About this site

I was a Governing Board Member of the San Carlos School District, elected November 2007 and again in November 2011. This site was originally used for the purpose of communicating with school district constituents, however now it is used for surfacing ideas and expressing opinions on various subjects in education, politics, business, or otherwise.

Please note that any opinion express here is purely personal and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of anyone else or any organization with which I am, or have been, associated.

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March 2012
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Momentum on New School(s)

At last night’s board meeting, we had some meaty topics with very productive conversations, particularly in three areas: (a) 21st Century Learning, (b) Middle School Electives, and (c) Facilities. All of these three areas are very much intertwined, as our goals around curriculum intersect with our goals around facilities, particularly in an environment where we are looking to build and/or remodel schools.

Yesterday I posted the announcement about our first community meeting on 21st Century Learning. Our guest speaker will be Bernie Trilling, who is a 21st Century Learning expert, advisor, author, and the former global director of the Oracle Education Foundation. The purpose of this meeting is to both share some exciting high-level concepts about how to think about education in the current era, and then have smaller group meetings to get feedback and input as to what this all can mean for San Carlos. The challenge with thinking differently (read my post from December that touches on all of the ways we can) is that the change seems so overwhelming it’s hard to know where to start. These meetings — the Bernie Trilling will the first in a series of three this Spring — will help us prioritize. Also, behind the scenes there are meetings of a 21st Century Learning Committee (on which I serve) as well as many meetings at school sites and among the teaching and administrative staff.

One of the shorter-term action items in the works is offering more electives at our middle schools — both students having the ability to take more electives as well as to have more choices among electives. If anything, these elective courses may give us a great place to start experimenting with different ways of offering courses — perhaps ones with blended class, library, and home time, as well as ones that are more self-directed and project-based. Electives may be great candidates for courses not bounded by the grade level of the student, or even the school they go to. All of my colleagues were excited to push on providing more offerings that allow students to leverage their passions, try new things, and learn in a cross-disciplinary way. Like most things in life, it’s easier said than done, as building a “master schedule” within a middle school is quite difficult. However, I’m excited that we’re pushing on this area and potentially thinking differently about how to schedule teaching and learning time. We should hear more details on this over the next couple of months.

As we’ve discussed quite a bit over the last couple of years, the district needs more space for students. Since it now seems unlikely that we’ll find a suitable new parcel of land (the city hasn’t been terribly helpful in working with us in this regard), the best plan may be to build on the land we own. Besides being cheaper, this may give us a very elegant solution. Earlier we had discussed the idea of putting a new elementary school on the campus of Central Middle School, but as a separate school with a road dividing the two schools. The space actually works out quite nicely to hold a new school. The new idea that was discussed last night was the idea of making that school a 4th and 5th grade school, which would then make Central 6-8 and White Oaks and Brittan Acres K-3. Then we could consider building (or renovating) a new 4/5 school on the Tierra Linda Campus, which also has plenty of land. Then TL would become a 6-8 with Arundel and Heather becoming K-3. This is an exciting development, as it would accomplish a number of goals:

  • Provide more equity across the district, as every student would have the chance to attend a brand new 4/5 school designed around 21st Century Learning
  • Allow all 4th and 5th grade students to leverage the resources of the sister middle school — both the physical resources (library, gym, music room, etc.) as well as the curricular resources, such as the ability to be included in electives
  • Take enrollment pressure off of every school in the district while not requiring another boundary change
  • Provide a better learning environment, as Dr. Baker states there is a very strong pedagogical relationship between 4th and 5th grade learning

The TL campus would still have to deal with traffic issues, so there’s still more work to do there. We are going to start a busing pilot this Spring, so surely that would be part of the solution. The District is also looking at creating new entrances and exits from the campus, such as further up on Dartmouth Avenue as well as on Alameda de las Pulags (the latter has to have the cooperation and agreement with the City of Belmont).

So, in any case, this was one of the more exciting meetings we’ve had, because we’re making real progress toward our educational goals. Of course, we still have our budget issues (that was an agenda item too), but it’s great to see real effort and momentum in these forward-thinking areas. I’m confident we will have a workable plan both on the curriculum side (based on all of these 21st Century Learning discussions) as well as a great plan to present to the voters in November for a bond measure to fund the building of these new schools.

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