School Boards in Action: 5 Questions with Ken Mintz, San Ramon Valley USD

Ken Mintz, board president, San Ramon Valley Unified School District

What does your district have planned for the 2022–23 school year to foster learning recovery and educational advancements?

We offer multiple options to foster learning recovery and educational advancement options for our students. All of our schools provide student support periods. This time is used both for students to study and dig deeper into their learning, and to provide them with interventions on particular standards that they still need to master.  We have instructional coaches who are offering support during common learning time. All of our teachers partner regularly with multi-tiered system of support liaisons to build professional practice in delivering instruction and intervention and equity liaisons who ensure all underserved populations make academic gains.

All of our teachers give both academic and social-emotional screeners three times over the course of the year. Based on these point-in-time results and other data, interventions are implemented either during the common learning time, before school or after school. We also build collaboration time into all teacher schedules so they have time to analyze assessment data in order to determine what supports are most appropriate for individual students and/or groups of students.

We also utilize Edgenuity, the leading provider of K–12 online curriculum. This allows us to provide credit recovery options for all of our high school students, both at the comprehensive high schools and at the continuation high school.

Finally, we offer a breadth of educational advancement opportunities to meet the diverse needs of our students. This includes things like our Academic Talent Program, GATE, the Math Advancement Program, a wide variety of AP course options, and College Connect, which in partnership with Diablo Valley Community College, provides an exceptional educational opportunity for our 11th and 12th graders to engage in accelerated learning. We also have an incredible partnership with the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation, which provides a Science Alliance Program and a multitude of opportunities for extracurricular engagement in both academics and in the visual and performing arts.

What types of professional development priorities or supports do you have planned for teachers and staff?

All of our professional development is focused directly on the goals we have from our SRVUSD data dashboard that connect to our strategic directions, which drive everything we do to support student learning. Built on a foundation of academic excellence, we are broadening our definition of success. We are committed to creating the best possible environments for deep learning and innovation where students thrive and succeed because they are safe, included, accepted and supported. Professional development is a key part of this.

Some of our professional development is provided for all staff members, and some depends on the person’s role. We have the classified staff Professional Growth Program where employees may earn professional growth awards equal to 5 percent of their regular monthly salaries. We also have professional development specifically for certificated staff, with a focus on equity, deep learning, social-emotional supports, implicit and explicit bias, assessment and culturally responsive teaching practices. We are also working to build up leadership capacity in certain areas such as deep learning, engaging students in math concepts and supporting staff with social-emotional learning.

Another focus is on K-12 reading. We have a new phonics program that is being implemented for the first time. Along with this program, we are providing teachers with a new reading screener, Dibels, and specific interventions that are linked directly to this screener data.

What are some ways the district is sharing positive news and/or support with families and the community?

At our August board of education meeting, we approved the 2022–23 Communications and Community Relations Plan. One of our five strategic goals within this plan is to “promote and maintain positive and collaborative relationships and partnerships that serve to enhance the educational experience of students and build SRVUSD’s positive reputation in the community.” This includes strategies to increase the board’s and district leaders’ presence out in the community and documenting and sharing positive stories on social media and in SRVUSD’s website newsroom.

Additionally, with the start of the new school year, our board now has a standing agenda item for student recognition at every meeting. The goal is to recognize and honor a wide range of students who represent the diversity of our student body across 35 schools and highlight their accomplishments to the wider community. Thus far, we have honored students who were selected as National Science Camp delegates, winners of an art contest for the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and the student who was selected as a student board member for the 2022–23 California State PTA Board of Managers. This has been very well received by the community and helps to further our Access to Excellence (a2e) initiative goals for reimagining success in SRVUSD.

What is one thing you’d most like to accomplish during your time as a trustee and why?

As of December, I’ll be coming to the end of my term on SRVUSD’s board of education. I have been honored to have the opportunity to serve for a total of 18 years over a 30-year period (1992–96 and again 2009-present). During this time frame I have participated in hiring five superintendents and have seen our student enrollment double in size, all while meeting financial challenges and the impacts of social change. My focus along with my fellow board members has always been to ensure all decisions we made would start and end with what was best for each and every one of our students.

My hope and goal during the remainder of my term is not only to continue putting our students at the center of every decision, but also to educate our students and our community on the importance of providing an education built on a foundation of communication, collaboration, curiosity, creativity and critical-thinking skills. These are all things that will prepare them for future success, no matter what path their lives take. I also want to instill a sense of civility for those holding differences in opinion while accepting a basis in fact for their views. SRVUSD provides a very strong academic environment for our students, while ensuring all students are provided with the conditions for learning that help them thrive. My hope is that we produce actively engaged and respectful citizens as well.

What fictional character do you most relate to and why?

A fictional character that I relate to is Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird,” because he reminds me of my father, an honorable and caring man who always strove to create a better place for his family and community. My parents instilled in me and my siblings the importance of looking beyond ourselves and serving others.

While I was growing up in New Jersey, my dad served on our local board of education. He started when I was in second grade and continued through my high school years. He believed that the most important thing we can do is prepare the next generation with the skills to be successful and productive members of society. I attended many board meetings during those years and in fact had a couple of friends write in my senior yearbook that they expected to see me on a school board someday. I couldn’t be more proud to have followed in my dad’s footsteps.