Superintendent



 
Posted by Benjamin Picard on Monday, Oct 20th, 2014.

Dear Parents,

This letter is to address concerns that have arisen in the Cumberland and Cherry Chase School communities due to a study topic at the Board of Education meeting held October 16, 2014. The study session was devoted to updating the Board of Education on district enrollment and capacity. As you may be aware, changing demographics within the Sunnyvale School District are causing enrollment growth on the south side of the school district and for this reason the Board of Education and Superintendent agreed that developing a long term plan to ensure adequate school capacity in each attendance area is necessary and important. Cumberland and Cherry Chase Elementary Schools have become impacted by enrollment growth within their attendance areas and are at or over capacity. This has resulted in the need to overload students to neighboring schools. It appears that this will continue for the foreseeable future. Due to the dynamic nature of our city, Sunnyvale School District works with a professional demographer and is awaiting the latest enrollment projection update, which will be forthcoming soon.

I want to assure you that while one potential means of leveling enrollment among schools included studying the possibility of boundary realignments there have been no recommendations presented, decisions made, nor timelines set. We are in the beginning stages of a process of studying all options to address a growing problem. Of course one option also under consideration is to keep boundaries the same, accommodate as many students as possible at their home school, and overflow students to schools with capacity. Discussions on the fairest way of managing the overflow process will also be considered.

My administration and the Board of Education are committed to an open and transparent process, including full communication and involvement with those potentially affected prior to any recommendations presented or decisions made by the Board of Education on this issue. As part of the process we are planning on hosting meetings soon at Cumberland and Cherry Chase Schools to share information and to hear thoughts and concerns of parents and residents. In the meantime no decisions are being made that will affect students' attendance at Cumberland and Cherry Chase Elementary Schools.

Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Superintendent Benjamin Picard on Wednesday, Oct 1st, 2014.

Creating a safe and supportive environment in our schools is essential to ensuring students' academic and social success.   To that end, the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Sunnyvale School District (SSD) are committed to collaboratively working together to ensure school campuses safety.   We strive to accomplish this goal through partnership with students and parents.   We also recognize that school safety involves safe practices both on and off campus.  

 

Violent acts on school grounds have become more frequent across the nation, particularly incidents involving the use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon.  These types of events highlight the need for proactive efforts in education of firearm regulations, safety measures, reporting options, response preparedness and immediate enforcement action.  This is an area where we cannot afford to lose focus! 

 

Parents and guardians are an essential part of helping keep students safe by keeping guns out of the hands of children as required by California law.  There have been many news reports across the country of children bringing guns to school.  Many times the child has obtained the weapon from their home.  These incidents can be easily prevented by storing firearms in a safe and secure manner, including keeping them locked up when not in use and storing them separately from ammunition. 

 

The DPS Crime Prevention Unit (CPU) provides direct support to each school throughout the City with a staff of four officers (Neighborhood Resource Officers, or NROs) and one lieutenant on a full-time basis.  This level of staffing allows the Department to establish strong relationships with the schools to ensure that problems or concerns are quickly identified and addressed.  CPU works with the school districts to provide prevention programs such as Drug and Alcohol Awareness, Digital Safety (Cyber Bullying), Gang Awareness, Teen Domestic Violence, Stranger Awareness and "Choices," a course that gives students tools to overcome peer pressure and make good decisions. These programs combined with a steady physical presence by our officers at our schools helps our students navigate the challenges they face.

 

In the unlikely event of an incident on or near a school campus, DPS will work with SSD to push out pertinent information as soon as possible.  This can include information on school lock-downs, active police incidents near schools, shelter in place advisories, and information for parents regarding staging and unification areas after an incident on a school campus. 

 

DPS utilizes the Alert SCC (County emergency alert system), the Reverse 911 system (automated phone calls to specific geographical areas) and Nixle (community messaging via text, web, and email) to send out alerts, advisories and community messages.  Nixle is the primary community communication system utilized by DPS to send out critical information, advisories and community messages. We encourage everyone to sign up for the free Nixle service at www.nixle.com .

Working together as students, parents, school administrators, public safety officials and community members, we can continue to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all!

Dr. Benjamin H. Picard, Superintendent of Schools  and

Frank J. Grugurina, Chief Sunnyvale Pubic Safety

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Thursday, Aug 28th, 2014.

Dear Friends,

You may have noticed, but summertime is almost over!   Teachers and students have already returned to schools to launch the 2014-2015 school year. 

 

Learning did not take a summer break in Sunnyvale School District.  I have been so pleased to see hundreds of Sunnyvale students engaged in learning activities in our schools during July.  Our enriched summer school offerings are among the absolute best in the Bay Area.  Students participated in several programs provided by our school district and partners, including:

 

· Elementary and middle school academic programs with Stanford University at Bishop Elementary and Columbia Middle School

· Introduction to Mandarin and Chinese culture at Columbia Middle School in partnership with the California World Language Project of Stanford University

· Stretch to Kindergarten Program for incoming kindergarten students with Foothill College Family Engagement Institute at San Miguel Elementary School

· Summer Learning Program serving Lakewood School students with the Silicon Valley YMCA, and

· Summer enrichment camp provided by the Northwest YMCA at Bishop School.

 

As I toured these programs this summer it was wonderful to see the students engaged with challenging curriculum and enrichment supported by the high quality and intentional instruction provided by our teachers and partners.

