Main Menu

District Digest



March, 2020


Superintendent’s message

Dear Colleagues,

Recently, on my visit to a school site, I observed a classroom where a STEM unit developed by our teaching staff was being used.  It was outstanding!  Students were engaged and excited with the activity.  I want to thank the many teachers who have worked so hard to develop high-quality STEM units to be used throughout the district.  Your work has been impactful on the education of our students.  I could not be more appreciative of your efforts.  Thank you. The 2019 California Science Test results have been released.  I want to acknowledge the amazing efforts of a couple of our schools in the area of 8th grade science.  The state average for 8th grade students meeting or exceeding proficiency was 30.84%.  Our district average was 24.25%.  Freiler 8th grade students scored at 48.31% meeting or exceeding standards and George Kelly students scored at 35.49%.  Congratulations to both schools for their outstanding results!

During difficult budget times, school districts are faced with making tough decisions.  It has always been my practice/belief that it is naturally better to cut unfilled positions than it is to lay-off employees whenever possible.  The moves of Derek Sprecksel to the principal position at Jacobson Elementary and Gillian Bradley to the assistant principal position at Monte Vista Middle School have created two vacant assistant principal positions.  These two positions currently are split between four school sites.  It is my intention that these two administrative positions be eliminated starting with the 20-21 school year to assist with the district’s intention to be fiscally responsible.  While I believe that these positions are needed, the fact that the positions will be vacant only makes sense that they be eliminated.  Personnel cuts need to be shared by all groups in the district, teachers, classified and administrative.  This means that not every elementary school in the district will have the services of at least a half-time assistant principal.  Considering all factors, district cabinet has concluded that for next school year that Poet-Christian, Hirsch, Jacobson and McKinley will have half-time assistant principals while Bohn, Central and Villalovoz will not.  These reductions along with those of the past several years are unpleasant to have to make but will not be our last until our decline in enrollment ends and the state properly funds every district in our state.   

The coronavirus has all of our attention as we watch its spread and consider what our response should be at this time.  TUSD is in daily contact both in our county and around the state with health experts so that we can be aware of the latest news on this health issue.  It has been frustrating that for the last month, the news really has not changed.  SJCOE and the San Joaquin County Public Health Department are working to develop a systematic approach should one of our students or staff become infected with the virus.  The goal is for the districts in our county to have a coordinated response that all districts can follow.  I will continue to send out information to you as it comes to me.  Should you have questions on this matter, please do not hesitate to reach out to Dr. Rob Pecot ( or myself ( ).  

Thank you for the good work that you are doing on behalf of our students.  These are challenging times but working together, we will get through them.
Brian Stephens, Ed.D., Superintendent


Reductions in Particular Kinds of Service (PKS) were approved at the February 25, 2020, school board meeting.  Additional reductions are slated to be brought to the March 10, 2020, board meeting.  The combined total for reductions which were approved and which are anticipated to be approved equals 41.8 FTE.  While these reductions exist across multiple grade levels and/or content areas, resignations, retirements, and utilization of teachers’ supplemental authorizations and additional credentials are all reviewed to minimize the issuance of any associated reduction in force notices to the greatest extent possible. Due to a few retirements, resignations and other factors, the actual reductions will be approximately 15.0 FTE.  Human Resources would like to thank those teachers who have submitted their notice of retirement and/or resignation at the end of this year as that has been a great help in this process.  We anticipate having all known openings for the 2020-2021 school year posted within the next two weeks.
Tammy Jalique, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources





LCAP Stakeholder Engagement (Student Voice)
On February 19th, TUSD hosted the second LCAP stakeholder engagement meeting focusing on student voice for grades 6-12. Each TUSD high school, middle school, and a few K-8 schools were represented, totaling 42 students. Students engaged in a fishbowl protocol in which they had the opportunity to respond to their experiences related to learning, social emotional supports, safety, programs, services, and areas of improvement to address their needs. Adults had the opportunity to listen and capture student responses and debrief on current LCAP Action Services and opportunities for refinement and adjustment in the LCAP development moving forward.   

