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December 20, 2005 > Creating the future

Creating the future

An Interview with Dr. Pat Jaurequi, Superintendent of New Haven Unified School District

Education is a major cornerstone of our communities; through it our educational institutions prepare the present for the future. Each of the school districts - public and private - within the greater Tri-City area exhibit their own distinctive style and direction, often as a result of the personality and guidance of their Superintendent. TCV will visit with each superintendent over the next few months to ask their thoughts and aspirations for schools under their direction.

Our first interview is with Dr. Patricia Jaurequi who joined New Haven Unified School District (NHUSD) as Superintendent on October 25, 2004.

TCV: Briefly, what is your background?

Jaurequi: I have worked in five different school districts in "cabinet level" positions - assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent - prior to becoming a superintendent. This is my first position as a superintendent. I have had my eye on the prize of being a superintendent for 15 years, but wanted to have appropriate experience since it is an awesome and daunting task. My experience in education includes that of a classroom teacher, a high school assistant principal and principal and many district office positions in charge of curriculum and instruction, finance, facilities, business, personnel, staff development and professional learning.

When I finally went to my superintendent at Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD), Dave Gordon, about two years ago and told him that I was thinking of applying for a position as superintendent, he said, '"You have been ready for a long time." Before I applied to New Haven, my husband and I spent time in the community to see if it would be a good fit. I needed to be able to see myself as part of the community because my leadership style is collaborative - working with people. We fell in love with the community and the school district. I applied, was hired and we relocated to this area. We love being here.

TCV: What position did you hold just prior to becoming superintendent of NHUSD?

Jaurequi: At Elk Grove Unified School District for almost ten years. I served in two different jobs - Assistant Superintendent for Personnel for almost 6 years and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Because my superintendent knew I had been a CFO and those positions are hard to fill, each time we would lose our CFO, he would bring me in as an "interim." He did that twice and the last time, told me that since when I was in that job things ran smoothly, I would become the Deputy Superintendent for Finance. While I have much respect for finance, I am a people person. It was for the "good of the order," so I stepped up to the plate. I am grateful that I did this because when I came to New Haven, I was able to study the finances and look at the situation which allowed me to establish credibility with our employees and the community as well.

TCV: Are there special challenges when a school district such as NHUSD crosses municipal boundaries?

Jaurequi: I have found both Union City and Hayward very interested in their youth and both have worked collaboratively with the school system. It has not been a problem, rather a very positive experience. My only other experience in this area, Elk Grove, was a very large district - 330 square miles - where we worked with 5 municipalities.

TCV: How does NHUSD handle "at risk" students?

Jaurequi: It is important to me as superintendent to be the district that delivers for all children. In order to do this, we cannot have a "one size fits all" approach. I saw a glaring omission in the school district when I arrived in late October of last year; the lack of an alternative program, a continuation high school, a home schooling option or independent study options. I worked hard with staff and teachers to get those options in place - and we did. We opened Conley-Caraballo High School in record time. The idea was promoted within a few weeks of my hire and the board had trust and confidence that the administration could deliver. That school opened this school year serving 300-350 youth. There is an alternative component, a continuation component and an independent study component at that school. It is basically three schools within a school.

Logan High School, with 4,000 students, is the large, comprehensive high school of our district. Six "houses" have been created to give a sense of a smaller learning community, each with its own administrators, guidance counselors and other personnel. That helps all students - not just "at risk" youth - to have connections whether through sports, band or a small learning community. We are in the process of exploring our own community day school for students who have been expelled from the regular program. They still need an education and a safety net. That is one more option on an educational continuum.

We also work closely with Mission Valley Regional Occupational Program (ROP). A number of our students spend half a day there complimented by the academic programs at Logan High School. Our counseling staff is working with students to help them as well.

TCV: Considering the enrollment at Logan, how big is too big?

Jaurequi: I have heard that many years ago there was a discussion of splitting the high school into two separate facilities. The decision of the community and the board at that time was that the benefits of a large, comprehensive high school outweighed dividing. At this juncture - and for the last 4 or 5 years - we are in declining enrollment. Logan had 4,300 students and is now under 4,000. As we are able to open the community day school, and provide other options for students, combined with declining enrollment, I do not believe we will face that question in this district. Logan, because of its size, is able to offer students an incredible array of curriculum and co-curricular options - band, color guard, forensics, athletics, etc. The administration has done a wonderful job of mitigating any sense of being "lost" in a large school.

TCV: Are many students transferring in or out of the district?

Jaurequi: Yes to both. We have far more students coming in than going out. All districts have intra-district transfers. For example, if a parent works in this community and would like their child to come to school here, we have the capacity and accept students from other schools. I think we have about 700 students (k-12) coming into the district and about 150 going out of our system. It is standard practice to allow students to move between districts, if space is available. We have students from Fremont, Hayward, Oakland and other areas. Since some of our programs, such as Forensics, are so well known they attract students.

TCV: Does the high cost of housing adversely affect NHUSD personnel? Are there collaborative efforts with the cities to help attract and retain personnel?

