Portola Valley School District highlights programs in new school year | August 22, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Cover Story - August 22, 2018

Portola Valley School District highlights programs in new school year

by Barbara Wood

As the new school year gets underway in the Portola Valley School District, the district is showcasing several new or ongoing programs.

Makerspace research

Portola Valley School District teachers are helping with national research that aims to make sure the currently ubiquitous "makerspaces" in schools help students meet traditional classroom learning goals by aligning projects with curriculum standards.

Makerspaces are classrooms designed and dedicated to hands-on creativity, where students use everything from 3D printers to duct tape and toilet-paper tubes, as well as computer software and video cameras, to put together projects.

For the second consecutive year, two Corte Madera Middle School teachers — math and science teacher Teresa Richard and English language arts teacher Donna Kasprowicz — and the district's makerspace coach, Sarrie Paguirigan, are receiving coaching and professional development training from research teams at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the nonprofit MakerEd.

The district is one of only two in the nation working with MIT and MakerEd to figure out how maker projects can help students acquire the technology and science skills that are part of state-required classroom curriculum standards (think Common Core). The teachers are also working on how to give students continuous feedback on their progress toward those goals.

Ormondale projects

At Ormondale School, the district's pre-kindergarten to third-grade school, a slew of projects will be financed by grants from the Portola Valley Schools Foundation. Projects include a lunchtime art club, a second-grade garden and related "superfoods" project about healthy foods, and new library books for the school's Readers and Writers Workshop. Foundation grants also support the school's activities for families and its social emotional learning program, in which students learn life skills such as empathy, impulse control and problem-solving.

The second-grade classes will also once again partner with the produce department at Roberts Market to cook healthy superfoods each month.

Corte Madera projects

Corte Madera, the district's fourth- to eighth-grade school, has plans for parent programs that will offer "fresh perspectives (in) parenting in this complex time," the district says.

The school will also continue to teach students daily life values, such as kindness and respect.

In the school's makerspace, teachers and students will continue their partnership with Stanford and MIT. District officials say that because the district is so small, "reaching out to the community and partnering helps keep us fresh and growing."

Corte Madera students entering fourth and sixth grades came to school a day early for orientations, allowing students to see old friends and meet new students while receiving sneak previews of their new classes and teachers.


Several employees left the district at the end of last school year. Because the district's enrollment is falling, all the positions will be filled internally.

Special education teacher Katelyn Gill resigned to accept a position in the San Diego area. Director of Learning and Innovation Jason Borgen will become chief technology officer for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education on October 1, and paraeducator Kristin Berman retired after a long career with the district.


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