Growing together to support all students' successBy: Superintendent Sarah Koligian, Ed.D.
As we close out 2018 and prepare for the holidays ahead, I want to acknowledge and thank our staff, families and community partners for your tireless efforts to support our students, especially in the evolving work around culture, climate and connectedness. I encourage us to reflect deeply about the good work we have done, the challenges ahead and the actions necessary to accelerate our efforts.
Doing that means embracing a growth mindset that can strengthen our work around equity, diversity and discipline. Because our results do not show the reality any of us want: Our African American students, foster youth and students with disabilities are suspended and expelled, and chronically absent, at rates far higher than their peers.
The work ahead: Folsom Cordova was recently notified that it is one of only three educational systems in the region to be awarded a $500,000 grant that will allow us to start taking immediate steps around equity, diversity and discipline. This grant will supplement the work our team has begun developing - with input from our employees, families and students - to address the persistent, disproportionate outcomes for our most vulnerable children. Our focus areas will include:
- Implicit bias training for staff and leaders across our entire school district.
- Restorative practices training that will build our schools' capacity to help students reflect on behaviors and increase time in classrooms. There are and will continue to be serious consequences for serious behavior, but we must also use all the tools we have to help disrupt cycles of inequity.
- Training for students and staff to support social-emotional and mental health needs in our schools.
Our work's foundation: With the help of a strategic plan developed by our school communities nearly four years ago, Folsom Cordova has made it easier to report and respond to suspected acts of bullying and harassment - such as through our online bullying reporting form - invested heavily in mental health professionals and training across our District, and developed more consistent programs both inside and outside of the classroom designed to improve student connections and school culture. The results are promising: reported incidents of suspected bullying have dropped 68 percent since the 2014-15 school year. However, if even one student is feeling disenfranchised, bullied or unsafe, our work is not done.
Critical conversations moving forward: To be successful, we must make sure we have diverse voices at the table. We can do that by continuing to ask students and families whose voices are not typically represented to share their honest experiences and perspectives, and by reaching out to community partners who play a key role in our success. Just as critical as asking is listening - and turning those words into action. It is a habit we practiced through our 2018 Education Town Halls, and one we intend to strengthen.
These are not new issues for Folsom Cordova - or for any public school system in our nation - and our District has a strong track record of facing these difficult conversations head-on. Upon returning in 2019, I intend to work with my Cabinet and leadership team to plan how we intensify this work throughout our entire District. I have confidence Folsom Cordova's communities are up to this task.
I want to thank everyone on Team FCUSD - our staff, families, and community partners - for empowering student achievements. I am eager to return alongside you energized and ready to tackle the tough work ahead.
Sarah Koligian is the superintendent of Folsom Cordova Unified School District.