 

So what does 2014-2015 hold in store for us?  It will be a positive year as Sunnyvale School District will continue to refine our focus on doing what matters most for our students.  This means continuing to be guided by the Effective Schools Correlates by offering high quality instruction, rich curriculum opportunities, support of the whole child, with high expectation school cultures throughout our schools.  And, of course we will continue to monitor student progress frequently to guide our practice. 

 

My warmest wishes to each or you for wonderful year ahead.

 

Posted by Benjamin H. Picard Ed.D. on Friday, Jun 6th, 2014.

June 5, 2014

 Dear Faculty and Staff,

 It's hard to believe that summer is almost here.  As an educator, the start of summer finds me reflecting on the closing academic year, and looking toward the promise of the next school year.

 I am so pleased by the progress we are making as a learning community! We are building on our strengths and continuously working to provide rich and improved opportunities for student learning and achievement.

 One sign of our progress in the 2013-14 academic year is that we are winning accolades! Some recent recognition of note:

  • Columbia Middle School's FLEX program received a Santa Clara County School Boards Association Hoffmann Award
  • Cherry Chase School was named a California Distinguished School
  • San Miguel School was selected to join the Changemaker Schools Network
  • Three Vargas School teachers were featured in San Jose State University's  Impact Magazine, Barbara Papamarcos, Cecilia Mendoza-Torres and Jennifer  Morgan

Columbia Middle School teacher Emily Moorehead was recognized at the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce Murphy Awards Ceremony as Educator of the Year

 You will be hearing more details about these and other accomplishments soon; the really good news is that all of our schools showed us imaginative and creative ways to inspire and engage students and enhance learning this year!

Parents showed their dedication and made a difference as well, pitching in to help in a variety of ways.

 But in 2013-14, the real stars were our students: from budding scientists at science fairs to singers and dancers at talent shows, to young scholars in the classroom, our district is humming with the energy, potential, and enthusiasm of our diverse and promising student population!  Of course it is our teachers and staff that create the rich learning environment that help our students thrive.

 Going forward we continue to develop schools focused on helping all students succeed, incorporating time-tested methodologies and evidenced-based instructional techniques into our daily operations. With that strong foundation in place, we can evolve with confidence, adding the most promising of innovations to our existing practices. That means that the future will hold even greater enrichments and choices for district families in the coming years, like accelerated math options or schools with unique emphases like our Vargas science program or Fairwood Explorer Program's parent participation model and the Columbia Middle School University Partnership Program, in conjunction with Stanford University.  And, planning is underway for a dual immersion program offering at San Miguel School beginning in the fall of 2015.  We provide these and other academic enrichments even as we continue our work to align our practices with Common Core Standards and implement our 1:1 Technology Initiative.

 Yes, even though it is still a few months away, fall is shining bright on the horizon. With that in mind I look forward to seeing all of you at the Annual Opening Day Assembly at Bishop School.  We have a great program planned and our keynote speaker will be Courtney Macavinta of the Respect Institute .  I think you will find her a dynamic speaker with an important and meaningful message.

 I wish you a safe and enjoyable summer.

 

Posted by Dr. Benjamin Picard on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014.

Dear Friends,

It is somewhat startling that another school year is drawing to a close.  It has been a good year for our schools and for Sunnyvale School District.  We have made great progress with our work around the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, social-emotional learning, our One-to-One Technology Initiative and refining acceleration opportunities for middle school math. All are significant efforts for improved opportunities for student learning.  We also passed a bond measure that will provide funding for modernization, expansion, maintenance and improved technology in our schools.  Yes, 2013-2014 has been a very good year!

Unfortunately, even good years are not without some degree of controversy.  This year's controversy has been around a charter school initiative.  The District received a petition from Spark Charter School on October 1, 2013 and held a public hearing later that month to hear from Spark supporters.  After careful review my staff and I found various deficiencies contained in the petition.  Nevertheless, even though deficiencies were identified we believed that given an extension of time Spark could correct the deficiencies.  Therefore rather than denying the petition the Board of Education passed a conditional approval subject to Spark's compliance with the conditions prescribed by the Board by April 1, 2014.

I want to acknowledge the hard work, dedication and commitment of the Spark Charter Board and Founders.  When the Sunnyvale School District Board of Education gave its conditional approval in November it identified prescriptive conditions that, if met, would have resulted in approval.  Since taxpayer money and public facilities are involved to support Spark Charter, we felt obligated to set conditions to ensure that Spark Charter School provide a viable financial and operational plan as well as a sound educational plan for all of its students.  It was my view that more work was needed on the charter petition for the Board of Education to ensure Spark Charter School provides a successful option for students in Sunnyvale.  According to the Board's November Resolution, if Spark failed to meet all of the conditions by April 1, 2014, the Board's conditional approval must be rescinded and that was the basis for my recommendation to rescind approval.

Sunnyvale School District has set a climate of high expectations for all of its schools and we applied those same high expectations to the approval process.  While this may have disappointed the Spark Board and Founders it is my sincere belief that more planning will increase the likelihood of success for Spark in the future.  After all we all want what is best for the students of Sunnyvale.

Let's close out these last weeks of the 2013-2014 in winning form for our students.

Warm regards,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Dr. Benjamin Picard on Thursday, Feb 20th, 2014.

Dear Friends,

 

Well here we find ourselves in the middle of winter and while the rest of the country is battling the elements of winter, Californians' are hoping that we receive much needed winter moisture soon.

