Shrum lays out agenda for his first 90 days as VUSD superintendent

Kirk Shrum said he will engage, examine and envision with all Visalia Unified stakeholders to identify strategies to improve academics, safety and communication

VISALIA – In a local version of a presidential inaugural address, Kirk Shrum laid out his agenda for his first 90 days as superintendent of the Visalia Unified School District last week. 

Shrum presented his “Superintendent’s Entry Plan” to the board of trustees at its June 14 meeting. The plan focuses on three main themes: Engage, Examine and Envision. Shrum has already begun engaging with the community after launching a series of forums with staff, parents and community members to discuss the District’s future on June 14 at Ridgeview Middle School in Visalia. Meetings were also held at Ivanhoe Elementary on June 20, and will be held at Valley Oak Middle School on June 23 and Goshen Elementary on June 27. 

“I’m so excited you are here,” Board Secretary Walta Gamoian told Shrum. “This board heard from the community that communication is something we needed to work on. Please come and be involved with us and we want to hear you,” she told those in attendance.

Shrum said he personally will take the initiative to engage with community members by attending service club meetings and local events, visiting every campus within the district, meeting with each board member individually and with district leaders.

“Despite all the hardships we faced, our teachers, our staff and our students continued to show up and learn,” Shrum said. “Our families persevered and our community supported. There is much we should be proud of, but there is also much we need to do.”

That work begins with examining the systems already in place to determine if they are successful in reaching the intended goals. Shrum said the majority of this work will be driven by the feedback received through the superintendent search survey taken by students, staff, parents and the community. Shrum said district staff will study academic data, budgeting and operations processes, culture and climate surveys, communications practices and organizational structure to identify strengths and areas for improvement and prioritize recommended action.

“There is a reason systems with consistency and fidelity of practice are important,” Shrum said. “Without it, we leave to chance that every student and staff member will be successful.”

After examining areas that need more attention, Shrum and district administrators will create a strategy that clearly outlines priorities and goals focusing on academics, safety and communication. He said his vision for the 2022-23 school year will prioritize the following actions:  

-Be Ready: All students and staff are ready to learn and work at high levels and there is clarity with what we teach, how we support, and how we monitor progress for growth and improvement.  

-Be Present: We will continue to focus on strong attendance for students and staff.  

-Be Successful: Focused Instructional Leadership Teams and Professional Learning Communities will facilitate student learning. District support will be aligned so there is consistency and fidelity of practice across the District with our core instruction.  

-Be Connected: Every student is known by name. Every student and staff member feels they belong. The “One Visalia Connected” initiative will focus on connecting every student to a meaningful activity. 

The initiative aims to connect every VUSD student to meaningful activities within or outside the school environment. The idea is to engage students in activities on or off campus, such as student-run clubs, sports, the arts, service projects, or internships. Better student engagement improves student learning. Educational research has indicated strong correlations between student engagement and student achievement.  Shrum said these correlations apply to all grade levels of instruction and provide a great opportunity to expand our partnerships with our community.

“Getting kids connected, there is so much more hope for what they are going to do,” trustee Catalina Blair said. “I believe their scores will be higher.”

Shrum also introduced the district’s slogan for the year, “I Believe In, I Belong In, I am Visalia Unified School District.” He kicked off the year-long recognition of students, staff and teachers by recognizing interim Superintendent Doug Cardoza as the first honoree. Cardoza is retiring after 33 years in public education including 32 years with VUSD. He was appointed interim superintendent in September 2021 to lead the transition from retiring superintendent Tamara Ravalin until a new superintendent was hired.

Before accepting the interim superintendent position, he was serving as the assistant superintendent of VUSD Educational Services. Cardoza has filled several roles in the district throughout his years with Visalia. He also served as administrator of special education, director of human resources development, elementary principal, secondary assistant principal and science teacher. As a final gesture from the cowboy gentlemen, Cardoza was asked to speak at all four of Visalia Unified’s high school graduations earlier this month.

“We have amazing students and amazing staff, and they have been wanting to come together under a vision and leadership,” trustee Jacqui Gaebe said. “I think we all believe.”

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