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January 29, 2021 Friday Letter Volume 2, No. 32
Posted 1/29/21

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JANUARY 29, 2021 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 32


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



With Each Step Forward, Confidence in our Next Grows

PSAT, School Photos, and Sports

Bottom: Bringing new life to school campuses, some sports have made an exciting comeback.
Top: High school students were safely welcomed at MDUSD campuses on Tuesday to take the Preliminary SAT; students also came to take school photos.

     Reopening Update (Summary Version)

     "There is light at the end of this tunnel," added Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark at the regular Governing Board Meeting on Wednesday, noting that while Contra Costa remains in the Purple Tier (and that therefore schools are closed), some COVID-19 numbers are improving lately, and vaccinations are continuing. To reopen campuses to students, minimally the county would need to improve into the Red Tier, and agreements with union partners would need to be in place. The school district has been using this time to transform campuses into safe-zones and also to continue, with diligence, in union negotiations, while monitoring the latest guidance from public health authorities.
     A video recording of the Superintendent's full reopening update presentation at the January 27, 2021 Governing Board Meeting is available in English or in Spanish. This is a standing item discussed at every board meeting during the Superintendent's Report. He plans to provide another update for reopening at the February 10, 2021 Governing Board Meeting, including a new timeline proposal.


     Reopening Update (Detailed Version)

     The sun and moon painted a gorgeous painting this morning. In traffic on the road to work, I saw a beautiful, full moon gracing the sky, opposite a rising sun, separated by wispy, milk-white clouds, which seemed to flow and swirl in slow motion across the deep blue sky. I saw a truck go by, I saw a sedan go by, and in the bigger picture, one could say I saw a mini-van gogh by.
     Bad humor aside, my imagination showed me that if the sun and moon were both present, and in their position were neither right nor wrong, maybe both represented a contrasting but co-existing truth to illuminate the present scene. It was because this week, MDUSD reached its 100th day of school, and I saw celebrations in virtual classrooms as much as I could imagine many tears of grief behind closed doors.
     We press forward. Our district has been bustling with activity; in addition to everyday operations, there has been plenty of planning, preparation, and steps forward at campuses across the district with respect to reopening. With each step forward, confidence in our next grows. It has been a beautiful sight to see students on our campuses, and albeit through very limited activities, reports have come back that students were all appropriately masked and physically distanced.

     Necessarily, a nursery is prepared before a baby arrives, so that is what we have been doing during the Purple Tier. Here are some key contributors to reopening progress:

     Negotiations Team Steps Forward
     "A step in the right direction for students," said Chief of Human Resources, John Rubio, noting a successful collaboration with the teachers' union that lead to a breakthrough agreement (01-20-2021) regarding small-group supports on campus during the Red Tier. We appreciate our union partners for coming to the table continuously. Here are all eight MDUSD union agreements signed in the time of the world-wide pandemic:

     Also, Human Resources provided a negotiations update in today's Organizational Update (fully appended below): "The CST tentative agreement for the successor contract has been carefully reviewed by our budget office and executive cabinet and is being processed for submission to the county. The District and MDEA met Thursday, January 28 regarding instructional minutes and to continue deliberations regarding safety and metrics for an eventual return to school. CSEA and Teamster negotiations continue with the District."

     Facilities Team Steps Forward→ 
     Substantial cleaning and disinfecting protocols are in place right now, and campuses have taken many steps in preparation for the return of student groups. For example, safety signage, social distancing markings, plexiglass barriers, sneeze guards, sanitizer dispensers, facial coverings, thermometers, new ventilation filters, and new Germ Buster Sprayer tools have become a normal sight for our campuses.

     "Every space, every day," emphasized Melanie Koslow, Director of Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations, reporting out at the most recent Superintendent's Cabinet meeting. Custodians do deserve a big thank-you for being a legion of protection for staff working on campuses. Together with physical distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing, campuses are achieving a high level of safety.

     Contra Costa Steps Forward→ 
     Some COVID-19 metrics are improving in Contra Costa County, and some are not. The biggest contribution to any improvement is personal behavior, so we thank all who are physically distancing, wearing face coverings, and washing their hands frequently. Front-line healthcare workers exhaust themselves to meet the needs of the community, and vaccine distribution has slowly expanded from 1A to 1B. Reports, activity, and leadership at the national level seem to inspire hope. The 2.19 million COVID-19 death count world-wide is difficult to comprehend. Together, fighting the common enemy that is this pandemic and making continual steps forward would ensure that our hope was not in vain—to preserve life and to return to a new normalcy which we will not take for granted.

     See the latest local data from Contra Costa Health Services.


MDUSD Mental Health Webinar Series Kicks Off with Success

     It was enriching, genuine, helpful, and much needed—over one hundred parents attended our first Open Conversations About Mental Health Webinar on Monday, which was paneled by a district team of experienced mental health professionals. Prepared discussions about wellness, social opportunities, engagement, and motivation moved the session forward, with audience participation throughout.

     These were the questions for the panel:

  • How can I create social opportunities for my child during distance learning?
  • How can I find support for my child’s social/emotional wellbeing within MDUSD?
  • How can I best support my child academically during this trying time?
  • My student is lacking motivation during the pandemic - how can I support my child and help them become more engaged in their classes?

     We invite you to tune in at your convenience—here is the full recording:

     Thank you to our panelists for their leadership:
     Elementary Counselor, Megan Potssemil
     Middle School Counselor, Julie Grant
     High School Counselor, Rima Boujaoude
     Equity Counselor, AD Briscoe
     Psychologist, Carolyn Sakkis
     Social Work Specialist, Elise Mejia
     Behavior Specialist, Lynnea Molina
     College and Career Advisor, Brian Brown

     MDUSD's Open Conversations About Mental Health series will continue in the coming weeks—look for details in the Friday Letter.


Ask the CBO:
How Do Enrollment and Meal Applications Impact MDUSD Budgets?

     Each week, our Chief Business Officer, Dr. Lisa Gonzales, will be responding to questions from the school district community in a new short video series called Ask the CBO. This week's topic is, "How do Enrollment and Meal Applications Impact MDUSD Budgets?" Closed captioning is available in English and Spanish. Also, we want your questions about district finances. Please send any questions to cbo@mdusd.org, and your question could be featured in the next Ask the CBO.

     You can also view last week's Ask the CBO by visiting the MDUSD YouTube channel. Don't miss an episode—subscribe to the channel today.


For Your Review: District Organizational Update

     Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark is continuing to publish transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in our weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Here is this week’s full Organizational Update to the Board:

Organizational Update



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Each week, the MDUSD Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist and sent to a staff and community audience totaling around 32,000. To sign up for our distribution list, send an email to breidenthala@mdusd.org. To view an archive of district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact me (breidenthala@mdusd.org) with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin

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