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San Juan Unified District Office
3738 Walnut Ave.
Carmichael, CA 95608
(916) 971-7700

News and Events

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Board Briefs: March 13, 2012

Tuesday’s regular meeting of the San Juan Unified Board of Education shed light on reading and writing successes in the classroom, ideas for innovative teaching and a variety of other topics. 

Here are some highlights (the full agenda packet can be found here):

Comprehensive literacy in the classroom
Comprehensive literacy is about far more than helping children read and write better. It’s an approach that provides students a path to becoming an independent thinker and learner.

During a presentation highlighting how the concept is being successfully implemented at Carmichael Elementary School, Board members learned about the literacy model’s key components:

Students participate in reading and writing exercises that involve the entire class, small groups and, eventually, independent, self-selected reading and writing activities. The idea is that, over time, students become better thinkers, speakers, readers and writers as the level of difficulty rises – picking up skills they can successfully apply to any challenge.

Under this model, teacher collaboration also is key. Instructors plan lessons together and even videotape each other to offer feedback.

Students are learning to coach each other, too.  

“We had classrooms that were very black and white. … Teachers asking questions, students raising their hands and answering questions,” Principal Brandei Smith told Board members.

With the new literacy approach, teachers over time resemble coaches, and students are more engaged.

“Now we’re bringing color to the picture,” Smith said. “We’re so excited about this journey.”

A copy of the Board presentation can be found here.

Task force to examine ‘blended learning’
Blended learning is the idea of mixing different forms of instruction: classroom and online learning, for instance. At San Juan Unified, there are a few existing examples, including AdvancePath Academy, which combines online learning with small group and one-on-one instruction.

A District task force will convene in the coming weeks to examine other, larger-scale ways blended learning can take shape in San Juan Unified. That goal is consistent with the District’s Strategic Plan, which in part requires leaders to integrate technology into effective teaching strategies and to personalize students’ education.

The new task force will help define blended learning in San Juan, explore different models and provide benchmarks for both short-term and long-term goals.  

A copy of the Board presentation can be found here.

Financial report offers budget insight
San Juan Unified faces an ongoing, structural deficit of $21 million and could lose $14 million more in funding if the governor’s proposed statewide tax initiative fails on the November ballot, Chief Financial Officer Kent Stephens told Board members during an interim financial report. He noted progress had been made in closing the gap but that more work needed to be done.

“How can we turn this challenge into an opportunity?” Stephens asked the Board. One way District staff are doing just that, he said, is to redefine the way the District provides services: looking for efficiencies, restructuring operations, adjusting compensation packages and other options.

Stephens also noted the collaborative conversations being conducted with employee and community groups to find sustainable solutions.

“We are on the right course,” Stephens said.

Stay connected to the latest on San Juan Unified’s budget development at www.sanjuan.edu/budget.

New face at Pershing keeps it in the District family
Brooke Thomas has spent much of her career – and much of her life, actually – in San Juan Unified schools. She attended Del Dayo Elementary, Arden Middle and Rio Americano High schools and most recently served as Dyer-Kelly Elementary’s Vice Principal.

On Tuesday, she was introduced to the Board as Pershing Elementary’s newest principal.

“She has taught thousands of children – some in the classroom, others in her day-to-day interactions,” said Annette Buckmaster, the District’s assistant superintendent for human resources.

In brief remarks, Thomas – whose children also have graduated from San Juan Unified schools – thanked the District for supporting literacy efforts, embracing individualized learning and “for the opportunity to lead here.”

To learn more about Thomas, watch this video, which was produced during her tenure at Dyer-Kelly.

In other action …
  • The Board recognized March as Arts in Education Month. Watch this video that provided Board members an overview of the many thriving arts programs in the District. And keep up with a variety of arts-related news at www.sanjuan.edu/arts  
  • Students Kayla Hammitt and Monica Kaestner from Casa Roble Fundamental High School, and Trina Romo and Mitchell Rosenberg from El Camino Fundamental High School, addressed the Board about a number of initiatives and accomplishments on their campuses. Casa highlights included the school’s recent $5,000 attendance rate award, a new weight room facility and fall athletics accomplishments in section playoffs. At El Camino, noteworthy items included students using the District’s new online college and career planning service Naviance, a reminder about the drama program’s forthcoming spring musical and an upcoming crab feed/silent auction.
  • The Board received brief bargaining interest proposals from two employees groups. The proposals from the San Juan Teachers Association can be found here, and proposals from the California School Employees Association can be found here.

The next Board of Education meeting will be held March 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the District Office Board Room. Agendas are posted online Fridays before each meeting and can be found here.

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