Dear Belmont-Redwood Shores Families,

Each December, our school board reorganizes and changes officers. Last Thursday, Rahila Passi became President, Suvarna Bhopale Vice President, and Amy Koo Clerk. Below is a year-end letter to the community from outgoing President Huan Phan.

A community at work: A Message from the School Board President

  • Measure K – Community steps up again
  • New Science and Social Studies Standards
  • SchoolForce’s synergy with District goals

As 2018 winds to a close, I hope that this letters finds you and your families safe, in good health and looking forward to a well deserved break.

I would like to provide you with a summary of 2018, because there were several key activities that you may not be aware of that I believe act synergistically to build off of our current successes.

Measure K and a community that works:
Passage of Measure K, providing $1.4M/year to the district, was a critical pillar to our district’s fiscal sustainability. The reality is that our district is reliant on $7M/year on local funding; funding raised within our community, that stays within our community, but will disappear without parent involvement. As proof, Measure K will expire in 5 years and will require efforts for its renewal starting in 2-3 years. For families with children in the younger grades this has direct implications for your students as they enter middle school. For the rest of the community, this has implications for all of the indirect benefits we accrue from having good schools. Passage of such a measure requires volunteerism and hard work, and we would be remiss not to thank the group of parent leaders, many with young children, who emerged to lead this effort. This emergence is proud evidence of our community’s history of stepping up when it matters. It continues our district’s pattern of new parents with young children stepping in when parents of older graduating children are stepping out. While the handoff between generations of parent volunteers is something that has historically happened in our district, it is not preordained. It requires every parent to understand that there is some small part that they can play, and then taking the time to get informed and then involved. I am extremely hopeful that the efforts around Measure K are evidence of the necessary emergence of a new generation of parent leaders.

New Science and Social Studies Standards:
Ultimately, the district raises funds so that we can provide a superior academic experience. As we send our children to school, it can feel like a hamster wheel of waking up, breakfast, drop off, child-care, homework, teacher conferences, rinse and repeat. But there are 2 huge efforts, starting in 2018, and continuing for the next few years that if we manage to do well, will provide the foundation for our district’s 21 st century education. The first is implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The second is rollout of the new History and Social Science curricular framework. These state standards and frameworks update older guidelines that are at least 13 years old and require implementation of new curricula. This implementation represents both stress and opportunity for our district staff and teachers. Stress, because it’s hard work to learn new curriculum and develop a unified approach to teaching it. It’s opportunity because the standards ask for new ways of teaching, for teachers to act more as facilitators, to teach new collaborative skills and for students to learn more through collaboration and by doing. The requirements within these standards dovetail neatly with two of our district’s Strategic Goals: to “Promote a capacity for innovation” and to “Foster responsible global citizenship”.

Synergy with SchoolForce:
SchoolForce, and school based PTA’s, have always provided a safety net for our District, given the chronic underfunding of schools from the state.  In 2018, SchoolForce introduced Innovation Grants, which are synergistic with District Goals on many levels. Innovation grants are $500 grants to individual teachers or groups of teachers to help them pilot their ideas of how to achieve District initiatives. To date this year, more than 100 teachers have been awarded grants totaling over $45,000. Many grants are for STEM related materials to support NGSS, and increasing numbers are targeted toward multicultural projects that align with the new Social Science framework. These grants are synergistic because they promote actions that encourage experimentation, they recognize that good ideas should come from many sources, and they directly support the standards that our district must implement in the coming years.

I hope that this letter has given you a flavor of the challenges and opportunities that are in front of us now. I believe that there were subtle beginnings started in 2018 that if successful, will build upon our past accomplishments. But these beginnings are just that, beginnings, and will require the vigilance and effort of our entire community to ensure their success. I ask that you participate in what ever way you can; starting with becoming informed about all of the different ways that district staff, teachers and volunteers strive to provide the best possible education for all students and to understand that our district’s ability to sustain that education is dependent on our community’s willingness to do the work to ensure the support of critical local funding sources.