In 2015, our PVPUSD Board of Education developed eight District Goals to guide our work and establish priorities. The goals are concise, meaningful, and designed to focus our work on things that matter most to preserving the best aspects of our District and pushing us to find the next right answers.
PVPUSD was one of the first school districts in the nation to launch a high school engineering and robotics program. Over the past several years, STEM has been expanded to all schools in the district, from elementary to high school. PVPUSD's STEM program remains a model of excellence while remaining one of the most inclusive: over 1,000 fourth and fifth grade students experienced STEM instruction in 2014-15, STEM remains the most popular elective at the middle schools, and hundreds of students enroll annually in STEM classes and after school clubs at the high schools.
The Palos Verdes Life Skills Center at Palos Verdes High School opened its doors to students in January 2015. The center supports students in need of skills for independence at the secondary level. The center includes a fully functioning kitchen space with a sink, stove, oven, and microwave as well as laundry facilities. Additionally, it has two private restrooms, one that is wheelchair accessible and ADA approved.
A school garden is a powerful environmental education tool, resulting in improved academics, better eating habits, greater environmental stewardship, and ultimately a healthier lifestyle. Through gardening, students become responsible caretakers. They have an opportunity to engage in agricultural practices on a small scale as they watch their efforts grow from a seedling to sprout or a tomato to ripen. Students take pride as they watch their efforts turn into beautiful and productive gardens.
At Miraleste and Valmonte Learning Centers, we dedicate ourselves to the students in our care. We strive to provide a nurturing and emotionally secure environment to help children develop to their full potential. Emphasis is placed on social, emotional, physical, creative, and cognitive development. It is our goal to teach each child in an orderly environment those skills that will enable them to grow.
"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." - Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
It often begins innocently. A person disagrees with an action, behavior, person or philosophy and takes their case to the media. With the advent of social media, the speed and ease of posting viewpoints is dramatically accelerated and often fueled with words that would not have been spoken face to face. The convenience of social media has also robbed individuals of the opportunity to spend time reflecting before sharing the first thought that enters their mind. In seconds, a hurtful, inaccurate or demoralizing post can earn hundreds of "likes" or endorsements without any thought, research or personal knowledge.
Value good decisions
Abigail Van Buren, better known as Dear Abby, counseled parents, "If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders." This will be the year that we teach our students about personal, group and global responsibility. The message must be championed by adults and students willing to stand up for what they know is appropriate behavior. We need to celebrate the overwhelming majority of our students who are making great personal decisions each day and who treat their peers with respect and dignity. We also need to guide those individuals and groups making poor decisions back to the norms we expect from our students. Grades and awards are not the most important measure of a person, school or district.
Focus on important issues
Bob Hawke, Australia's longest-serving Labor Prime Minister, stated, "The things which are most important don't always scream the loudest." As the Superintendent of Schools, I have the task of prioritizing the issues facing PVPUSD. From this vantage point, I am often struck by the attention demanded for things that add little value and distract us from impactful work. Chasing the "Problem of the Day" is a guarantee that we will never address long-standing injustices, shortcomings or issues affecting minority populations. This is unacceptable and will not continue. Instead, we will develop a plan to ensure the most important issues receive the bulk of our attention. This will include the physical, social and emotional well-being of our students.
Progress remains priority
The French moralist Joseph Joubert once said, "The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress." I am routinely asked how I deal with personal or professional challenges, often containing half-truths, knowingly false statements or misrepresentations of the truth. It's tough. It's not difficult for personal reasons, but because I know the truth about PVPUSD and the people who serve in various roles with the best intentions to support our students. Reckless attacks are distracting and confusing to our employees, parents, community and those looking at us from the outside. We will do a better job of respectfully correcting misinformation in the interest of the District and our students. While all are entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts. We should openly debate the business of educating our students in a manner that serves as a model to our students about how adults work together when progress becomes more important than victory.