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Superintendent's Message

Lafayette School District

“Our students are creative thinkers and problem-solvers and are prepared to become responsible, ethical and productive citizens.”

 

Dear Parents, Guardians, and Families:

Thank you all for a warm welcome to our school communities as your new Superintendent. After many years as a parent in our schools, these first few months have been an active period of learning for me, as I get to know our curriculum, programs and our leadership team better.  I have deep appreciation for the many things you do each day to help make our classrooms great places for teaching and learning.

The greatest pleasures of this work come in the classrooms; one of the highlights to date has been the opportunity to do guided Curriculum Walkthroughs under the leadership of Mary Maddux, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction,  through which we have experienced a curated overview and structured feedback after seeing our curriculum in action. 

Modern and technology-rich classrooms are vital to support the delivery of our curriculum.  You may have seen the benefit of Measure C work underway at each of our schools.  By the end of next summer, you should see the many improvements we have been able to fund.  Stanley Middle School, so far, has the most notable projects, with two new buildings having appeared almost overnight after a summer of preparation for their arrival.  Many more classrooms throughout the district have been modernized with new fire and safety systems, more efficient heating and air conditioning, and new monitors and document cameras to hold everyone’s attention squarely on instruction.  Our project management team has been a pleasure to work with, and our Bond Oversight Committee of community members ensures that the funds are spent in accordance with the Facilities Master Plan and Measure C Project List.

The first months of school are also part of a continuous improvement cycle, when we view and analyze results from the previous year and identify lessons for our future.  I am pleased to report that our results on the state mandated assessments, known as CAASPP, confirmed our strength in ensuring our students achieve the California Standards in English/Language Arts and Mathematics, and also maintained our status as one of the highest-performing districts in the state.  While there are areas for us to focus on for improvement, the overall results continue to be positive.  The California School Dashboard was also released recently, confirming that our school conditions and climate are strong and thriving, and that our students have access to a broad educational program.  Both the CAASPP results and the Dashboard are easily accessible online. 

Another accomplishment of the autumn months was the opportunity to revisit the District’s Strategic Plan.  Thanks to the parents who attended the school site discussions of the plan, and to the district staff, both teachers and other employees, who participated in our meetings.  The input we received was insightful and incorporated into a new draft plan, which was presented to the Governing Board for review in December.  These revisions will ensure that we renew our focus on social and emotional learning, and the appropriate use of technology for teaching and learning. A final draft will be presented to the Governing Board at the January 22 Board Meeting.

While there is much to celebrate in our classrooms, we continue to face increasing challenges because of the limited state funding we receive to deliver the curriculum we know our students deserve.  State and federal mandates absorb the vast majority of any new funds provided to school districts through cost-of-living adjustments.  Our district is not immune from these challenges, which have been called a “silent recession” by well-regarded researchers.  We are convening a Community Revenue Study Committee early in the new year to consider the best path forward for the District and its budget. You will be able to track our work through our website, and we encourage you to attend our Governing Board meetings to stay up-to-date.

Our budget challenges are mitigated, in part, by the wonderful partnership we enjoy with the Lafayette Partners in Education.  The Foundation continues its excellent work on behalf of all of our students, as well as those who go on to Acalanes High School.  In this season of giving, please consider them in your year-end philanthropy.

As a reminder, if you remove your student from school for an extended vacation, the district loses critical funding.  Our attendance rates are declining slightly overall, and attendance on the days before a holiday weekend is noticeably lower. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this update in the flurry of emails and letters that accompany the turning of the calendar.  I am looking forward to meeting and working alongside more of you in the new year.  If you have any questions or comments about our work, please feel free to contact me at superintendent@lafsd.org.

Best wishes for a productive and relaxing winter break.  I hope you will find a moment to sit and read with or alongside your students, or share a real world math problem with them, and I know they will all return ready to learn in the new year.

Sincerely,

Richard Whitmore, Superintendent