 

Lately and as I approach my 27th anniversary with Sunnyvale School District and  5th year as Superintendent, I find myself reflecting on the qualities of public education offerings in our community.  I am proud of the steady improvements and accomplishments achieved over the years that directly benefit students we serve.  District and school improvements require steady, aligned efforts, high expectations and teamwork and hard work of dedicated and talented teachers, administrators and staff. I am proud that this has occurred in Sunnyvale School District. 

 

I would like to highlight three areas of success supporting student learning and options for parents:

 

  1. Knocking down the barriers to learning for struggling students
  2. Challenging all students, including our most gifted
  3. Providing program of choice options for parents and students

 

Sunnyvale School District has a rich array of safety net and enrichment programs that support learning for all students, including those with the greatest challenges.  All of our schools provide rich curricular and instructional materials and we are rapidly deploying the newest instructional technology for interventions and differentiated instruction with the One-to-One: Technology to Support Learning initiative.  This is an aggressive plan to provide access to technology in the classroom for all students.  And we have provided professional development to principals and teachers to increase the rigor of instruction for high achieving students

 

We know that a troubled child cannot learn.  We are fortunate to be able to provide socio-emotional counseling for students requiring this support through our partnership with the Community Health Awareness Council and financial support from the El Camino Hospital District.  With these resources we have provided a clear, well-defined system of support for students requiring individualized interventions.

 

We also know that a hungry child cannot learn.  I have been surprised that many in our community are not aware of the extensive child nutrition program that we provide.  We know that 57 percent of the families we serve are economically disadvantaged.  So as a school district we offer a comprehensive program of breakfast, second chance for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner at selected schools. And with the help of community support we have offered a lunch program throughout the summer weeks as well.

 

This fall we launched the new University Partnership Program at Columbia Middle School.  This is a partnership program between Stanford University and Columbia Middle School.  This partnership is bringing research-based, best practices to Columbia Middle School and will eventually provide an option for students in grades 6, 7 and 8.  This is the second program of choice established by the Sunnyvale School District in the past four years with the first being the highly successful Fairwood Explorer School, which continues to thrive and expand.  Planning is underway to launch another program of choice in the relatively near future…stay tuned!

 

I look forward to our continued success in 2014 as we move through winter and head into spring.  Thank you all for your continued interest and support of Sunnyvale School District.

 

Yours truly,

Benjamin H. Picard, ED.D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

 

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Thursday, Nov 7th, 2013.

Dear Friends,

We did it!  Thanks to the voters of Sunnyvale for showing overwhelming support for Measure G - the $96 million school bond measure to continue rebuilding Sunnyvale School District.  Measure G passed with 68% of voters supporting the measure.  Sunnyvale has a long proven track record of supporting the youth of our community and this strong support once again demonstrates a commitment to our students, our schools, and the future of Sunnyvale School District.

 

The bond proceeds will provide funding for technology improvements, providing comparable classrooms for all students and increasing energy efficiency efforts throughout Sunnyvale School District.  Specifically, the financing plan has three distinct elements:

 

  1. $40.5 million to fund new construction and major modernization at Bishop, Cherry Chase, and Ellis elementary schools and Sunnyvale Middle School over the next three or four years
  2. $7.5 million to fund improvements to the District's technology infrastructure, and ongoing technology purchases
  3. $48 million for ongoing facilities maintenance and repair and to fund emerging needs over the next fifteen or more years.


Of course adjustments to the program described may need to made, but the District will be respectful of the commitments made to our community and will spend the money wisely to support improvements to the learning environment for our students in their classrooms and schools and by providing them access to educational content delivered electronically.

 

The City of Sunnyvale is prospering and growing and it is exciting and reassuring that Sunnyvale School District now has the resources to respond to that prosperity and growth.

 

Warm regards,

 

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Thursday, Aug 8th, 2013.

Dear Friends,

I hope you have had a safe and reinvigorating summer and you are ready for a brand new school year.  We know that our future arrives back in our schools each fall.  They show up in our classrooms entrusted to us to be taught, inspired, enriched and supported in many different ways.  It is our job to prepare all of our students to be life-long learners and to be fully prepared for success in their educational pursuits.  That is our mission, to ensure our students receive the key to unlock any barrier to becoming all they can be as they move through our grades, into high school, and adulthood.  The responsibility is daunting, but Sunnyvale School District has shown that it serves students well and we continually strive to improve.  I have always said that Sunnyvale School District is a pocket of excellence and we can only achieve that excellence due to the efforts of all of our employees who contribute to the support and success of each and every student.

 

The 2013-2014 school year looks promising and bright! 

  • Funding for public schools has finally stabilized and the funding model has changed to focus financial support on students with greatest needs. 
  • We are embracing the Common Core State Educational Standards, which represent best practices in mathematics and provide literacy standards across the curriculum. 
  • We are launching the One-to-One: Technology to Support Learning Initiative, which is a three year plan to ensure access to all students in the new ways of receiving educational content. 
  • We will be asking our residents to vote on November 5 th as we pursue a Bond Measure to maintain and improve District finances to support school facilities and instructional technology. 
  • We will be continuing our efforts to promote social-emotional well-being in our schools and classrooms as we recognize these potential barriers to learning. 
  • We will be striving to improve student learning results with a focus on under achievement at all levels. 
  • And, I will be asking our community to increase and deepen their engagement with Sunnyvale School District with the "Our Kids ~ Our Community" movement supporting all of our students throughout our school district.

