SUSD leaders get crash course for school-site reviews

Board member Laura Underwood listens to a presentation from James Foster Elementary School. Caleb Lunetta / The Signal.

Held in the multi-purpose room of Santa Clarita Elementary School, dozens of Saugus Union School District site administrators and faculty gave board members a crash course in the data about their respective campuses.

The purpose, according to SUSD Superintendent Colleen Hawkins, was a changeup from previous models where the board received site reports from staff over the course of a few months’ worth of meetings.

The board, Hawkins said, could learn about the data in a workshop style session that allowed staff and the trustee to interact and exchange questions, comments and concerns with one another.

“This is an opportunity for us to come together as a group and really talk about the data,” said Hawkins.

The format, as it was set up on Tuesday night, had the five SUSD board members sitting down at groups of tables with the staff and administrators of three school sites each, one from within their trusteeship and two outside of that.

The board members each sat and listened to the presentations, with school site staff working through a set list of similar topics specific to their school site such as student engagement, state test scores and parent involvement.

For instance, Laura Arrowsmith, SUSD trustee for Area 2, heard from James Foster Elementary on things such as their 95.7% attendance rate, how 96.6% of parents that responded to a school site survey calling the school either outstanding or good.

Arrowsmith heard directly from school site staff how James Foster saw slight declines in state testing scores for math in the 3rd, 4th and 6th grades between 2018 and 2019, and the overall school test scores did not change from last year with 51% of all grade levels meeting/exceeding standards by grade level.

However, Arrowsmith also heard not only how the school is working to ensure that for the 2019-20 state tests they see an increase, but how Arrowsmith as a board member can assist.

James Foster staff said they are using new programs to support their students in both math and english language arts, bringing in instructional assistants to help aid students in smaller groups, increasing math fluency at earlier grades, in addition to a number of other supportive programs.

Each school shared what they struggled with that year, what they excelled at, and what they’re preparing for, or already practicing, to improve the 2019-20 school year. And each board member heard them out.

“Every site has its strengths and areas of growth,” said SUSD Board President Julie Olsen. “What I am looking at is the collaboration and the exchange of best practices and ways to really lift one another up.”

Overall each school gave a presentation on their mission statement, student enrollment, student engagement, school culture, student achievement/supports in both mathematics and english language arts, positive behaviors, interventions and supports and professional learning communities.

At the end of the presentations, faculty, teachers and board members each participated in an exercise that asked them to write down what they believe needs to change this year to have a better impact on student achievement as well as any suggested changes to the Local Control and Accountability Plan for the district.

Those suggestions are scheduled to be shared by Hawkins at a future board meeting.

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