October 24, 2017
Dear Parents, Guardians and Community Members,
First and foremost, I extend my condolences to all the families affected by the terrible fires over the past few weeks. Thanks to everyone that provided support of any fashion to the victims and their families. It’s not easy to remain focused when fires and evacuations happen so close to home. Personally, I am grateful for the efforts of the Sonoma State team in keeping me and my wife informed about our oldest son throughout the ordeal. The long road to recovery lays ahead and I have offered assistance to those districts directly affected.
With school well underway, I’d like to take this moment to update you on several topics from across the district. Rather than attempt to provide you with all of the details, I will highlight key points and offer online links you can follow to more detailed information. Our work is never complete and as we navigate the complexities of addressing social issues, student relations and equity in our schools, be assured that we strive to achieve a balance between social, emotional and academic learning for students to promote Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds and Healthy Learning.
At several school sites, Measure M plans are in full swing with improvements to roofing, parking and drop-off areas, security and safety measures, fencing and career technical education facilities. Also nearing completion are the upgrades to heating and air conditioning systems, lighting and athletic fields. The Citizens’ Oversight Committee, now in place, monitors Measure M expenditures and recently just held their first meeting. Thank you again for your investment in our schools and in the education of our children. To learn more about Measure M progress at our schools, please visit our Facilities and Planning page.
Last May, “Safe Zone” banners went up at each of our schools to reinforce to our students, families and the community that our schools are welcoming and safe places for ALL students and staff. The Board’s Safe and Positive Learning for All Resolution and the development of the banners symbolize our collective expectation that our schools are, and will continue to be, safe zones physically, emotionally, and intellectually for all children and adults. Together, our Board and staff across the district commit to providing schools that are centers of respect, acceptance and understanding to ensure that our school communities thrive.
Inside our schools, I want to highlight the exceptional job our students and staff are doing to prepare your child or children to be college, career and life ready. While only one measure, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) scores are important. Our 11th graders in the spring of 2017, who are now seniors, performed well in their English language arts, an indication that the implementation of the new state standards in this area are having a positive impact. This year’s juniors will be the first class to take the math CAASPP after full implementation of the new math standards at the high school level. Just as in English language arts, we anticipate similar positive growth in math. Following a significant investment in professional development concentrated toward on grade level reading at the Prek-3 level, our 3rd grade students demonstrated significant growth on the English language arts portion of the exam, particularly in our Title I schools. I encourage you to review our CAASPP press release for those figures.
With regard to how we are performing inside the classroom, additional metrics of key performance indicators will be presented to our Board during our November 7, 2017 Board Meeting. During that meeting, we will review how the district is doing in meeting basic services, implementing state academic standards, encouraging parent engagement and developing positive school climates. We will also be looking at the level of achievement of our four strategic goals and eight state priorities identified in our Local Control Action Plan. For those interested in hearing about our progress based on these measurements, I encourage you to attend the November 7th meeting. As always, if you can’t attend, the meeting agenda and presentations will be available online the Friday before the meeting and our Board Meetings are recorded and available a few days after on our District’s YouTube Channel.
Going into winter, we will begin to focus intently on the budget. Given California’s fickle fiscal climate, we instituted criteria to protect jobs, keep recently built programs in place and remain competitive for high quality staff. We also agreed that we want to add to existing programs and investigate new and innovative ideas once we confirm adequate resources are available. These five guiding criteria coupled with our District’s approach to decision making enable us to prioritize with the aim of maintaining fiscal solvency, building upon existing programs, recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest and thinking outside the box. I appreciate the cooperation and commitment to our students demonstrated by our Board and the leaders of our employee organizations.
As we enter the winter months, we realize that despite holiday festivities it can also be a time of stress for families. Now that my youngest is in college and my wife and I are officially empty nesters, we know the headaches and joys that come with submitting college applications, family dynamics and other stressors. Our district and our resources can be of service to you and I have asked staff to keep an eye and ear out for students, families and colleagues who may need some extra support at this time of year. It’s important to me that we all remember to care for each other throughout the year and especially during the upcoming months.
As always, I am thankful to be part of a growing and brilliant community.
Christopher R. Hoffman