 

I know you will  join me in the desire to make the 2013-2014 the best year possible for our students.

Yours truly,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Monday, Jun 17th, 2013.

Dear Friends,

Well according to the calendar yet another school year is quickly coming to a close. While I'm sure many are ready for summer and focused on the vacation season there are many of us already well into planning for the next school year, which has all the promises of a highly successful year.

Sunnyvale School District has weathered the Great Recession and done so without harm or interruption to services and support of our students.  The work of our teachers, administrators and support staff has been relentless in the quest of achieving our mission of preparing all of our students with a strong foundation of skills and knowledge to succeed in their educational pursuits. This shows as our students continue to make strong gains in achievement and I'm confident student achievement will continue to grow thanks to everyone's effective and hard work.

As we reflect back over these recent recession years we all should be thankful we work for such a wonderfully supported school district.  Many school districts in our county and state have endured employee layoffs, unpaid furlough days for employees, salary reductions, cuts or caps to employee benefits, frozen salary schedule movement, and unfortunate cutsto student instructional programs such as summer school and the arts. Sunnyvale School District has avoided these actions through support of our community and excellent fiscal policy and oversight by the Board of Education and the governance team.  We have even been able to support our growing student enrollment during this time by increasing our workforce and community based partnerships to effectively serve our students and our schools during these difficult years.

Now that the Great Recession is hopefully in the rear view mirror and school funding is stabilizing the District can once again reward employees for their hard work. I'm pleased that compensation settlements have been reached with the Sunnyvale Education Association and Sunnyvale Certificated and Classified Administrative Management Personnel.  And I remain hopeful to soon achieve a similar, equitable, and well deserved compensation settlement with Chapter 205 of California School Employees Association. All of our employees contribute to the success of Sunnyvale School District.

Our kick off for next year will be August 19th at Bishop School.  As one of our focus areas will be to support student learning through instructional technology we have arranged to have author Michael Horn as or keynote speaker (flyer attached).  I think you will find him interesting and thought provoking.  I look forward to seeing you there and working with you in the new school year.

All the best for a safe and reinvigorating summer.

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools


Posted by Benjamin Picard on Friday, Apr 12th, 2013.

Dear Friends,

For so many years now we have been hearing about 21st Century Education and the importance of bringing significant change to student learning. Actually, we have been talking about this for well over 13 years, even before we entered this century. It is also exciting to see the technological changes and innovations that have occurred since our arrival in the 21st Century.

Now that the worst of the education funding crisis is in the rear view mirror and with a sense of urgency being driven by new and ever emerging technologies…we had better get moving. My vision is to see Sunnyvale School District launch the One-to-One: Technology to Support Learning Initiative in 2013-2014. This means providing access to technology for all students over the next three years. Digital education is coming anyway, so we had better embrace it, put a framework around it, and work to ensure success as we deploy new ways of delivering educational content.

This initiative is not so much about the technology as it is student learning. We want our students to be active learners, critical thinkers, problem solvers, researchers and writers. We want them to be able to collaborate and extend their learning beyond the classroom. As more and more instructional content becomes available electronically we will no longer be limited to a textbook based, teacher centered, classroom model, but rather a real time, research driven, project based classroom where learners work collaboratively with their classmates and with students around the world - the Global Classroom.

As technology continues to change, so must our classrooms and the tools we use to support learning. This initiative takes head on the challenge to accelerate our adoption, deployment and use of instructional technology devices and creating these environments now, making them a reality in every school, in every classroom, for every student throughout Sunnyvale School District.

Let's get to work! Our students are waiting.

More information will be coming…stay tuned.

Warm Regards,

 

Benjamin Picard Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Wednesday, Feb 13th, 2013.

Dear Friends,

As we find ourselves in the latter part of winter and heading into spring of 2013, I'd like to report on the excellent work being done to support the students we serve within our school district. Although recent years have been challenging for California's public school system, I'm pleased to report that Sunnyvale School District has weathered the funding crises pretty well and we are beginning to see glimmers of improvement to a more stabilized funding environment.

During these past years so many school districts have seen their budgets diminish by double digit percentages requiring draconian cuts to programs and services. Sunnyvale School District too has seen funding erode; however, we have been successful in avoiding cuts to instructional programs and services. In fact, we have been blessed with so many community partners over these past few years that we have seen support services for students improve for many of our students. Examples include: Community Health Advisory Council Counseling Services, Reading Partners, Playworks, Project Cornerstone, YMCA, Stanford University, Rotary Summer Feeding Program, Dinner at School, Columbia Neighborhood Center, Family Engagement Institute, Parent Institute for Quality Education, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, El Camino Hospital District, Kaiser Wellness Support, and of course the ongoing exemplary support of our many parents through the PTAs and PTOs. These and other partnerships have really helped to fill the void caused by the lack of state support to education.

Congratulations to Cumberland teacher Meredith Rietdorf! As a lifelong educator, I believe educating our next generation is a most honorable profession. I want to express thanks to the 350 teachers of Sunnyvale School District who are professional, hard-working and masterful in what they do every day for students. This past weekend I had the privilege to award the Outstanding Educator of the Year Award to Meredith Rietdorf on behalf of the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce at the Annual Murphy Awards Banquet. Meredith was recognized before a crowd of over 150 community leaders. It is wonderful to have a community that values, honors and celebrates outstanding educators like Meredith.

