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CCSESA Newsletter2020

AugustVolume 18 / Issue 5

Leadership Link

Ms. Mary Sakuma Butte County Office of Education

  • What led you to become County Superintendent?

    Prior to joining the team at Butte County Office of Education (BCOE), I had spent my entire career in education serving and leading in small school districts. I have been a teacher, principal, superintendent/principal and district superintendent. Through these experiences I learned the importance, especially for small districts, of having a strong relationship with the County Office of Education. When I was asked to come to BCOE (first as Assistant Superintendent of HR, and then as Deputy Superintendent), I was honored and humbled to join a team of professionals who care passionately about serving all students (and all means all). At BCOE our motto is: “Where Students Come First.” Every decision we make and every initiative we take on is viewed through that lens.

    I believe in the importance of support for every school and success for every student. Having served as a district superintendent in two different small districts, I know the importance of the county superintendent being someone who has “walked in their shoes.”

    Of course I never imagined that the devastating Camp Fire would happen just weeks prior to my taking office, and I also never thought I’d be leading in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. But here we are, and I’m still honored and humbled to serve the schools, students and families of Butte County. We’re in this together, and I’m confident that we’ll come through it stronger and more resilient than ever.

    What objectives do you hope to achieve in the next
    few years?

    BCOE has a long history of leading with an entrepreneurial spirit, and we will continue in that spirit, exploring how we can provide programs and services to children and students of all ages, both locally and regionally.

    Additionally, here are some things we’re working on:

    Mental Health Supports, Trauma Informed Practices and Social Emotional Learning (SEL): Butte County already had one of the highest rates of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) prior to the recent string of tragedies it has experienced over the past few years. Unfortunately, the children of Butte County have endured multiple traumatic experiences, including the evacuation during the Oroville Dam Crisis (Feb. 2017) the devastating Camp Fire (November 2018), multiple floods and other fires, and now the COVID-19 pandemic. Our students and families need our support more than ever, and our team at BCOE is focused on a variety of issues addressing these needs, including deploying a team of trauma counselors, the development of a center for early learning and resilience, and being a lead agency for MTSS and SEL.

  • Focus on Equity in Education: BCOE is embarking on a brand new initiative that will be groundbreaking in setting the stage for our county office to focus first on our own practices in regard to equity (race, rural generational poverty, just to name a few) with the goal of being able to support our schools as they also make progress in these areas.

    Focus on Early Literacy: This is an area of particular interest for me, and I know from experience the importance of having teachers in the early grades who are truly experts in teaching reading. I see that we can always improve as educators in our understanding and pedagogy in this area, and I plan to lead initiatives that help us all develop higher levels of expertise as a county.

    What is a bright spot / exemplary program in your county that would be of interest to other County Superintendents?

    I have a particular interest in the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA), especially given my background and training in the performing arts. BCOE was fortunate enough to be a grant recipient through Title IV funding. That grant, which we called the North State Arts Education Consortium, allowed us to serve our entire region in the area of the arts. We were able to provide in –depth professional development to teachers and support the development of lessons infused with the arts, as well as to provide an online library of high quality lessons.

    What are your interests? 

    My husband and I both enjoy playing golf (although neither of us excel at it, lol) and we are both musicians. One of my goals over the next few years is to make more time for self-care through our enjoyment of these hobbies.

    Who are the special people in your life?

    Family has always been very important to me. I’ve been married to my husband John for nearly 28 years, and I am the very proud stepmom of two grown sons and a wonderful daughter-in-law. We also have an absolutely adorable granddaughter who has us wrapped around her little finger.

    I come from a very large family; I’m the youngest of nine children born to Swiss immigrants. We had no family nearby growing up, so we had to rely on each other. We have very strong bonds, and for me one of the joys of life now is spending time with my siblings and their spouses, my nieces and nephews, and an ever-growing clan of grand nieces and nephews!

    I’m also blessed with many friends and colleagues, new and old, and it’s always a pleasure to spend time with them.

    Follow Superintendent Sakuma on Twitter at @BCOESUPT

From The Desk Of

Peter Birdsall Executive Director

The next big challenge for county offices of education is supporting school districts with development and implementation of their Learning Continuity and Attendance plans.  School districts and county offices must adopt these plans by September 30.

