Kirk Shrum shares his spring priorities

Hello Visalia Unified School District Team and Community,

Happy New Year!

As we look to the new year, I want to take a moment to reflect on 2022. The start of the 2022-23 school year saw a return to normalcy with school operations and activities all proceeding without COVID-related modifications. While we celebrated this, we also saw the impact the last few years had on all of us. Our student state test data and the challenges students have faced show how difficult that time was for our students, families, and staff. Returning to in-person learning also provided its own unique set of challenges for everyone. In short, the last three years have been difficult.

The Visalia Unified School Board responded to these challenges by taking immediate actions:

  • Restructured and enhanced district operations and staff to address safety, communication, and academics.
  • Invested in school-based staff including: site counseling and social-emotional intervention supports; district safety and security; additional academic intervention teachers; increased after school offerings (Expanded Learning Opportunity Program); and Special Education to support our students.
  •  Adopted solutions focused on safety that included new technology to notify staff immediately of a campus emergency and a bus transportation app to notify students and parents when the bus is arriving and any delays in real time.
  • Implemented solutions focused on academics including a new 24/7 tutoring platform for all students in 4-12 grades and strengthened graduation requirements by adding a third year of math.
  • Developed partnerships with colleges to guarantee admission to qualified students.
  • Launched our “One Visalia Connected” initiative to connect every student to meaningful activities beyond the classroom and ensure every student is known by name.

And most importantly, the Board of Education created and unanimously approved our Beliefs and Commitments to guide our path forward together. The design of the Core Beliefs and Commitments provides us with the cornerstone on which to build systems that create the conditions for students, families, and staff to be successful.

As we move into 2023, I am very excited about our future. Building upon the foundation established in our Beliefs and Commitments, we will begin creating the District’s strategic plan and long range facilities plan to chart our path forward together for years to come. These transformational processes need input from all members of our community, including you. This spring, all of our stakeholders (parents, students, staff, and community) will be invited to engage in dialogue with us as we create these plans together.

While these action steps are being developed, we will continue our focus on academics, safety, and communication. Our priorities for Spring 2023 include:

  • Improving student attendance through stronger school, family, and community partnerships.
  • Ensuring our teachers have the tools and training necessary to deliver the most effective and impactful classroom instruction, and adopting a new phonics program for our primary students.
  • Implementation of a new safety process for visitors and volunteers, a transportation notification system for parents, and enhanced safety training for all staff.
  • Additional investments in the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program to ensure all students in VUSD have opportunities to extend their learning time, in and out of the classroom.
  • Expanding partnerships with local colleges and universities to increase postsecondary opportunities for all students.
  • Expanding visual and performing arts opportunities with the passage of Proposition 28.
  • Continued development of our “One Visalia Connected” initiative.

I know we have much work to do, and we are not where we want to be when it comes to student learning; however, I am confident that with our School Board’s vision and our amazing VUSD staff, students, and families, we are on a continuous improvement journey to see our students succeed. It is vital that we all stay focused on the most important thing: creating the conditions to maximize student learning.

I am proud to be part of this district and community, and I know our best days are ahead. Let’s move forward together in 2023 with urgency and focus. Happy New Year.

Sincerely,

Kirk Shrum
Visalia Unified School District Superintendent

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