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PCS Newsletter 12/17/21

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PCS Newsletter
Dear PCS Community,

What a treat it was to see so many of you at the First Annual PCS Winter Fun Run. My family and I enjoyed spending time with our community, and the exercise was a great bonus!

Reflecting on the first half of the school year, I am so proud of our amazing students, staff, and families in PCS. The pandemic has created challenges for everyone, and having a dedicated and supportive community has made all the difference.

I want to take a moment to congratulate our District’s first-ever student Board members, Malaya Cantor and Katie Hale. Malaya is a junior at Casa Grande High School and Katie is a junior at Petaluma High School, and both took their seat on the Board on Tuesday, December 14th. The rest of our Board and I are thrilled to welcome Malaya and Katie, and we are excited to bring a student perspective to every decision that is made by our Board.

Also on Tuesday, we announced that McDowell Elementary School will host a Spanish Dual-language Immersion program next year. We plan to launch one Kindergarten class with the program this upcoming August; each year, the program will grow by a grade level. If you have a child starting Kindergarten in the fall, and you are interested in learning more about this new and exciting program, please plan to attend an information night at McDowell! Dates will be posted soon on our School Tours page.

On a personal note, I will be taking leave during the month of January to be home and bond with our 3-month old daughter, Gianna. Former Superintendent Gary Callahan will be my substitute for the month, and I will be back in February. I wish you all a peaceful, restful, and joyful Winter Break!

In partnership,

Matthew Harris
Superintendent, Petaluma City Schools
COVID-19 Updates
Holiday traditions are important and there are several ways to enjoy these traditions and protect your health. Because different generations tend to gather to celebrate holidays, here are some important recommendations from the CDC and CDPH to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer:
  • Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect others. Here is information about free vaccine clinics in Sonoma County.
  • Please get tested if you have COVID symptoms. As a reminder, the PCS COVID testing site at the District Office is closed during school breaks, but here is information about free testing sites across Sonoma County.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth, especially when around older individuals or people with medical conditions.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Keep gatherings small.
  • If your guests are not fully vaccinated or you don’t know their status, plan gatherings that are small, short, and outdoors.
  • If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. 
  • And finally, laugh! Research shows that laughter soothes tension, reduces the physical symptoms of stress and improves the immune system. So, this holiday season, may you and your loved ones find laughter every day. You deserve it.
Make a Difference for Children in our Community: Career Opportunities with PCS
Have you ever thought about working in education and making a difference in the lives of children in our community? Consider a job with us at Petaluma City Schools! We have multiple openings in a variety of jobs throughout the District, including full-time and part-time opportunities. For us to best serve students, we need the community's help in getting fully staffed. If you yourself aren't looking, please share this information! We have both full-time and flexible, part-time positions - linked here is a list of our Open Positions.

Check out this week's highlighted jobs below:
Student and Family Engagement

We had an amazing turnout at our first ever PCS Family Holiday Fun Run. With almost 600 participants, it was a great success. Thank you to all of the volunteers and community partners who came out to help.

Last week, we held a very informative parent informational night on Opioids and Fentanyl. Thank you to the Sonoma County Department of Health and Panaptic for their joint efforts in making this night happen. If you missed it, you can watch the Opioid/Fentanyl Parent Informational Night recording here. You can also check out our resource list in English and Spanish, Providence's Sonoma County Substance Use Disorder Resources, and a relevant part of California's Health and Safety Code.

Upcoming Events:

  • Elementary Kickball League - Spring
  • Film Festival - March
  • Robotics Challenge - April
  • Art Showcase - April/May 
Wellness Corner
Teen Mental Health Presentation
Our District Guidance Coordinators Nikki Jackson, LMFT, and Linda Walsh, LMFT, presented on December 7th to a group of families at Casa Grande High School. Information regarding anxiety and depression was shared including physical and behavioral signs, as well as what families can do to help.
Community Resources
If you are looking for family resources, Buckelew Programs shared with us December’s monthly resource community packet. The packet contains information on various support groups, rental assistance, community events, and much more. (Recursos en el condado de Sonoma- Español) Please note: These are not school or District events. As such, Petaluma City Schools District does not sponsor, staff, supervise, support or endorse the information, activities, or events posted.


Update on FAIR Education Act and Ethnic Studies
Petaluma City Schools is committed to ensuring all students experience an excellent, diverse, equitable, and inclusive education that is in compliance with California Education Code, the FAIR Education Act, and recent changes to California High School Graduation Requirements.

The FAIR Act requires California schools to include reference to the contributions of people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in history and social studies curriculum that is Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful. PCS educators are currently evaluating history/social studies textbooks that meet the requirements of the FAIR Act to pilot for use in K-12 classrooms. Families and community members will have an opportunity to view materials and provide feedback.

Ethnic studies examines the histories, experiences, and cultures of various racial and ethnic groups.  Per AB101, beginning with the graduating class of 2030 all California high school students will be required to complete a semester-long course in ethnic studies to earn a high school diploma. No later than the 2025-26 school year, all high schools must start offering ethnic studies. Petaluma City Schools believes this additional requirement will enhance learning for all of our students and target some of the curricular needs recently voiced by students. The State legislature has allocated $50 million to support the creation or expansion of ethnic studies courses.


