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Superintendent Funk Reflects on Inaugural Year at the Helm of DUSD

April 26, 2022

While we will not initiate the debate on what “normal” can look like during a period where the Pandemic still exist across the globe, it is a fair bet to say that daily operations at all 11 DUSD school sites have gained solid functional footing with most students returning to classrooms in 2022. What may not have been clear at the start of the academic calendar was what masking/health requirements would look like, how students and staff would navigate their school lives in the second year of COVID and the global style of leadership provided by a newly installed Superintendent. Last summer, OneDublin.org sat down with Chris Funk to discuss some of his professional experiences gained in San Jose and to have him provide a peek into his vision for continued growth and success of the Dublin Unified School District.

Just prior to Mr. Funk’s arrival, a number of key decisions were made. In May, William Kuo was selected to a provisional appointment to fill the vacant Area 3 position on the board. This position was created by the sudden and unfortunate loss of incumbent Catherine Kuo. Additionally, the District elected to relocate the Valley High School program to the Dublin High School campus. The program is now functioning as a “Continuing Education Academy”. In late June, DUSD and the Dublin Teachers Association reached a tentative agreement that addressed improved health and wellness benefits for DTA’s membership.

Chris Funk, Dublin Unified School District Superintendent. Photo by: Michael Utsumi

Recently, we reopened the dialogue with Superintendent Funk and focused our attention on some specific areas. With this academic calendar quickly coming to an end, we wanted to provide an opportunity to both reflect on the past year and to address the community in the wake of yet another tragic and unexpected loss.

OneDublin.org: Your office issued a seven point 90-Day Entry Plan upon your designation as Superintendent in 2021. Among these stated goals, they included “building enthusiasm for the District’s vision, mission and strategic plan” and to “identify and execute immediate activities” to ensure a successful beginning of the school year. Taken separately, please share your evaluation of both goals.

Chris Funk: “It was clear to me that our strategic plan was outdated; there are many activities identified in the plan that we do not do and there are activities that we are implementing that are not in the plan. Instead of spending energy on developing a new strategic plan, we are focusing on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) as the three-year map. In addition, we are committed to building capacity amongst all staff members to ensure that equity and inclusion are the essential principles of our school system. Specifically, we will build capacity to attain equitable DUSD communities where: all staff are welcome as they are; strengths and areas of growth for all staff are known and supported; staff positively respond to the emotional and professional needs of every staff member; and all staff have a strong sense of identity within our organization. In addition; all students are welcomed as they are; strengths and areas of growth for all students are known and supported; staff positively respond to the social-emotional and academic needs of every student;  and all students engage with tasks that develop the strategic thinking skills for full participation in their local communities and the global society.

In reviewing the gaps in our system, it became apparent quickly that we did not have a clear focus on curriculum and instruction. We have reorganized our Educational Services Department to increase our focus and the support we provide in this area. In addition, we have reinstated the Curriculum Council regarding curricular needs. We have also reconvened the Grading Committee and have established a Graduation Requirements/Ethnic Studies Committee.

We passed Board Policy 0105 Equity and are in the planning stages of our four-year commitment to embed equity in the systems approach we take in the district.

All our schools, including the Virtual Learning Academy, opened the school year with great success. We kept mitigation plans in place that limited visitor access to sites, particularly at our elementary and middle schools, to maintain safe and orderly sites across the district. With each day, our families, students, and staff have become more comfortable being back on campus. While some districts struggled for broad acceptance of their COVID mitigation strategies, Dublin supported our efforts, helping to keep our students, staff, and community safer and our schools open.”

OneDublin.org:Another goal was to ensure a smooth and orderly transition of leadership. What are your reflections in your first year as the leader of DUSD?

Funk: “I have been fortunate to surround myself with very capable individuals during my leadership tenures. My goal is to hire great people, set clear expectations, provide them the space to do their work, and with coaching and support to grow.

Arriving in Dublin, each Assistant Superintendent had been in their position for a short period of time. Much of the leadership turnover had been at the District Office. I needed to quickly assess their emotional IQ, their ability to receive coaching, and their ability to lead and take ownership of their work. In addition, our site leadership teams are doing a magnificent job. We have filled and continue to fill key leadership positions. Overall, I’m excited about the DUSD leadership team.”

Construction of Emerald High School in progress. Photo by: Michael Utsumi

OneDublin.org: September 2021 marked the first sale of Measure J bonds – the vast majority of which will be devoted to the construction of Emerald High School. For those that aren’t monitoring progress on a daily basis, what is your expectation for what progress the public will view in the next one to two years. 

Funk: “Emerald High School Phase I, increment 1 is completed. BHM Construction has been hired as the contractor to build increments 2&3.  These increments include the deep underground sewer and storm drains, the admin buildings, student union, kitchen, visual and performing arts center, library, gym locker-rooms, the first of two academic towers, tennis courts, and the sports field and track.  We anticipate the completion of Phase I in December 2023.  The public should see the steel structures going up this June.

When Phase I is completed, approximately 1300 students will be housed.  Phase II which includes the second academic tower, concessions, maintenance building bleachers and VAPA extension is expected to be completed in June 2025. Upon completion, Emerald High School will have a capacity of 2,475.  We have also completed and Emerald HS planning guide. We are currently advertising for the inaugural principal and hope to have that person in place by July 1, 2022.”

Construction site for Emerald High School. Photo by: Michael Utsumi

OneDublin.org: In early March, DUSD aligned with the lifting of the mask mandate issued through the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD). COVID-19 has been an arduous two-year journey. While masking remains a personal choice, how has this adjustment in policy been received by students, staff and administration?

Funk: “The policy has been received with grace and empathy. Initially, at most sites, the majority of staff and students continued to wear their masks. I’ve slowly seen an increase in those not wearing masks, but we have continued to stress the importance of recognizing and supporting those who choose to continue to wear a mask.”

OneDublin.org: Unfortunately, the District has experienced a spectrum of tragedies in recent years – including this past week. What words of wisdom/encouragement would you like to offer the DUSD-wide community as it navigates the final weeks of this academic calendar and beyond?

Funk: “Developing critical thinkers who are ready to take on the challenges of public service, higher education, or a career is undoubtedly important, but there is much more to preparing the whole student for life. The focus on social-emotional learning has dramatically increased over the years. This expanded focus is an acknowledgment that life is much more complex than understanding equations, sentence structure, and chemical reactions.

Social-emotional learning teaches students to develop a positive self-image, build relationships with the people around them, develop confidence and self-esteem, and other crucial life skills. It also helps to provide our students with the tools to cope with grief, loss, stress, or a personal crisis. These skills are some of the most important we can teach as educators.

To help our students reach their greatest potential – academically or emotionally – we need to make them comfortable saying “I don’t get it” or “I need help.” If you or someone you know is struggling with a task or an emotional issue, please offer assistance or reach out to someone who can help. The staff, administrative teams, and counselors at each of our sites are there to support you and can offer the resources needed to manage many situations. Our high school also has a Wellness Center with services that can help students with a broad range of personal issues.

As friends, family members, co-workers, and compassionate humans, we need to look out for ourselves and each other.”

If it feels that 2021-22 has been a whirlwind as a community member of DUSD – it has been. A year that has been filled with highs and lows – and everything in between. However, we have also witnessed the return of many school site legacy events, great accomplishments on sporting fields and in the arts, a continuance of academic excellence and most importantly – an emergence into a new state of “normal” that will continue to be refined in the coming years. OneDublin.org would like to thank Superintendent Chris Funk for sharing his time and insights in the interest of being transparent and keeping the district moving forward.

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