s school, and become involved in one of our fundraising groups like the Albany Education Foundation, Albany Music Fund, SchoolCARE, Albany Community Foundation, or the Albany Athletic Boosters.

 

Budget Priority Process: We value the input of our parents, staff, and students, and I am looking forward to creating opportunities to hear from our community.  During the months of September and October we will be going to school, district, and community group meetings to explain the fiscal constraints caused by recent State policy changes and to solicit feedback on programs to add, maintain, and reduce in order to provide a stable set of programs for all students. We will also have a booth at the Solano Stroll where you can stop by and provide your feedback and ideas. If you cannot attend meetings in the Fall, we will have an online survey where stakeholders can provide their input. Based on the input we receive, we will then hold multiple Board meetings in December, January, and February to make decisions on what programs and services are offered in the upcoming years.

 

Facilities Planning: We will also be making decisions on the timeline and sequencing of our remaining facilities projects at Albany High, Marin Elementary, and Ocean View Elementary. This work will also need to occur over the next few months in order to provide certainty to staff and the community about when these projects will occur. The wonderful input, time, and dedication from our Albany Middle School Staff, led by Principal Deborah Brill; and the expertise from our community members on the Sustainability / Integrated Design Committee have resulted in an amazing addition to the Albany Middle School campus and we are ready to submit it to the State for approval.

 

I continue to be inspired by our students for their passion for learning, their advocacy for social justice, and their dedication to positively impacting our world. It is my pleasure to serve the AUSD community in my fourth year as your Superintendent, and I am excited to greet new and returning students and families on August 28th!

 

Thank you.

Val Williams, Superintendent