Welcome Back Letter from the Superintendent



Dear AUSD Team, 

We started a journey three years ago with monumental work on “What If” and asking so many powerful questions that challenged our assumptions and traditional practices. The following year we moved forward with asking “Why Not,” encouraging risk-taking while identifying the hurdles and barriers across the district that impede our innovation so they could be recognized and resolved. It is only appropriate now that we build on our successful work over the last two years and set the stage for the year ahead.

I was excited to stand on the stage during the welcome comments at the 3rd Annual Arcadia Innovation Summit and share our new tagline and purpose statement: In Arcadia Unified School District, we strive to Imagine, Inquire, and Inspire. We do this so we may challenge and inspire students to make a positive and profound impact on their world.  This endeavor was only possible following a full year of interviews, surveys and conversations with staff, administrators and board members (AUSD Purpose Statement & Values Process).

The task of taking all the values shared during the process and identifying the emerging themes that best define who we are was a challenging one. After several iterations, the process resulted in five values that were confirmed by a remarkable 94% satisfaction rate from a comprehensive staff survey. Our AUSD values are:

  • Collaborate

  • Think Critically

  • Be Creative

  • Offer Empathy

  • Learn from Failure

A healthy organization has clarity on the “why” and the “what” it does. It is my expectation that we will collectively and personally focus this year on examining our daily behaviors through the lens of our purpose statement and values. Our school board members went through an exercise this summer identifying individual and group behaviors that would model the five district values. Each of us has a responsibility to examine these values and define how they will be demonstrated through our specific role in Arcadia Unified. Through ongoing conversations and reflections, our organization will become much healthier with increased clarity in our purpose and values.

Another important factor in a healthy organization is good communication. Email was ushered into society as a new and efficient way to communicate with colleagues without any real parameters of how and when it should be used. It quickly became the go-to way to communicate anything and everything with everyone regardless of the real intent of the email. This lack of guidance has resulted in daily inboxes with hundreds of emails that often get lost and quickly buried.  I took some time this summer to reflect on my own communications through the lens of our values. If you are like me, you have been looking for a realistic way to keep up on emails for years now with no real success. Through my search for best practices and reflecting on our values, I found a set of guidelines that I am going to use to ensure I am speaking face to face, on GOOGLE Hangouts, or on the phone with people when a conversation is needed to truly collaborate and demonstrate empathy. I hope you can find a few minutes to reflect on your practices and have some rich conversations with colleagues about the most effective ways to work together while building stronger relationships.

Jaime Casap, Chief Education Evangelist for GOOGLE, shared some insightful thoughts about public education during his keynote address at our Innovation Summit. He shared that our colleagues from the 1800s did a brilliant job of creating an education system that perfectly matched the skills and behaviors needed to work in a factory. The classroom reflected an assembly line and bells mimicked the whistle signaling start and stop time on the factory floor. A strong work ethic and compliance were rewarded. We can all agree that our students and our own kids do not anticipate working in a factory or in an office that resembles in any way what many of our classrooms and bureaucracy still look like. It is not a time to judge what we have done in the past, but to instead step up to the same challenge of designing an education system that more closely matches what our students need to be equipped for their world today. I believe Arcadia Unified is uniquely positioned to build on our reputation of excellence while partnering with the most innovative companies in the world to provide the best educational experience possible. We have the right staff, students, community, and board to re-imagine a learning model for our district and to lead the change for public schools across this country.

I am looking forward to time with each campus staff and district department this fall to talk about our district purpose statement and values as well as better ways to improve communications for all of us. The field of public education continues to evolve and challenge all of us. As always, I’m confident you will recognize these challenges as opportunities, and as the chance to make a profound impact on our students. The world we are sending our students into each year is not the world we once knew. Let’s continue to impact the world by molding the leaders of tomorrow and making our world a better place for generations to come.


Thank you and welcome back!


David Vannasdall, Ed. D.


Imagine • Inquire • Inspire