End of Year Message
Posted on 05/31/2018
Superintendent's end of year messageThis week we gather for numerous graduation ceremonies, as we watch DJUSD graduates celebrate the beginning of a new chapter. This year 691 students earned diplomas and certificates from our school district. Each student has a unique story and experience, and their accomplishments have been supported through the care and dedication of teachers and other staff members of our District.

As I reflect on the 2017-18 school year, I am reminded of our many notable achievements. Our schools, students and staff members have been recognized for their excellence locally and nationally. The Class of 2018 has earned awards and accolades in music, athletics, agriculture, robotics and so much more, and will be attending colleges and universities, or starting jobs all over the nation. Pioneer Elementary was named a California Distinguished School and DJUSD earned the distinction as one of the 2018 Exemplary School Districts recognized by the State of California for making an impact on student outcomes for our Special Education Inclusion Program. Additionally, ten DJUSD staff members were honored for their commitment to excellence through the Yolo County Salute to Educator recognition, and the list goes on and on.

Challenges and Partnership
This year has also posed challenges. In our fifth year under the California Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), we continue to confront funding challenges as well as a regional employee compensation gap. The Board of Education has made it a strategic goal to compensate DJUSD employees at or above the regional average. To make strides to close this compensation gap, the District worked with bargaining units and mutually agreed on a 3.5% ongoing pay increase and an additional 2% one-time payment for all employees, using new state money and $1 million in District reserve funds.

The Board of Education and leadership team have been thoughtful, collaborative and transparent during this process and will continue to look for ways to reduce the deficit by finding efficiencies and capturing cost savings through retirements and the prudent use of scarce resources. Like every year, our schools may see changes in course offerings or sections of certain classes at the secondary level, as we look closely at student interest and enrollment. While change can be disconcerting, it is important to understand that school sites make these decisions by remaining student-centered and guided by our three instructional goals:
1. Promote 21st century learning
2. Close the achievement gap
3. Provide safe and inclusive environments

Growth and Opportunities
The 2017-18 school year has also been memorable for the way high school students took a national stage to elevate youth voice for school safety and more. In our own district, students in junior high and high school have come together to respond collectively and thoughtfully after incidents of hate speech occurred on campuses. In addition, students responded to the tragic Parkland, Florida school shootings with planned peaceful demonstrations and activism. In March, our Board of Education adopted Resolution No. 37-18 Safe Schools and a legislative letter of support for the Sandy Hook Promise H.R. 4909, Stop School Violence Act; and H.R. 2598, Gun Violence Restraining Order Act. These documents can be found attached to the Board of Education agenda online. DJUSD student and governance efforts, underscore how as a community we are dedicated to ensuring that students feel safe in school and that our school community remains an appropriate place to engage in learning and talking about meaningful topics.

As part of this important effort, DJUSD also called on the community to engage in a month-long Safety Task Force to identify risks and find ways to implement school safety improvements in a timely manner. The work of our Safety Task Force has been rolled into our Facility Master Planning Process and a potential school improvement bond measure under discussion by the Board of Education for the November 2018 ballot.

The goal of the measure would be to improve safety and help our graduates achieve high levels of success by updating schools with 21st-century classrooms to help prepare for college and 21st century careers. It is popular to argue that all facility renovations should come out of our district’s annual budget. However, school funding in California does not actually work that way. Our district receives per-pupil funding from the California Department of Education for day-to-day education and some basic repairs and maintenance, but not for major modernization and construction projects. I encourage those interested in this topic to learn more at our Updating and Improving Davis Schools website

Listening to Students and our Community
Perhaps one of the most important efforts this year occurred when the Board of Education took a unique step to conduct a Student Listening Tour; Board Trustees visited a number of school sites to ask students about their school and educational experience. The purpose of the listening tour was to allow Board of Education members to hear directly from students about their experience(s) in DJUSD regarding Belonging, Engagement, Connectedness and Safety.

At the fundamental level, DJUSD is committed to hosting safe and inclusive environments for all students. We know that students thrive when they receive social emotional supports most often found in authentic adult and peer relationships. Our District focuses on student social emotional health and well-being as a necessary component of 21st century education.

Looking ahead, we also know that to be successful in the future, we will need to equip DJUSD graduates with a host of skills for an evolving and increasingly interdependent world. To this end, this school year we embarked on a year-long community engagement process, with feedback from more than one thousand individuals to identify the outcomes that we, as a community, believe are important for student success in college, career, and beyond. The DJUSD Graduate Profile will be an important guide post for reviewing, developing and enhancing school programs and practices as well as district initiatives, facilities and professional development for years to come.

In DJUSD, we have much to be proud and to celebrate. Coming early this summer, we will be revealing a brand new District website. The site will be user friendly, ADA compliant and mobile responsive. With improved navigation and up-to-date calendar events, news and information, it is certain to become a primary resource for parents, students and staff. School sites will also see website upgrades in the 2018-19 school year. This is just one more step in our ongoing efforts to provide communication improvements for our school community.

It is truly an honor and privilege to be a part of the DJUSD family. I offer my congratulations to our esteemed 2018 graduates, and look forward to welcoming our youngest kindergarteners in the fall. I thank parents, neighbors, partners and the Davis community the for the ongoing support and commitment to all our students. Finally, I want to thank the phenomenal teachers, support and administrative staff of this district, who work tirelessly in support of our students; your contributions have not gone unnoticed.

Have a safe and restful summer.

John A. Bowes, Ed. D.