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School SafetyPosted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 11/18/2019In light of the continued pattern of senseless gun violence in our nation and schools, we are again reminded of the importance of school safety. School safety must be a priority for every one of our schools and communities. As a school leader and father to school-aged children, this topic is of particular importance to me. The tragedy at Saugus High School brings the traumatic incidents closer to home here in Duarte.As I have stated before, school-wide safety is a priority at all our schools. Unforeseen disasters and crises may happen at any time, and when they occur at school, I am confident that our schools are prepared to handle them safely and effectively. Our site teams work together to promote and maintain safety and minimize the effects of emergencies.Strategic preparations are in place to effectively respond to an emergency with the priority to protect students and staff from harm. On an annual basis and continuously throughout the year, each school thoroughly reviews and updates its Comprehensive Safety Plan to ensure that best practices and protocols are implemented. Schools intentionally conduct emergency drills with staff and students to practice appropriate safety measures.As a District, we stay vigilant in maintaining preparedness for any emergency. The following actions are taken to improve safety measures every year:
As a District and school community we feel that this proactive approach best prepares our schools to support the safety and security of our students and staff. We continue to welcome your questions and feedback to ensure that we are working as active partners in your child's education.Please follow me on Instagram and Twitter @SuptAmerson to stay up to date with these issues and find the activities taking place in DUSD on our website calendar, free Mobile App, and @duarteusd on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube .Have a great week and a happy Thanksgiving!Best,GordonGordon Amerson, Ed.D.Superintendent of SchoolsDuarte Unified School District
- Safety Walks
- Active shooter training for certificated & classified staff
- Drills: Lock Down, Earthquake, Active Shooter
- Threat Assessments
- Staff & Admin training: Bullying, Suicide, LGBTQ, School Climate. Etc.
Response to Statement by Secretary DeVosPosted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 11/4/2019Our current U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has been a controversial figure since her contentious confirmation by the Senate in February of 2017 by a 51-50 margin. This was the first time in U.S. history that a cabinet nominee's appointment was determined by the Vice President's tie-breaking vote. Since serving in the position, her views regarding education and her policy stances have created a firestorm of debate resulting in deeper divisions between advocates of public and private systems as well as the role of charter schools.Amidst this backdrop at the federal level, most professional educators like myself refrain from getting caught up in the political fray and remain steadfast in serving our students through local control accountability processes that guide the governance of our school boards while also adhering to federal mandates. Last week, however, Secretary DeVos released a statement on the results of the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), to which I feel compelled to respond. Her statement is below:“Every American family needs to open The Nation’s Report Card this year and think about what it means for their child and for our country’s future. The results are, frankly, devastating. This country is in a student achievement crisis, and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students. Two out of three of our nation’s children aren’t proficient readers. In fact, fourth grade reading declined in 17 states and eighth grade reading declined in 31. The gap between the highest and lowest performing students is widening, despite $1 trillion in Federal spending over 40 years designated specifically to help close it. This must be America’s wake-up call. We cannot abide these poor results any longer. We can neither excuse them away nor simply throw more money at the problem. This Administration has a transformational plan to help America’s forgotten students escape failing schools. By expanding education freedom, students can break out of the one-size-fits all system and learn in the ways that will unlock their full potential. They deserve it. Parents demand it. And, it’s the only way to bring about the change our country desperately needs. I want to thank the staff at the National Center for Education Statistics and the members of the National Assessment Governing Board for their work and for their commitment to providing this important assessment of student achievement.”Educators nationwide share my concern that she has misinterpreted the NAEP data and has consequently used it to forward her agenda, not address the gross inequalities that are responsible for it. As a life-long learner and educator, I recognize the importance of assessment data. Data is used to inform, data is used to educate, data is used to grow. It is based on those uses of data that I found her statement regarding the NAEP results so disconcerting.The NAEP assessment is dramatically different from the state-mandated standardized assessments Californians are most familiar with called the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). It includes the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC), administered to all students in Grades 3-8 and 11. Find our students' results on the California Dashboard here. Student achievement is measured annually on an individual basis, cohort data is accrued, grade-level comparisons can