“We’re in a new season.”
“We are dream makers.”
“We’re one team with one big dream and one vision.”
These are some of the optimistic words Los Alamitos Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Andrew Pulver said in his enthusiastic presentation at last Thursday’s annual State of the District address where he provided an overview of the district as well as highlighted its achievements, goals and vision for the future as we continue to live through a pandemic.
“What we’re really focused on is believing in our kids. 100%. That has to be the goal,” Dr. Pulver said. “Every kid should be able to have access and opportunities and then let them choose.”
He added later: “When we talk about a big bold vision, we want our students to be seen, having a culture of feeling cared about, seen, and valued.”
Dr. Pulver’s energetic 45-minute talk was to a supportive crowd of more than 200 people including district parents, district staff, elected officials, and local business owners at On the Greens at the U.S. Navy Golf Course in Cypress.
All five Board of Education trustees were also there.
Notably absent was the tension of recent Board of Education meetings which have been marked by heated public comments. The community’s divisions were on display at the Nov. 9 board meeting where board supporters and opponents spoke about President Marlys Davidson’s remarks toward two parents said under her breath but audible on the livestream of the Oct. 26 meeting. There’s also an effort underway to trigger a recall election of three trustees.
Before starting his presentation, Dr. Pulver referenced controversy that was going on but said that was not going to be the focus of the event.
Here’s what was the focus:
“We currently have 9,140 students, over 1000 employees, nine schools, three beautiful communities [Seal Beach, Rossmoor and Los Alamitos], with one mission: to create the very best educational opportunities for our students,” Pulver said.
Here’s the brief look at what he shared:
- The district has a $120,982,963 budget of which 80% goes toward employee salaries and benefits.
- Of the 9,140 students: 10.8% receive Special Education services; 16.3% are socioeconomically disadvantaged; 5.5% are part of military families; 2.3% are English learners; and 0.1% are foster youth.
- The demographics of the study body: 42.4% are White; 28.2% are Hispanic or Latino; 14.1% are Asian; 10.4% are two or more races; 2.4% are African American and 1.9% are Filipino.
- Of the district’s five Priority Goals, #1 is to “passionately pursue academic excellence from all students.” The district adopted Core Values this year which are: Care, Responsibility, Equity and Commitment.
Pulver stressed that these core values are what grounds the district to develop what he said is a thriving, inclusive culture that helps families achieve their educational goals while “igniting unlimited possibilities.”
“Our job, as a team, is really to serve the dreams that all of you have for your kids here in this community,” the superintendent said.
“I think any dream starts with a belief. We have to believe that things are possible for our kids and for one another,” said Pulver. “And we really believe that we are dream makers, that we must help students develop dreams, and a belief that they can achieve them,” he added.
To illustrate this point, Dr. Pulver shared the story and video of Jeremy Anderson, a motivational speaker who struggled in school until he found a group of teachers that showed up for him and believed in him.
Anderson said teachers at his new school reminded him that he was in a new season and it was that support that helped him believe in himself and excel.
Dr. Pulver said we are also in a new season as the district lives through the third academic year impacted by Covid-19.
“I think with this pandemic, that we don’t necessarily always bring the old things into the new,” he said. “So, we are in this new season, and I think we’re going to be in the new season for several years to come,” he said. “Next year is going to be completely different than this year, but we’re going to have to just constantly take a look,” he said.
Dr. Pulver highlighted specific district efforts and achievements over the past two years. That included being the first school district in Orange County to open to in-person instruction during the pandemic while also offering an online option to families called LosAl@Home.
Other items include:
- The opening of Wellspaces at the two middle schools and increasing mental health staff districtwide.
- Two elementary schools were named 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education.
- The opening of a new Aquatics Center and the STEM building opening at Los Alamitos High School next fall thanks to bond financing from voter-approved Measure G and Measure K.
- Participation in the Stanford University Challenge Success program at secondary schools.
Dr. Pulver lauded teachers, staff and parents as well for their collective ability to pivot during the pandemic and said this nimble behavior will be helpful in the future.
“For the students and families we serve, we have to constantly keep evolving,” he said. The demographics of the district have changed, he noted, but said “the board continues to stay laser focused on what’s best for students and really how to represent and serve our community.”
“We know there are differences of opinion and diverse concerns,” Pulver acknowledged, but he predicted this “amazing community and talented students will find a way to come together.”
“We will come together as a people, we will come together as a nation, we will come together as a state, we will come together as a city, we will come together as a district and we will come together as schools,” said Pulver.
And, he said, “we will come together as a class and we will value each other.”
The State of the District was put on by the Los Alamitos Education Foundation or LAEF, the district’s nonprofit partner that provides after-school enrichment classes as well as fundraises for district needs.
LAEF Executive Director Carrie Logue told the crowd it had raised more than $325,000 for the district since 2015. LAEF recently gave $60,000 to support Wellspaces at the two middle schools. LAEF’s next fundraising focus will be building a Wellness Center at Los Alamitos High School.
David N. Young contributed writing and reporting for this story. For more on the State of the District, see this week’s edition of the Event-News Enterprise, published on Wednesday.