This New Year also brings a renewed public focus on school safety. As a school district, our thoughts remain with the families, educators and residents of Newtown. Like school districts across the county this tragedy has once again caused us to revisit our school safety measures. In Sunnyvale School District providing a Safe and Orderly Environment for our students and staff is one of our long established goals and top priority. Our safety measures are in place and current and we are collaborating with Sunnyvale Public Safety in conducting safety drills at each or our schools.

The safety of our students, as well as the support of our community and the recognition of our outstanding staff and programs contributes to the success of Sunnyvale School District. I am proud to be associated with such a fine school district and community.

Warm Regards,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Dr. Benjamin Picard on Tuesday, Dec 18th, 2012.

Dear Friends:

Our hearts and thoughts are with the families and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School and with the residents of Newtown, Connecticut. This senseless and horrific loss of life have put parents and educators on edge and once again raised concern about the safety of our children in our schools.  Like Columbine this event will and should ignite an important dialogue across California and our country about preventing violence in our schools and neighborhoods.

I want to reassure you that Sunnyvale School District places providing a safe and orderly environment among our highest priorities.  Already, this week, I have spoken with Sunnyvale Public Safety Department officials and met with school principals to review security plans and procedures already in place and discuss what more can be done to make our schools even safer.We will continue this work in January after the holiday break and into the winter and spring.  We are blessed in Sunnyvale with the outstanding support provided to our school district by the Sunnyvale Public Safety Department.

In the meantime, our school staffs will be dedicated this week to maintaining normal routines and procedures to calm and reassure students. We are providing our principals, teachers and staff with resources for responding to student questions and comments about the tragedy in Newtown. For further information you may contact your school principal.

We will also closely monitor our students for any signs that they may need extra help in dealing with this terrible episode. We have counselors, psychologists, nurses, and social workers, who are trained to respond to crises and can provide consultation and resources to support students.

My best wishes to you for a safe and peaceful holiday season and New Year.

 

Respectfully,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

 

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Friday, Dec 14th, 2012.

December 2012

Dear Friends, 

Late last summer I shared with you that our local schools have benefitted greatly from the strong support offered by our community and the voters of our district over many years.  My hope was that all of the voters in California would demonstrate the same kind of support by approving the Governor's tax proposals.  Well voters did approve the Governor's initiative and educators statewide can feel a sense of gratitude, which is most appropriate during this time of Thanksgiving. 

Without a doubt public education in California dodged a bullet of fiscal calamity, but those well informed on California school finance know that Proposition 30 provides no additional resources, but only offers protection against further cuts.   So while stabilized, school districts across California still face serious financial challenges and threats to high quality educational services statewide continue.  California's school funding still ranks among the lowest in the country and Proposition 30 will not improve that ranking.

Within Sunnyvale School District we are proud of the fact that we have buffered our students and staff from many of the negative impacts caused by reduced state funding since 2008.  Conservative fiscal management, cooperation and support of employee groups, community partnerships, passage of a modest parcel tax, bond funding, attrition of staff, and the ability to draw upon reserves, have all contributed to our ability to continue to support a high quality program for students.

Even during the midst of the Great Recession student achievement has been improving across Sunnyvale School District with double digit gains in the Academic Performance Index occurring at the District, school, and subgroups levels.  I commend our instructional staff for their good work and maintaining high expectations and true to a clear and focused mission of preparing all of our students with a strong foundation of skills and knowledge to succeed in their educational pursuits.  This is no easy task during good times and certainly it is all the more challenging during times of scarce resources and increased class sizes. This performance speaks to the quality of staff that serves Sunnyvale students.


I wish each of you a peaceful, safe and wonderful holiday season.


Warmest regards,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Wednesday, Oct 24th, 2012.

 

Dear Friends,

This November holds the most profound election in decades for public education. I hope all of the voters in California will demonstrate the same kind of support for all of California's public schools as Sunnyvale has done by approving the governor's tax proposals. A failure to do so will greatly increase the fiscal challenge faced by all of California public schools - including Sunnyvale School District.

Since the state's funding crisis began in 2008, schools statewide have sustained $20 billion in cuts and funding deferrals. These cuts have forced Sunnyvale School District to reduce $5.9 million from our budget. Despite best efforts to preserve jobs and services we have reduced our workforce through attrition and by necessity increased class sizes. Of even greater concern, depending on the results of the two ballot initiatives described below, we may be forced to make even more funding reductions harming the quality of our school services. This is the reason your elected Board of Education passed a resolution in August 2012 supporting Propositions 30 and 38.

Proposition 30

The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012 (Brown Initiative) provides additional revenue for the State's General Fund to help with the state's budget deficit and prevents deep cuts to public school funding. If passed by voters, Proposition 30 will maintain current funding levels for public schools. If Proposition 30 fails, there will be automatic 'trigger cuts' during the current 2012-2013 school year. The estimated cuts for Sunnyvale School District will be $457 per student or an additional $2.9 million. A cut of that magnitude, in addition to what we have already endured is likely to cause an additional increase in class size or a shortening of the school year (State law will allow for a reduction of up to 15 days per year for the next two years.) Other services that support student learning may also be affected.