be factored and indicators are assessed that can be used to inform needed interventions for individual students and over-all instructional programming improvements at both the school and district levels.The NAEP, or “The Nation’s Report Card” as Secretary DeVos identifies it, is a function of her department. It’s administered in reading and mathematics to students in grades four, eight, and twelve every two years. It is extremely important to note, that unlike CAASPP, results are based on a representative sample of students, and individual student or school results are not provided. In California, district-level results are available only for Fresno USD, Los Angeles USD, and San Diego USD.A different sampling of students are randomly selected each time the NAEP is administered. Therefore, there is no way to measure individual student growth or even grade-level progress much less make informed decisions regarding school or district-level instructional programs. As individual student reports are not provided to the student, parents or teachers, the incentive for students to perform optimally is also questionable at best. It is an incomplete snapshot of a student’s performance on one day of the school year, and the data extracted from these tests is a comparison of nothing more than apples to oranges.Most importantly, students are more than a single test score measure. The evidence is conclusive, only multiple measures serve to predict future success. While the California Dashboard is still a report card and reminiscent of the NCLB era we thought we left behind, it is a much better gauge of how our students and the public education system is doing at any given time.The needs of public education in our country are vastly complex. However, the answers lie in the strategic enhancement and focus of our collective wisdom and belief that the children of this country will lead this nation in the future. I challenge Secretary DeVos to answer if it is a time of crisis, what do leaders do? What do leaders do when the results of their work do not achieve the level they wanted or expected? My thoughts have always been to be strong and steady in times of crisis. We as leaders must be resolute in building the capacity of our systems to achieve great results. On the contrary, we should not press the panic button and run from one of, if not the greatest sources of American prosperity, public education.Also, in times of success, true leaders validate the perseverance of our dedicated education professionals who are working directly in our schools. Conversely, when the best-laid plans fail to bear the results we are seeking, true leaders put the weight on their shoulders and make the commitment to those they serve to do better, be better, and find a better path forward together.I do agree with the Secretary that we can and must do better as a nation to resolve the achievement gap. This is where the work of Duarte Unified School District and so many school systems across this country can serve as positive examples of the importance of investing in public education as we are creating innovative, thought-provoking, and new educational realities for students.With the vast diversity that exists, it is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach will not prove to be successful, and public educators already know this. We have already been creating models of excellence and hardworking educators are continuously building on the foundation that has already been laid. However, the solution is not to tear at the fabric of the great public education system. Rather, we should harness the power of our local communities, expand partnerships as we do in DUSD, and improve upon effective systems that are meeting the needs of our deserving students.I encourage the Secretary to visit our school district to see our learning community in action as well as those across our state and country that are also doing wonderful work before making misguided declarations while offering no real solutions. I would be interested in getting your feedback on Secretary DeVos’ statement and thoughts on the topic. Please share them with me here and consider writing to her as well so she can hear directly from our district’s stakeholders.Please follow me on Instagram and Twitter @SuptAmerson to stay up to date with the impressive work happening daily in our schools and find the activities 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
CTE or Voc Ed? What’s the Difference and Does it Matter?Posted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 10/28/2019In an effort to continue the discussion that we began last week on the positive impact of Career Technical Education (CTE) in DUSD, I thought I would expand on the evolution of CTE in public education. In my view, many of the components of high-quality CTE programs (cutting-edge technology, real-world “in the field” experiences, and employment-based certifications) will continue to lead the public education policy and governance conversations for years to come. And, these conversations are critical to have in the current environment as education leaders look for all the right ways to get their scholars college and/or career ready.I often find myself in conversations with people, and I am posed with the following questions, “What is CTE? Is it the same as Voc Ed? Is there a difference?" In order to answer these questions, it is important to understand that the concept of career-based education has come a long way over the last decade. In fact, career and technical education have emerged over the last 20 years from a college alternative into a new kind of college and/or career pathway. So to answer the questions, let’s begin with understanding what is CTE. Career and Technical Education – commonly known as career-tech ed or CTE – describes classes that are designed to prepare students for work. It is a fairly simple concept, but also is proving crucial to the work of public schools throughout our country. The need for highly skilled and highly technical students is what small and large corporate industry is constantly seeking. Based on that reality, it is critically important that public school systems embrace CTE as a core component of the instructional program.This still leaves the looming question - is CTE and Voc Ed the same? I would answer the question by saying that CTE is the natural progression of where education is today. Both CTE and Voc Ed programs have existed for the express purpose of preparing students to successfully meet an industry need. Explained more critically, education programs today must satisfy some critical elements in our community. 