Oct 22 2015

Successful Special Needs Preschool, Final Exam Schedule Impacts Winter Break

PUSD School Board Meeting of October 14, 2015

by Piedmont High School student Bianna Massullo

    I attended a Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Board meeting on October 14, 2015. The Board regularly meets the second and fourth Wednesday of every month at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, City Hall. These meetings are held in order to discuss issues important to the District in an accessible way for all members of the District to participate in and to inform themselves about the different topics within the school District. In addition to helping members of the District understand the decisions made in the District, members of other districts are able to learn about PUSD and learn about their programs in order to implement changes in their own programs. This meeting primarily discussed the success of a preschool program in the District and the ongoing debate about the instructional schedule for the District for next year.

    The preschool program was created two years ago, and it is a public preschool for children with special needs. The District is obligated by the state to give special education to disabled children ages 3-5 that live within the District. This preschool carries out this special education, but it also partners with a private preschool in the area in order to provide the children, those with and without disabilities, exposure to each other and to help them get acclimated to a social climate in which there are differences between students’ learning and social abilities. The preschool program has six Individual Education Plans in the classroom, and they work to provide the children with both individual instructional time and group instructional time, in order to create a collaborative environment in which to help the kids. The preschool program also follows the children into the elementary schools, and it helps to further integrate the programs that they did with the children into the kindergarten classrooms. This program has met a lot of success, and I believe that it is a valuable asset to the District because of the confidence and assistance that it gives children that they can carry throughout their entire school career.

    The next item on the schedule was one more relevant to myself, and one that I had significantly more knowledge about. The schedule of the schools in PUSD has been a topic that many people have been invested and interested in, including myself. The different plans were summarized by Ms. Kashani, a leader of a student forum on the subject. The most pressing issue within the plans was whether to schedule final exams for the middle school and the high school before or after winter break. A large majority of the students, parents, and staff within PUSD were in favor of final exams being before winter break, but the school board was still hesitant to change the schedule this drastically. Even though Ms. Kashani was able to bring the opinion of the teachers in support of the schedule change and myself and Josh Landheer spoke in support of the schedule change, the School Board still seemed hesitant to change the schedule. Additionally, many people within the District dislike the current schedule and system and the stress of the students causes them both physical and emotional harm, but the school isn’t trying anything new to help the students.

    This meeting was very informative and it helped me understand different issues and priorities of the District more clearly. I learned about the statistics of people within the District that are for and against finals being before winter break, and I learned about other priorities that the school District has in addition to those that pertain to the high school. After the meeting, I was able to speak with Sarah Pearson, the Vice President of the School Board about the potential schedule changes, and she provided me with a hope-inspiring piece of insight about the School Board’s views, telling me that “the School Board has heard the overwhelming opinion of the students and parents of an overwhelming percentage favor in completing finals before winter break, and we hope that can be implement for the students.” This sentiment helped me to understand that the PUSD School Board truly has the interests of the students and parents at heart, and helped me to have more faith in the School Board as a whole.

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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