The opening of a new school year is a time of promise and potential for students and their families. New kindergarten students and their parents experience the separation and newness that formal schooling represents. High school seniors approach the new year with mixed feelings by looking forward to a last year of public schooling, but a bit hesitant about becoming adults – sentiments shared certainly with their parents. And between those two experiences, a new school year is a time when all students reconnect with friends, meet new teachers, and look forward to a year’s academic and social learning.

For Visalia Unified, the new year is also a time of promise and potential. With the arrival of kids in August, summer work to upgrade and maintain facilities ends, training for staff concludes, and materials for classes and programs arrive at schools. A school year opens with enthusiasm that follows a new beginning.

But a new year doesn’t necessarily mean new things in every area. Our Board of Trustees has established an ongoing set of goals that are helping us to increase student achievement and success as adults. These five goals, in place through 2022, are for challenging curriculum and support, a collaborative culture, a caring and encouraging environment, hiring and maintaining talented staff, and the alignment of all resources to our goals. All of this supports our mission of providing our students with an education that affords them limitless opportunity for the future.

To clarify and focus our work in academics, we have established three milestones for achievement of our first goal: challenging curriculum and support. These milestones are all students reading at grade level by the end of the second grade, all students ready for high school mathematics by the end of the eighth grade, and all students college and career ready by the end of their senior year. These are significant markers for student success and, since the establishment of these milestones last year, we have seen growth in each of these areas.

Our third goal, a caring and encouraging environment, has received much attention in our organization through work in identifying and putting into place curriculum and strategies for social and emotional development and support. Our work on this goal complements our work on student achievement greatly, for students who are included in all aspects of school feel a sense of significance and belonging, and have a sense that they are valued and cared for by the adults who work with them, and are far more likely to succeed.

Educating the children of our community is our mission, and we are honored by the trust that our community extends by sending its children to us. Our schools are places where kids learn so that they may have the futures they deserve and that their parents want them to have – and, just as importantly, our schools are a place where we shape directly the future of the community

that we live in.