Dear Team PUSD,
This April marks my one-year anniversary as the Superintendent of the Poway Unified School District. It’s been a wild ride. If you had asked me last year to predict what might happen in my first year, I doubt that I could have imagined all the highs and lows that would be heading my way.
But what I was prepared for, was to do the work. I knew this first year would be critical, to move this District forward, and to establish my role as a new leader. This has meant many 17-hour days, sleepless nights, a couple of bouts with bronchitis and the flu, and working many weekends and holidays, and to be honest, sometimes the magnitude of what I am trying to be and do is daunting. But as I reflect on the past year, I truly believe that I have made a difference. Guiding an organization as large as PUSD through change is challenging. The changes have come, little by little, day by day.
Someone asked me the other day, what fills my days, so I thought my anniversary would be the perfect time to share some examples with you.
5am My day starts early. It’s the only time I have to myself. To check emails and catch up on the news.
6am Wake my 11-year-old daughter. Although now that she’s in 6th grade, she’s pretty independent. If my schedule allows, I’ll make her breakfast. This may be the only time I see her during the day, because I often get home late at night, after she’s gone to bed.
7am Hit the road for my hour commute to the District office. This is when I’m getting all my calls made. I’ll check in with my executive assistant, Tina, to get a sense of what the day looks like. At this time, I’m also touching base with board members, principals, and directors, to get an update on any concerns or issues that may need my attention.
8am I pull up to Del Sur Elementary School for my first scheduled appearance of the day, surprising our District Teachers of the Year. Over the next two hours, we visit Westview High School and Valley Elementary School as well, and I have a chance to personally thank our teachers and staff for their excellent work on behalf of our students. The people that make up TeamPUSD have truly made this a special place.
10am I am back at the District Office for a negotiations update with some of my Cabinet members, Associate Superintendents Ron Little (Business) and James Jimenez (Personnel). PUSD prides itself in a strong relationship with our employee groups.
11:15am Two representatives from the India Heritage Language School of San Diego come by to discuss possible partnerships to bring more foreign languages into our schools. Increasing foreign language pathways for our students, from kindergarten to 12th grade, is a passion of mine.
12:15pm I rarely have time to eat, but I grab a bite with my Director of Communications, Christine Paik, as we prepare for an upcoming interview for Edutopia, a national education publication that highlights best practices in public schools.
1pm I meet with the San Diego Police Department to discuss potential partnerships to increase school safety.
2:30pm A visit to Willow Grove Elementary, the final school on my list of schools to visit. (My goal was to visit all 39 in my first year). The principal, Amy Huff, shows me around the classrooms and I get to see firsthand our students learning and engaged. I also address the staff’s questions and concerns, and assess how to best support site needs.
4:00pm to 9:00pm On Board Meeting nights, we go into closed session around 4pm. Open session starts at 6pm and wraps up around 9pm. I am grateful to our five Board members, who have supported me in my work so far. As I drive home, I debrief with staff and make mental notes of what I need to follow up on for the next day.
The Superintendent of today must be visible, accessible, and knowledgeable at all times. Emotions are high when it comes to children, and the stakes are high when it comes to public education and taxpayer money. I approach my job with humility, respect, and understanding. I know there’s so much more work to be done, and I am deeply grateful to have been entrusted with this monumental, yet rewarding position in service of our students.
Marian Kim-Phelps, Ed.D.
Poway Unified School District