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Community Matters Quarterly

Spring 2019
World Class. Community Funded.
The Community Newsletter
of your Menlo Park City School District
From Superintendent Burmeister
Wow, it's May already! We have had a wonderful year of exploring, collaborating, growing, and achieving. One of our standout stories has been the remarkable success of our newest initiative, the Early Learning Center preschool. Since opening in August, 52 children have flourished in our inaugural year, and demand for the high-quality, learner-center program and incredibly talented teachers has been so robust that in Fall 2019 a satellite class will open at Oak Knoll, and the ELC will serve twice as many children. We are thrilled to bring this much needed resource to our community, and enroll many students who would not otherwise have access to high-quality preschool. For a good read on why we are so committed to offering preschool to underserved families, read this article from KQED ; again, MPCSD is at the forefront of putting the best ideas for education into practice. It's been an amazing journey, and we thank the School Board and community for their support.
Something that has been on my mind lately, especially as the news of the college admissions scandal dominated our media for weeks, is the pressure parents find themselves under. Whether it's hoping your children will have opportunities you didn't, feeling that we need to have and accomplish certain things to be valued in our peer's eyes, or just grappling with all the issues that we as parents must handle, it can be a lot. Yet just as we counsel our kids not to give in to peer pressure, to make choices based on their own beliefs and circumstances, we sometimes need that advice ourselves. Parenting is hard, and we need to give ourselves credit for the amazing job we are doing. I've addressed this idea more deeply in my recent Sup'sOn blog, which I welcome you to read.

Thank you for supporting YOUR community school district. You are always welcome to reach out with questions at
 Dates to Note

All School Board meetings are held in the TERC Boardroom,
181 Encinal Ave., Atherton

May 19 - Schoolhouse Rocks 5k Run & Festival to support our schools, Hillview Middle School, 9:00 a.m. Details here.

May 23 - Hillview Middle School Open House, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

May 30 - Encinal School Open House, 5:45-8:00 p.m.
Laurel's Upper Campus Open House, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Oak Knoll Open House for grades 1/3/5 & 3/4/5 Multiage, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

May 31 - Laurel's Lower Campus Open House, 8:00-9:00 a.m.

June 1 - Deadline to complete Community Survey .

June 2 - Sup's On at MP Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. with Summer Reading recommendations!

June 4 - School Board meeting, 6:00 p.m. with MPCSD Staff Recognitions.

June 6 - Oak Knoll Open House for grades K/2/4 & K/1/2 Multiage, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

June 11 - School Board meeting, 6:00 p.m.

June 12 - School Board meeting Special Study Session on Equity, open to public, 6:00 p.m.

June 14 - Last Day of School for Students
April 20 marked twenty years since the shooting at Columbine High School. Many in our community may have felt a special connection to that remembrance, as retired Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis spoke at our Speaker Series just this January. He shared his personal take on the tragedy, his own healing journey, and school safety and mental wellness. If you didn't have a chance to attend the talk, you may watch the video here . Frank's warmth and wisdom were impactful to experience.
Take Our Survey! We value the community's input. It helps us plan our programs and prioritize our resources. Please take our online community survey here . Thank you!
Your School Board, Working for You
The School Board invites the public to attend a special study session on equity on June 12, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the TERC Boardroom, 181 Encinal Ave., Atherton. The Board will consider issues around equity and what that means in our district. Your input is welcome. If you can't attend the meeting and would like to share your thoughts on this topic with Board members, please email before June 12.

The MPCSD School Board is focused on some important topics this year, and partnering with the community to address them. Since the fall, the Board has been developing a Teacher Compensation Philosophy with input from the public, district leadership, and the Menlo Park Education Association, the bargaining collective for certificated teachers in our district. The Board approved the final draft of the philosophy document on February 12.

The Board tasked Superintendent Burmeister with developing a vision of the program and services our district would provide if it were funded to the extent needed to fully implement that vision. Superintendent Burmeister advertised for community members to advise him on this project via newsletters and local media, forming a team of parents, teachers, and district residents that met over the fall and winter to produce specific guidelines for the Board in prioritizing its resources over the coming years. The first draft of this document, titled " Vision for Outstanding Public Education " was presented at the May 7 Board meeting.

