Collaborating with Arts Organizations

“I try to give people a different way of looking at their surroundings. That’s art to me.” ~Maya Lin~ San Luis Obispo County is a beautiful slice of California located three hours south of the Bay Area of California and about three hours north of Los Angeles, stretching over 70 miles down the 101 along the Pacific Coast and inland through desert and mountains to Kern County, covering 3,616 square miles, with just over 284,000 in population. Agriculture, tourism, building & design construction, knowledge & innovation, advanced manufacturing, health services, and energy are some of our major economic drivers. What does each of these economic drivers have in common? “Arts-Based Leadership.” Many corporations are recognizing arts-based learning as an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Additionally, some firms are using the arts as a pathway to explore non-art topics such as leadership, change, and innovation in business. San Luis Obispo County is fortunate to have growing Arts Partnerships for many of our schools, districts, and communities. These partnerships acknowledge four profound leadership impacts. Involvement in the arts helps us quiet the mind and puts us in touch with inner wisdom. The arts create bonding experiences that facilitate collaboration, and accelerate the ability to get to the root causes of an issue. Arts-based activities can be used strategically to create safety, build trust, find shared values, and shift perceptions. Finally, arts-based learning, along with whole-brain creativity and design thinking, is shown to improve creative skills. Local arts organizations are partnering with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education in support of arts outreach. Our partnerships provide opportunities for students to experience and participate in the arts with professional artists in professional settings. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education and Opera San Luis Obispo recently hosted the summer Opera Camp for students and plans to partner for multiple student activities related to the October 12th and 13th productions of South Pacific at the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo. To date, this partnership has afforded over 7,000 students the opportunity to experience and work with professional artists in a professional venue. Funds for recent events were provided by Mary Bianco, David Burt, Virginia Severa, the Moca Foundation, the Paso Robles Education Alliance, and the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education....

Welcome Back SLOCOE Staff!

SLOCOE welcomed back approximately 200 employees during our annual Back to School Breakfast! All of our staff members were able to spend the morning mingling with fellow co-workers, while enjoying a nice breakfast at our Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School. Each division spent the afternoon together reviewing and planning their Strategic Plan for the new school year. Employee Pulse Survey - 2019 In other SLOCOE news, SLOCOE distributed the results of the first Employee Pulse Survey to all staff in August. The SLOCOE conducted an employee pulse survey in the spring of 2019 for the purposes of obtaining employee feedback about the organization and planning for SLOCOE’s future goals and success. Ninety-eight (98) SLOCOE employees completed the Employee Pulse Survey resulting in a 49% completion rate. Overall employees indicate that SLOCOE has a great environment, positive image, and is a safe and a wonderful place to work. Employees feel SLOCOE cares, is kind, and compassion is shown to one another. Our mission of promoting student success by supporting the work of local school districts, delivering specialized student services, and providing countywide leadership, and advocacy for the needs of all children reminds us of the vital work we perform. SLOCOE appreciates employees taking the time to share their observations and comments about the organization and more importantly for providing information regarding our future goals and success. Thank you for your continued service to SLOCOE and the positive impact you have on the students whom we serve in this county. We look forward to another successful school year.

Using Evidence to Strengthen Education Investments

This is the time of year when all of our districts are putting the final touches on their Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP) prior to board approval.  Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA) along with the Local Control Accountability Act (LCFF) in California, emphasize the use of evidence-based activities, strategies and interventions to improve outcomes for students.  There are a few considerations when it comes to choosing and implementing these interventions. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) published guidance on this topic in September of 2016. The Department defines five important steps, that when taken together, promote a continuous improvement process to strengthen the effectiveness of these educational investments.  Though briefly outlined below, I encourage you to critically read through the “questions to consider” in the report to help you in this work. Five Steps to Strengthen Effectiveness Identify Local Needs Engage stakeholders in meaningful consultation Consider potential root causes Prioritize needs Select Relevant, Evidence-Based Interventions Assess local capacity to implement intervention Look for interventions supported by “strong evidence or moderate evidence” - a recommended resource is What Works Clearinghouse How will effectiveness be measured locally? Plan for implementation Define measurable goals Outline roles and responsibilities for all involved Establish strategies to monitor performance and execution Implement Collect information on implementation - adjust as needed Examine and Reflect Monitor performance against identified targets and goals Determine if it is having impact on relevant outcomes   Dan Peverini Executive Director, Educational Support Services San Luis Obispo County Office of Education 805.782.7267

