Superintendent’s Update February 2020

A Message from the Superintendent

Dear Santa Cruz County Office of Education Community,

The County Office of Education (COE) continues its effort to engage the community and make transparent our commitment to equity. In January, we executed two community events to promote the roll-out of our Strategic Plan entitled “Delivering on our Promise.” At both Watsonville City Plaza and the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz, the events included student performances, speeches by dignitaries, and were very well attended.

Our efforts to provide our districts with tools to analyze their own data have culminated with the launch of a data analytics portal to quickly help school staff answer questions about their students. Currently, the portal only has California Healthy Kids Data and California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) data. With the help of Miguel Rocha, CEO Data Scientist and Jason Borgen, Chief Technology Officer, we hope to expand the different types of data available for educators to better understand the needs of the students we serve. 

We have so many opportunities to help and support our students. I feel so fortunate to live in a community and work within an organization so committed to disrupting inequitable practices and advocating for the diverse community of students and families in Santa Cruz County.

Yours in education,

Dr. Faris Sabbah
Superintendent of Schools

County Board Action, February 20th

This month, the Santa Cruz County Board of Education will consider the following for approval:

  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) required to approve Pacific Collegiate Charter School’s Renewal Petition
  • Certification List of Supervisors of Attendance
  • 2020-2021 Santa Cruz COE and Student Programs Calendars
  • Vote for 2020 Ballot for CSBA Delegate Assembly
  • Board Policy 5137 regarding Positive School Climate
  • Use of for use by Cypress Charter High School
  • Resolution #20-03 in Support of Student and School Climate Action
  • Resolution #20-04 regarding Temporary Short-Term Cash Loans to Santa Cruz County School Districts
  • Schedule a Special Board Meeting on June 25, 2020 to Comply with the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Requirements

Department Updates

New Language Interpretation Pathway

The Career Technical Education Partnership (CTEP) is preparing for the launch of a new language interpretation program that will be available to bi-literate students countywide. Orientation will be held on July 13 (Location TBD) and classes are slated to start on August 25th. For more information about the course, please contact Henry Michel.

Educational Services Update

Ed. Services continues to provide high-quality professional development to all 10 school districts. We recently hosted trainings specifically tailored to Science, Mathematics, and English Language Development curriculum. We have also been providing support to districts on their Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP) through comprehensive training and writing sessions. The Department is looking forward to the next Countywide Science Initiative training session, which will take place at the end of February. Finally, Ed. Services has identified their goals for 2020-2021, and is working to create a countywide Professional Learning Plan and a Communications Plan to better support all of our county stakeholders.

Human Resources Update

The HR Department has been working diligently to prepare for the 2020 Annual County Wide Teacher Recruitment Fair. The fair will be held March 7, 2020 from 9-12 in The Santa Cruz COE Tech Center Conference Room.

Alternative Education Update


Fourteen CAC graduates have registered for Cabrillo College so far this year. Sequoia Culinary Arts students demonstrated their culinary and hospitality skills by cooking for and serving at the Santa Cruz COE’s Strategic Plan event held in Watsonville on January 21, 2020. And finally, Sequoia’s “Build Your Own Business” class continues to grow in popularity.

Santa Cruz County Cypress Charter High School

At Cypress, teachers are planning a week of cross-curricular lessons so that every teacher in each subject will have a related topic. The first focus of these cross-curricular lessons is Middle East. Topics to be covered will include Middle-Eastern art, literature, history, foreign policy, and oil. The goal of this cross-curricular teaching plan is to help students form connections to a common theme across curricular areas. What students will learn about foreign policy in history, for example, will be informed by the lessons on Middle East oil in chemistry and environmental science, and more.

Court & Community Schools

Students at Dewitt Anderson have been actively engaged in an Art Appreciation and Application class. Each week, students are introduced to a new artist and/or art form. Each Friday, the students create their own works of art based on the artists and mediums studied that week. This work is a collaborative effort between Rebecca Bing, teacher at Dewitt Anderson and Nessa, a fabulous visiting art teacher. The students’ artwork may be viewed in the lobby and Alt. Ed. departments of the Santa Cruz COE. The installation in the Alternative Education department showcases art developed through a Women’s Studies unit. Please feel free to visit to view the students’ art!


The Technology, Innovation, and Communications Division (Tech+) continues to support students, staff, and our districts in technology and innovation. The Google mail and calendar migration was a success. We now have 100% of staff using Google for email and calendar aligning with the communication and calendaring system of our districts. Our Tech+ team continues to train and support our users in becoming power users and recently sent out a needs assessments to build out new training options. We have also finalized our Voice Over IP phone system, new clock/bell schedule system, and emergency notification system at Chrysalis. Finally, we are excited to bring leaders from all over the region to our COE on March 11th for the 2nd Innovative Leadership Summit! We will have a superintendent panel, breakout sessions regarding innovative practices in schools, and a closing keynote by renowned Stanford Math Professor, Jo Boaler.

Special Education Update

The Special Education Department was happy to host Inside Education this month. Participants toured the Hub as well as our Natural Bridges High School Classroom for students with Autism. The highlight of the day was our Post-Senior Student Panel during which participants had the opportunity to ask our students questions. It’s a wonderful annual event which allows us to showcase some of our programs.

Student Support Services Update

On Friday, January 24, 2020 we hosted over 400 students for the 2020 Civic Summit. Students from Alternative Family Education, Aptos, Cypress, Delta, El Nido, Harbor, Mount Madonna, OASIS, Pacific Collegiate, Pajaro Valley, San Lorenzo Valley, Scotts Valley, Soquel, and Watsonville High School were in attendance. This event featured city council members from the various jurisdictions, judges, our local District Attorney, Sheriff, Senator Bill Monning, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, and a number of County Supervisors.

Students shared how having smaller groups helped as they could really engage with the various speakers and get thorough explanations. Overall, participants thought the summit was useful, informative and appreciated being able to ask questions to their representatives directly. Students noted how they enjoyed “learning more about the people who are working to make our community better.” Teachers shared how it was helpful learning about “opportunities to hear about how young people can engage civically-specifically how to reach out, how to participate, and how to exercise their votes.”

COE is partnering with the Sheriff’s Office and Probation to launch services under a recently received Justice Assistance Grant (JAG). The grant will help fund a Sheriff’s School Resource Officer (SRO) Sergeant for the county, who will help coordinate all SROs as well as implement an anti-bullying curriculum. The Probation Department and the COE will expand a prevention program in south county called Project Success that aims to offer support, mentorship, work and counseling to students at-risk of school drop-out or probation involvement, hopefully intervening upstream and preventing negative outcomes before they occur. Our newly hired Safety Director, Jennifer Buesing, will help oversee the grant, its outcomes, as well as school safety plans, meetings, and improvements in communication with first responders, trainings, threat assessment, and critical incident responses.