The Magnolia Message: Letter from the Superintendent

Welcome to the Spotlight on Student Learning, Piedmont Unified’s monthly electronic newsletter.  This edition of the Spotlight focuses on social and emotional learning — a vital component of k-12 education — and programs that offer support for students’ social and emotional needs.  Please read on!

social-and-emotional-learning-core-competenciesPiedmont Unified is committed to educating and supporting the whole child, through programs that span kindergarten through 12th grade.  Research indicates that “schools will be most successful in their educational mission when they integrate efforts to promote children’s academic, social, and emotional learning. (Elias et al., 1997).”  To help families better understand the various components of Piedmont Unified’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs, we’ve dedicated this edition of the Spotlight on Student Learning on SEL programs ranging from elementary to high school.

Drawing from the research by Elias et al., 1997; Payton et al., 2000, we define SEL as the process by which students enhance their ability to integrate thinking, feeling, and behaving to achieve important life tasks. Our goal is for students to recognize and manage their emotions, establish healthy relationships, set positive goals, meet personal and social needs, and make responsible and ethical decisions.

Furthermore, it has been argued that if schools focus only on academic instruction and school management in their efforts to help students attain academic success, they will likely fall short of their goals  (Adelman and Taylor, 2000).

To help us meet our SEL goals, we’ve fostered a long-standing partnership with Challenge Success, a project of the Stanford University School of Education that is dedicated to promoting student health and wellness.  Challenge Success implements best practices in areas such as curriculum, assessment, homework, school schedule, and a healthy school climate.

With support from Dr. Cheryl Wozniak, Director of Curriculum & Instruction and Ting Hsu Engelman, Wellness Center Director, we’ve also begun a comprehensive review of the District’s TK-12 Social Emotional Programs and Services in order to better determine where further support is needed.

In this issue you’ll find an article about the January 19th presentation by Dr. Denise Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success, about the Well-Balanced Student.  You will find an article about Piedmont Unified’s Wellness Center, which provides a range of resources to support students and families in meeting the challenges of adolescence through education, prevention, and early-intervention.  The Center offers free, confidential counseling on-campus, and a range of programs that build and strengthen social connections among students.  You will find articles about Piedmont Middle School’s Safe School Ambassadors and Peer Mediators, and Piedmont High School’s Peer Advisors and Youth Educators  — programs that offer leadership and mentoring opportunities for students and enhance school social climate.  You will find an article about Camp Everytown, a four-day program that emphasizes community and builds social connections among students, and about high school students sharing their experiences with middle school students at PMS’ Diversity Day.  And there’s more, so please read on.  Piedmont Unified is very proud to have so many opportunities for students to find support and community within the schools.

If you have questions or comments about this, or want more information about social-emotional programs for our students, please contact me directly at


Best wishes,

Randall Booker, Superintendent

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