LCAP Stakeholder Engagement (College Bound Program Students and Parents)
On February 22nd, TUSD engaged in facilitating LCAP stakeholder engagement for high school students and parents participating in the College Bound Program. Students and parents provided recommendations for effective communication to families related to school and college preparation activities, mental health and safety improvements, as well as recommendations to provide students additional help when struggling with a class. 
The next TUSD LCAP Stakeholder Engagement Meeting will take place on March 12th at 6pm, in the boardroom, located at the district office. We look forward to seeing you there.  
Julianna Stocking Department of Continuous Improvement, State and Federal Programs  

HMH International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) Research Study Conducted by RMC Research Corporation 
Tracy Unified School District has agreed to participate in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) research study conducted by RMC Research Corporation. This study examines the relationship between aspects of ICLE implementation and outcomes for educators and students, including implementation fidelity, instructional practices, the context for implementation, levels of school leader and teacher program usage, changes in teacher and school leader knowledge, attitudes, practices, and mindset, and changes in student achievement. School leaders and teachers in five districts will be included in this study including TUSD.

In order to understand how Tracy Unified School District is implementing the ICLE Rigor/Relevance professional development and any impacts it might have, RMC Research will be emailing teachers and administrators a consent form to indicate their willingness to participate in various data collection activities. Teachers and administrators will be asked to complete a brief survey; and 3 schools will be selected for a site visit. For schools chosen for a site visit RMC Research staff will also be conducting an interview with site staff, a focus group with a sample of participating teachers, and a sample of classroom observations.  These activities provide an opportunity for staff to share their opinions about their experience with ICLE professional development and coaching, including effectiveness and quality; impacts the framework has had on teachers and students; and how it has informed our work with teachers using the CIR process. The information shared will be confidential and only the RMC research team will have access to staff responses. Additionally, for reporting purposes, responses will be aggregated and no names will be used.

Emails related to the study, will be sent to staff from RMC Research (i.e.,  HMH hopes staff will consider participating in all requested activities. The more information provided the better HMH will be able to understand and improve upon the services they provide. If there are any questions about the study, please contact Dr. Robin Jarvis at For questions about the survey please contact Dawn Jaramillo at

Teachers and administrators should expect to receive the study consent form the week of March 2, 2020, emailed to you from RMC Research. School visits will occur a little later in the Spring. Thank you for your willingness to participate in the study.
Sheila Harrison, Ed.D., Associate Superintendent of Educational Services

New Tracy Unified Independent Study Dependent Charter School 
Recently the TUSD Board of Education approved a petition for the establishment of the Tracy Independent Study Charter School (TISCS). The rationale for the Charter school is the following:  the establishment of a non-classroom-based charter school, under the direct control of the School District, would be advantageous to the District both by providing an additional educational choice in the region and by recapturing ADA lost to District students who have enrolled in independent study at public charter schools or private schools. The Tracy Independent Study Charter School Petition establishes the Charter School for a five (5) year period beginning July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2025.

Tracy Unified School District has been experiencing declining enrollment over the past few years and is predicted to continue to be in declining enrollment which negatively impacts funding. In addition, creating more alternative education options for students supports students who may not be successful or choose not to attend school in a traditional setting. For these reasons TUSD is opening an Independent Study Charter School to further create alternative educational opportunities for Tracy Unified students and surrounding communities. In addition, this Charter School provides an opportunity to continue to keep expelled students in our district by enrolling them in the Charter School. Furthermore, this Charter School provides the opportunity to keep students in TUSD who may leave or have left for a number of reasons including pursuing other alternative educational options. For example, students have left TUSD to attend other independent study programs. The end result being the District will provide an additional alternative educational program and gain additional enrollment that increases District funding. 

