Guest Reviews | Pasadena Unfied School District Superintendent Brian McDonald, Ed.D.

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Much has been said during this election season that has cast our schools and our district in an unfavorable light. This hyperbole only hurts our children and they deserve so much more.

I am proud of how our district has met the challenges of the recent past. Now more than ever, this district needs a united school board that will govern with vision and creativity and create a positive vision of what we can accomplish together. This is not the time for division or negativity; on the contrary, we must all draw on our individual and collective strengths.

A united board with a common moral imperative does the best job for a school district and that is what our students need right now.

Here are some great examples of the innovative steps our district has taken recently to ensure the best learning experience for our students.

  • Literacy: We all know the importance of literacy. Although the PUSD is in line with the state average, we should strive to do more. To that end, the Pasadena Unified team of educators and I have developed a 2022-23 Literacy Plan for Transitional Kindergarten through Grade 12 – a plan that is forward-thinking and builds on, but is not stuck in the past. Our comprehensive plan to ensure a balanced, consistent and differentiated approach to teaching that ultimately improves reading achievement and contains a multi-pronged approach, which includes: teacher development, high quality curriculum, screening and assessments, considerations for English learners and an in-depth special education review. I am convinced that this literacy plan will put us on the path to a significant increase in the literacy rates of our students.

This is where a unified board is essential.

  • Equity in education. In 2020, our board passed two resolutions in which we commit to our Black and Latino students to ensure they thrive in our schools: PUSD Resolution 2566, Pasadena Unified School District’s Pledge to Black students and Pasadena Unified School District Resolution 2586, Pasadena Unified School District’s commitment to Latina/o/x and Native students.

In these resolutions, we pledge to do all we can to eliminate racial disparities and improve achievement for Black and Latino students, recognizing the importance of their achievement. Additionally, these resolutions promise to provide culturally relevant materials and resources to students and caregivers, as well as take other action steps to help uplift these students. Substantive work is already underway.

  • Innovative programs. Our district recently received a $15 million grant from the United States Department of Education’s Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) to create and expand three magnet programs. This is the third major Magnet grant awarded to PUSD since 2013 and we are one of only 19 programs in the United States to receive it. Obtaining the third grant from the federal government is an indicator that the PUSD is on the right track. The new five-year grant will allow us to bring an environmental science curriculum to Washington Elementary STEM Magnet, add a new cross-cultural learning magnet to Longfellow Elementary, and enhance visual arts and the stage and French at Eliot Arts Magnet. The MSAP grant also brings expanded language learning opportunities and increases bridges between our elementary and middle schools.

Importantly, the award provides funding to develop innovative thematic programs that bring together students from different social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds, while providing teachers with opportunities for professional development and collaboration. In our increasingly diverse world, PUSD’s commitment to creating programs that help us interact meaningfully with each other in an educational environment is essential.

I look forward to working with the next school board and hope voters elect a board that shares our community’s vision of an excellent and inclusive district for all students.

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