The end of the school year is always about celebrating accomplishments in the world of education. We saw what our tremendously talented Pasadena Unified School District Class of 2015 achieved throughout their academic careers which culminated in the handshake and diploma that I am always thrilled to present. PUSD’s extraordinarily talented Class of 2015 included the 2015 Tournament of Roses Queen, a Gates Millennium Scholar, National Merit Scholars and many other dedicated and hardworking students who are going on to prestigious public and private colleges and universities across the country and around the world.
There is a well-deserved sense of accomplishment that our teachers and staff should have as well. Thirteen years ago, the Class of 2015 were young impressionable students entering kindergarten and they have been taught and mentored by some of the finest teachers and staff in Southern California. Our teachers and staff are extremely skilled in their own right. They include two Los Angeles County Preschool Teachers of the Year, a Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year, a Milken Educator Award winner and a Fefferman Award winner for excellence in math and science instruction, just to name a few.
And we should not forget the contributions of our governmental, educational, non-profit and business partners who are building programs that set students up for academic success. For example, the district is working with Pasadena City College to expand a dual-enrollment program where, by the time our students graduate, they will have earned the number of credits required for an associate’s degree. Collaborate PASadena is kicking off a new phase in its long term process to improve outcomes for children, youth and families, and to strengthen the communities of Pasadena, Altadena and Sierra Madre. The Pasadena Educational Foundation continues to serve our students by providing resources for things such as enhanced arts instruction, middle school robotics, and 3-D printers across the district.
The end of the school year is also the time to reflect on how we can improve even more as a district and ensure the continued accomplishments for all in PUSD. As Superintendent and working with the Board of Trustees, it is our job to articulate where we want to go and what we need to do to ensure continuous improvement, and that we are maximizing the academic achievements of all of our students. This means planning and establishing clear strategic goals and directions. These in turn show parents, staff and the community what our priorities and values are.
The strategic directions, infused with the Seven Baldrige criteria (leadership, strategy, customers, workforce, operations, results, and measurement analysis and knowledge management) that will serve as our roadmap for the Pasadena Unified School District to become a great school district are the following:
- Dynamic Instruction – Preparing, inspiring and supporting students through engaging, relevant and differentiated instruction.
- Outstanding Staff – Supporting employees who exemplify our values by empowering, retaining and fairly compensating staff in recognition of their outstanding work.
- Quality Learning Environment – Providing facilities that are functional, clean, safe, and welcoming for students, staff and the community.
- High-Performing, Accountable Organization – Developing clear expectations and tools for employees so they can deliver top notch customer service to our patrons, instruction to our students and fiscal stewardship for the taxpayers.
- Meaningful Collaboration and Partnerships with Students, Families and Our Communities Based on our Shared Values and Vision – Using the plethora of resources in the Pasadena area to support student achievement.
These common sense priorities support the district’s vision of providing a caring, engaging and challenging educational experience for every student, every day in partnership with our families and communities. To tackle these priorities, we are implementing new operating principles focused on leadership, flexibility and accountability at the school and district level. When I make decisions as Superintendent, I must consider all of these strategic directions and maintain a steady focus on our shared priorities. From a fiscal perspective, each item must be properly funded, but not at the expense of everything else.
It is imperative that we have a balanced ship to chart the new and exciting waters that lay ahead along the path to greatness. I am committed to being a responsible and prudent leader for the students and staff of PUSD who will make decisions that are in the best interests of kids. I know that our responsibility as educators is to provide a safe and stimulating educational experience for students so we can nurture the accomplishments of the next generation of learners who are entering kindergarten this fall, the future Class of 2029.
Dr. Brian McDonald is superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District.