Key Points of Proposition 30:

  • Will increase state sales tax by quarter-cent for four years
  • Will increase personal income tax on income above $250,000 for seven years
  • Income tax hike estimated to affect 1 percent of Californians
  • Temporary tax revenue allocates 89 percent to K-12 public schools and 11 percent to community colleges
  • No funds are to be used for administrative costs
  • Legislative Analyst's Office predicts $6.8 billion in new revenue 2012-2013
  • Protects funding for both UC and the California State University system

  Proposition 38

The Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs (Munger Initiative) is also on the ballot in November. If both measures succeed in garnering more than 50 percent of the vote, only the initiative with most votes would go into effect.

Key Points of Proposition 38:

  • Personal income tax hike to 2024 on all but the lowest tax bracket
  • Additional marginal tax rates to increase as taxable income increases
  • Legislative Analyst's Office predicts $10 billion personal income tax revenue
  • 30 percent of monies to pay state debt-service costs until the end of 2016-2017
  • Estimated $6 billion per year earmarked for schools, more beginning in 2017-2018
  • Provides K-12 funds on school-specific, per-pupil basis, subject to local control, audits, and public input
  • Prohibits state from directing new funds

Propositions 30 and 38 are not perfect, but both stabilize funding for public education allowing school districts to maintain existing programs and services. By law, superintendents and principals may not take positions on state propositions, but we may communicate the facts. I have attempted to do so here.

Please share this information to inform others and please cast your ballot in the November election.

Sincerely yours,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

For more information:

To help reduce voter confusion, EdSource, founded 35 years ago to clarify complex education issues, has produced a visually appealing infographic to clarify for voters the main similarities and differences between the two initiatives. (attached)

 


Posted by Benjamin Picard on Tuesday, Aug 7th, 2012.
Dear Friends,

As the old Gershwin jazz standard goes “it’s summertime and the living is easy.” Well summer is almost gone and fall is coming on. While I look forward to this fall, we begin yet another school year in challenging times. Although improving, the California economy continues to struggle. The funding our state can provide to its public schools is still lower than the level provided for the 2008-09 school year and among the lowest funding levels in the country.

In these times, I think it is important to look at our Sunnyvale schools to gauge how we are meeting these challenges. To do so, I want to share with you my thoughts on the factors that define the kind of high performing schools ours have always been. Maintaining them calls on all of us as these factors require our constant attention to collaboration, a climate of high expectations, a clear and focused mission, and support from all community stakeholders.

Student Achievement
The first of these is student achievement. Our district uses a number of state and local tests to evaluate our students. On each, the students in the Sunnyvale School District continue to demonstrate high levels of academic achievement. What’s also important is that student test scores in our district have shown steady improvement over time. In fact, over the past two years we have seen double digit growth in the Academic Performance Index in all schools and all students groups.

Curriculum, Instruction and Programs that Support Student Learning
Our schools also offer our students a rich curriculum that allows them to grow and learn. From their first day in kindergarten through promotion from 8th grade, our students benefit from quality instruction they receive from our dedicated and creative teachers, current textbook and curricular adoptions, and a range of programs and services we are able to offer that support the whole child. These include visual and performing arts, through Starting Arts, counseling services, through Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) and blended learning opportunities through our investments in instructional technology and computer based learning programs.


Quality and Mission of the Staff that Serve Students
Sunnyvale School District has assembled a highly talented staff of teachers and staff that support students. The talent of our teachers was recently recognized by the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce. Earlier this year the Chamber presented Elizabeth Hernandez, a 5th grade teacher at San Miguel Elementary School, with its 2012 Educator of the Year Award. Likewise, Sunnyvale School District has selected Meredith Rietdorf as its Teacher of the Year for 2012-2013. Meredith is a kindergarten teacher at Cumberland Elementary School. These teachers represent very well the professional, talented, hard-working teachers in all of the classrooms in our district.

Learning and Recreational Environment
Thanks to the voters of our school district, our teachers and students work and learn in well maintained classrooms and buildings. Our schools have been or are in the process of being modernized and expanded thanks to the strong support the community and voters gave to Measure P, a local school bond, in 2004. Since that time, Measure P has funded nearly $100 million in school facility improvements for the students of Sunnyvale School District.

Fiscal and Financial Health of the School District
Conservative financial management over the long term, partnerships, the support of employee groups and the strong support of local voters have all contributed to the fiscal and financial health of the district in these challenging times. The parcel tax approved in 2011 provides the district with approximately $1 million each year. Although these funds represent less than 2% of the district’s annual budget, they provide the teachers and students of our district with a vital fiscal buffer that provides our classroom programs with some protection from the shifts and changes in the state budget. As a result of all these efforts the district remains financially strong heading into the 2012-2013 school year.

Support of Community
Finally, one thought about the future. As noted, our local schools have benefitted greatly from the strong support offered by our community and the voters of our district over many years. This November holds the most profound election in decades for public education. I hope that all of the voters in California will demonstrate the same kind of support for all of California’s public schools as our local community has done by approving the Governor’s tax proposals. A failure to do so will greatly increase the fiscal challenge faced by all of California public schools – including ours.

My best wishes for highly successful 2012-2013 school year.

Yours truly,


Benjamin H. Picard, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Posted by Benjamin Picard, Ed.D. on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012.

 

Dear Friends,

 How does this happen so quickly? Another school year is coming to a close already. This coming school year marks my 40th year in education, so I can say from experience that this has been a very good year for the students and families of Sunnyvale School District. I believe we have remained focused on student learning and increased achievement, supporting the whole child, deepening our instructional practices and doing all that we can to knock down the barriers to learning for all students. We have also continued to modernize and expand our school facilities to improve the learning environment and to accommodate our growing enrollment…so a good year indeed!