Jaurequi: Having moved here from about 100 miles away, I understand the high cost of housing. Many of our teachers live in the community and are graduates of James Logan High School. That is a nice recruiting tool; people love this community. Having lived here for a year, I understand why. They want to raise their families here. So for us, we have not had a recruiting problem due to the price of housing. New Haven is a very attractive school district in terms of salary and benefits and support for teachers in terms of professional learning. Now that we are downsizing with declining enrollment, we have fewer openings and more people wanting to get in. Recruitment has not been difficult for the district.

TCV: What is the practical challenge of educating a diverse population while satisfying government mandates?

Jaurequi: I put together a Strategic Planning Team in August. We just completed two days of meeting which followed three days in August and will end with another day in January. I approach this by bringing all stakeholders together and asking, "What will we do to be a district that delivers for all children?" The diversity of our community and our student population is our greatest asset. With that in mind, "How do we move forward to chart a course for the next three to five years?"

I have a different way of looking at the budget and resources. Rather than taking resources and planning the budget each year, I think you should have a plan that will drive budgeting in the next cycle. You budget the plan. I have never been in a situation where we cannot figure out how to fund what we want to do when the community has created the vision. We will be public about that and connect with the resources - foundations, grants, parcel taxes, or whatever. There is great synergy when the community comes together to improve education for their youth and their children. Decide the "what," of the plan and connect resources to the priorities where you will get the greatest return on investment.


TCV: Who are the members of this team?

Jaurequi: They came from the community. I looked at the ethnic makeup of the community, employee groups, communities, businesses. As I met with people and listened to what was working well and their concerns, I wanted the community, as I announced this 30 person team, to see themselves in there. This is a divergent thinking group of parents, businesses - half of the team community representatives and the other half employees of the system, both teachers and classified, operational, supervisory.

Parents are an important voice to be heard. I looked for balance between all sectors, male/female and district/community. It was a six day commitment. All decisions are made by consensus, meaning not just a vote, but talking and working through issues to find a core of those things that we all believe in. I have found that as different as we all are, we have a lot in common if we spend time identifying a common core of belief values. Whatever we, as a community, believe we have to do for our children, is what I am going to do as superintendent. We will soon have that plan, probably by the end of January. Then, we will roll up our sleeves and start doing the things that this group has said.

In August, the group came up with five major strategies. For each of those strategies, we put together a joint action team open to the whole community - parents, teachers, businesses, principals, etc. They worked from September until December to create specific plans of actions. In the last few days, we heard from those 150 or so people who were fleshing out the skeleton put together in August. We deliberated about that for two days. What is exciting is that so many people from the district and the community are working together to decide what we are going to do.

TCV: Are these standing committees?

Jaurequi: No. These are ad hoc committees. The commitment I made to all of them is that every three months I will report publicly to the Board of Education and to them progress to date. I will periodically update the plan and reconvene a new planning team if a new action team is necessary. I have used this process in other districts where I have worked and if another team is convened, I think it is important to invite some people who were on the first team but also blend others who were not on it the first time as well. We need to keep looking at how we are doing in charting the course for the future.

Rather than reacting to the future, I like to create the future. We need to look at it as if we had enough money and satisfied all the other "ifs," - what would we want to provide children in this district. My job is to figure out how to get the money and how to make it happen. I don't want people's vision of the future to be limited by thoughts of "we can't afford it, so we can't think about it." I have found myself saying over the last few months, "what if we could afford it?" When you create the vision, you are vested in it.

Although I may have a lot of good ideas, the synergy of people working together far exceeds what any one or two individuals can come up with.

TCV: Has year round school been investigated?

Jaurequi: I know there was some research done on it, but I believe that they were looking at alternative scheduling models. Most school districts that go to year round scheduling, since there is no research that says it makes a difference in education, do it for facility reasons. Because you can get another 30% capacity out of your facilities; I have a lot of experience with year round in Elk Grove. We don't have a facilities problem here so I think year round scheduling was ruled out.

TCV: What is the district's relationship with surrounding colleges?

Jaurequi: We are working with and exploring options with Ohlone and Chabot for a program called "College Connections" that allows high school students to attend community college courses and receive dual credit toward a high school diploma and college credit. I believe that connection is important and so do Dr. Carlson (Chabot) and Dr. Treadway (Ohlone); we are working together to have that connection. Students can go in the evening and both schools have worked collaboratively with this district and want to renew a commitment and relationship with us.

We have a great relationship with CSUEB primarily in training second career folks that already have a degree who want to teach in our school system. This has been in place for many years. Some of our teachers work part time for CSUEB in terms of coaching and mentoring. When there are opportunities for student teaching or internships for their students, we make our classrooms available. This is an incredibly strong partnership. It helps students in their program because it is so close and allows us the benefits of student teachers and interns who can gain employment in our system. That helps on the recruiting side of things. We gain many fine teachers from that program.

TCV: Any additional thoughts?

Jaurequi: I am really enjoying working and serving in this role. I feel that I have the best job in the world!

 
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