Also this year, district leadership is exploring how to better incorporate consent within the sexual education and social emotional learning curriculum. A working group that includes a counselor, principal, assistant superintendent, and Board member is meeting to curate and develop resources for use in all grade levels. And the School Board is looking at its homework policy , which has not been updated since 2004. It aims to address changes in curriculum delivery, technology, brain science, and current research into homework's alignment with learning goals that have occurred in the past fifteen years and may influence a new homework policy. A team, led by Assistant Superintendent Jammie Behrendt and including teachers and parents from every school, is currently reviewing the policy.
Other School Board highlights...
The Board had the privilege of presiding over one of our favorite annual events on May 7 : the reclassification ceremony of students who have become English proficient this year. This year, 57 students, representing 15 different home languages, were reclassified. These students work incredibly hard, and becoming multi-lingual and multi-literate is an achievement that will benefit them in countless ways their whole lives. We couldn't be more proud of them and their supportive families. We also thank our English Learner Services team members for their skill and dedication: English Language Services Coordinator Katherine Strach, and teachers Emily Chen, Susan Hogan, Cheryl Marelich, Emily Smith, and Diana Torres.
Encinal School launched MPCSD's first maker space during the 2017-18 school year. Since then upper grade students have earned their ENspired Leader status and serve as mentors to other students. On March 12 , the students shared with the Board how much they enjoy supporting the lab and encouraging student learning and engagement.

The Board certified the Second Interim Report for the 2018-19 Budget. The Board also approved changing its regular meetings to the second Thursday beginning with the 2019-20 school year. The new calendar has been posted.
On April 9 , some Hillview Middle School students presented their Project-Based Learning units to the Board. The seventh grade "Upstanders in the Community" project challenged students to find someone in their community who is making a difference. The students who presented chose Jen Wolosin, a safety advocate who formed the Parents for Safe Routes organization that promotes safe walking and biking to school. The two eighth grade "Voicelessness" projects that were presented offered action to understand and help alleviate the stress of homelessness in Ravenswood school district, and environmental sustainability and how companies can produce more eco-friendly products.
MPCSD Earns Regional Recognition
Principal Linda Creighton of Laurel Elementary School was chosen Principal of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) for Region 5. This region covers over 300 schools in San Mateo and San Francisco Counties. From overseeing the building and opening of Laurel's Upper Campus, to bringing Project Based Learning to both campuses as a unifying practice, to the expansion of the Spanish Immersion Program, Linda's thoughtful and steady leadership has allowed MPCSD to grow and serve its families better than ever. Linda (pictured here with MPCSD Superintendent Erik Burmeister and ACSA Region 5 President Anakarita Allen) was officially recognized by ACSA Region 5 at its annual Celebration of Leadership dinner and program in South San Francisco on April 30.

Read more about Linda's leadership in this recent Almanac article .
Encinal School has been honored with a J. Russell Kent Award by the San Mateo County School Boards Association (SMCSBA) for its program New Games that helps children integrate socially and make friends on the playground. Kent Awards are given to innovative and replicable programs with the goal of allowing the best ideas to serve the widest array of students. Encinal's Principal Sharon Burns, PE Teacher Amy Gee, Counselor Karin Bloom, and Speech and Language Pathologist Jennifer Spreer will receive the award at the 2019 Kent Awards Banquet on May 10.
You're Invited To...
Preview science textbooks up for adoption. Our textbook adoption committee has chosen to pilot two new books next school year: TWIG Science and McGraw-Hill Science. Pilot materials will be displayed at each elementary school for the community to preview.

Oak Knoll Preview Dates: May 7 & 8
Laurel's Upper Campus Preview Dates: May 9 & 10
Laurel's Lower Campus Preview Dates: May 13 &14
Encinal Preview Dates: May 15 & 16
District Office: Ongoing after May 17

A Book Give Away at Hillview Middle School's Open House on May 23, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at 1100 Elder Ave, Menlo Park. Hillview is giving away obsolete and damaged instructional materials, textbooks, and English language novels. The showing will be located on the Hillview campus facing Santa Cruz Avenue between the Gymnasium and D Building. Books and materials are free for the taking. Come with your own bags and enjoy our collection of books that are looking for new homes!
Visit us at the Farmers Market . We host an informational table at the Menlo Park Farmers Market monthly during the school year. Our next visit will be June 2, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. with special co-host, Reading Specialist Jacqui Cebrian. She will be on hand with her annual summer reading recommendations - a list you can take home and many books to look at in person. It's a new tradition the community loves!
Celebrate district staff at the June 4 School Board meeting. We annually recognize staff who are retiring, earning tenure, or have achieved a notable honor within their profession. The community is cordially invited to join School Board members and District leadership for this special ceremony at its regular Board meeting on June 4 at 6:00 p.m. at the District Office, 181 Encinal Ave, Atherton.
Social Emotional Learning is Front and Center
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States, but MPCSD prioritizes the mental health and social emotional wellness of our students all year long. We work hard to provide a strong foundation in core academic subjects, offer a breadth of specialist instruction in art, music, world language, and library/media skills, and provide a comprehensive array of electives choices for middle school students. Yet we also believe in developing well rounded individuals, so character and social emotional learning (SEL) are top priorities. We use the definition of SEL from the  Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning : SEL is the process by which "children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions."

