Feb 19 2016

OPINION: Piedmont Education for the 21st Century

Time to join the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Administration’s effort to plan for a 21st century education – 

Last August, the School District launched a process to develop a plan to upgrade our secondary school facilities. Our superintendent organized a number of meetings with parents, teachers, students, and the community at large, with the broad ambitious goal of looking far ahead asking two fundamental questions: How should we educate our students to best prepare them to function in our 21st century economy? What facilities do we need to support these evolving methods?

The process is on-going and the plan is in the early stage of formation. The superintendent put no boundary on the scope of the plan. Many needs have been identified some driven by the educational vision, some by the nuts and bolts issues of decaying mechanical and electrical equipment. The goal is to develop such a compelling plan that the community says: “This is the obvious thing to do for our children; let us find a way to finance it, and work out all the problems to make it happen”. Hopefully we can recreate the success that the new Havens School has been.

A number of documents are available on the District web site: a DRAFT Facility Site Assessment Report; a  DRAFT Educational Specifications Report; a Draft Master Plan put together by QKA, the architect hired by the District to help in the planning;  and a presentation by KNN, the District Financial Consultant. Most of the plan is focused on the High School and Middle School Magnolia campus.

Today, I am impressed by the ambitious scope and the work done to-date. I support the viewpoint expressed on this web site by the PiedmontMakers Board of Directors. The foundation of the Bay Area Economy is creativity. Creativity is rooted in the arts, in engineering, and in the laws of physics that underpin engineering. Our children needs to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to thrive and contribute in that environment. Making things from an early age is a great enabler to achieve these goals.

I am also grateful to the teachers and parents who have made the arts alive and well in Piedmont. The self-confidence, debate and people skills acquired through the performing arts are key to effective leadership in every profession and to achieving a fulfilling life.

It is very significant that the most popular TED talk of all times is the one by Sir Ken Robinson making an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. So the citizens of our country interested in new ideas have voted that nurturing creativity is the most important educational goal for our future.

As community, let us make a strong statement about our commitment to the Arts and Sciences through the construction of two new buildings one for the Arts and the other for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) on both side of a new entrance.

As a scorecard, the District should use the STEM Public High School Achievement Index published by U.S. News. The index is based on the percentage of all the Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers in a school’s graduating class who took and passed college-level AP STEM Math and AP STEM Science tests. The higher a high school scores on the STEM Achievement Index, the better it places in the Best High Schools for STEM rankings. In 2015, a dozen schools in the Bay Area place ahead of Piedmont High School. Let us set the goal to become the best STEM public high school in the country within the next six years.

Please get involved and let your opinion be known through this great forum.

Bernard Pech, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those the author.

3 Responses to “OPINION: Piedmont Education for the 21st Century”

  1. I agree with the importance of STEM/STEAM curriculum and believe the costs for replacing the Alan Harvey Theater are too high. I also believe that the school district should figure out a way to add lockers to the Piedmont Middle School campus. Finally, while I would prefer improvements directly relate to the children’s education, I can’t help but wonder if the school district also should look at solar panels for the schools (if they haven’t already).

  2. In response to Kelly:
    1- I understand that Pete Palmer, the PUSD Facilities Manager, has looked into adding solar panels to any new building, and that the payback for such an investment is quite fast. So Solar Panels are likely to be included as the plan is been refined.
    2- I agree that most if not all improvements should directly relate to enhancing our children’s education. As an example, the draft plan includes providing full day kindergarten.

  3. So let’s see, Piedmont High School is ranked 132 in the nation in this U.S. News rankings which include data on more than 21,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia, which earned it a gold medal, and puts it at the top 3% of all High Schools nationwide.
    It is ranked 22 out of 2202 schools in the State of California. For STEM (science, technology, engineering and math schools) U.S. News looked at the top 500 public schools from across the nation and evaluates their students’ participation and success in Advanced Placement (AP®) science and math tests. PHS ranked 121.
    Pretty good work as the grade factory output goes, sure it might be able to score better, but is this education or just grades? Do we need to push our students to take more STEM AP classes or more social science and civics? Do we want a generation in the image of Trump or Sanders? In my humble opinion, this is the question at the heart of our High School education.

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