Sharing Memorial Day with Kids: An Early Educator’s Spin On It

A young student asks, “What is Memorial Day?” Are you prepared to answer that question? The history of Memorial Day dates back to 1866 and the end of the Civil War. Soldiers were coming home with serious injuries and many towns had lost friends and loved ones. Retired Major General Jonathan Logan took veterans through towns to decorate the graves of fallen comrades with flags and poppies. This was known as Decoration Day. In 1882, it was named Memorial Day and declared a day of remembrance of all soldiers who had died fighting for this County. President Richard Nixon declared it a National Federal Holiday in 1971. With such a somber background and meaning, it can be difficult to talk to kids about why we commemorate Memorial Day and what it means. So, how do you best answer this question, “What is Memorial Day” when children ask? Books can help. Whether through historical fiction or history books, a good picture book, or early-reader novel can help kids better understand a complex subject such as Memorial Day. It can also offer parents a springboard for deeper conversations. Memorial Day Surprise, by Theresa Martin Golding The Wall, by Eve Bunting Ask a student’s parent if any of their family members were ever in war or if they are a military family. Bring their stories into the classroom community. Be informed on local Memorial Day events to share with children and their parents.At these local Memorial Day events, children's questions will be answered naturally, as they observe and listen to stories of dedication, bravery, and sacrifice. SLO County Memorial Day ceremonies I leave you with a video clip of the award-winning picture book, titled Sidewalk Flowers, by JonArno Lawson and Sidney Smith. If you wish, take a moment, a relaxing breath and enjoy a story on the importance of paying attention and paying tribute to what’s around us, keeping in the back of your mind, “What is Memorial Day?” Shannon Pimentel Program Supervisor, First 5 Educational Support Services San Luis Obispo County Office of Education 805.481.5842

Considerations for Developing Social, Emotional, and Academic Capacity

With the introduction of MTSS, greater emphasis is being placed on the need for educators to consider the role that Social-Emotional Learning plays in our educational system. There are many programs surfacing to support districts and certainly more information is available to help decision makers. In conversation with some colleagues from across the state, they mentioned the value of the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development and their final report A Nation at Hope which was published in January 2019. The National Commission had the straightforward intent of really listening to those engaged in education across the nation. Just as many of you have recognized in your districts, their work showed that students require “a broad array of skills, attitudes, character traits, and values to succeed in school, careers, and life. They require skills such as paying attention, setting goals, collaboration, and planning for the future. They require attitudes such as internal motivation, perseverance, and a sense of purpose. They require values such as responsibility, honesty, and integrity. They require the abilities to think critically, consider diverse views, and problem solve.” In essence they need social, emotional, and academic competence to be successful. Research shows that tending to these factors positively affects the measures we tend to focus on: attendance, test scores, graduation rates, etc. The National Commission is clear that “educating the whole learner cannot be reduced to a simple set of policies or proposals. It is, instead, a mindset that should inform the entire educational enterprise.” The report provides six recommendations aimed at the organizations and individuals that will affect change for students/children: Set a clear vision that broadens the definition of student success to prioritize the whole child Transform learning settings so they are safe and supportive for all young people Change instruction to teach social, emotional, and cognitive skills; embed these skills in academics and in schoolwide practices Build adult expertise in child development Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole child Forge closer connections between research and practice There are many resources available as part of the report. Videos demonstrating strategies that support students developing the whole child and increasing their SEL capacity may be found here and should prove...