So what does next year have in store for us? What will happen with school funding? How will schools be impacted if the November ballot initiatives fail? As we look forward to next year our challenge is centered on the question: How do we plan for the next couple of years? Do we cut staffing and dismantle programs to plan for worst case scenarios or do we stay the course and hope for the best?

In Sunnyvale School District, while we continue to trim expenses, for the most part we are staying the course for 2012-2013 and hoping for the best outcome. Because implementing plans for the worst case negatively impacts our students and undermines the good work and substantial progress taking place in Sunnyvale School District. We can stay the course only by drawing upon our reserves, but our ability to buffer our programs and services against more state cuts to school funding will end by next year if the initiatives fail.

While we must be aware of these troubling issues and advocate in support of education funding, we must also remain focused on our mission to prepare all of our students with the skills and knowledge to succeed in their educational pursuits. Thank you for your continued support and my warmest wishes for a safe and relaxing summer 2012.

Yours truly,

Benjamin H. Picard

Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Tuesday, Feb 28th, 2012.

Dear Friends,

As Spring approaches we are well into the school year.  During the course of my duties I have had the opportunity to visit many classrooms.  I have observed that within Sunnyvale School District there is a climate of high expectations and intense support of student learning every day in our ten schools.

I believe educating our next generation is a most honorable profession; However I also believe that in today's society teachers are often overlooked and play somewhat of an understated role in our communities, state and country.  This should not be so!   Our Sunnyvale School District teachers are professional, hard-working and masterful in what they do and they deserve to be honored, supported and respected.  Teaching, in my view, is truly a noble profession.  I want to thank the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce for publicly recognizing one of our finest teachers.  San Miguel 5 th grade teacher Elizabeth (Liz) Hernandez received the Educator of the Year award at the annual 2012 Murphy Awards dinner.  Congratulations Liz Hernandez for the well-deserved recognition!

As we head into spring we continue to monitor issues around state funding to school.  We remain in what I believe to be the longest period of instability and uncertainty making it ever so challenging to plan well for the coming years.  Fortunately, we have been proactive with our financial management.  In the past three years, the district has cut about $2 million from its budget in response to the state budget crisis.  This was a result in cuts in staffing, primarily through a hiring freeze, attrition, reconfiguration of management staff, adjusting sizes and scheduling of classes.  In spring 2011 we successfully passed a parcel tax that produces about $1 million annually to protect district programs that support student learning.  All of this is a lot and we thank our community and employees for supporting these efforts. 

The question currently under consideration is have we done enough?  As I stated above we are monitoring all potential funding sources for 2012-2013.  We know that we will not be laying off employees, but will likely need to continue to draw upon reserves, and continue to work with our community and employees on agreeable solutions going forward.  I can assure you that we will do our best to be deliberate, collaborative and wise in our planning of any budgetary actions.  I will also do my best to keep all stakeholders informed on funding developments as they occur.

In the meantime, we must continue our work to fulfill our district's mission to prepare all of our students with the skills and knowledge to succeed in their educational pursuits.

 

Warmest regards,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

 

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Monday, Dec 5th, 2011.

Dear Friends,

The other day while attending a Sunnyvale Challenge Team meeting I was struck by a wonderful realization. In attendance were representatives from thirteen different organizations gathered together for the purpose of supporting the youth of the Sunnyvale community. These organizations all partner in some way with our schools to strengthen the learning supports offered to students; either academic, recreational, enrichment or addressing social emotional barriers to learning. These organizations are community assets that help our students thrive and the services they provide are needed now more than ever as funding for public education continues to decline.

 All eyes are on Sacramento as we await the determination of the possible mid-year funding cuts to our schools. The state's schools face up to $1.4 billion in automatic spending cuts after analysts determined that California's revenues have come in dramatically lower than the governor and state lawmakers had hoped. Our schoolchildren are among those that face a direct hit from the state's financial difficulties.

 While Sunnyvale School District remains financially strong and can withstand mid-year cuts by drawing on reserves, our ability to buffer our programs and services against ongoing state cuts to our funding will surely come to an end and we too will be faced with budget cuts similar to those that have been imposed by so many school districts across our state. I am concerned that any such cuts to our program will jeopardize the substantial progress we are making in student achievement across all schools and subgroups. If we believe that our children are our greatest resource, then we all must advocate for more funding for public education and contribute to their future.

 Thank you for your continued support of your neighborhood schools and Sunnyvale School District and warmest wishes to you for a wonderful holiday season.

 Yours truly,

Benjamin Picard

 Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Friday, Sep 9th, 2011.

As we launch the 2011-2012 school year, I am pleased to announce our new online newsletter produced by the Sunnyvale School District. Via the District Dispatch, we will provide information to parents and Sunnyvale residents on programs, happenings and issues affecting our neighborhood schools, the district, and public education.Please take a moment to subscribe at http://sesd-district-digest.org .Articles will be published online and a quarterly 'digest' will be emailed to subscribers.I believe that positive home school relations are critical to the support and success of our schools and it is my hope that through improved communications with you we can further strengthen that relationship.


I want to thank our community for the strong support demonstrated recently with the passage of Measure B our school district's modest parcel tax.Measure B passed with a nearly 70% yes votes.Serving a community that places a high value education is a blessing.


