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Superintendent Amerson's Blog
Being a "Life-Long Learner" - Cliche or Crucial?Posted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 9/30/2019"Lifelong Learner" is a term that I have heard echoed for many years not only on the educational landscape, but also throughout many areas of society. The challenge is that when a term like “lifelong learner” is said so often, it can become a cliché. The reality is, that in order to truly be a leader in Duarte and our greater region, we must all strive to remain lifelong learners. We must prioritize the creation of time in our lives to focus on building our skills and knowledge in new areas.Our schools and learning community will only be as strong as the people within it. There will always be a direct connection between the willingness of the people in our community who push for continued innovation and new realities, and the positive achievements of our staff and scholars. This can and will be accomplished with our community's commitment to lifelong learning. With the development of a globalized economy and interconnected world, we owe it to our scholars and ourselves to be ready and willing to explore new ideas and concepts.The fast advances in technology across our world have made access to boundless amounts of information and knowledge that are no further away than a Google, Siri, or Alexa search. With this limitless access to knowledge, we must be committed to modeling and championing learning for the scholars of our communities. Expanding our minds and being open to reserve judgments and assumptions about new and different ways of teaching and learning will benefit our scholars. This will be at times difficult because it will directly contradict your worldview or the way you may have learned something before. In those moments, I want to challenge you to push back on remaining in your comfort zone and instead, be open to new information, challenge your current beliefs and be willing to hear and consider new realities.This is a very current issue for me. Until being given the opportunity to lead the Duarte Unified School District, I did not embrace the power and opportunity of technology and digital leadership. I was stuck in my own comfort zone and unwilling to see a new reality. However, in my own effort to expand my commitment to lifelong learning, I attended the City Superintendent’s Conference last week. The focus of the conference this year was “Digital Leadership.” During the conference I was reminded of the power of using technology as a means of effective leadership. I was reminded that Duarte Unified has a wonderful story to tell our community. I was reminded that “we” must tell our story.Moving forward, that will be the goal of my message to our community. I will strive to constantly tell “our” story. We have many things to celebrate and many challenges to overcome. We will only be the destination district that is the envy of the region if we commit to being lifelong learners committed to forward progress, innovative practices, and an unyeilding commitment to the development and success of our DUSD scholars.We will continue to share our story through our digital platforms as well, and I hope you will follow me on Instagram and Twitter @SuptAmerson. Find all of the events taking place this week in DUSD on our website calendar, free Mobile App, and @duarteusd on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube . Have a great week!Best,GordonGordon Amerson, Ed.D.Superintendent of SchoolsDuarte Unified School District
Creating Physical Spaces to Support Student LearningPosted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 9/23/2019During our Learning Walks, as I mentioned in last week’s message, we observe the teaching and learning “signature practices” of our faculty, but we also assess the progress being made toward creating 21st Century learning environments within our schools as outlined in our Competitive Advantage Plan. Having the proper physical spaces and technology infrastructure in place is pivotal to creating the climate, safety, and learning conditions required to deliver our instructional programs with fidelity.Our DHS Culinary Complex is the perfect example of a physical space that we constructed to support student learning. Within this Culinary Complex that is outfitted with the highest quality equipment, our Falcons can learn all of the world’s culinary cuisines while also sharpening their business and hospitality skills. A shining example was at last year’s Taste of Duarte when our students were able to stand shoulder to shoulder with local restaurants and showcase the gourmet ice cream they had created. This is one example, but Chef Prince, Amy Bustos and our Falcons in the Academy of Culinary Arts and Entrepreneurship have so much more in store. Be sure to check-out their Pop-Up event this Thursday to see for yourself.We are still in the midst of transforming our K-8 Academies from elementary models, and while great progress has been made here too, we still have work to do to nurture both the instructional programs and physical spaces needed to support the thematic learning each of these school communities have embraced.Last year, I actively listened to our stakeholders and this feedback, combined with the actions in our strategic plan, and the vision guided by our Board, drives our initiatives moving forward. From what I heard you say, Career Technical Education options, comprehensive Middle School programming, and increased