1. Students must have a rigorous educational experience that adequately prepares them for a globally interconnected world. 2. Students must be prepared to compete in and excel in the current high demand as well as new and emerging industries that meet the needs of employers. This evolution from Voc Ed to CTE has focused intensely on knowing what industries are emerging, where additional innovations will be most likely occurring, and what do industry hiring professionals need in the next wave of workers.What is also clear is that CTE is not a passing fad. There are significant investments in CTE at both the State and Federal levels. The Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act shows an ongoing federal commitment to the long term success of CTE. But more than that, scholars from across this country see the immense value of CTE. In 2016-2017, over 8 million high school students from across the country were enrolled in at least one CTE course. In addition, statistics show that high school students involved in CTE programs are more engaged in school, experience higher graduation rates, and in most cases typically go on to postsecondary education. Additionally, it is clear that CTE works for the business industry as well. The constant partnership between industry and education has created the ability for CTE to address the needs of industry while helping to close the skills gap that exist.In the end, whether it is CTE or Voc Ed, there are critical needs being met with these important programs and classes. It really doesn’t matter what we call it. What critically matters is that we have these innovative and engaging programs for our students, our schools, and our communities. Hopefully, you attended our Academy of Culinary Arts Entrepreneurship Pathway Pop Up Showcase at Duarte High School last week to see what I mean in action. There a few photos below. If not, be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter @SuptAmerson for future opportunities and find all of the activities 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
Career Technical Education, A “Leader” in DUSDPosted by Gordon Amerson, Ed.D. on 10/21/2019As Duarte Unified continues its resurgence and renaissance as a cutting edge transformational center of learning, we have recognized the importance and value of Career Technical Education (CTE). This value was reinforced this week when I sat with our Duarte Chamber of Commerce Business leaders and heard the importance of our investment in the technical skills and abilities of our scholars. Innovative local start-up companies are in need of highly skilled students to build their business, and we here in DUSD are working to meet that charge.It wasn’t so long ago that classes that did not neatly fit into the A-G University accepted course sequence were seen as “less than” or not a value to a student’s education. In many circles, CTE or Vocational Education was seen as a place that was home to instruction that was low in quality and academic content that was weak. However, over the last decade and a half, the immense value of these CTE courses is becoming more and more evident.The origins of the CTE movement can be traced to the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994. The act promoted the goal of providing work-based learning to prepare students for a rapidly evolving labor market and, at the time, appeared to be making a difference. However, as the educational landscape shifted and test accountability stood front and center as the main priority, CTE took a back seat. But the value of career and occupational based education was still quietly moving forward in the background. The interaction with business industry leaders strengthened. The programs and class offerings became more rigorous. Students and families are seeing the value in CTE. Our communities are seeing the value of CTE.As we move the transformational work ahead in DUSD, CTE will continue to be a staple of the academic program we offer. The articulation we are doing in the Entrepreneurship Culinary Arts pathway is paving the way for our scholars to learn the hard skills of career-based education coupled with the soft skills necessary to be effective leaders of our new globalized economy. Additionally, the technical expertise that is being developed in the video production course is just the cutting-edge opportunity that our scholars are craving. Our wonderful educators are casting a vision for our scholars and in the process opening up wonderful new doors of opportunity. See for yourself by watching our Culinary students' guest appearance on the KFI AM 640 Fork Report highlighted below and attend their Pop Up Pathway Showcase on October 24.While much work is left to be done on our DUSD journey, it is clear that our current CTE programs will be a leading initiative for us while we continue to look for additional strategic opportunities as we carve our path forward.Please follow me on Instagram and Twitter @SuptAmerson, and 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
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