Written by Evalyn Li
Palo Alto Unified School Board of Education President Heidi Emberling is running with the goal of raising the level of attention paid to social and emotional health of students as well as academic excellence.”I want to make sure students know there are many different definitions of success and that grades do tell the full story of a student’s high school experience,” she said. “One of my top priorities is to ensure that our schools focus not only on academic excellence, but also on building skills that promote a healthy, balanced life.”
Emberling also wants to improve equity in education. The board has already implemented some recommendations presented by the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Advisory Committee which included full-day kindergarten and unconscious bias training for teachers.We can’t be afraid to delve deeply into our student achievement data and analyze how our historically-underrepresented students are doing,” she said.
Emberling talks about equity in context of providing comparable experiences across high schools, specifically course consistency. She cited 15 different grading practices across the two high schools, data gathered by district contractor Hanover Research Group.
Considering the current budget shortfall, Emberling said that she would manage the budget for the long-term.”We are actively evaluating the $13 million in programs and resources that have been added to the district over the past four years since I’ve been on the Board,” she said.
Emberling is looking in the direction of more individualized and personalized learning options for students.We’re looking to add more hands-on, project-based, experiential learning opportunities like the Advanced Authentic Research program, that are more student-directed and more engaging for students,” she said.
Emberling says that students should be active in decisions, which would lead to a stronger community for students to eventually become leaders in. “I was proud to vote for preferential vote for students,” she said. “The more that students are involved, the better the decisions are made.”