offerings of STEAM and STEM that will best position our scholars to compete in our globalized 21st century are priorities for our district. But in case you didn't have the opportunity to contribute to these conversations, or have had new ideas since last we spoke, I will be circulating within our district and community to continue to solicit your input. I hope to see you at our schools’ upcoming Coffee with the Principal events, PTA gatherings, and Soup with the Superintendent at our High Schools as well as at the Route 66 Parade next Saturday. Please stop by our booth and visit with me.I also want to make our community aware that at the Board Meeting held on Thursday, Sept 19, our trustees voted to fill the vacant seat due to the resignation of President Edwards by provisional appointment. The appointed Board Member will fill the seat until the next regularly scheduled election in November of 2020. The District is currently accepting applications and will be engaging with prospective board candidates by conducting an orientation with the interested candidates in early October. I again wish to thank Doug Edwards for his service and we will honor his legacy by continuing to rise as a destination district in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond.Find all of the events taking place this week in DUSD on our website calendar, free Mobile App, and @duarteusd on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube . Have a great week!Best,GordonGordon Amerson, Ed.D.Superintendent of SchoolsDuarte Unified School District
Our "Learning Walks" Signature PracticePosted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 9/16/2019As the school year has gotten fully underway and our scholars and staff have gotten into the regular routine of our school year, I have begun my intense focus on the teaching and learning processes of our students. The single reason that we exist as an organization is to ensure that our students receive the best educational experience possible. For us to truly live out the mission to “ provide the knowledge, skills, and inspiration for each student to succeed in college, career and life,” we must maintain a laser-like focus on how our students are succeeding in the classroom. In an effort to do just that, our team focuses on teaching and learning through the signature practice of “Learning Walks.”Just last week, members of our instructional team and I worked with the Principals of Valley View and Duarte High School to conduct Learning Walks. Learning Walks allow us to see teaching and learning within the classroom, shoulder to shoulder with our scholars, to identify strategies that are producing positive results, which can also be replicated at other schools within our district. Let me share with you the process of this powerful practice:
We know that Learning Walks are an important part of the successes we are seeing in our classrooms. Signature practices like Learning Walks help create the conditions where all of our students can be successful in our classrooms. It is important that we remember our parents are choosing to send their children to Duarte Unified School District to be given the best possible educational opportunity. We take that responsibility seriously and will continue to create the programs, systems, and structures necessary to best support our student’s success. See our Learning Walks in action by following @SuptAmerson on Twitter and Instagram.At this time, I would also like to offer a heartfelt thank you and best wishes to our esteemed Board President, Doug Edwards. He served as the Board President at the time of my hire in 2018, and since then he and I have developed a very special relationship. He is a steadfast ambassador for the Duarte community and San Gabriel Valley region. He has helped the Board and District navigate both great successes as well as significant challenges. Throughout his tenure he has remained steadfast in putting DUSD and our students first. His commitment to governance and thoughtful policy development and implementation has helped the District establish a great foundation for the work ahead. The DUSD community will miss President Edward's leadership, but we wish him well in his future pursuits and endeavors. Our entire community is invited to a Farewell Reception in his honor on Thursday, prior to the Board Meeting, from 5:00-6:00 p.m. I hope you will join us!Find all of the events taking place this week in DUSD on our website calendar, free Mobile App, and @duarteusd on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. Have a great week!Best,GordonGordon Amerson, Ed.D.Superintendent of SchoolsDuarte Unified School District
- The team, which also often includes administrators, teachers and classified members from other sites, meets with the principal of the school and establishes a focus for the visits.
- The team walks together and observes a number of classrooms looking for the area of focus the principal set for the day.
- As we enter classrooms, the team interacts with students looking for evidence of what they are learning.
- At the conclusion of the classroom visits, the team conducts a debrief and notes all of the observations that we saw based on the principal’s focus area.
- The team drafts a memo of all the highlights that is distributed to the school staff.
- The principal and staff then continue to focus throughout the year on the great teaching and learning strategies we noted during each learning walk and these signature practices are also shared with our other schools.
