The reintroduction to in-person instruction post-pandemic is going full speed ahead, with predictable setbacks. From recalibrating teaching methods designed for life post-lockdown to understanding the different mental and emotional needs of our students, it’s been hard work. Complicating all of this is the issue of underemployment of essential staff that schools countrywide are wrestling with. In March, The Learning Policy Institute reported that most school districts nationally are experiencing teacher shortages in the areas of math, science, special education and bilingual education. In addition to that, it was also reported that the shortage extends to substitute teachers and staff positions of all kinds.
Coming back to the school environment requires a fully staffed site, which includes bus drivers, nutrition service workers, janitors, afterschool staff, etc. Amid all of this, many of our schools are working diligently to recruit and staff all their positions in order to function at highest capacity.
How is PSUSD filling vacant but essential positions? Through aggressive publicity across various media: radio announcements, television advertisements, articles in
local newspapers, and so on. Our district is very conscious of the need for staff and has been strategizing in order to prevent a further decrease in effectiveness of our district.
PSUSD looks to fill positions both certificated and classified. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a part of the PSUSD family, you or they can visit edjoin.org/psusd for full job listings.
Charity can take many forms. To our good friend and long-time donor, Jeremy Hobbs, the word is immeasurable and uncontained. Having worked with numerous charities, nonprofits and businesses in the span of his career, Jeremy of few people can look at charity as an experience more than just a simple transaction. Growing up in a family of community organizers who held education as possibly the most valuable asset one can possess, Jeremy understands that providing educational opportunities for our students is essential to community building. As Jeremy mentions, “there is so much potential if only we are willing to give others the opportunity to thrive.”
Speaking to someone like Jeremy you are able to admire the balance that generous people radiate so seamlessly. Being successful and knowledgeable did in no way dull his friendliness and generous spirit. His life story is focused on the power of education and opportunity and not in amassing wealth. Starting his career in his teenage years working in his family’s management consulting company up until earning his undergraduate degree from Pomona College, he developed a passion for understanding all aspects of business management and public policy. This in turn fueled his interest in the study of law. After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, he began representing a variety of individual or corporate clients.
For 15 years, Jeremy continued to accumulate experience in business and organizational management by working in litigation and business consulting. After working within the field, he decided to explore the area of business by investing in other companies and creating his own holdings company. Through this he was able to help start-up many successful businesses that served as a source of funding for what became his passion; philanthropy.
Seeing the success his holding company had enjoyed, he and his business partner started their own charitable foundation in 1997, the Western Wind Foundation (formerly knows as the Lifeboat Foundation). Initially, this foundation focused on helping provide opportunities for at-risk kids in Chicago. Going on to being involved in other crucial areas, Jeremy became the Chairman of Stop AIDS Chicago as well as helping with women’s healthcare causes. Since then, Jeremy has continued to follow the same model, investing in businesses that create wealth that can be funneled back into the community. This passion for understanding the needs of our communities stems from his belief that, “you can’t impose a solution onto someone in need, you instead listen to people to fully understand how you can create the biggest impact in bettering their situations.”
This wisdom is evident in his modus operandi. Jeremy is more than an investor or a donor, he is willing to listen to organizations and look for different ways he can be of assistance. Looking at problems from all angles, he has offered all of his professional experience in consulting and philanthropy to help charities not only fund their initiatives but also keep generating donations. Having lived in the Coachella Valley for the past 10 years, Jeremy has been involved non-stop in creating a brighter future for our valley. Within PSUSD specifically, Jeremy has helped us immensely, being involved with Musical Theater University at Rancho Mirage High School and the choir students at Cathedral City High School for example. He is not one to fixate on a particular need as other charitable organizations may do. Jeremy is an active participant in producing programs such as Code My Future (Coding, Robotics and Engineering), the Keisha D. Musical Scholarship and many more. Anticipating solutions to rising problems, Jeremy is willing to work with PSUSD to fund and fundraise for such issues. Currently, Wellness Centers have been deemed a necessary resource for students who are returning to school in-person. “It is clear from what school’s counselors and administration have experienced that students are in need of mental health counseling; many experiencing depression, stress and anxiety,” Jeremy says. Working alongside The Foundation, Jeremy has helped fund expenses for the Wellness Centers at various schools and looks to expand this funding to other schools.
By listening to the needs of others to produce multiple solutions, Jeremy Hobbs is truly a champion for community development and fortification. The Foundation is indebted to the incessant generous spirit of people like Jeremy.
