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Dublin High School Admin on Rapid Enrollment Growth, Upcoming Community Forum

September 25, 2015

DSC_1653DUBLIN, CA — While we are barely one month into the 2015-16 school calendar, there has been a flurry of activity occurring within the Dublin Unified School District. On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees appointed Sameer Hakim to fulfill the vacant Trustee seat created by the departure of Sean Kenney. With that, the District is seeking to expand the existing District Optimization Committee (DOC) in anticipation of some critical decisions that need to be made for our community relative to enrollment and facilities. The challenges have been well documented. They include the large number of vested plots that have been committed to housing in Eastern Dublin and the continued negotiations that center on the joint Jordan Ranch construction project which may or may not include land granted to build another school site.

In addition, DUSD will host a community forum at the Dublin High School Student Union in which the focus will be the crafting of a District Facilities Master Plan on Tuesday, September 29th. While not to be the only one, this public discussion will help the District to receive feedback that will help to distill public desires relative to how growth will be managed, to solicit new ideas about construct new schools in the absence of support from Sacramento and to understand how the community may respond to a potential bond measure for the June 2016 ballot.

All school sites in Dublin have been impacted by enrollment growth over the past five to ten years. The actions undertaken by the District have resulted in boundary changes, the multiple reconfigurations of Fallon Middle School and the placement of portable classrooms at many sites. While this may not be ideal, many of these options have been necessary due to space and economic factors.

With a high number of upcoming plots that have been vested (committed) to housing vs. retail, it would appear that this trend will certainly continue in the very near term. This factor begs not only DUSD, but the entire community to chime in on how the collective to creatively solve these issues. All of this must be done – with DUSD fulfilling their charter to provide safe and adequate spaces for its students. Regardless of where students are currently housed, their current and ultimate destination is Dublin High School. sought to approach this site and more specifically, the Assistant Principals that work with these students on a daily basis. It was a rather unique opportunity to gather their views as it relates to DHS.  This is the second year of the intriguing Freshman Mentoring Program (FMP).  Clearly, the program has expanded/improved over its initial run.  Please articulate how you and your colleagues plan to evaluate the success/effectiveness of FMP.  

Maureen Byrne: “During the first year of FMP, we encouraged all feedback. We asked parents, we asked advisors, we conducted surveys during FMPs, we met regularly with freshman leadership class and the advisors asked their freshman students in their subject classes. We quickly noticed that the student who felt connected with their mentors enjoyed the program while others did not.

“We made some changes to the program beginning last spring. The first was the selection process for the mentors. Students first had to submit a written application. Next they had a group interview. Those who made it through those screenings first observed then led an FMP. Each phase of the selection process was overseen by our FMP Coordinator, Jennifer Angel-Diaz and our two Directors, Sara Hollison and Lenni Velez, and at each phase there were some students who were not asked to continue. We wanted to make sure we chose mentors who could relate well to students and who could be positive encouraging role models.

“The second change was the continuous support the mentors receive. They took part in a day long training before school started and have monthly ‘Lunch and Learn’ session during the Friday hour lunch. Mrs. Angel-Diaz, Ms. Hollison and Ms. Velez do not have their own advisories this year. Instead they spend their FMP time observing. They are able to respond in the moment to help our mentors. They are able to coach the mentors in relating to students, in positively handing “reluctant participants” and sharing their passion for Dublin High.

“During the summer we developed clearer objectives for the program with the addition of the SELS (Social Emotional Learning Standards). While our goal is social and emotional support ,FMP also provides academic support. We can use these standards to measure our growth. Every freshman was provided a planner and we are utilizing FMP to teach them how to use the planner to manage their time and stay organized. We are looking at grades to be an indicator of success as well as the number of behavioral referrals. While neither of these data points can be used as clear causal evidence, we hope they will speak to a trend that is supported by the program.

“We have come to realize that this program not only serves our 680 freshmen with the transition to high school. But, it also serves as an incredible leadership training vehicle for 92 juniors and seniors. The upperclassmen are taking ownership for the program development in an amazing way. They are helping out during their GAEL period to support Mrs. Angel-Diaz and give their input. I think that is an amazing measure of the continued success.” You recently joined the senior administration at DHS after serving as a Vice Principal at another high growth site in Fallon Middle School.  While Fallon went through many iterations, the addition of portable classrooms helped to stabilize space issues.  Please share any “best practices” that you learned during your Fallon years that might benefit the future growth management at Dublin High.

