Challenges and Achievements

PUSD Superintendent McDonald assesses the District in “State of Schools”

Published : Tuesday, September 22, 2015 | 5:01 PM

PUSD Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald.

School board members and local officials at the 'State of Schools" address.

Saying “We are poised to do great things,” Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald delivered an optimistic assessment of the District, but admitted that the District still faces some challenges.

McDonald said that nearly 36 percent met or exceeded the standards for English, while approximately 29 percent met or exceeded in Mathematics. This would place the students just below the state average, which is 44 percent in English and and 34 percent in Mathematics.

Positioning the results as an opportunity for the district to do better, MacDonald said, “The test results provide a more authentic picture of students’ abilities, which allows teachers to tailor instruction to their needs.”

Pasadena school’s have also begun to rise slightly this year, said McDonald, reaching 17,100 students this year.

Elementary school enrollment has increased, but McDonald said “There is room for improvement at the secondary level.” McDonald cited Jackson Elementary School which will enroll 100 new students this school year, as a success. The school was slated to be closed just a few years ago.

PUSD President Dr. Elizabeth Pomeroy also spoke at the “State of Schools” address at Elliot Arts Magnet in Pasadena this morning, as did the individual board members.

“PUSD is engaging in meaningful communication between families and schools, but this is an area in which we can still improve,” said Pomeroy. “This year, we are continuing new ways to foster communication using a variety of dynamic and engaging platforms to overcome some long standing issues we have had about accessing timely and accurate information. Most importantly we want to change the narrative and highlight the great work of our teachers, our students, and our world class partners.”

The PUSD Board has made communication, collaboration and community engagement its top priority for this upcoming year, Pomeroy added.

Pomeroy explained that family and community engagement is a major focus of the board this year. “The importance of this engagement in supporting students at every grade level is well-documented,” she said.

“PUSD is investing in this engagement,” she continued. The school is leveraging LCAP (locally controlled) funds to help the investment in community collaboration, she said.

For the first time, Pomeroy reported, the board has approved funding for skilled community assistance at all schools to support parent and community engagement.

The address also honored student Kimberly Meija, a graduate from John Muir High School, who was awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship, one of only 1,000 students in the US to achieve the honor.

The school district has reported achievements in other non-academic areas as well. The number of students who are overweight or obese has declined by 11 percent in the past five years, according to Ann Rector, coordinator for the district’s health programs.

Schools now have better access to meals and new gardening programs, where students grow vegetables that they will eventually eat.

The district also saw achievements in higher education and scholarship with 1000 students receiving a total of $15 million in scholarships., to schools such as UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Davis, said Pomeroy. Many students also continue their education closer to home, with 55 percent of PUSD students going on to Pasadena City College.

Many of the board members also touted the District’s advances in technology both great and small. Board Member Roy Boulghourjian pointed out that the “State of Schools” address was taking place in the newly restored auditorium at Eliot Magnet school.

“This is a state of the art facility,” he said.

The district will also make a heavy investment in technology, increasing the number of “connected devices.” and making sure that every student in the district will have a laptop ofrtablet by August 2017, said Board Member Patrick Cahalan. The district will also issue a remaining $100 million bond in May to finish all district construction promised under Measure TT.

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