Here we share a snapshot of some of the ways each campus teaches our students to be compassionate, helpful, independent, resilient, and all the other ways we hope our children grow as thoughtful and kind contributors to the world around them.
New Games, New Friends at Encinal

Encinal offers a unique program to help students build friendships. Some students have difficulty communicating on the playground with their peers in appropriate ways. They may struggle with social skills, pragmatics, and developing and sustaining friendships. New Games is an innovative lunchtime program in which selected second and third grade students develop social and positive communication skills through cooperative learning activities and games.

Laurel LifeSavers

Throughout the year, Laurel focuses on 10 Life Skills as the foundation for its SEL work: respect, responsibility, friendship, generosity, self discipline, compassion, perseverance, acceptance, cooperation, and honesty. Goals of the Life Skills Program are to provide the foundation for personal and social growth in all students, teach the Life Skills through multicultural literature, and build a common language and camaraderie at Laurel School. 
Click here to read more , including book recommendations for reading with children.
Oak Knoll Embraces Our Differences

Oak Knoll’s mission is that every student is an exemplary scholar, a valued friend, and a courageous citizen. One way the mental health support team has developed to foster opportunities for becoming a valued friend is through Embracing Our Differences Month every March. The idea for Embracing Our Differences was born out of lessons that a former parent shared around helping children understand what it is like for children with disabilities.

Character Counts at Hillview

The Hillview administration believes that if our schools truly care about building relationships and creating a sense of belonging, they must carve out spaces that allow for this kind of interaction. In response to a trend of student survey data pointing to a decreased sense of belonging, the counseling and administration team developed a new series of group activities meant to get students talking about important character traits and how to develop them.

Creating Classrooms of the Future
Have a Seat: Flexible Seating Promotes Student Engagement
A lot has changed in our world since the 1880s, but many schools still look surprisingly familiar. Before 1880, most kids didn’t go to school; the education they received - if any - was at home using the space and furniture available. That started to change around 1880 when individual states began to mandate public school for all children, in part as a way to prepare future workers for industrial jobs. Also in 1880, John D. Loughlin designed the very first wooden school desk, a model that looks very much like what most classrooms still use nearly 140 years later.

Fortunately, districts like Menlo Park City School District are at the forefront of reimagining the classroom, both the way content is delivered and the physical space. As we encourage collaboration, exploration, and project based lessons, educators find traditional furniture limiting. It’s time to consider flexible seating options that promote student partnerships and teamwork in a learning environment that continues to transform and innovate. Read the full article here.
Innovation Principles Advance Learning Across the District
MPCSD values innovation, not for the sake of being "new and shiny" but because there are always better ways to engage students and allow them to achieve to their potential. We believe teachers should have the freedom and support to reimagine their classrooms to best engage their students. When our teachers make important progress in moving their profession forward, we share it out, believing that all students benefit from proven best practices for learning success. To support teachers across the district, at whatever stage of the innovation journey they are at, we use five elements to promote classroom reimagination: Learner-Centered , giving students choice and ownership of their work; Evidence & Competency Based , meaning students have multiple ways to show mastery of concepts; Meaningful Work , giving students personally relevant learning experiences; Student Wellness & Agency , giving students responsibility for their progress; and Collaboration for All , providing teachers space to develop, test, fail, and succeed together. For more information about MPCSD's innovative approach to classroom teaching and learning, please click here .
Partnering for Student Success
MPCSD's culture of innovation and collaboration often leads to partnership with other organizations on issues that move education forward for all students. Two such examples are research conducted with Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), and our partnership with the Stanford Sequoia K-12 Research Collaborative.

Hillview Middle School worked with Stanford GSE on a study assessing the impacts of design thinking instruction with students. The results of the study showed positive impact on all students, and what surprised researchers was that the benefits were greatest for lower achieving students. This reinforces our district's belief that providing the best possible education to all students in fact raises all boats and helps everyone achieve to their potential. Superintendent Burmeister, who was Hillview's principal when the research was conducted, notes that these results are very encouraging and "just one example of the wonderful work in which our teachers are engaged."

Hillview Principal Willy Haug explains, "We are fortunate to have local research institutions inform our practice. Studies such as these help us see the merit of our efforts, and also give us good feedback about how we might make adjustments to our work to better benefit students." To read more about the study, see this article from Stanford's Graduate School of Education .

