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Superintendent's Letter to the Community (October 2016)

Dear community partners and stakeholders,


October marks National Energy Awareness Month, and I write today to encourage us all to stay mindful of our ongoing work in AUSD to build a more sustainable Alameda. Each year we learn how to improve in our stewardship of our natural resources and protection of our local environment, and I am impressed by Alameda’s progress.


In 2015, a California state task force convened by Superintendent of State Instruction Tom Torlakson issued a groundbreaking “Blueprint  for Environmental Literacy.” The 48-page report called for the development of curriculum and learning experiences to help all California public school children understand the environmental challenges currently facing our state, nation, and planet. These challenges inspire our work!


“Environmental content is a key element of the new California Next Generation Science Standards,” the report stated.  “The complex thinking and problem solving abilities required of students by the California Common Core State Standards are exactly the types of skills required to meet the environmental challenges our students will face in the future.” Indeed, these challenges help  frame the work ahead for us.


Here in AUSD, we already have a very strong foundation of environmental education. Our district-wide “Go Green” program recently won a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association in 2014. Then Bay Farm School won a prestigious Green Ribbon Award from the US Department of Education in 2016 (primarily for its efforts to teach students how to take care of their world). In addition:


- Paden Elementary School has launched an innovative “Learn and Play by the Bay” program that empowers children to learn about ecology by studying and enjoying the San Francisco Bay.

- Students at Lincoln Middle School, now an Ocean Guardian School, have been learning also about the Bay Area’s fragile ecosystem as well as helping it by replacing invasive plants and picking up trash along Alameda waterways.

- Students at Wood Middle School, also an Ocean Guardian School, have long participated in Alameda County Office of Education’s Service Learning Waste Reduction Program so students and staff learn to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

- Encinal Jr. & Sr. High School continues to offer courses in Marine Biology. 

- Alameda High School continues to offer a popular AP environmental course.As part of that course, students present an environmental science project to AUSD elementary and middle students.

- And many of our schools have gardens that are used to teach lessons on science. and healthy cooking.


Whether it be through wonderful outdoor education efforts like those in Ruby Bridges Elementary School’s 5th Grade Science Camp or Earhart Elementary School’s explorations of the shoreline near its campus, AUSD students and staff are stepping up to the challenge of learning how to be better stewards of our local ecology.


I am also excited about new initiatives we are exploring in response to last year’s Blueprint. For instance, we recently partnered with “ChangeScale,” a local non-profit committed to helping schools integrate new NGSS science standards into their core curriculum and improve environmental education for K-12 students in the Bay Area. This work dovetails with work AUSD teachers and administrators are doing with BaySci and UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science to increase science instruction in our schools. All of us recognize how science is a core academic area that is required of college and career readiness in a global 21st century economy that demands deeper levels of scientific inquiry and environmental literacy for us to make the world better. The Board of Education recognized the primacy of science  in academic preparation with their acknowledgment of our partnership with BaySci in this resolution here.


Another program about which I’m excited is our partnership with Cenergistic through which we are educating staff and students to conserve water and energy with such simple strategies as turning off lights, powering down computers, turning down heat over the weekends, and fixing leaks. Reducing our energy use helps the district save money, of course, which makes us more sustainable as an organization and frees up funds for district priorities that would otherwise be wasted. It also helps students and staff develop lifelong habits that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and hopefully climate change) in the future. This effort is so important to AUSD the Board of Education recently passed a proclamation that focuses on our conservation efforts.


If I were to name one thing that I love about our island – aside from the schools, of course – it would be the amazing ecosystem here, nestled as it is by the San Francisco and San Leandro Bays. I look forward to our ongoing efforts to teach our students about how we can take care of this environment over the next several years, and I am grateful to staff and students who practice mindful energy conservation every day in AUSD schools. We value science as a key subject to prepare students for college, career, and the 21st century economy. And we know outdoor education is a great way to help students engage, have fun, and make meaning of scientific inquiry.






Posted by: Susan Davis, District Staff, Alameda Unified School District Published:10/21/16
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