Wednesday night’s Board meeting delivered on four items that add great potential for Portola:
Scholar-in-Residence: The Board voted to fund a full-time position that helps teachers use best practices in their programs and in their professional development efforts. Goals of the position include building District capacity to support new ways for students to learn, and developing research-based and locally-informed approaches to areas of need. San Francisco Unified School Distict has had success implementing a similar program. The position starts Fall 2013 at Portola Middle School, with a focus on Universal Design for Learning (UDL)/Personalized Learning. Portola teachers widely support this.
Instrumental Music Program Partially Restored at Elementary Level: The Board voted to fund 2.5 Full-Time Equivalent positions to teach and coordinate instrumental music at the elementary schools that feed into Portola, as well as at the Miravista K-8 school in Richmond.
Supporters pointed out that learning to play an instrument is a singular experience that enhances coordination, sharpens concentration, creates a sense of achievement, provides a means for self-expression, has been shown to improve math ability, can boost team skills, and many more executive functions.
This program will broaden the base of musicians available for band programs in Portola Middle and El Cerrito High, and amplify the already strong band programs at those schools. It is part of a larger plan to cultivate music and performing arts as a differentiator for the El Cerrito High School Family, and provides a positive focal point for our very different populations.
Note: A large portion of Miravista students attend high school at El Cerrito High.
PE Waivers: The Board approved the staff recommendation to allow individual students to apply for PE Waivers at middle schools throughout the District. The student’s parents have to request it, and the student must pass a standardized PE test. Students who are granted PE waivers can take two electives instead of one. Staff is developing process details.
The new Portola building and the construction project: The Board ratified the selection of Arntz Builders of Novato as for the General Contractor for the new building on the Castro site. It also allocated an additional $12M for the overall Portola building budget, and named an experienced and well-regarded Construction Architect, Lee Pollard, from HY Architects. The project is end-to-end funded, and can proceed with all due speed. Look for trailers and crews at the Castro Site before Memorial Day.
In reflecting on these measures, Board member Todd Groves said, “I believe we will see a richer, deeper learning environment for all kids at Portola starting next year.”
We at GoPortola! agree. There is a lot of work ahead, but take a moment to let this good news sink in, and think about the power these new ‘tools’ have to transform Portola. It will take vision not only from the Board, but from all of us in the parent community and beyond to make the most of the coming months, and get these programs off to a good start.