What’s In A Name?

When I was in elementary school, I can remember being excited about the first day of school because I could not wait to see my desk with my name tag and to meet my teacher who always took time to learn my name and ask me questions about myself. These interactions always made me feel welcomed and important. It is unfortunate that this simple tradition of greeting students at the door seems to go to the wayside as students get older. However, research has shown that building positive teacher-student relationships is a highly effective student engagement strategy and decreases problem behaviors in the classroom. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, close to 40% of students in the U.S. have been exposed to some form of traumatic stressor in their lives. While we can never know with any certainty the background of any given student, we can be certain that ALL students benefit from the use of trauma informed practices, the foundation of which is building caring, trusting and positive relationships. Keys to intentionally building positive relationships: Using a person’s name during a positive greeting Spending individual time Gathering, reviewing and remembering important information about an individual Building relationships, whether in your classroom, in your workplace or in your private life, needs to be intentional; it doesn’t just happen. Intentionally building relationships helps people trust and feel connected to others. Resources: California Department of Education, Orange County Department of Education, Positive Environments, Network of Trainers, Diana Browning Wright & Clayton R. Cook, Katherine Aaron Assistant Superintendent, Student Programs and Services San Luis Obispo County Office of Education 805.782.7321

Teacher Appreciation

It is May, which among many things means we celebrate our teachers and dedicate this week to them. Officially, Tuesday is Teacher Appreciation Day. This is one of our traditions in education that all of us embrace as an opportunity to publicly acknowledge our teachers for all their hard work and dedication to students. We know what a powerful impact a great educator can have on the lives of students. The following poem from Leslie at Kindergartenworks captures it well. IF YOU DIDN’T HEAR THIS FROM ANYONE TODAY {{AND EVEN IF YOU DID}} Thanks for all that you did today in your classroom… For making a million little split second decisions for the benefit of your students. For putting your own needs on hold and keeping them the focus of your day. For planning for them long before today ever got rolling. For changing those plans because they didn’t fit someone who needed a little extra. For smiling, laughing with them and reassuring their efforts, trials and mistakes. For placing your hand on a shoulder that was exactly what someone needed. For getting down on the physical level of your students because it matters. For thinking of a new way to reach someone who wasn’t getting it. You matter. Yes – You matter. I think that the following video also helps capture the attitude, dedication, and opportunity to be positive agents of change that teachers represent.   Dan Peverini Executive Director, Educational Support Services San Luis Obispo County Office of Education 805.782.7267

Quality Counts: Supporting Early Care and Education in San Luis Obispo County

Quality Counts San Luis Obispo is part of a statewide system of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), which helps to inform and connect parents and families to high-quality early learning and care programs, and ensures that infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children have quality early learning experiences in their local communities. Quality Counts San Luis Obispo also provides resources and support to early learning and care professionals so they can create nourishing and effective early learning and care programs that will help children to grow and thrive. Why does quality matter? High-quality early learning and care environments can have a lifelong, positive impact on young children, their families, and their communities. Research continues to show that children in quality early learning and care settings are more likely to succeed in school and less likely to drop out, need remedial education, or end up in prison. How can Quality Counts meet the county’s diverse needs? Quality Counts California recognizes that, given the size of California and the diversity of its communities, a one-size-fits-all approach to improving program quality is not appropriate. So, while there are common elements across local quality rating and improvement systems (QRISs), such as the basic program standards used in assessing program quality, those developing and managing a QRIS have the flexibility to tailor quality improvement supports to their local needs. What are some elements of quality in early learning and care settings? The program and staff involves families to enrich children’s learning experiences. Teachers have individual time with children. The program is licensed and in good standing. Teachers have professional development opportunities. Program evaluations are conducted for making data-driven decisions for ongoing improvement. Developmental monitoring/screenings are conducted inclusive of families and includes follow-up referrals. Activities are driven by children's needs and interests. Participating in Quality Counts can help early learning and care settings in many ways, from demonstrating a commitment to quality and increasing positive child outcomes, to increasing enrollment, scholarships, and ongoing professional development opportunities. What does quality mean to you and why is it important for our community?  Come join SLO County agencies as they gather to dialogue about quality care in SLO County but also the crisis behind early care and...