We Must Bring Our BestPosted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 9/9/2019This week I am reminded of our responsibility to bring our absolute best for each and every one of our DUSD scholars. I continue to be impressed and proud of the innovation and resilience that our students possess. As we move into the second month of the school year, we have much to celebrate while recognizing the critical work ahead.It is with these thoughts in mind that I reflected on the importance of continuing to honor the power of student voice. Next week, I will be presiding over the installation of our two new student board members, Serene Dowiri and Ashley Lemus. This is DUSD’s standard for placing our students in a position of influence over how the District best serves students’ needs. Last year we established this new standard and it marked the first time that both M.I.T. and Duarte High Schools had student leaders representing their voices on the dais.In education, student voice must be harnessed to understand the values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students in our schools. When we as education leaders understand the power of student voice, we can develop instructional approaches and techniques that are based on students' choices, interests, passions, and ambitions. This unlocks the power of developing trust, rapport, and relationships with the scholars we serve.As we navigate the choice era of education, empowering students to find their voice is crucial. By employing the best practice of “Learning Walks” at our schools, we will continue to seek out opportunities for students to express themselves and voice their opinions. As a community, this is hard-wired into our organization because our families can choose from our five themed Academies the school they believe to be the best match for their child’s passions and interests, and our high schools deliver arts-focused, personalized learning and comprehensive experiences.But, we can still do much more to further create the conditions for students to advocate for themselves. We will continue to look for ways to engage our students and truly listen to their wants, needs, and dreams. By embracing student voice and student choice, the educational experience we offer at DUSD will only be better as a result, and so too will be the world that our children inherit.Find all of the events taking place this week in DUSD on our website calendar, free Mobile App, and by following @SuptAmerson on Twitter and Instagram as well as @duarteusd on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.Best,GordonGordon Amerson, Ed.D.Superintendent of SchoolsDuarte Unified School District
Our Schools are Buzzing with EnergyPosted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 9/2/2019We have just completed the third week of school, and I am excited about the great things that are happening at all of our campuses this early in the school year. After spending time at Duarte High School last week, I noticed a buzz and an energy that showed me the students are filled with pride and school spirit.Last week, Back to School Nights took place at Maxwell, Andres Duarte, and Beardslee Academies. It was wonderful to see the parents who attended meet the staff and listen to the wide range of unique thematic options that are available to our students. Please continue to check our district and school calendars for information about additional parent engagement opportunities taking place at all of our campuses throughout the year.A friendly reminder to our parents with students in high school, mark your calendars and plan to attend our Back to School Nights at MIT, CSArts and Duarte High School next week. This is an important opportunity for parents to connect with your child's teachers and learn what's in store for this year in their classes.Find all of the events taking place this week in DUSD on our website calendar, free Mobile App, and by following @SuptAmerson on Twitter and Instagram as well as @duarteusd on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. I hope you enjoy the three-day weekend, have a Happy Labor Day and I look forward to your return on Tuesday!Best,GordonGordon Amerson, Ed.D.Superintendent of SchoolsDuarte Unified School District
How an Emoji is Leading to our Organizational ImprovementPosted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 8/26/2019After two weeks of school, I am excited to report that DUSD is off to a great start! Since the first day, I continue to be impressed with the smooth and efficient operations of all of our campuses as well as the clear evidence I have observed of teaching and learning in the classroom. Positive energy is radiating from our classrooms, which is the direct result of our wonderful teachers, staff, families, and scholars.Last week, we began our 2019-2020 Back to School Nights with events hosted for the parents of our students attending Royal Oaks and Valley View. Each school created a welcoming and festive experience, and the mood among parents and staff was upbeat and full of excitement. I especially enjoyed reconnecting with parents from last year as well as meeting new families who have joined our district for the first time. During these conversations, I was reminded again and again that among the many excellent education choices families have in this region, parents are traveling from both near and far to our schools because they feel we offer the best choice for their children, and as we continually seek to improve the learning conditions for our scholars, we will continue our rise as a destination district.The festive mood I felt at our Back to School Nights really launched at our Staff Convocation held the week prior to the first day of school. Since that day, I have also been engaged in on-going conversations with both certificated and classified members that were actually prompted by a single emoji. I asked staff to text me an emoji that encapsulated how they were feeling about the upcoming school year. This served not only to further develop relationships with my colleagues, but also sparked several great ideas about systems improvements, programmatic offerings and instructional innovations that I hope to see implemented this year. As I shared at Convocation, it is my belief that innovative thinking doesn't just trickle down, but should bubble-up from all places within our organization. I have appreciated these interactions with staff and look forward to continuing our digital and in-person talks. I also hope more members of our team will also reach out with an emoji or two, if you haven't already, to get even more conversations started. I am eager to hear from you!I am also eager to meet with more of our parents as Back to School Nights continue this week at Maxwell, Andres Duarte, and Beardslee. Duarte High School and M.I.T. High School will have their events next week. While there is still much to be done, let's continue the great start we have begun by continuing to work together each day to provide our scholars the best of every opportunity our schools and district can deliver.Find all of the events taking place this week in DUSD on our website calendar, free Mobile App, and by following @SuptAmerson on Twitter and Instagram as well as @duarteusd on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. Thank you and have a great week!Best,GordonGordon Amerson, Ed.D.Superintendent of SchoolsDuarte Unified School District
