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A Note from the Superintendent

November’s holidays, whether Veteran’s Day or Thanksgiving, highlight our focus on gratitude. There are so many people who deserve our thanks for all they do on behalf of students, but I’d like to especially thank our teachers, school site staff, and school administrators, who put equity in education into action every day. On behalf of our county and especially its children, thank you to our education workforce, elected officials, and community partners who make children their number one priority every day.
 
The superintendents who lead San Mateo County’s 23 school districts also deserve a shout out. As power outages rattled our county throughout the month of October, the county’s superintendents provided steady leadership throughout – preparing for outages, communicating with families and the County Office, and committing to keeping schools open whenever possible. Running a school without power is not easy; however, our county’s superintendents worked late into the evenings and through the weekends finding ways to make it work. Thank you for putting the education and needs of our children first.
 
As you settle in over the holiday weekend with family and friends, I hope you will find the time to thank a teacher, childcare provider, administrator, or other school staff member for all they do to support San Mateo County’s greatest asset – our children.

Nancy Magee, San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools

Spotlight on Education: Small School Districts Making a Difference



San Mateo County has a rich culture of local governance, with 20 municipalities spanning its 455 square miles. These small units of government allow for more community members to participate in local decision-making and develop stronger connections across the county’s neighborhoods. This culture of local control extends to public education as well; San Mateo County has 23 unique school districts, each with its own elected board of trustees.
 
In this edition of Spotlight, we shine light on the smallest of these school districts in the county: Bayshore Elementary, Brisbane, La Honda-Pescadero Unified, Portola Valley, and Woodside. These five districts, with their combined enrollment of just over 2,100, also reflect the great diversity within the county. Bayshore Elementary, abutting San Francisco in the northeastern most corner of the county, is the smallest district geographically, while La Honda-Pescadero located on the opposite side of the county, covers the most territory, including coastal, agricultural, and mountain communities. Per pupil spending ranges from almost $13,000 in the Bayshore Elementary School District to just over $25,000 in the Woodside School District. The racial and ethnic composition of each district is also unique and reflective of the communities in which they are located.
 
Very small school districts face a variety of opportunities and challenges not shared by their larger counterparts. Their small size can help them be more nimble in their decision-making and systems change efforts. Their faculty and staff often know students and their families more personally, resulting in a close-knit and connected community. On the flip side, they still have to run an effective school district that includes things like hiring and investing in teachers and staff, managing facilities, responding to emergencies, and making reports to the state and federal government. Because they do not enjoy the same economies of scale as larger districts, small districts can be particularly challenging to operate. Administrators and staff often wear many hats, while always on the look-out for opportunities to collaborate and leverage resources.
 
Although San Mateo County’s five small districts differ in many ways, they are all laser-focused on improving outcomes for their students – all of their students. Each is committed to equity and recognizes that, given its small size, fulfilling this commitment often requires creative and collaborative approaches. In this edition of Spotlight, you can learn about some of the creative strategies these districts are pursuing to provide all of their students with an enriching education and a safe and supportive environment.

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Bayshore Launches its Scratch Kitchen Lunch Program

A short line forms at the salad bar at the Bayshore Elementary School in Daly City as students wait to select fresh vegetables and fruit to add to their hot lunch. The salad bar is part of a new “scratch kitchen” lunch program at the school, and students, parents, and administrators couldn’t be happier.
[ read more ]
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Brisbane Tackles Chronic Absenteeism

Brisbane School District students at work.
After data on the California School Dashboard indicated that chronic absenteeism remained high for some student groups in the Brisbane School District, Superintendent Ronan Collver and his leadership team worked together with the San Mateo County Office of Education to understand and address the situation. After looking more closely at the data, the team concluded that chronic absenteeism was of concern across all student groups and made it a district-wide priority. [ read more ]
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La Honda-Pescadero Students Score High on the Smarter Balanced Assessments