Community Involvement In Early Education

Communities play an important role for young children. It is in communities that children grow and develop trusting caring relationships. Children grow emotionally, intellectually, and physically through both their relationships and through their community. Communities start at home, then in schools, neighborhoods, cities, states and into the larger world. The National Education Association states that the popular proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, produces a clear message and that is, “the whole community has an essential role to play in the growth and development of its young people.” It’s noted that parents and family members play a vital role in the life of the child and so, too, does the entire community as a whole. CHILD CARE is an example of this shared role. Childcare needs to become a community issue. In our county of San Luis Obispo, there is crisis growing. A crisis in the Workforce of Early Educators or lack thereof, a crisis of Affordability and a crisis of Accessibility to quality childcare programs. Workforce Problem – many centers / providers are reporting a lack of qualified teachers – or if they are qualified, they cannot support themselves on the salary they would earn to be able to live in San Luis Obispo County. Affordability Issue – Child care is an expensive business.  Providers need to charge rates that allow them to cover the cost of staffing, materials and supplies, facilities, insurance and licensure to name a few. These rates often translate into crippling costs for families, who may end up paying more for child care than for rent. For more on the paradox between lower wages and high rates in child care, watch a short video “Why Does Childcare Cost So Much Yet Providers Make So Little” by Child Care Aware of America. Accessibility Challenge – The pervasive pressures of child care waiting lists are a stressful reality for many parents in our county.  In particular, our communities suffer for lack of sufficient spaces for Infant/Toddlers, Children with disabilities, Non traditional hours, and access to quality programs for all. But things are happening. Many local agencies have gathered to dialogue about these issues and what can be done to create a countywide awareness and a sense of collective responsibility to figure out how to address the crisis. Early childhood educators and parents are connecting with business and civic leaders to spread the message and urgency of this crisis. Something must be done, lack of...

Our Students, Our Schools, Our Communities

Community Engagement is a key component of the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) priority 3.  According to the California Department of Education (CDE), family and community engagement greatly increases the likelihood that students will learn and thrive. Students are more prepared for school, more likely to achieve, and more likely to graduate when they are supported by schools, families, and communities working together in a coordinated manner (CDE, 2018). But more than LCAP compliance is that “The whole child needs the whole school, the whole family, and the whole community working in collaboration” (Moles & Fege, 2011) Communities expect and need high-quality schools; parents want their children to succeed, and the broader community needs strong schools to ensure the long-term viability of the local economy. Failure to effectively and meaningfully engage these key stakeholders represents a missed opportunity to leverage powerful resources (Rhim, 2011). A few examples of purposeful engagement opportunities can be including community members to serve on volunteer associations, school councils, and school boards, as well as shorter-term efforts (Brown et al., 2011).  Other recommended research-based strategies for districts can be found in the Handbook for Family and Community Engagement posted on the CDE website (pg. 171-174). Some examples include: Appoint a leader to coordinate home and community efforts throughout the local agency. Conduct workshops for educators on improving academically stimulating activities in the home and community. Enlist the cooperation of community centers, houses of worship, and non-profit clubs to offer parenting courses helping families raise their expectations and becoming more communicative and supportive in their interactions with their children. Work with community agencies to provide and align services for families around homework. Collaborate with community organizing groups to recruit parent leaders from diverse social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. Build linkages with other early childhood and family service providers in the community. Help schools evaluate their family and community engagement program activities. Schools will be more effective at engaging families and communities when they move toward systemic, integrated, and sustained engagement (CDE, 2018). The Family and Community Engagement Handbook published by the School Community Network outlines three commonalities in the research as...
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