Since this is a Charter School, we are able to serve students from the San Joaquin County as well as from the Calaveras, Amador, Sacramento, Contra Costa, Alameda and Stanislaus counties as they are contiguous to our county. This provides the opportunity to capture additional student enrollment in the school as well as being able to serve District students who have been expelled or leave TUSD for another alternative education setting. In addition, by making the Charter School a dependent charter, the TUSD School Board will be the governing body which will provide TUSD more control over the school than an independent charter school. 
The Tracy Independent Study Charter School (TISCS) educational program will serve students in 7th through 12th grade who are seeking both a classroom and virtual online independent study program environment. TISCS serves students who seek an alternative educational model that provides for greater flexibility in terms of time and delivery of instruction. For students who are struggling in the traditional classroom setting, are behind academically, and would benefit from a one-on-one student to teacher ratio for academic support, credit recovery and/or skill remediation this program may be of benefit. It will also serve students who want to take a-g courses in an independent study environment. 

TISCS will provide a standards-based academic program leading to graduation through a flexible environment including: direct instruction, one-on-one, virtual tutoring, blended learning and small group instruction. Students will be able to access University of California (UC) approved curriculum through Edgenuity, an online learning platform that delivers personalized learning. 

Through the Edgenuity Courseware TISCS can offer over 300 standards-aligned courses, online courses for students in grades 6-12. Courses are customized and feature a full suite of learning tools and scaffolds, and can be taken for initial credit, as well as credit recovery. The platform offers a full suite of core curriculum, Advanced Placement, honors, elective, dual credit, and credit recovery courses for middle and high school students. Courses offered include the following subjects: English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, Advanced Placement, general electives, world languages, Career and Technical Education (CTE), test preparation, honors courses, social and emotional learning, dual credit and courses to support English language learners. The platform also provides intervention for students in grade 6-12 who are struggling in mathematics and reading.

The District’s plan is to open the school in August 2020 and start small with 2 teachers depending on the number of students we are able to enroll. As the program grows in enrollment the District would then expand the program to serve more students, thus improving the health of our overall District enrollment and providing additional opportunities for an alternative education setting to meet student needs.  TISCS will be located at the District office complex.
Sheila Harrison, Ed.D., Associate Superintendent of Educational Services

Festival of Cultures
We are pleased to announce that Tracy Unified School District sponsored event “Festival of Cultures” will occur on 3/11/20 at 6:30pm.  The event will take place at the Grand Theatre. Doors for this event will open at 6:00pm and the admission is free! Students from multiple schools and cultural backgrounds will showcase an array of talent presenting cultural traditions and dances from all over the world. Please come out to support our students! You won’t want to miss this worldwide event!
Rob Pecot, Ed.D., Director of Student Services and Curriculum
Raptor System Implemented
Tracy Unified School District is pleased to announce that Raptor Visitor Management System is now being used at all schools.  Raptor strengthens our school security by identifying potential adults who should not be on our campuses as well as recording who is in our buildings at all times. The Raptor system will better allow us to screen visitors, contractors, and volunteers in our schools.  It also prints a visual identification sticker for all eligible guests on a school campus.
Rob Pecot, Ed.D., Director of Student Services and Curriculum

We Need You! Recruiting STEM Design Teams Members for Grades 6-12
In October 2018, TUSD received a $4 million, 5-year grant from the US Department of Education to create and implement PreK-12 core instruction in STEM, with a focus on engineering and computer science, for all students in TUSD.  Plans are now in place to expand integrated STEM into grades 6 through 12. The goal is to give students four STEM experiences in each year of grades 6-12 (grade 6 will deliver two). Design teams are needed to design these STEM units starting in June:

•    Grade 6                  2 science-based STEM units
•    Grade 7 Science   2 science-based STEM units
•    Grade 7 Math        2 math-based STEM units
•    Grade 8 Science   2 science-based STEM units
•    Grade 8 Math        2 math-based STEM units
•    Biology                   2 biology-based STEM units
•    Chemistry              2 chemistry-based STEM units
•    Physics                  2 physics-based STEM units
•    Algebra I                2 algebra-based STEM units
•    Algebra II               2 algebra-based STEM units
•    Geometry              2 geometry-based STEM units