So what will the funds generated by Measure B provide?First of all, Measure B will generate about $1 million per year.This amounts to about 1.7% of our annual operating budget of just over $58 million.Unfortunately, this local funding will not provide enhanced programs and services, but instead will be used to help buffer and protect district programs from the continuing reduced level of state funding for public education that has been so harmful to school districts across our county and state.

As a school district our priority is serving students well…to prepare our students with a strong foundation of skills and knowledge to succeed in their educational pursuits.Cutting programs, reducing the academic calendar, large class sizes, eliminating summer school offerings does not reconcile with a priority of serving students well, yet many school districts have found it necessary to take many or all of these actions.Thus far, Sunnyvale School District has not found it necessary to take such actions.Measure B funding will help us avoid or continue to defer such actions that are harmful to student learning.

 

As superintendent I want to see an environment in which all of our students thrive in our schools and community.So as we begin a new year I will be advocating for a movement within our schools and community on building Developmental Assets.We will continue our efforts on reducing bullying, promoting achievement and helping all students feel valued and respected.

 

Sunnyvale School District will be partnering with Project Cornerstone and the Sunnyvale Challenge Team in the deployment of the Developmental Assets within our school communities.These assets represent the relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities that young people need to avoid risks and to thrive. The Developmental Assets are based on the research-proven developmental assets model and meet California Department of Education criteria for research-based youth development for the Safe and Drug Free Schools program. In addition, Project Cornerstone programs complement our district's initiative of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and align school wide efforts to improve climate by changing student behavior.

 

I look forward to another successful school year in 2011-2012 and thank you for your interest in and support of Sunnyvale School District and your neighborhood schools.

 

Best wishes,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

 

Posted by Benjamin Picard on Thursday, Jun 16th, 2011.

June 16, 2011

It is that time of year that I reflect on the school year just past.  I believe that 2010-2011 was another very successful school year for Sunnyvale School District.  Despite the troubling issues of inadequate and uncertain funding provided by the State of California, we have stayed the course defined in our mission: "preparing our students with a strong foundation of skills and knowledge to succeed in their educational pursuits."  At the forefront of priorities is serving students well. We have once again achieved that objective this past school year.

We also passed Measure B our school district's modest parcel tax.   Serving a community that values public education is a blessing.  The citizens of Sunnyvale really stepped up by showing strong support for our school district at the ballot box with a nearly 70% yes vote.  Thank you Sunnyvale for supporting your neighborhood schools!  This local measure will help buffer us from the continuing reduced level of state funding for public education.

Of course we accomplished so much more than just the passage of Measure B.  What have we accomplished? We have:

·   Continued our progress of deeply implementing the framework of the Seven Correlates of Effective Schools, a researched based means of improving our schools, by incorporating Professional Learning Communities, Response to Intervention, and Positive Behavior Intervention Support into the way we do business in all of our schools. 

·   Provided a new elementary English Language Arts curriculum this year and will be doing the same for our two middle schools next year. 

·   Expanded our use of instructional technology and interventions to support student learning. 

·   Launched the Fairwood Explorer Program, which has thrived and will be expanding next year. 

·   Deepened our parent and community engagement and partnerships this past year and this will continue to be an ongoing focus. 

·   Continued offering a comprehensive summer school again this year in partnership with Stanford University.  This intervention program will serve over 800 students during the summer 2011. 

Continued to make substantial progress on modernizing and expanding our schools again thanks to our supportive community and the passage of Measure P in 2004. I believe all of this good work will directly translate to greater student learning and higher achievement.  It is for all of these reasons that I believe 2010-2011 has been a very successful year.  I hope you agree.

So what will next year bring?  I am sure that public education will continue to struggle financially as the state budget crisis has not been resolved and California's economic recovery is at best in low gear…moving very slowly.  But with the resources we do have I am committed to focus those resources for the benefit of every child.  After all, the children we serve only go through our system one time and we must do our best for them. 

Thank you for your continued support of Sunnyvale School District and my best wishes to all of you for a safe and restful summer.

Yours truly,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

Posted by Benjamin H. Picard on Wednesday, Mar 9th, 2011.

Great Job Sunnyvale! You passed Measure B.

On May 3, 2011, Sunnyvale School District received nearly 70 percent voter approval for Measure B to support our neighborhood schools. This $59 annual parcel tax will provide about $1 million each year for seven years in local stable funding to support and maintain classroom programs, including math, English, science and technology, to minimize the loss of teaching positions and to minimize increases in class size.

Our Sunnyvale community really stepped up to support this first ever parcel tax for Sunnyvale School District. The success is a direct result of the efforts of the Measure B Steering Committee under the wise and tireless leadership of co-chairs Reid Myers and Anita Herrmann. Committee member Kathy Besser also donated her graphic design talents and time supporting campaign communications. Many others contributed greatly to this successful campaign by making telephone calls and walking precincts. We could not have been successful without this "army of volunteers" and to all, a very sincere thank you for a job well done.

We in Sunnyvale School District continually strive to provide a climate of high expectations for the students we serve. We support our students with opportunities to learn with a high quality curriculum, instructional technology, extended school days, visual and performing arts, strong instructional leadership, academic and enrichment camps, and a strong summer school offering in partnership with Stanford University. We also provide alternative school programming such as the parent participation Fairwood Explorer Program.

We will work hard to use the resources provided by Measure B to buffer our school district programs from the state cuts to education funding and ensure our resources benefit every child. Best wishes and thank you all again for your support of Sunnyvale School District.

Yours truly,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools