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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators

Taking it to the streets

Palmdale School District meets community members ‘where they are’ — whether in supermarkets, parks or on the radio

By Candace Craven | January | February 2022
Keeping students and families connected to a school district has always been a challenge. Between COVID-19, distance learning and hybrid schedules, many families felt isolated over the 19 months between March 2020 and the fall of 2021. As people moved or changed living arrangements, districts “lost” students.
Across the state, enrollment declined for many districts. Reaching out to communities and families to rebuild relationships was essential in retaining students and building enrollment.
Palmdale School District Superintendent Raul Maldonado and his team collaborated to find ways to keep families in touch with the district. Peachjar and Parent Square were already in place and fliers went out with the school lunches, but Palmdale School District needed to reach beyond current school families to incoming kinder families and the community as a whole. Superintendent Maldonado and the district structured their actions on the Palmdale PROMISE, the district’s strategic plan. The collaboration of the board, cabinet, staff and all stakeholders created the PROMISE. Without the support of this team, these innovative projects would not have been possible.
PROMISE Mobile: Taking it to the streets
Transportation Director Francisco Padilla and Maldonado had collaborated on outfitting a small bus as an incident command center for emergencies. The bus has a generator and wi-fi, and it can be used to support a school during a power outage, a water main break, or any issue that requires parents to pick up their children. The PROMISE Mobile was used to play music in neighborhood school parades and at community events as a booth to promote the district.
Kelly Jensen, director of Curriculum and Instruction, suggested using the PROMISE Mobile for enrollment by going where the families were. Cassandra Ziskind, director of Student Services, agreed and set up various school sites as remote enrollment locations. With the wi-fi available in the converted bus, parents were able to access the online enrollment form. Many PSD families do not have strong internet access and some required individual assistance to navigate the online enrollment. Ziskind coordinated with the immunization clinic so parents could also update a student’s immunizations.
In addition to school sites, Vallarta Supermarkets agreed to allow the district to do remote enrollment at their stores. This approach allowed the district to reach out to families to “enroll while you shop” and again promoted the district to parents who had not enrolled their students, were new to the community or were nervous about sending their student to school.
Parents felt a connection as they were able to ask questions of Ziskind. The idea that the director would come out to help them enroll made quite an impression and communicated the district’s commitment to supporting families.
The Lunch Box
A lunch truck has joined the Child Nutrition department as a mobile kitchen and serving location. During the closures, the cheerful lunch truck allowed PSD to feed the 18-and-under members of the community at locations other than a school site. Director of Child Nutrition Alecia Woods took the Lunch Box and served meals at park sites, enabling members of the community to be fed close to where they lived.
The Lunch Box also serves as a reward for schools as special lunches can be served to students who meet attendance goals or win intra-district competitions. The Lunch Box team attends special events to provide food items for those in attendance, including DELAC and AAPAC parent council meetings.
The positive outreach by the Lunch Box is one more way to reach out to the community and build a relationship between the district and families. It also provides useful information to the community in the form of an Instagram address painted on the side of the lunch truck. The address allows parents to access recipes on how to use fresh fruits and vegetables provided in the take-home lunches and breakfasts.
Many PSD families do not have strong internet access and some required individual assistance to navigate the online enrollment.
The Palmdale PROMISE Live!/¡La PROMESA de Palmdale en Vivo! Radio Show
Maldonado charged his Coordinator of Extended Learning and Community Outreach Candace Craven with producing a one-hour live radio show Monday through Friday on La Hermosa 1470 AM. The decision was made to use a bilingual host to promote the district’s dual immersion programs and promote bilingualism. Salvador Villanueva hosts the show each day.
The radio show focuses on the positive programs the district offers and reaches out to both the Spanish and English-speaking communities. The station records the live shows, and the district archives the audio files. The shows are rebroadcast on the internet radio station run by Mr. Jose Flores, Desert Willow Magnet Academy CTE teacher, and his students. The rebroadcast shows are available Monday through Friday at 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. through PSDRadio.org and on the Palmdale School District Radio app available for download on both Android and iPhone.
One episode in particular generated fan mail. Early Childhood Education Coordinator Danielle Watson spent an hour discussing developmental stages for children, including appropriate expectations and activities for various ages. A parent sent an email to Superintendent Maldonado asking that Watson be a regular on the show as he had learned so much about his children in her hour.
Using the show to promote activities and programs, including vaccination clinics, has brought awareness to all the services the district offers the community.
Maldonado believes meeting the needs of the PSD families requires changing the way home-to-school engagement has always been done. Thinking outside the box has allowed PSD to meet its attendance projection in this time of declining enrollment. By reaching out in creative and new ways, PSD has kept families connected and informed. It is all part of the Palmdale PROMISE.

Candace Craven is the Coordinator of Extended Learning and Community Outreach at Palmdale School District.
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