TUSD is recruiting teacher-leaders in grades 6-12 from all sites (both treatment and comparison sites) and all content areas to be part of this work, especially teachers of science, math, computer science, ELA/ELD, career technical education, and Special Education.  These teams will create STEM units with creative design challenges that engage and empower middle and high school students to be STEM-competent, no matter what their careers. 

This design team effort needs you! We encourage teachers in grades 6-12 with experience in Rigorous Curriculum Design in ELA or Math, integrated and/or project-based instruction in any content areas, disciplinary literacy work, NGSS implementation, interest in STEM, creativity in curriculum development, and/or general enthusiasm for student-centered teaching to join the design teams. Teachers can find out more information, including dates and times of the work, and also “apply” (show their interest), at this link.

For more information about STEM in TUSD, go to and follow PreK12STEM on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Debra Schneider, Ph.D., Director of Instructional Media Services and Curriculum

Taking Students Where They Are                                                                 
Sense Making has come to Tracy. Our goal is to maximize strengths and minimize students’ weaknesses using Mathematical Literacy. Certainly, the idea that we are all learners who strive to make sense of our world is not exclusive to mathematics. In fact, this is the crucially important life skill of reasoning and one that can be leveraged in all content areas. In the Professional Learning and Curriculum Department, we are now trying to promote the intentional craftsmanship of effective learning opportunities through which students actively engage with skills in order to address real world scenarios. If students are empowered to think critically, they can draw on their prior knowledge and find parallels that allow them to understand new learning.  Two prompts that can be game changers: What do you notice? What do you wonder? Giving students a chance to pause and reflect on the information they are processing engages their curiosity and offers an internal structure onto which they can attach new learning and thereby retain new information for the long term. 
We are imbedding three distinct and high leveraging instructional strategies into all of our work: 

                  *Student Academic Discourse                                                       * Visual Representations                                               *Relational Understanding

Design a sense making station for your students by contemplating these considerations:
•    What are the key understandings or big ideas?
•    What are the anticipated misconceptions? How can these be clarified to bring clarity to students?
•    What examples of visual representations?
•    What key language will students need?
•    How do the values relate?
•    What will the Interactive component be?

children in classroom working on projects


District ERMs at Jacobson and Freiler for K-5
District ERMs for Jacobson and Freiler have had two focus areas: integration of content areas and student evidence. January’s session had a theme of new beginnings; the New year, new routines, new goals, new progress with our students, and new plans to help students be successful. Using Formative Processes and Tools, we have been identifying student strengths and misconceptions. Then, with grade level colleagues and cross grade articulation, we are leveraging what they are able to do to build new skills. A big part of this involves the analysis of student work and reflection around the practices we have been using to reach our students using the lens of Rigor, Relevance, and Learner Engagement. Having some shared time to collaborate with peers, exchange ideas & materials, share successes and trouble shoot challenges has been valued by many that participated.  Our final district ERM for this year will be on March 23rd. Deciding what will comprise our final sprint collaboratively empowers us and sets our kids up for a strong finish to the year. 

Curriculum Saturdays
One More Curriculum Saturday on March 21st.  They have expanded to include all teachers through 12th grade including General Ed teachers, SpEd teachers, and Resource teachers! We have had five sessions, but there will be one more. Attendees range from veterans seeking greater clarity around new implementations of integrated teaching and STEM, to those with a single content emphasis, all the way to brand new teachers looking for classroom management and a roadmap through the districts adopted materials and current curriculum. Each session includes some take away instructional routines, a sprinkling of engagement techniques, and lots of time to collaborate using our backward design outline. 

