An editorial by Kirk Shrum, Visalia Unified Superintendent

Hello Visalia Community,

I am honored to serve as your Visalia Unified School District superintendent of schools. When the Board of Education selected me, they made it clear they expected improved results from our students, and I readily accepted that call! I am proud to work for a Board that places students and staff first and knows that a strong, successful school system is vital. Our community deserves nothing less than exceptional, and this Board and I are committed to the work ahead.

The last few years have been challenging for us all, and we are experiencing the impact of those challenges daily. We see increased gaps in our students’ academic performance, more challenging behaviors, and that many individuals have experienced loss and trauma. But throughout it all, despite the numerous obstacles, our teachers and staff have continued to show up and find new ways to connect with and educate our students. I am proud of our team, and I ask this community to show them the respect and honor they have earned. Now more than ever, we must lead with and model respect and kindness in all of our interactions. It’s what our students, staff, and each of us deserve.

As we look to the coming year, we know that the COVID pandemic continues to be a reality; however, much has changed since the pandemic began. Although we see the impact the past couple of years has had on all of us, it is encouraging that we now have many tools available to us to help combat the pandemic. I am also glad to see the California Department of Public Health solidify this in their updated guidance, which states:

“Disease management strategies in K–12 schools are guided by the principle that safe, inperson learning is critical to student well-being and development. COVID-19 is here to stay, but we have learned methods and gained tools to decrease its impact on our health and well-being. California’s schools can manage this disease in sustainable and adaptive manners.”

Additionally, I believe the best decisions for VUSD are made at the local level, by our elected School Board; therefore, I will continue to advocate for local control when it comes to decisions that impact our schools.

In the coming year, I know we must urgently address the learning gaps that continue to impact our students’ academic results and ensure every student and staff member feels supported and safe at school. To accomplish this, we will prioritize four key actions this year:

Be ready: All students and staff are ready to learn and work at high levels, and there is clarity with what we teach, how we support, and how we monitor progress for growth and improvement.

Be present: We will continue to focus on strong attendance for students and staff.

Be successful: Focused Instructional Leadership Teams and Professional Learning Communities will facilitate students’ learning. District support will be aligned, so there is consistency and fidelity of practice across the District with our core instruction.

Be connected: Every student is known by name, and every student and staff member feels they belong. The “One Visalia Connected” initiative will focus on connecting every student to a meaningful activity.

“One Visalia Connected” will build opportunities and partnerships within the District and our community to connect students to meaningful activities. This can be arts, sports, internships, and mentorships—just to name a few. We know that when students are connected they feel better about themselves and have better attendance and grades. I ask the community to partner with us as we begin to develop this initiative that will lead to Visalia being known as the district and community that is connected with 100% of its students!

I am confident in this community, our educators, and our students and families. I believe in the work we will all do together to accelerate the achievement of every student and the relationships we will build along the way.

I call on the Visalia community to join the School Board, myself, and our district as we move forward together.

I Believe in, I Belong in, I am VUSD!

Kirk Shrum
Visalia Unified School District

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