La Honda-Pescadero students collaborate.
The students of Pescadero High School (PHS) knocked it out of the park on the 2019 Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), an annual test administered to students in grades 3-8 and 11 in California public schools. The percentage of the school’s 11th grade students who met or exceeded the English/language arts and math standards far outstripped the state averages – 81 versus 57 percent for English/language arts, and 71 versus 32 percent for mathematics. [ read more ]
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Portola Valley Unveils School Building Designs

The Portola Valley School District unveiled new school building designs for its Corte Madera and Ormondale campuses.
Earlier this month, 50-60 community members gathered for the unveiling of schematic designs for new school buildings at the Corte Madera and Ormondale campuses in Portola Valley. The group was thrilled to see their ideas come alive in the designs. [ read more ]
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Woodside Supports English Learners

Woodside School District staff work individually with students.
This year, under Superintendent Steve Frank’s leadership, the Woodside School District made a big push to improve  outcomes for each and every student. With the support of the district’s school board, Superintendent Frank restructured a roving substitute role into a full-time English Learner specialist position. The new position has allowed the district to provide students who are learning English with more support, engage more closely with their families, and help other teachers become more effective at supporting these students as well.  [ read more ]

Video Highlight

The Value of Internships for Companies and Students

The County Office of Education’s Student Internship Program provides local public high school students with an opportunity to gain experience in a field of interest while earning money and developing critical skills. Employers have found that internship programs are highly successful at preparing homegrown talent for their future workforce while building a leadership pipeline within their organizations.

San Mateo County
School District Highlights

South San Francisco Unified School District students present to the San Mateo County Board of Education.

Schools Celebrate Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day

More than 100 students, parents, and teachers participated in Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day, on November 14, to celebrate civil rights icon Ruby Bridges who at age five became one of the first African-Americans to integrate into an all-white school at only five years old. The day was initiated last year by fifth-grade students from South San Francisco Unified School District’s Martin Elementary School. This year, the students garnered support from the South San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education, City of South San Francisco, the San Mateo County Board of Education, and other schools from across the county.

Spotlight on SMCOE
Programs and Events

School administrators, government officials, and nonprofit leaders attend the Policy, Partnerships, and Practice conference.

County Office Collaborates on P-3 Conference

The County Office of Education and Silicon Valley Community Foundation were among the key partners who co-hosted a one-day conference on promoting and building effective early learning communities in the Bay Area. School administrators, government officials, and nonprofit leaders explored how to use policy, partnership, and practice to create successful preschool through third-grade (P-3) programs. County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee participated in a panel to discuss the local impact of recent policy developments and share how the County Office of Education supports P-3 alignment in the Bay Area and offered up the closing call to action.

Keynote speaker Sameer Jha shares his experience growing up and coming out at age 14.

County Office Hosts Youth Advocacy and Social Summit

More than 115 high school youth and their allies from 13 high schools attended the Youth Advocacy and Social Summit (YAASS), an annual conference that supports LGBTQ+ students and systems to make all schools safer and more inclusive. The summit opened with keynote speaker Sameer Jha, who shared his journey on becoming an LGBTQ+ activist after coming out at age 14. Local organizations, including Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, Outlet, Health Connected, and the Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network, shared information and resources on improving school climate through supporting and protecting LGBTQ+ youth.

Students learn how to safely ride their bikes.

Safe Routes to School is Awarded a $125,000 Grant

SMCOE's Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program received a $125,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to improve walking and bicycling safety around several schools in San Mateo County. The grant will be used to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety education, provide school safety kits and bicycle helmets, increase collaboration between school and city staff on transportation-related issues, and encourage schools to participate in safe transportation events such as Bike to School Day and Walking Wednesdays.

Looking Ahead at SMCOE

The County Office of Education will launch its Visual, Performing, and Media Arts Strategic Plan on January 15, 2020.

Register for These Upcoming Events and Programs

Launch Party for Visual, Performing, and Media Arts Strategic Plan
Over the past year, the County Office of Education partnered with local arts education leaders to develop the county’s first Visual, Performing, and Media Arts Strategic Plan. District administrators, educators, and community members are invited to attend a launch party for the strategic plan on January 15, 2020, at B Street and Vine from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Additional Events and Professional Development
Visit the County Office of Education's website for information on additional events and professional development opportunities.
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