Instruction & Curricular Support for RSP and SpEd Teachers
Curriculum Support Day Workshops are being offered for K-3 and 4-5 SpEd teachers. Looking for collaboration that will bring clarity to your expectations and more cohesion to your days? Come together with other SpEd teachers who teach your span along with TUSD Curriculum Specialist TOSAs. The goal of the workshop time is to dig deeply into intentional planning using some of the components from the RCD Units along with ways that will be responsive to the levels and needs of your particular students.  We offered a few sessions in December and due to the eagerness of those that attended we have opened up more sessions in Jan., Feb., and March. You can find them on Go Sign Me Up. 
Deborah Coker, M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction Specialist 

Updates from Assessment & Accountability
2018-2019 CAST Results Are In! 
The California Science Test, CAST is required for all students in grades five and eight and once in high school (i.e., grade ten, eleven, or twelve) unless their IEP indicates assessment with an alternate test. The CAST includes stand-alone or discrete items and Performance Tasks, PT’s. The discrete item types consist of selected response, constructed response, table, fill-in, graphing, and so forth. The PTs measure a student’s ability to integrate knowledge and skills across multiple standards through extended activities. The CAST is aligned with the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). The first operational test was administered in 2019. 

This graph displays Tracy Unified’s 2018-19 results by grade: 


This graph displays a comparison of 2018-19 results for TUSD, San Joaquin County and the State of California:


For more information regarding CAST results, please visit

CAASPP Testing Is Underway!
The testing window for CAASPP also known as SBAC testing in ELA, Math and Science is now open.  The testing window runs until May 8th with a makeup window from May 11-May 15, 2020.  All students in grades three through eight and grade eleven take the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments unless a student’s active individualized education program (IEP) designates the California Alternate Assessments.  If you have questions regarding CAASPP testing, please contact your site testing coordinator or Kim Bacchetti the District Testing Coordinator at extension 1510.

Seal of Biliteracy
The State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB) is a recognition conferred by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for graduating high school students who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages in addition to English. Tracy Unified has over 170 students who will be receiving this honor this year.  Thank you to our World Language Department for their hard work preparing our students to attain this honor.  Tracy Unified has one of the highest Seal of Biliteracy Rates in the County.

Summer Program Updates
This summer TUSD will be offering several programs throughout the district. High School Credit Recovery Summer School is in the month of June and will be focusing on credit recovery for students who need to repeat failed courses to meet graduation requirements using Cyber High, an online software facilitated by TUSD teachers.  Traci Mitchell will be the principal of this program, which will be held at West High School.  Student applications are available through the high school counseling department.

Adult School will also offer credit recovery sections for students who need to repeat courses and for non-walking seniors who can earn their diploma upon completion of their course work. Sam Strube will oversee this program at the Adult School. Student applications may be picked up from their High School Counselors.

All three High Schools will host a Bridge Program for incoming 8th grade students. TUSD Summer Bridge is a 2 week program, in June intended to provide a positive transition to high school for incoming 9th graders. Students will engage in the transition to high school culture, AVID study skills, and hands-on project based learning. Ben Keller will be the principal at Kimball, Michael Bunch will be the principal at Tracy High and Zachary Boswell will be the principal at West High.

TUSD will host a 2 week kinder bridge program for students entering kindergarten to encourage a positive transition into kindergarten.  Julie Stocking will be overseeing this program at McKinley.

K-12 Extended School Year Program is in the month of June for students with a disability who require continued services identified, stated, and recommended in an IEP. Kelle Patrick will be the k-8 principal of this program at Art Freiler.  Only students with ESY on their IEP are eligible for this program.  

New this year, TUSD will be offering a Summer English Learner Academy.  This program will serve identified students in grades 7-12 who are new to the US and or migrant who need addition English Development opportunities.  Maria Salazar will be overseeing this program at West High.

We are looking forward to providing these additional opportunities for learning this summer.
Tania Salinas, Director of Assessment and Accountability