In the Spotlight:
With anxiety, depression, and other mental-health concerns becoming prominent issues among children in the U.S., the need for mental health resources has become a priority at our school district and others nationwide. Challenges like anxiety, stress and depression can lead to behavioral issues that affect a student’s capacity to engage and retain information within the classroom setting. This can further escalate, which helps to explain the increase in negative behaviors and dropout rates in the education system in the past few years. These issues existed even before COVID-19, of course, but the pandemic brought in-person learning to a halt and forced at-home instruction for more than a year -- increasing the feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression in our students.
It was clear that many of our students would return to the classroom setting with unpacked traumas, detrimental behaviors, and anxieties. The district needed to tackle this issue face-on. Some of our schools increased their mental health support by staffing more counselors and prevention specialists, while other schools, such as Nellie Coffman and Desert Springs Middle Schools, have built On-Campus Wellness Centers. The current focus on mental health resources has fueled fundraising efforts for solutions such as these. With funding support from donors such as The Western Wind Foundation, The Fogelson Family Foundation, and others, we have been able to break ground on these wellness centers.
At the beginning of this school year, Desert Springs Middle School unveiled its beautiful wellness center. Serving as a pilot development for other schools to follow, this project is helping PSUSD analyze and determine how a center gets used, and how best to manage it. The traffic generated has been surprising. The center is staffed with three certificated counselors who are on site throughout hours of operation. One of the three counselors, Rebecca Tartaglini, informs us that students and staff have taken advantage of this resource available to them. Open during regular school hours, students are welcome to stop by and relax in the calming atmosphere of the space.
“Students in crisis can request to talk to a counselor or they can also be referred by their teachers,” Tartaglini says. The goal is to help all students overcome their anxieties so that they can return to the classroom prepared to learn. Tartaglini says counselors were made aware of the level of anxiety their students may have been carrying as a result of the pandemic, but the need they are actually experiencing is beyond what was imagined. When asked why she believes funding for programs such as wellness centers is crucial, Tartaglini says “there is a lot of social anxiety and our students are in need of a comfortable and safe space to let their guards down.” The center hopes to expand its reach and resources further by establishing specialized programs such as group counseling and lunch clubs in the near future.
To that end, The Foundation is working diligently to expand this resource to all 27 district campuses, in order to provide these invaluable spaces to our students. With that priority come multiple challenges -- the most pressing being the need for funding. The cost of one center alone is about $25,000, which is not covered by regular District budgets. With the help of generous donors such as you reading this newsletter today, we can help tackle the growing issue of scarce mental health resources in our schools. If you are interested in sponsoring an On-Campus Wellness Center, please email Foundation Director Ellen Goodman at email@example.com.
Commitment to Diversity:
Native Studies Project Wins Harvard Award
In its commitment to diversity and cultural awareness, PSUSD entrusted the help of The Foundation to establish an indelible bond with our local tribal community. As a result of this relationship, The Foundation in collaboration with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians devised an innovative educational program designed to enlighten students on the rich and expansive indigenous history that runs through the heart of the Coachella Valley. This program was incorporated into the history curriculum of district-wide 3rd grade classrooms which later expanded into 8th and 11th grades as well. As one of the first school districts and tribe nationwide to co-author an indigenous curriculum, Harvard has recognized the Native Studies program at PSUSD and has selected it to receive a 2021 Honoring Nations Award.
Three and a half years ago The Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District and the District itself approached the leaders of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians about the idea of developing a Native Studies curriculum for PSUSD. Eager to share their culture’s story, the Tribe enthusiastically partnered with The Foundation and the District on Agua Caliente-specific study units for third, eighth, and eventually eleventh grade classrooms.
In November of 2021, the project was one of only six projects nationally singled out for the “Honoring Nation’s” award given by the American Indian Economic Development Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. “Honoring Nations” celebrates tribal sovereignty.
The goal of the curriculum project, funded by the Tribe and co-created with District curriculum specialists and Tribal Council leaders in close collaboration, was to tell the true story of the indigenous people of our valley, not filtered through others’ eyes. It would be a story told by those who own it, live it, and have rightly inherited it.
“Many of our students graduate from PSUSD and secure jobs working in Tribal-owned hospitality venues, restaurants, hotels, etc., and it’s important that they understand something about the Agua Caliente culture, history, customs, traditions, and values,” said Ellen Goodman, Foundation Director.
The project was singled out in the Honoring Nations award committee as a model for school districts across America that have a substantial indigenous culture within their region, whose stories deserve to be told in as historically accurate and culturally sensitive a way as possible, free from appropriation, interpretation, cliché, or stereotype. Today, this curriculum is enlightening students on the rich and expansive indigenous history that runs through the heart of the Coachella Valley.
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