Our Committment to Building Relationships ContinuesPosted by Gordon Amerson, Ed. D. on 8/19/2019We had a great first week back at school in DUSD! I continue to be impressed with the leadership shown by our Principals and staff to ensure the smooth and efficient openings at every one of our campuses. On Monday, I welcomed our scholars back to Duarte High School. There was definitely a buzz on the campus and I was excited to see the school spirit and enthusiasm of our Falcon ASB Leadership Team, Link Crew and Cheerleaders. Throughout the week I visited classrooms and saw the immediate focus on student engagement and evidence of learning. I observed students engaged in inquiry, collaboration, and critical thinking tasks. One thing I noticed last year and this year, that I am especially proud of, is the commitment to building relationships between staff and scholars as well as our scholars to each other. The building of relationships will continue to be a focus in the District as we progress throughout our school year together.On Friday, I was excited to attend and participate in the Duarte High School Welcome Back Rally. We were honored to have motivational speaker Danny Vuong-Batimana, Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers Cheer Squad, provide an uplifting message for our scholars and staff. The fun culminated with a choreographed dance routine performed by the staff, administration, and there was a rumor that some District office staff may have been involved as well. It was a great opportunity for the leaders of our high school and District to have some fun and be vulnerable in front of our scholars. Kudos to our team members who dusted off their dance shoes and got out there to cut a rug. Lastly, as I enter my second year as your Superintendent, I am again humbled and proud to represent this community. We will have an amazing year full of excitement, fun, and success. I know that it is very early in the school year, but I am confident that the buzz and enthusiasm I am seeing at our schools will continue week in and week out.Find all of the events taking place this week in DUSD on our website calendar, free Mobile App, and by following @SuptAmerson on Twitter and Instagram as well as @duarteusd on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. Thank you and have a great week!Best,GordonGordon Amerson, Ed.D.Superintendent of SchoolsDuarte Unified School District
Welcome to the New School Year!Posted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 8/12/2019Welcome to the start of the 2019-20 school year! I truly hope that you had a wonderful summer full of time with family, friends, and relaxation. As we begin our journey through this school year, I am reminded of all the great things that our scholars and staff accomplished last year. The successes I am reflecting on remind me of how bright the future of Duarte Unified School District is. As your Superintendent, I am excited to continue leading you on the path to becoming a destination district. As this new year begins, I wish everyone the greatest success as we welcome every one of our DUSD students to their educational journey of 2019-2020.This year will continue to be shaped by our commitment to the reform efforts as outlined in our Competitive Advantage Plan (CAP). We will also take the opportunity to look at new and different strategic actions that will further support the work we do for our scholars and community. We are proud of our accomplishments, but are also steadfast in our efforts to take DUSD to the next level of educational excellence.Successes during the 2018-2019 school year included:
- Partnered with DUEA and CSEA to develop a balanced general fund budget
- Debuted the new Culinary Arts Complex at Duarte High School
- Expanded the Early College, 4-Year Degree-Bearing Program, with cohorts in all 9-12 grade levels
- Completed the K-8 transition at the four academy sites with the first class moving on to high school this year
- Increased academic achievement as measured by SBAC
- Earned a high ranking on the California Dashboard-College and Career Indicator for Duarte High School
- Established Duarte Unified as a Destination District as evidenced by the decrease in students requesting permits to leave and an increase in requests for permits to enter the district
- Expanded Elective Offerings available for 7th and 8th grade students at Duarte High School: Spanish, Mandarin, Drama, Art, and Choir
While maintaining the implementation of the initiatives already in place, this year we will continue to intensively focus on addressing the teaching and learning of our scholars. We also plan to build organizational capacity by enhancing staff support and development in the areas of professional learning communities and teamwork. This again will be a year of great ambition and promise.Our DUSD team is poised and ready to execute on its mission: Provide the knowledge, skills, and inspiration for each student to be successful in college, career, and life. To achieve this mission, our students need your guidance, support, and care. My hope is that through our ongoing commitment to the CAP, our community will continue to come together and continue the renaissance of DUSD in the classroom, community, and region.In closing, I challenge us all to remember that we wake up each day for every one of the DUSD scholars we serve. When we keep that in mind, I know each of us will make a difference in the lives of our scholars. As we move forward with our reform efforts, I invite you to reflect on the powerful words of Nelson Mandela, who said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I am confident that together we will blaze a trail filled with success and accomplishment this year.Best,GordonGordon Amerson, Ed.D.Superintendent of SchoolsDuarte Unified School District
- Increased arts offerings in Music, Dance, and Visual Arts Instruction at all K-8 sites