Superintendent speaks to community during informal ‘chat’
by Maddy Houk
Sep 13, 2012 | 1008 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
About 20 adults stepped back into the classroom at Patterson High School on Saturday, Sept. 8, as Superintendent Phil Alfano of Patterson Joint Unified School District led the first of several Superintendent Chats.

Parents, school employees and school district trustees Kay Johnson and Amy Hussar attended the event, during which Alfano described his personal life and moved on to address the school budget, test scores, teacher training and campus lockdowns.

Alfano said the primary goal of the school district is to ensure excellence in education and cultivate healthy, contributing citizens.

Toward that aim, he said, the district hopes to improve its technology, engage students and maximize their learning, close the achievement gap, expect children to perform at a high level, and provide a safe, healthy environment for them.

Budget challenges ahead

The district is trying to do the most it can with dwindling financial resources, Alfano said.

According to Alfano, the local school board supports Proposition 30, a tax initiative by Gov. Jerry Brown that will appear on the November ballot.

If the proposal passes and taxes are raised, the best-case scenario is that funding would remain the same for school districts throughout the state, Alfano said.

If the measure fails, he explained, the district would have to make substantial cuts. Patterson Unified would lose an average of $457 per student — about $2.4 million in total — for the 2012-13 school year.

“We are sensitive in these times with our budget cuts, making sure we are working as efficiently as possible,” Alfano told the gathering.

On a positive note, Alfano mentioned that the district recently received $17 million in state hardship funds for modernization at Las Palmas Elementary, Northmead Elementary, Grayson Charter, Patterson High and Del Puerto High schools.

Also, the district upgraded its telephone system during the summer to improve parent and student communication, and the district has established a social media presence on Facebook.

Enhancing learning, safety

On the academic side of things, Alfano emphasized that district administrators and teachers look closely at classroom instruction, the results of tests, parent involvement and school facilities.

He spoke about teacher training, the use of technology in schools, and student testing and achievement.

Alfano said, for example, that fewer students in the district were scoring “below basic” or “far below basic” on statewide standardized tests given each spring, but he said more needs to be done to help English-learner students who are not improving as expected.

Alfano also assured listeners that the district works closely with police and each school has plans for emergencies.

“I want to assure you we have solid plan with law enforcement in place,” Alfano said. “Most of the time, when schools go into lockdown, it’s because there’s a police presence in the area.

”We are aware of (each) lockdown — close the blinds and go on with business as usual.”

Offering feedback

During the meeting parents asked questions of the superintendent, mostly relating to test scores and use of technology in the classroom.

Roshwanda Postell, a Patterson Unified parent, said after the meeting that she attended to make sure the district understood the importance of using electronic resources in the classroom. She said she was happy to hear that local schools use Ed Modo software.

“From my experience with Ed Modo, teachers can download their lessons and parents are able to help their kids more effectively at home,” she said. “Teaching our kids how to use technology and finding resources through technology is greatly needed in the 21st century. Schools are designed to prepare our kids for the real world.”

Nancy Anders, the chairwoman of Patterson Education Foundation, appreciated the chance to attend the meeting. The foundation raises money and presents grants each year to science and arts teachers at local schools, she told the gathering.

“What I really, really appreciate is that Phil is making the community a part of the school district, and I really think that is important,” Anders said. “It’s very important that all of us — senior citizens, parents and community members — are all responsible for our children.”

Alfano said he was pleased with the attendance and would announce the next quarterly chat via the school district’s newsletter, in a recorded phone message to families and on the district’s Facebook site.

Johnson, one of the district’s trustees, said the talk highlighted Alfano’s approachable personality.

Alfano took over as school superintendent July 1, following Esther Corral-Carlson, who resigned from the district in May after the majority of board members sought her dismissal.

“Phil Alfano is a wonderful go-to guy,” Johnson said. “I believe when you mention your concerns, he hears you and he listens — he’s approachable and he’s comfortable. You can talk to him. He’s a comfortable person to talk to with about any issues of concern.”

Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187, ext. 22, or maddy@pattersonirrigator.com. At a glance

•Patterson Joint Unified School District posts announcements on its website, www.patterson.k12.ca.us, and its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/PJUSD95363.

•The district office, 510 Keystone Blvd., can be reached by phone at 895-7700.

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