As Alameda students settled into their new classrooms, Alameda Patch asked Superintendent Kirsten Vital how the 2011-2012 academic year is shaping up.
Patch: What changes can parents and students expect this year? Thanks to our supportive community, the 2011-12 school year is on track to be an excellent one for our schools. With the secure local funding we now have in place with , we have a much greater ability than most school districts in California to decide what changes we do and do not want for our schools.
On the one hand, we can keep the programs our community most values and avoid making the devastating changes to our schools that so many others around the state now have to make. On the other hand, we have the resources to move forward with next steps for more improvement, choice and innovation in our schools.
The important work we will be continuing this year in our schools this year includes:
• Deepening last year’s work to improve academic instruction by continuing our K-12 math initiative and by increasing the numbers of teachers trained and participating in our ongoing instructional initiatives at the secondary level.
• Implementing the provisions of Measure A that protect key programs that many other school districts are now forced to cut, including small class sizes in K-3 classrooms, enrichment programs such as music and art, counseling and student support services, and high school athletic opportunities.
• Also implementing the provisions of Measure A that provide us with resources to move ahead with choice and innovation in our schools in coming years. These include proposals for , innovative programs and promising practices and other reforms set forth in the Five-Year Plan for the District (formerly referred to as the “Master Plan”) adopted in February, 2010. We look forward to community input on this process.
Are there new programs or people that Alamedans should know about? We are proud that last spring, after the passage of Measure A, we were able to take several important steps with new programs.
In May, the Board of Education officially designated , our early college high school located on the campus of the College of Alameda, a magnet school. (ASTI stands for Alameda Science and Technology Institute.)
In addition, last spring received a substantial planning grant from the California Department of Education for “MAD Studios,” a California Partnership Academy aimed at creating a program focusing on the career theme of digital media, animation and video game design.
Finally, in June the board approved funds for the continued planning and development of six proposals for magnet schools, innovative programs and promising practices at schools across the island.
We are thrilled to have been able to bring back many teachers from the layoff list we had to create before the vote on Measure A last March. We are also excited to welcome many new faces all across AUSD.
With the passage of Measure A, how is the district situated financially? How are budget dollars looking from the state?" With Measure A, we have secure local funding in place and are on sound financial footing. At the same time, since the state’s fiscal crisis continues, we also know we will still face uncertainty and challenges. We will continue to keep our eyes on Sacramento and will keep advocating for the state to fulfill its responsibility to provide sufficient funding for our schools.
What would you most like people to know about AUSD — both district families and those who do not currently have students in Alameda public schools? As this school year begins, we are grateful for how strongly all of Alameda, those with and without children in AUSD schools, came together last year in very difficult times and how many opportunities lie ahead for our students because we did. We appreciate that our work this year can focus as much as possible on our primary goal in AUSD: providing the very best educational opportunities we can for all our students.
I am continually heartened by the positive energy, excitement and support in Alameda to do all that we can to serve our students and improve our community. We should all be proud of how we have come together, what we have saved and the resources we have in hand for the work ahead