Pleasanton Unified School District Superintendent David Haglund recently delivered the fourth annual State of the District speech, in which he spoke about students struggling with post-pandemic learning issues, completed and ongoing Measure I1 projects and school boundary adjustments.
About 50 parents, community members and PUSD staff attended the event, which was held on Feb. 28 at the Firehouse Arts Center and hosted by Pleasanton Partnerships in Education Foundation.
"The work that's going on in our district right now, I see much of it as legacy work," Haglund said. "Many of the projects that we're beginning to work on, they won't come into fruition for years to come. But we do that work ... because we see the future by looking into the eyes of our current students. We know that it's our responsibility ... it's my responsibility to do right by those kids and by those people who work with those kids every single day
One of the first topics that he touched on first was the lingering impacts from the pandemic.
"Students didn't just lose academic learning during the shutdown, some lost family members, family members lost jobs, families lost income and stability and most experienced long periods of social isolation," Haglund said.
He said that even though the pandemic is -- for the most part -- behind the district, students are still dealing with the fact that they did not learn important social and behavioral skills during the time schools were all online.
One example he pointed out was with second grade teachers who had students not knowing how to hold a pencil, how to share with other students or how to interact with a group.
"Those are social skills -- we might call the hidden curriculum of a school -- that are taught in (transitional kindergarten) and kindergarten and first grade and when those students had been at home, not all of those skills were achieved," Haglund said.
He also said similar issues were seen at the high schools where freshmen and sophomores also hadn't learned the "social norms of acting together in a school community."
"We saw behaviors, in locker rooms as an example, that look more like middle school behaviors than they did like high school behaviors," Haglund said.
Haglund said that teachers had really stepped up in essentially doing two jobs -- teaching their grade level and teaching developmental skills.
"I have a huge amount of respect for our teachers who are doing that work and bringing our kids to the place where they need to be so that they can go out and make the world a better place," Haglund said. "This is life changing work that we're engaged in and the amount of stress and anxiety both on the student side and on the adult side coming out of the pandemic have been almost insurmountable."
But apart from those behavioral issues, the rest of the speech was dedicated to the good things that came out of 2022, such as the district's reimagined focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Following approval from the PUSD Board of Trustees of a new equity policy last year and the creation of the Diversion Equity and Inclusion Task Force, Haglund said staff were a part of several tough conversations, which were long overdue.
One example he mentioned was a leadership symposium in August where those people shared personal stories about what it was like to come from out of their particular demographic into the Pleasanton schools.
"Some of those stories were incredibly difficult to listen to, because they weren't positive," Haglund said. "They were sharing real, personal stories of what it was like to enter a Pleasanton school, or the Pleasanton community as a whole. Those are things we don't like to hear, we wish we wouldn't hear, but are important that we listen to if we're going to do this work together."
Another way the school district was focusing on equity work was in the elementary education team diving deep into expanding their experience and understanding of the science of reading and continuing the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) program.
He said the LETRS training has been well-attended by teachers from kindergarten to fifth grade and the district has even partnered with the University of California in San Francisco as one of 30 school districts statewide to pilot a universal dyslexia screening program.
He said it would help assist the districts in providing support for developing readers.
In terms of inclusion work, Haglund said the district's Human Resources Department has also been busy as they work to recruit and expand the diversity of the PUSD workforce.
"They initiated a substitute training program to supplement their robust recruitment efforts and to help inspire new educators, including parents and community members from Pleasanton," he said. "This is taking a parent who has a (bachelor's degree), getting them their substitute certification program and then helping them into the teacher credentialing program, if that's their interest."
Haglund then went on to talk about the several recently completed and soon-to-be-completed projects that were funded by the $270 million Measure I1 general obligation bond.
He showed videos of the Lydiksen Elementary School complete rebuild, which is one building away from being done; the new science building at Hart Middle School, which just needs new cement before it's also completely done; and a second career technical education building at Foothill High School, which will house workshops and prep spaces.
Haglund said that he is personally excited to open the six new science classrooms for students, but more so for the teachers who will finally have the space needed to teach their lessons.
"It's exciting to know that our Huskies will finally have adequate science classroom spaces," Haglund said. "When the school was built, the normal size science classroom was not a part of that construction project. So they were in regular sized classrooms and if you have ever known a science teacher, you know, they have lots of stuff.
