VUSD adds 10 admin for academics, safety and communication

Visalia Unified School District superintendent is coming into the school year with a plan to ensure the district is addressing problem areas following survey

VISALIA – Visalia Unified will have 10 new administrative positions going into this school year as a way to address three problem areas in the district. Each issue was highlighted by parents and district board members this month.

At the Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) Board of Education meeting, superintendent Kirk Shrum laid out his entry plan going into the current 2022-23 school year that launched on Aug. 11.

Last fall, in the district’s search for a new superintendent, members of the Visalia community were asked to identify areas that require more attention involving education. Respondents focused on three major areas: academics, safety and communication.

To fix the issue, the district created an additional 10 administrative positions, which will cost the district approximately $2.5 million. The funding came from both the general fund and the local control accountability fund , to support goals that can improve student outcomes.

According to a district spokesperson, among these new positions are two new coordinators for school safety and security as well as student conduct and prevention. These positions were made to help focus on student safety. In addition is the development of a director of multi-tiered systems of support and social-emotional learning to ensure a system for student behavior and academics are offered to every student.

Another added position includes an assistant superintendent, whose responsibilities include overseeing the school’s student services, family community resource center and special education departments, according to public information officer Kim Batty. The assistant superintendent will also lead a newly instated division with the district, titled Learning and Leadership, to ensure the district is focusing on student learning, according to the district spokesperson.

Additionally, to ensure that students are participating in extracurriculars like arts and athletics, the district added two directors for visual and performing arts and athletics.

Shrum said the district took this immediate action to ensure their organizational structure aligned with the priorities identified in the survey. This means that Visalia Unified needed to make some changes to the district when it came to things regarding school safety, instruction and leading principles. According to Shrum, the changes were quick, because they were too important to make the kids wait even another year.

“We can’t change outcomes if we don’t change the system,” Shrum said.

In regard to current academics, Shrum said data from student assessments from the spring semester will help the district generate and set goals for rapid improvement. It will also help monitor and provide the district with feedback. He said he does not think anyone is proud of current student performance results, but is determined to create a system to uplift the outcomes and performance of everyone.

“It’s going to take some time, but we have to address it,” Shrum said.

Another way to ensure students are functioning at their best is to get them connected with the community through the One Visalia Connected initiative. The initiative is a way for students to connect with their community and seize opportunities in the business world and extracurricular activities. Aside from getting students more connected, the goal of the initiative is to improve academic performance and also help students better develop their social and emotional health.

As a former educator, Shrum said he noticed first-hand the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on students. From the lack of connectivity, he said he noticed the negative ways it could manifest in students and used that as a driving reason to launch the initiative going into the current school year.

“If we actually were able to connect every kid to something meaningful, that could be a game changer for so many of our students and our families in the community,” Shrum said in a previous interview with Sun Gazette staff.

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