March 1, 2016
Dear Sunnyvale School District Families,
Less than a month ago, more than one million people from throughout the nation joined in Bay Area Super Bowl 50 festivities. Visitors traveled hundreds of miles and spent small fortunes for the chance to witness two great teams play against one another, all in the spirit of competition — that mixed blessing that is so prevalent in our society. Life mirrors sports in that we all must be prepared to compete in the 21st century; however, experience shows us that — unlike the turf at Levi Stadium — life’s playing field is not always level.
For decades, educators have grappled with the achievement gap: the disparity in learning success between groups of children from differing backgrounds and circumstances. Some students fall very short of their academic potential while others spring forward with relative ease.
Recent studies confirm what we have long suspected: the problem lies, not in an inability to achieve, but in lack of opportunity for quality learning. For real academic success, children need ready access to early education, effective instruction, rich and relevant curriculum, and interventions that can address any barriers to learning. In addition, teachers must hold the intention that every child can and will succeed — and must articulate that expectation directly to the students and their families.
But the opportunity gap begins long before children are school-aged. Family situations, access to preventative health care, stimulating day care, good nutrition, stable housing — these are barriers to a child’s readiness to learn. Even here in our own community, we see the chasm that is formed in those pre-school years widening right along with the growing economic disparity that is splitting our valley in two.
Fortunately, ours is a community that cares. Whether motivated by compassion for children, or driven by the knowledge that — like any team — we as a region and a nation are only as strong as our weakest player, our neighbors step up to help children whose families struggle for food and other basic necessities. Partner agencies derive support from local residents to help address fundamental needs for children, helping to bring opportunity within reach.
Once they are school-aged, we can ensure that all of our district’s children have equal opportunity to learn in their academic setting. While no two schools in our district look exactly alike in their sources of support, I can say that the educational opportunities at all of our schools are equally challenging, varied, and stimulating, with a college-prep focus and emphasis on 21st century skills. In Sunnyvale School District, all students have rich learning opportunities available to them, no matter where they reside within our city.
That’s not a statement that all school districts can make. We can, in large part because we belong to an informed and generous community. By ensuring we have the resources we need to help our students thrive, our partners and neighbors empower our children to traverse that opportunity gap that plagues so many communities. The bridges they build provide our children with safe passage toward a successful future.
Please look for specific examples in the upcoming edition of our community newsletter, scheduled to arrive in mailboxes in April. We have named the publication The Bridge, in honor of our partners and neighbors. Together, we ensure that our children are positioned for success — ready for the competitive future they face, and prepared to be champions in any arena.
Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Sunnyvale School District