"They do lots of labs and those teachers have been so creative for so long, it's going to be exciting to see them spread out a little bit and be able to experience the teaching environment that should have been there all along," he added.
He ended the speech talking about some of the next steps the district has been working on regarding the sale of the $395 million Measure I general obligation bonds over the next few months that will help fund several quickstart projects.
These quickstart projects include moving the long-running Horizon Early Education Center and STEAM Preschool program to Harvest Park Middle School and replacing all of the middle schools fields in Pleasanton with artificial turf.
He said that the school board will soon be looking into the initial stages for rebuilding Village High School at the Bernal property into an Educational Options Center -- which was one of the project goals in the Measure I bond.
While the district hasn't finalized any designs, the new facility will house the high school, the Pleasanton Virtual Academy and the independent studies and adult transition program.
He also said that staff will be moving to the newly acquired district headquarters location at the Arroyo Center on West Las Positas on July 1. He said interior site improvement work has already begun and that the move and relocation of all of those programs off the Bernal property will "set the stage for repurposing that piece of property."
One way that the district plans on repurposing that Bernal location -- and its Vineyard Avenue property located between Thiessen Street and Manoir Lane -- is turning it into workforce housing.
Both sites were included in the city's recently adopted 2023-31 Housing Element site locations that are zoned for potential housing.
"Our employees often find it difficult to find affordable housing in town, which means they're commuting from work areas outside the Tri-Valley, but I think that our team members should have the opportunity to live and engage fully in the community that they serve," Haglund said.
And even though the district had to push back on the City Council's decision to reduce the unit count at each site -- which the council eventually raised at the Bernal site -- Haglund said that he's excited to see those housing options come to fruition in general.
"Right now we're doing a survey to determine exactly how much interest there is on the part of our teachers and employees," he said. "Either way, it's happening. That's what's important to me."
Haglund ended on the topic of adjusting the district's school boundaries -- a move that stemmed from the school board's decision to not construct a 10th elementary school due to declining enrollment.
The adjustment will serve to balance enrollment across the district and will begin in the spring of 2023 with the elementary and middle schools -- staff will be studying the high school boundaries over the next year before they can present a plan to the board in 2024.
"We will begin to implement the new boundaries in a strategic and somewhat flexible way over the next school year, some grandfathering for people who are in existing programs that don't want to move yet, but also allowing people who really would like to move to go ahead and move if that's their interest," Haglund said. "That will take us a bit of time to straighten it all out but the idea is to try to be as flexible as we can where possible and to work with our families so that the transition is productive for them over time."
PPIE's Pillars of Pleasanton
Andrea Wilson, executive director of PPIE, honored several businesses with the Pillars of Pleasanton award at the PUSD State of the District event, which the foundation hosted.
The foundation recognized eight businesses that helped and continue to support the foundation's goals of investing in the schools and in the community at the end of Tuesday's event at the Firehouse Arts Center.
Some of the businesses were SC builders, a commercial general contractor; the PLAY Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a platform for youth across the Tri-Valley to develop their leadership skills; and PNC Financial Services Group, an American bank holding company and financial services corporation.
"As a national main street bank, PNC is committed to the communities we serve and we are proud to team with Pleasanton Partnerships in Education on events such as the annual Run for Education," said Troy French, PNC market leader for corporate and institutional banking, in a PPIE press release. "PPIE's mission aligns nicely with PNC's focus on education. Since 2004 our Grow Up Great early childhood learning initiative has helped millions of children get a good start in school and life through grant funded programs and more."
Organization like SC Builders have been supporting the foundation for as long as 11 years while other newer businesses like UXReactor, an award winning users experienced design firm, and Five Little Monkeys, a new children's store moved into downtown earlier in the fall, are barely in their first year of supporting the foundation.
"We take pride in helping to invest in this great town and we look forward to ways in which we can support our local community in the years to come", said Satyam Kantamneni, co-founder and chief experience officer at UXReactor, in the press release.
The other businesses honored that morning were Alameda Pediatric Dentistry, which came on as a sponsor a few years ago; Row House Fitness, local fitness business; and most notably Meadowlark Dairy.
"This Pleasanton staple not only supports PPIE but all the (Parent Teacher Associations)," Wilson said. "I think it was pretty much unanimously voted on when I asked for suggestions from the PTAs."