Under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA), PCS has gone through the process of redistricting to transition to “by-Trustee-area” elections. After holding five public meetings, all of which included a Public Hearing about redistricting, we are happy to announce that the Board approved Map Scenario 5. This map is for Board elections and will be put into effect for the November 2022 elections. It is important to note that this does not affect school boundaries at all. Additionally, each Board member, regardless of the trustee area in which they reside, still represents the entire District.


U.S. Citizenship Preparation Course
Petaluma Adult School will offer a free, 12-week preparation course for permanent residents who wish to become U.S. citizens. Please note, you need to have a green card for 5 years (or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen) and be able to speak, read, and write in English in order to apply for citizenship.

Classes will be held on Wednesdays from 6:30 - 8:30 PM at McDowell Elementary. Registration will be open January 10-13, 2022 and classes will start on February 2, 2022. Please email to make an appointment to register. The class is free and child care will be provided.


Lumacon Writing Contest
If you have an aspiring student writer in your household or classroom who enjoys drama, action, and suspense, make sure they know about Lumacon! This year's Lumacon will be held on January 29, 2022 and they are looking for wonderful writers for the Drabble Contest. If you have a student that enjoys writing and wants something creative to do during the break, please check out the Lumacon Contests page for more information. Please note that there will be covid safety protocols in place for the event itself, including limited entry. Keep a lookout on the Lumacon website for when (free) tickets will be available, for youth art submissions, and cosplay opportunities as well!


Around PCS
New Mural at PJHS
There is a new mural in progress at Petaluma Junior High! Local artist, Maxfield Bala, who is an alumnus of McNear Elementary, Petaluma Junior High (PJHS), and Petaluma High, is working on a mural that will be located at the main entrance of PJHS. Bala has painted dozens of murals around town, including many at our schools. McKinley School, McDowell Elementary, Casa Grande High, Grant Elementary, Petaluma Adult School, Penngrove Elementary, and Petaluma High all have beautiful murals by Bala. When planning the PJHS mural, Bala met with students, staff, and parents who discussed their ideas and their hope that the mural would transform the entrance and be representative of the school and community. " the far left of the mural, I translated an image provided by students and staff that reflected our community and environment as seen in the green rolling hills, oak trees, and large Bantam adorning the center of the wall. It's been a pleasure working with everyone to see this project realized," said Bala.
Celebrating Valley Oaks' 30-Year Anniversary
This Year, Petaluma City Schools' independent study program at Valley Oaks School is celebrating its 30th year supporting students as they move towards graduation. Founded in 1991, Valley Oaks started as a small, experimental school with two teachers who taught both high school and middle school. The founders believed that Petaluma had a need for an independent study program to support students who were unable to attend a daily course of studies at a comprehensive site due to their extracurricular activities including acting, modeling, horsemanship, competitive athletics, or a physical illness that precluded daily attendance.

Since then, Valley Oaks has grown into a vibrant community of educators and learners who enjoy the flexibility that they are afforded through the rigorous independent study structure, which includes the option of co-enrollment at Petaluma High, Casa Grande, and/or Santa Rosa Junior College. Congratulations on this amazing anniversary and here’s to many more years of independent study here in Petaluma!
Casa Grande High eSports Teams Success
Electronic sports (eSports) are officially a sanctioned competitive sport for California high school students as per the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) and the North Coast Section (NCS). Casa Grande High School's Rocket League and Super Smash Bros Ultimate teams were the first of their kind in Sonoma County, with sixteen students competing. This was the first year of competition and Casa's Rocket League team was ranked as high as 7th, and one of the Smash Bros. teams reached 9th out of over 170 teams in each sport! Both teams made the playoffs and finished in the final 32 teams of their respective tournaments. With this initial success, Casa will expand eSports offerings into Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart.


LCAP Advisory Committee Meeting
On December 8th, our District held our second of seven Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) meetings for the 2021-22 annual update. On the committee, we have representation from families, teachers, staff, students, community members, board members, and administrators, with at least one representative from every school site in our District.  In total, we had over 35 participants.

The key takeaways from our second meeting are as follows:
  1. The committee reviewed again our District/LCAP goals and outlined the purpose of the LCAP committee, which is to identify and support multiple opportunities to listen to Petaluma’s diverse educational partner groups, to capture community thoughts, look for trends, and make advisory recommendations to revisions and improvements to the District’s three-year LCAP. Our end goal is to provide our Board of Education with a well-thought-out annual update to adopt in June of 2022. 
  2. The committee continues to be grounded in data so that our decisions can be as informed and objective as possible. In our second meeting, we looked at multiple-year data around graduation rates, A-G rates, and College and Career Indicator rates.
  3. The committee took feedback from the first meeting and reviewed and edited questions for parent/guardian panels, which we will be holding in our February LCAP Advisory Committee meeting. 
We want to thank and appreciate everyone who participated and encourage you to participate as an educational partner throughout this process. Our meetings take place via Zoom and are scheduled for the following dates from 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM:
  • January 19, 2022
  • February 23, 2022
  • March 23, 2022
  • April 20, 2022
  • May 11, 2022


Virtual STEM
The  U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has a website that offers STEM resources for families and educators. Resources include virtual field trips of DOE National Labs and a variety of K-12 activities from the labs. Please note: These are not school or District events. As such, Petaluma City Schools District does not sponsor, staff, supervise, support or endorse the information, activities, or events posted.