As a member of the Stanford Sequoia K-12 Research Collaborative , we are working with the other districts that feed into Menlo-Atherton High School, along with Stanford, to identify ways to close the achievement gap for our long term English Language Learners (ELL). As a part of the collaborative, each district is partnered with researchers and professors on how to identify a research question that would help support the EL students in our various districts. We expect that this joint work will inform innovative and sustainable practices and lead to equitable educational experiences and outcomes for all students. MPCSD has partnered with the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities at Stanford University (Gardner Center) to study factors that support or hinder re-designation of English language learners. The study uses interviews, classroom observations, and analysis of the district’s student administrative data to best understand the experiences of ELL students.

Whenever we partner with other organizations, we keep our teachers' and students' needs at the forefront. As Principal Haug states, "If a partnership can help us with something we are working on, or nudge us in a promising direction, then I reach out to teachers to see if they are interested. But we don't do it unless the teachers value the work." So far, the work has been valuable indeed, and allows us to amplify the success we have had with our students.
A Spring Full of Musicals
MPCSD is fortunate to have the community support to fund a robust arts program in all grade levels. This includes drama as an elective at Hillview Middle School, and a musical theater opportunity for younger students at each of our elementary schools: Encinal, Laurel, and Oak Knoll. Over this spring, every school has produced a Broadway-worthy musical, using the amazing community-funded facilities at Hillview's Performing Arts Center. We hope you were among the hundreds in the sold out audiences for these wonderful shows. Enjoy photos from our four recent musical theater performances.
Encinal 3rd-5th graders performed Willy Wonka Jr. March 8-9 under the direction of Rachel Knight.
Laurel 4th-5th graders performed Mary Poppins Jr. May 2-4 under the direction of Rachel Bergeron.
Oak Knoll 4th-5th graders performed Mary Poppins Jr. May 2-4 under the direction of Bee Tee and William Hairston.
Hillview Middle School presented Mary Poppins April 25-27 under the direction of William Hairston.
In order for the arts to survive in our society, we must continually give young children the space and freedom to explore and learn to love them. We frequently come across MPCSD alumni spreading their wings in high school and other local theater productions. A former Encinal School student, now in high school, is the choreographer for Grab Bag Theater's current production of Honk. She reached out to say how much she loved the chance to participate in theater as an elementary student. Sophie Glinder says, "I have always felt like I am at home when performing. My second ‘real’ show was the first year Encinal started doing musicals. We did The Wizard of Oz, and I was Toto. At this point, theater is everything in my life. Most of my closest friends do some type of theater, and for me, my connection comes from sharing creativity with others. I am so excited to have choreographed Honk, because it is the first time that I have had an opportunity to really impact others creatively." For information on the show, see this article from InMenlo .
Annual Schoolhouse Rocks 5k - Sign Up Today
Are you ready to ROCK This RUN on May 19 at 9:00 a.m. at Hillview Middle School? This annual community run and post-run festival is a fundraiser for the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF). The MPAEF raises money solely to support our amazing district schools. Their yearly grant allows us to offer lower class sizes, counseling at every school, art, library, science, and world language for every student. The Schoolhouse Rocks 5k is a great way for the community to come out and have fun while supporting your neighborhood schools.

Click here to register for this year’s Schoolhouse Rocks Run today!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Registration must be completed online by May 14 or at Packet Pick Up on May 17 & 18 at Fleet Feet. There will be no race-day registration.

Not a runner? You can still ROCK on May 19:

  • Volunteer! The success of this event hinges on having a large number of volunteers to ensure the race runs smoothly. If you would like to cheer on our runners and watch the action with a cup of coffee in-hand, Click here to sign-up to be a Course Monitor the morning of the race. See map of race course below (check out also if you live along the race course!):
  • Come enjoy the FREE post-race festival! It starts at 10:00 a.m. race day - at Hillview Middle School - where your family can enjoy jumpy houses, climbing wall, Kids’ Zone, Food Trucks, DJ and more! No registration necessary to come and enjoy the festival.
Community Connection - Engage with Us
Have more questions about MPCSD and its financial stewardship? Check out our Media Literacy & FAQ or use the Interactive Financial Portal OpenGov. Get the real facts about the district's finances.

We invite you to connect with MPCSD in person by attending School Board meetings, our Speaker Series, Farmers Market, student art show at the Menlo Park Burgess Library, and via our Facebook and Twitter pages: @goMPCSD.
Our Schools

Hillview Hawks, Laurel Squirrels, Encinal Eagels, Oak Knoll Otters. These mascots represent MPCSD's four award-winning schools that are the hearts of their neighborhoods and the pride of our community. As partners in educating our future, we welcome your interest, questions, and feedback at any time. Use the links below to access each school's website, or email .
School websites:
Menlo Park City School District | 650-321-7140 | Email |
Erik Burmeister, Superintendent
Jammie Behrendt, Assistant Superintendent

Board of Education
David Ackerman, President
Caroline Lucas, Vice President
Sherwin Chen
Stacey Jones
Scott Saywell
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