Welcome Back Letter from Superintendent Mucerino (August 15, 2016)

To view letter in pdf format (English Version), click here.
To view letter in pdf format (Spanish Version), click here. 
 
Dear DUSD Families,
 
It is with great pride that I welcome you to the 2016-17 school year.  Whether you are new to the district or returning, I want you to know that your children are in the capable hands of a highly-focused workforce committed to make the Duarte Unified School District the most progressive and successful school district in the San Gabriel Valley.  Like all successful organizations, DUSD is constantly reinventing itself to better serve its customers.  We exist in an era of choice and as a result we take nothing for granted, particularly your choice to make DUSD your school district.  We have taken great strides towards realizing our mission of being a destination district of choice.  In the last year alone we have engaged the entire education community in a strategic planning process that yielded a 5-year strategic plan known as the Competitive Advantage Plan (CAP).  The plan addresses the community’s demand for rigorous academic programs, arts education, and abundant extra-curricular opportunities. Click here to read the full plan.
 
The Plan outlines seven strategies.  One strategy that has already been realized is partnering with the Orange County School of the Arts to create the California School of the Arts to be known as CSArts San Gabriel Valley, starting in 2017-18 on the Northview campus.  The partnership is a landmark agreement between a school district and a public charter school.  It brings the renowned arts schools to Duarte and arts education into core curricula to improve student engagement and achievement.  In addition to the arts partnership, we have also partnered with Project Lead the Way to catalyze lifelong interest in science, technology, engineering, and math.  Our focus on results revolves around our mission to develop students who are highly competitive in the college admission process as well as the workforce that awaits them.  Elite colleges and universities nationwide are looking for Duarte students.  The existing college admissions process has been reshaped to focus on meaningful ethical and intellectual engagement.  Read about the Harvard University study by clicking here.
 
Another strategy that promises to provide our students an advantage is our strategy to reconfiguration our K-6 schools into K-8 schools focused on science and the arts, starting in 2017-18 when CSArts occupies the Northview campus. There are many advantages to K-8 schools compared to K-6 and 7-8 schools.  First and foremost, K-8 provides a familiar and supportive environment at the most difficult time in a child’s and parent’s life, adolescence.  The elementary to middle school transition is the most challenging for students and the apex of academic success or failure.  With the increase of parent involvement common in the K-8 setting, in addition to a smaller and more nurturing environment, student success soars and behavioral and other social issues diminish.  Through a variety of designed academic, curricular, and extra-curricular activities, including arts and athletics, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students district-wide will collaborate and compete together on a formal basis to ensure students get to know each other well before they all meet up in high school. 
 
The other five strategies are as follows: (3) Create an equitable education for all students; (4) Develop and implement a master facilities plan for physical space and technology infrastructure required to achieve our objectives and realize our vision and mission; (5) Develop and implement a rigorous assessment system aligned with the Common Core Standards to effectively analyze student performance data at more frequent intervals in order to improve instruction, close the Achievement Gap, and ensure that all students meet or exceed district standards; (6) Incrementally increase the average teacher, staff, and leadership team salaries to be no less than the median in Los Angeles County; and (7) Build trust through transparency, strengthen engagement, and expand outreach efforts to positively impact student achievement by optimizing systems of communication for all stakeholders.
 
All of our strategies are contingent upon our financial stability.  As I shared in my letter to you on April 17, 2016, the impact of fourteen consecutive years of declining enrollment has reduced our budget by a third, as enrollment levels have dropped from a high of 4,693 in the early 2000’s to its current 3,475.  In 1976, when there were 5,917 children under 18 (40% of Duarte’s total population of 14,981), the median age was 27.  Today the median age is 41 and there are about 1,100 fewer children.  We are projected to decline further as the combination of an aging community and school district choice has taken its toll.  As a result, our schools are fiscally inefficient, ranging from one-third to one-half full, impacting our ability to concentrate our fiscal, human, and educational resources and maximize the potential of our dwindling education dollars.  An advisory committee, known as the Real Property Advisory Committee (RPAC) has met monthly this past school year to study our population and enrollment challenges, and plan to make a recommendation to the Board of Education as early as September regarding consolidating our five elementary schools into four, starting in 2017-18.  Find information about the RPAC by clicking here. Should the School Board choose to consolidate, the decision will be followed by a detailed transition plan for every student and staff member.
 
Below are important dates related to the school consolidation process:

MEETING

DATE

PLACE

TIME

PURPOSE

RPAC

8/31

Performing Arts Center

5:00 – 8:30 pm

Prepare Preliminary Report on School Consolidation

RPAC

9/8

Performing Arts Center

5:00 – 8:30 pm

Prepare Final Report on School Consolidation

School Board Study Session

9/13

Performing Arts Center

Begins 6:00 pm

Discuss RPAC recommendation

Regular School Board Meeting

9/15

Performing Arts Center

Begins 7:00 pm

Further discussion on RPAC recommendation

Regular School Board Meeting

9/22

Performing Arts Center

Begins 7:00 pm

Vote on School Consolidation

 
In closing, it is important that you know that any school consolidation decision made by the Board of Education will be based upon hard and undeniable evidence that leads to an unmistakable conclusion that we simply cannot afford to keep five elementary schools open without significant cuts elsewhere (budget, staffing, etc.).    The eventual conclusion will be based on six primary factors: (1) projections of declining enrollment; (2) critical district financial circumstances; (3) facility conditions; (4) educational program quality; (5) costs of unnecessarily keeping underutilized facilities open; (5) feasible options to closing a school; and (6) anticipated fiscal relief from school closure.  And while the decision to close a school may be anguishing and affect relationships and routines, a decision not to close a school amidst circumstances of declining enrollment and economic necessity may be imprudent and fiscally irresponsible. The Board of Education, as stewards of the public trust, have been entrusted by the community to fulfill our mission to educate its children.  While the immediate effects of school consolidation may be painful, the long-term effects will be beneficial.  I hope I can count on you to join me in this renaissance.
 
It is a great time to be a kid in Duarte!
 
Respectfully,

Allan Mucerino Siganture

Allan J. Mucerino, Ed.D.

Superintedent of Schools 
Duarte Unified School District
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