Paul Faris: “I think that with the growth of Dublin and the expansion of schools at every level in our district, it’s very important to plan, be flexible and to have transparency.  I started in the Dublin Unified School district when Dublin High only had 700 students and the East side of town did not have any houses or schools.   I love the growth that Dublin is experiencing but it is not without its challenges.

“Having grown up in the Tri-Valley area most of my life, I am excited to see how big Dublin has become and that it’s still a great place to raise a family.” By most accounts, the inclusion of the Hub into the Gael period has been a success.  However, as enrollment at DHS continues to grow, there will be an increasing number of students that utilize this service.  What ideas have been floated to accommodate this future expansion?

Kara Holthe: “We do find that the HUB is an attractive space for students who want to study during their GAEL period.  Our Librarian, Glen Walder and Scott Ault, our Library Technician, have been instrumental in cultivating a supportive climate in the HUB beginning last year during its inception.  Because of their mindset of being student-centered, they were flexible in expanding hours of access, furniture changes and layout as well as changes in service in order to back this venture.  This student-centered mindset and flexibility is the key to the success of this program, I think, and will continue to be the key as we see growth.

“Physical space and personnel support will be the two needs that we will bump up against in the future.  We have already taken over an office in the HUB to allow for more space, and are looking into the use of the collaboration hallways in the J/K and L/M buildings as possible places for students to study.  The Student Union has been well-used during the GAEL period, and can accommodate a large number of students.  Students enjoy the ability to buy a snack from the cafeteria and study with a group of friends at a round table, or by themselves at one of the smaller, higher tables near the back of the area or near the windows.  Knowing that one of the draws to the HUB was access to textbooks, we have recently begun bringing the textbooks to the students who choose to study in the Student Union.

“As far as personnel, we are enjoying a wide range of tutors and teachers in the HUB who are available to students.  We would need to increase numbers of tutors as the population increases and intend to, based on the needs of our students.” This fall, Dublin High School welcomed in the largest freshman class on record.  With even higher enrollment numbers anticipated in the future, please share what you feel could be potential challenges for DHS in the next three to five years. 

Bill Branca: “As I am sure you know, successful high schools come in all sizes. When Dublin High School was a school of 1200 we had a different set of challenges that we faced and overcame.  As the size of the school grows our fundamental purpose does not change.  Our school-wide improvement will continue as well as the implementation of Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.  We will continue to build our PLC’s and improve our instructional practices. This work will ensure that the challenges below will be addressed – which include:

  • Scheduling to ensure we are using our classrooms efficiently
  • Maintaining our small school feel and culture as we grow
  • Ensuring students that need support are identified and do not fall through the cracks

“Our work on and implementation of the College and Career Readiness Program and the 7 period day address many of the issues that come with growth.  The addition of the Gael Period and the Freshman Seminar class this year helps to maintain school culture and allow students to receive support on a daily basis. The additional period allows for some flexibility in scheduling.  All of our current initiatives and goals will help to address future growth demands.

“As our WASC visit validated, the work at the high school has been extremely successful for our students and staff and continues to demonstrate a commitment to excellence in the classroom and extracurricular activities. We have a supportive parents and community. Our students are dedicated. This is the hardest working most dedicated staff I have ever work with and they are focused on doing what is best for students. As you know, our school’s success has served to attract others who desire similar opportunities, and many new families each year choose to call Dublin home for those reasons. This growth while challenging will not change our school mission or our dedication.  I am certain we will be prepared for these challenges.”

We were hoping to provide the perspective from administrators at DHS that work to manage the ever-changing differences on a daily basis. would like to applaud the efforts of Maureen Byrne, Paul Faris, Kara Holthe and Bill Branca for their regular contributions to the operation of Dublin High School. In concert, the results of the Facilities Master Plan Community Forum will also add ideas to how DUSD will move forward in the coming years. However, the future decisions to be made will represent both short and long term maneuvers as our community negotiates the next few enrollment growth years. We thank all four administrators for volunteering their thoughts.

As a reminder: The Facilities Master Plan HS Community Forum will occur on Tuesday, September 29th from 6:30 – 9:00 PM at the DHS Student Union. Please register online to attend. Free childcare will be provided in the DHS Library. This is one of your opportunities to make your voice heard and to offer up possible ideas to assist the District with enrollment growth in Dublin.

  1. September 25, 2015 9:55 am

    Thanks Michael!

    • Michael Utsumi permalink
      September 25, 2015 5:12 pm

      Kerrie, the pleasure was mine. Thank you for your positive comment.

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