The "new year" tends to attract a lot of media and commercial hype. But I really do believe it's a good time for reflecting not only on how we would like to grow in the coming 12 months, but on the progress we have made over the last 12. And as I look at where we are in January 2014, I am excited about the changes we are in the midst of implementing in our district -- changes in our facilities, our funding, our curriculum, even our relationships with each other.

As I have mentioned in earlier letters, AUSD has embarked on a Facilities Master Plan that, hopefully, will lead to placing a bond for renovating our school sites on the November 2014 ballot. School site meetings for the plan began earlier this month; you can see the full schedule of school site and communitywide meetings on our Facilities Master Plan page. Following on the heels of Measure A, which provides $12 million per year to protect our core programs, this Facilities Master Plan will allow us to focus on improving the physical environment in which our teachers teach and our students learn.


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In previous columns, I also have mentioned two other initiatives this year: our implementation of the state-mandated Common Core Standards, which promise to add rigor and depth to the curriculum taught in our schools, and the state's Local Control Funding Formula, which promises to get more funding and programs to low-income English language learners and foster students who need it. Together, these reforms to our curriculum and funding have the potential to improve the educational opportunities we can offer to all of our students.

I would also like to note the start of a new, more positive relationship with the Alameda Education Association (AEA), our teachers' union. This year, district staff and AEA representatives have been meeting to forge agreements about the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, as well as professional learning communities. The tenor of those conversations has been collaborative, professional and respectful -- what I believe is the foundation for creating the best learning environment possible for our children.

In addition, our Board of Education is considering giving all district employees an additional 1.75 percent ongoing raise. When combined with the 3.25 percent ongoing raise negotiated with employee groups in 2013, as well as the one-time raise of 1.25 percent (also negotiated for 2013-14), this year's raise would bring the total salary increase for our employees to 5 percent over three years. The cost of that raise has been included in our budget projections for the next three years.

In closing, I would like to share some very personal news about a new beginning. Over the winter break, my husband and I adopted a baby girl, Ivy Mary Vital, who was born on Dec. 13 in Florida. As those of you who are parents and guardians know, this is a profoundly joyful and transformative time for my husband and me as we navigate the world of parenting and explore the deep bond between parent and child. My husband will be caring for our daughter full-time so that I can continue to serve as AUSD's superintendent. I appreciate this chance to share this exciting news with all of you who care for, plan for and work for the very best educational opportunities for all our children, and I want you to know how much I appreciate all that you do.

If you have questions about the work we're doing in AUSD this year, please contact me at 510-337-7060 or kvital@alameda.k12.ca.us. And remember, you can stay up to date on district news by regularly visiting our website (www.alameda.k12.ca.us) or following us on Twitter, @AUSDNews.

Kirsten Vital is the super- intendent of the Alameda Unified School District.