The law then provides that the county superintendent “may” provide written recommendations concerning the school district plan.  The school district governing board would be required to “consider” such recommendations within 15 days.

It is critically important that county superintendents attempt to reach agreement on their approach to providing written recommendations.  The history of our work with school district LCAPs would suggest that the preferred approach is work proactively and collaboratively with the districts before they adopt their plans.

It will come as no surprise that legislators and advocacy groups will be watching the quality and consistency of county office support for and review of the local plans.  In a report released in July, authors from various groups including PACE, the UC Berkeley School of Law, and the Opportunity Institute offered the following recommendation to state policy-makers:

“To strengthen assurances that adequate and high-quality instructional time, meaningful reengagement practices, and equitable services are provided, the state should: (a) authorize counties to reject or help revise districts’ instructional continuity plans where needed; (b) require districts to collect local data and regularly update their communities on the implementation of these plans, including data on how much synchronous instructional time each group of students is receiving and on rates of participation; … and (e) consider a statewide evaluation or audit to document trends in instruction and student engagement so that policymakers and stakeholders have good information upon which to base future decisions.”  Source:  Lead with Equity, PACE, July, 2020

 State law was not revised to authorize county superintendent rejection of district learning continuity plan, but these recommendations highlight the significant level of concern about the quality of the plans and the role of the county office.

Leadership from the CCSESA Steering Committees are doing an extraordinary job developing and sharing information, so that the county office response to this challenge is both consistent and high quality. We are planning an important discussion of these issues for the October CCSESA General Membership meeting.

CCSESA Selects Senator Toni Atkins To Receive 2020 Legislator of the Year Award

CCSESA honored Senator Toni Atkins at their August 10th Board of Directors meeting, which was held vitually, with their 2020 Legislator of the Year Award. Senator Atkins was introduced by San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Paul Gothold.

“Senator Atkins is a champion of equity and a voice for the historically underserved.” Mr. Gothold said. “She is a fierce advocate for families in San Diego County and across the state.”

Senator Atkins was selected for the award because of her tireless efforts to protect education funding and improve California’s education system during the COVID-19 crisis.

This award is given annually to the individual who has made outstanding and significant contributions to support public education through his or her legislative leadership.


CCSESA Releases Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Annex

Earlier this month CCSESA’s Business Services Advisory Committee (BASC) Emergency Recovery & Planning Committee released the CCSESA Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Annex to the CCSESA Emergency Recovery Guide.  The Public Safety Power Shutoff Annex delineates steps for County Offices of Education (COEs) to perform prior, during and after a PSPS event.  After COEs experienced PSPS events during the 2018-19 school year, the Emergency Recovery & Planning Committee continued its work by crafting the Annex during the 2019-20 school year.

Following the CCSESA Emergency Recovery Guide, the PSPS Annex utilizes the same color coding and formatting such that it can be appended to the Recovery Guide for easy storage, use and reference. The PSPS Annex emphasizes that taking a few precautionary steps and precautionary measures prior to a PSPS event greatly improves districts’ and COE’s response effectiveness during and after an event. The PSPS Annex includes considerations for Continuation of Government planning, considerations for district communication to the public, as well as delineating the types of decisions that COEs and districts will have to act upon and execute during a PSPS event.

The BASC Emergency Recovery & Planning Committee intends to review and revise the PSPS Annex after COEs utilize the Annex during the 2020-21 school year.

Download the Annex Here


Sheldon K. Smith, Ed.D.
Assistant Superintendent, Business Services
San Luis Obispo County Office of Education
BASC Emergency Recovery & Planning Committee Chair


State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Affirms Support for Schools Impacted by Wildfires and Outlines Guidance for Distance Learning

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond on August 26th, affirmed the California Department of Education’s support for schools reeling from the impacts of wildfires burning across the state, and said during a virtual news media briefing that the CDE will ensure schools have the flexibility they need to focus first on the health, safety, and well-being of their educators, students, and families.

Even as California counties begin to move off of the state’s coronavirus monitoring list and consider returning to modified versions of in-person instruction, the State Superintendent said during Wednesday’s media briefing that students and families should expect that distance learning will remain part of education in the weeks and months ahead.

To support the continued strengthening of virtual learning, the CDE this week released updated guidance to support educators moving forward.

Read the full press release here.

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