Superintendent’s Update December 2020

A Message From the Superintendent 

Tonight at midnight, a Stay At Home Order will take effect for Santa Cruz County. This order was first announced by Governor Newsom on Dec. 3 and is triggered when ICU capacity reaches 15%.  It’s important to note that the Stay At Home orders do not impact schools. Guidance for school districts allows those that have already reopened the option to remain open even under a Stay-At-Home order. Although this order does not limit distance learning and in-person services being offered by our schools, it does impact the lives of our school community in a variety of ways. Some of the changes include no outdoor or indoor dining but continuing to allow take-out only. Retail must operate at no more than 20% capacity.  Dominican and Watsonville hospital beds and Intensive Care Unit spaces are filling up with COVID-19 patients at an alarming rate. We must continue to remain vigilant and support students and families who are most impacted by this pandemic and take all important steps necessary to mitigate its transmission. 

In a letter to the legislature, all school superintendents and charter leaders of Santa Cruz County urged state leaders to prioritize the vaccination of K-12 and early education teachers, administrators, and staff to facilitate our state’s public schools and early learning and care centers to provide in-person services to all students. This pandemic has put a spotlight on education’s critical role in our society, not only in preparing our future workforce but in allowing the functioning of normal daily life for working families. Without question, teachers and school staff are essential workers who should be given priority to be among the first to receive the COVID vaccine. 

As the County Superintendent, I am privileged to not only experience the outstanding services provided by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, but also to heroic efforts of our school community in the midst of this pandemic. I am struck by the profound importance of our work. The skill and caring exhibited by individuals at all levels within our schools who are working so hard each day has filled me with awe and gratitude. I have a deeply renewed sense of hopefulness for the future of our children and our ability to meet the needs of every student. I am reminded of the vital role our schools play in dismantling inequitable practices so our students can fulfill their dreams and aspirations. 

Yours in education,

Dr. Faris Sabbah
Superintendent of Schools


Department Updates

Safety Department

Our Justice and Gender (JAG) Grant Student Success Project continued to support at risk youth in their attendance, credit accrual and emotional/social well being, while preventing youth from entering the juvenile justice system. Our two Project Specialists have successfully maintained contact with 100% of the students on their caseloads. Staff have found creative virtual ways to support these students, and their families, offering support, resources, and successful referrals to community resources. Students participating in this program received more credit this first quarter this year than they did the first quarter of last year, pre COVID-19.

Tech+ Update

The Technology, Innovation, and Communications Division (Tech+) has been working continuously to support all students and staff with their unprecedented use of technology this Fall. The IT Department completed their work to finalize the COE efforts in their coordinating of the Broadband Infrastructure and Improvement Grant for all 4 small school districts which provided construction, equipment, and services costs to bring 1Gbps fiber optics to all 4 small communities future-proofing their connectivity for student and staff. Working closely with the safety team and Superintendent’s office, the Data Team has been working to simplify the COVID-19 Surveillance Testing System (STS) for all school staff and personnel across the county. Managing the backend appointment software, school employee data, and weekly data extracts to Stanford the STS has completed close to 2000 tests. In regards to distance learning, the Distance Learning and Edtech Department, including TICAL, has worked closely with partners, CDW-G, Google for Education, CUE, Inc. to facilitate the 2nd Distance Learning Leadership Summit supporting over 400 educational leaders across the state of California. There were 2 days of learning with over 30 sessions supporting leaders in distance learning including several presenters from COE’s Ed Services Division and student panel with the COE’s Student Leadership Team. Learn more about the summit here: Finally, the Computer Science team successfully facilitated a weeklong and countywide effort to support the national Computer Science Education Week. With over 50 families and 100 teachers who participated, it was a success with events for students from TK-12 grades of English and Spanish speaking!

Families. Learn more about the COE’s Computer Science initiative: Website 

Educational Services Update

The C&I Department launched a county wide “Think Tank” for teachers around distance learning and hybrid instruction. The group met for the first time on December 9th, and shared resources, brainstormed ideas, and created a Community of Practice for collaboration around best practices. This will be an ongoing group, meeting again in January and beyond. The team is also hard at work helping to plan Professional Development for district PD days, including Soquel and Pajaro Valley. We are all looking forward to collaborating with our districts. In our collaboration with Tech+, we are hard at work to develop and launch a video PD library that all district teachers and administrators can access. This will be launched in January, and will be a great resource for our districts.

Child Development Resource Center (CDRC)

The CDRC held a bilingual music workshop with José-Luis Orozco. His new book, “Sing with Me / Canta conmigo” is available now and was the topic for the virtual workshop on Wednesday, December 9 at 6:30 pm. The event was well attended by families!

fists raisedEducation Town Hall on Racial Justice & Equity with a Focus on Students of African Descent 

The Santa Cruz COE African American Student Achievement Task Force is hosting a virtual Zoom webinar on January 19, 2021 titled Education Town Hall on Racial Justice and Equity: Focus on Students of African Descent. 
Join the webinar here: