Superintendent’s Update September 2020

A Message From the Superintendent 

As the CZU Lightning Complex fires subside, thanks to the tireless efforts of our firefighters, our community has come together to face and overcome ongoing challenges. Santa Cruz COE and School Districts continue working in partnership to share practices, best practices, pool resources and support each other. 

We are keeping in our thoughts all the families who continue to grapple with the monumental hardship that the CZU Lightning Complex and COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause in our community. It is important that we stay vigilant and continue to practice health and safety protocols to minimize the risk of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Yours in education,

Dr. Faris Sabbah
Superintendent of Schools

Latest Update on the CZU Lightning Complex Fire

two firetrucksOur first responders continue to been doing an outstanding job fighting this fire. As of 7am on Sept 17, the CZU Lightning Complex fire has burned 86,509 acres and is currently at 95% containment, according to CalFire’s latest update.  There is minimal fire over the majority of the fire area. Crews continue to mop up and control hot spots throughout the fire area in an effort to support repopulation efforts. Hazards, like compromised trees still exist in the area. 

Smoke and haze continue to impact the region. This could help keep temperatures cool through at least Friday. Crews continue to mop up and control hot spots throughout the fire area in an effort to support repopulation efforts. Crews will continue to work to mitigate structure threat and bolster containment lines. Hazards, like compromised trees still exist in the area.

Impacted Schools Undergoing Restoration

San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District schools, Bonny Doon Elementary, and Pacific Elementary were not damaged directly by the fires, however, they are undergoing fire damage restoration for smoke, ash, and soot. The cleaning process for Bonny Doon and San Lorenzo Valley Schools is expected to last at least 3 weeks. Our hearts go out to families across Santa Cruz County who lost their homes, those who were evacuated and continue to house family and friends.  

Blueprint for a Safer Economy

According to the governor’s new Blueprint and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Districts and schools have 3 ways to consider offering in-person instruction. Each course of action listed below will require support from the local school superintendent and school board, adherence to guidance from State and local health authorities (such as physical distancing and wearing face coverings), increased capacity for surveillance testing and contact tracing, and consultation with labor representatives. Schools can:

  • Provide instruction to small cohorts of students within any of the County Risk Levels.
  • Request a waiver to open an elementary school within any of the County Risk Levels. However, waivers are not authorized within Santa Cruz County at this time.
  • After 14 days in the Substantial (red) level, schools can open schools to most students if the aforementioned requirements are in place and the local school district believes it is safe to do so.

Santa Cruz County public school Superintendents feel strongly that the decision to provide in-person services should be made carefully and based on a variety of local indicators and the ability to secure surveillance testing in order to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases and keep our students, staff, and families as safe as possible. Should our county return to the Widespread (purple) level, which our local public health authorities anticipate will happen in the coming weeks, school districts would need to consider halting in-person services once again. This can be destabilizing, confusing and traumatic for students, as well as challenging for parents, teachers, and school staff to implement.

Department Updates

CTEP Update

CTEP is up and running with online instruction. We are exited to incorporate hands-on learning by providing kits that students can work on at home while they participate in distance learning. All CTEP teachers will be getting trained on how to improve distance learning from Stephanie Sumarna who is the distance learning TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment)

Human Resources Update

In collaboration with Educational Services and Tech+, substitute teachers are being offered trainings on how to improve distance learning.

Educational Services Update

The Educational Services department continues to support districts with Distance Learning Professional Development. We are launching a collaboration with the Special Education Department and the Technology Department to support differentiation and personalized learning through distance learning, and we are also starting a book study for teachers on the book The EduProtocol Field Guide by Jon Corippo and Marlena Hebern. Substitute teachers will also benefit from a training in content and distance learning technology coming up soon. Our New Teacher Project is continuing their work on creating anti-racist educators with virtual forums, discussions and support. Child Development Programs continue to support families with resources and childcare support, along with training in Trauma Informed Care. Lastly, the department is launching an Initiative on Racial Equity and Justice, with plans for a website of resources and development of a Community of Practice.

Additionally, the Santa Cruz COE is launching a new initiative for Racial Equity and Justice. The purpose of this initiative is to provide a dynamic hub for educators engaging in courageous conversations about race with each other and their students by providing both links to online resources and an ongoing community of practice on racial justice for local educators. The website has been developed and vetted by a team of educators across the county. The next step will be to launch the community of practice to engage adults and students from our entire county. We will also be collaborating with our school districts to share resources, best practices and insights.

Alternative Education Update

As of August 31st, all Alt Ed and Adult Learning Programs are again in session via distance learning. Teachers, counselors, and support staff are working hard to support our students and families both academically and socio-emotionally. We are using a number of remote tools, including Zoom, Google Classroom, and email. Administrators maintain frequent contact with teachers and school teams to provide professional development, support and problem-solving. We continue to distribute hot lunch to students who need it, and are currently focused on engagement and re-engagement strategies, as well as planning for the eventual return to safe, in-person learning.

Tech+ Update

The Technology, Innovation, and Communications Division (Tech+) has been working diligently to ensure ALL students are provided a quality distance learning experience. Over the course of the last month, we have held close to 10 workshops for staff including a kickoff Distance Learning Bootcamp with over 400 teachers across the county. We have also worked with several districts and developing proficiency in using Zoom as an effective instructional tool and to help engage students in live synchronous class sessions. We ran a workshop for over 95 substitute teachers as well. We have launched our Computer Science initiative across the county with our grant funded Computer Science Coordinator/Teacher on Special Assignment, Scott Keller — see more about the initiative here: Our internal IT team continues to provide superior support across all of our county programs to support staff in accessing the technology tools they need to be successful. It has been a start of school like no other as ALL staff, students, and families rely on technology tools and support to ensure ALL stakeholders feel supported and secure throughout this distance learning experience. The images below represent our kickoff event for the Distance Learning Bootcamp and the Substitute training.

Special Education Update

The Special Education Department continues to push the envelope in our provision of special education services through distance learning to our students with moderate to severe disabilities. We have explored multiple virtual platforms and are utilizing new online tools like Teachers Pay Teachers and are about to begin the Stars Online Learning System. Our hope is that new interactive tools will increase student engagement in the distance learning process even more. Our staff continue to work tirelessly to support our students through whatever means possible including delivering Chromebooks and packets to homes, phone calls, mailings, Google Classrooms, virtual field trips and everyone’s favorite- Zoom.