Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Superintendent Scott Laurence and Human Relations Generalist Lulu Davidson chat at San Mateo Union High School District office.
Technology is on the forefront of San Mateo Union High School District Superintendent Scott Laurence’s mind these days.
Laurence, 56, who began his post with the district four years ago, said transitioning to the Common Core Standards has been a huge focus of the district for the last couple of years. The new standards calls for a shift to more project-based and team collaborative learning, with less time spent on lectures and more of an emphasis on students using technology in classrooms. Officials say the standards will do a better job prepping students for college and careers.
“It’s pretty transformational,” Laurence said. “It’s a new way, a good way, of instruction, assessment and global problem solving. It’s about critical thinking and writing as opposed to data memorization.”
He noted that the world is changing and, with advances in technology, he wants to make sure students are ready to go out into the world.
“I don’t think you can rest or relax,” Laurence said. “It’s a different world even from five years ago. We’re trying to be forward thinking about what’s next.”
During his almost 25 years as a teacher, coach and administrator in the Palo Alto School District, Laurence said he was able to do a lot of creative work with instruction and he enjoyed his time there. His wife Kathie is an assistant principal at Palo Alto High School. He also has two sons, one age 23 and another who is turning 19 next week.
“I got to co-teach and write curriculum,” Laurence said. “I had fun, exciting and simulating challenges.”
He has been impressed by the district’s teachers and administrators.
“It’s exciting to see teachers who want to get better at their craft,” Laurence said. “We’ve been trying to get on the cutting edge by bringing technology to teachers and setting up support structures.”
Professional development programs have included the Digital Bridge Learning Team Institute, which helps teachers get up to speed on the latest technology.
He said the district is well-positioned to move forward since it has now bounced back from the financial crisis of 2008.
“We’ve come a long way in the last four years,” Laurence said. “Our academic performance has gone up, discipline numbers are down, and more and more kids are becoming college eligible. It’s been a lot of hard work.”
Laurence said as an organization, the district was at a point in which it needed to get back to the basics.
“With leadership from the [school] board, down to the folks who keep our campuses clean, people take a lot of pride in our schools.”
What challenges are to come for the district?
“We’re going to be growing by 4,000-6,000 students, so that will present financial issues,” he said. “We’ll need the resources to support them.”
Laurence is also playing a huge part in finding a new location for the alternative school Peninsula High School. The district is currently considering a Burlingame site at 1240 Bayshore Highway. His deadline for submitting his recommendations to the Board of Trustees on the relocation is early October.
Prior to his time in San Mateo, he acted as the principal at both Palo Alto and Gunn high schools. He originally came to the Palo Alto Unified School District as a social studies teacher and also worked as assistant superintendent for administrative services.
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