Guest View: Seeds for extraordinary change

Lisa Andrew is the new superintendant for the Hollister School District. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

Spring has sprung in the Hollister School District! Just as spring flowers move from seed to full bloom, the Hollister School District is planting and sowing seeds with the optimism of a beautiful garden of achieving students and highly trained staff. With the vision of creating an “extraordinary learning environment for students and staff,” the district has created a Reorganization and Reallocation of Resources Plan based on staff and community input, research, past experiences, and the strengths of our families.
Step 1: Reach Out & Listen:
Before embarking on the creation of a new plan, new superintendent Dr. Lisa Andrew spent six months immersed in learning about the district, staff, and the community. She conducted a Listening and Learning Tour which included a community Meet and Greet in September, meeting with each school staff, conversations with the teachers’ union and classified staff union, discussions with parent groups, and chats with City Council members, county Board of Supervisors and law enforcement officials. Overwhelmingly, Dr. Andrew was impressed and humbled by the warmth and engagement of each person she encountered and the desire by all to contribute to the success of the district.
Trends revealed during the Listening and Learning Tour and a review of pertinent district documents and data reports included that students and staff like coming to school and feel safe at school, parents feel that staff care about their children, staff value the support they get from each other, teachers value time they have to collaborate with each other, staff enjoy living in the community where they work, and parents enjoy having staff that live in the community. Trends indicating opportunities for improvement included that some students are not achieving academically as compared to their peers, parents would like the district to broaden offerings for students to include STEM and the arts, all staff would like more opportunities to learn new skills and strategies specific to their role, and the need for the district to address its current deficit spending.
Because People Support What They Help Create:
Based on these trends, the district convened different stakeholder groups that included staff, parents, and community members to design a Reorganization and Reallocation of Resources Plan that builds on strengths and addresses opportunities for improvement. Groups investigated best practices as described in research and implemented in other districts like Hollister School District. They also analyzed staffing ratios as specified in Education Code, the California Association of School Business Officials (CABSO), and the Comparative Analysis of District Income and  Expenditures (CADIE).
After months of discussion and visits to other districts, recommendations from the groups were compiled to create a plan that is designed to create an extraordinary learning environment for students and staff by; 1) building the
capacity of all staff members to increase the social, emotional and academic achievement of all our students, 2) increasing school and program options for families, 3) increasing efficiency, effectiveness, and fiscal solvency, and 4) ensuring facilities are modern and maintained.
In recent months, the Board of Trustees has approved staffing allocations and reductions needed to implement the plan. An example is hiring a principal dedicated to all the Special Education classrooms, Mental Health Coordinator, Mental Health Interns, and two additional Special Education program specialists to support all teachers in working with students with mental health and behavioral needs.
These new staff members will also assist Special Education teachers in designing specialized lessons based on the Common Core State Standards, indicators of independence, and the developmental needs of our Special Education students. This change also included eliminating the least trained classroom assistants and staffing Special Education classrooms with fewer, but more highly trained assistants.
Becoming a “Learning Organization” for all HSD Staff
Another aspect of the plan is reallocating resources to create an extraordinary learning environment for staff. An example of this is the creation of a comprehensive, on-going training and coaching model that ensures teachers are equipped with the skills and strategies needed to address a variety of student
learning styles and the every changing technology demands of our society. Teachers will attend training sessions during their workday, on non-student days, or Saturdays and will then receive in classroom coaching on implementing what they have learned in a workshop. This provides teachers with the support they need with their students, in their classroom, at their school. This change also included eliminating some administrative positions so that some of those funds could be used for teacher training and the balance used to partially address $2.7 million in deficit spending.
Integrating Education Technology into Teaching & Learning
Other changes include investigating the creation of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) focused school sites and visual and performing arts school sites. A team will also create an Early Childhood Education Plan that includes transitional kindergarten at each school site and ensuring
students successfully transition into kindergarten and first grade. Hollister School District will continue on its journey to become a Google Level 1 Certified School District by participating in Google’s Project Culture Shift where processes from the Stanford Design School will be used to plan for student mastery of Google apps such as Google docs, slides, and spreadsheets. To support this effort, the District will hire its first Educational Technology Teacher to support teachers in integrating technology into their lessons. Next year all students will have new reading and writing materials as the District will be adopting a new English language arts and English language development curriculum, costing the district
approximately $1 million.
These are just a few examples of the new plan. In coming months, staff from each school site will be reaching out to families for input and partnership in implementing improvements specific to each school. Each school site will build a Key Communicators Network, design a yearly signature event, and construct “their story”, the information about what makes their school an extraordinary learning environment.
While difficult decisions had to be made and system changes throughout the district and at school sites still need to be implemented, the district and the community have a tremendous opportunity to create a school district where students thrive socially, emotionally, and academically and deficit spending is
eliminated. The desire to be an extraordinary learning environment for students and staff will take everyone pulling together and in the same direction. If you would like to be involved in this effort, please contact the Hollister School District at (831) 630-6300.

From Dr. Lisa Andrew, superintendent of the Hollister School District.

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