Using PiE to Respond to Students’ Diverse Needs

The Slice – December 2013: In Our High Schools | In Our Middle Schools | In Our Elementary Schools

All organizations benefit from flexibility, and Palo Alto elementary schools are no exception. However, due to budget rules, school codes and other constraints, Palo Alto principals have limited ways to respond rapidly to the needs of their particular students and families. That’s where PiE comes in. Thanks to donations to PiE, elementary school principals in Palo Alto are fortunate to have flexible spending grants they can use to fund programs that are tailored to needs of their particular school population.

Hoover: Highly Trained Instructional Assistants in all Classrooms

At Hoover Elementary School, principal Katy Bimpson uses her PiE funds to support highly trained Instructional Assistants in every classroom. Instructional Assistants, who are a bit different from traditional classroom aides, are either certificated teachers or have a degree in literacy, math or science. Hoover’s block schedule allows the Instructional Assistants to work with individual children, take small groups aside or teach lessons, providing a personalized learning experience for all students. “The Instructional Assistants really are an integral part of what we do at Hoover,” explains Principal Bimpson. “But we could not put this innovation into action without PiE.”

Walter Hays: Physical Education for Kinders

Across town at Walter Hays Elementary School, principal Mary Bussman uses her PiE funding to respond to a different need for kindergarten students: physical education. While older students at Walter Hays (as at all Palo Alto elementary schools), receive physical education instruction on a weekly basis, there was no regular PE for kindergarten students. When kinder teachers requested more movement for their students, Principal Bussman used her PiE funds to bring in a program from the YMCA that comes each Friday to instruct kindergartners in games and sports. This unique PE program, which benefits all 60+ kinder students, would not exist without PiE.

Barron Park: Ballet Folklorico Teaches Dance, Culture and Expression

At Barron Park, principal Magdalena Fittoria has focused her flexible PiE funds on the performing arts. “Expressive arts on campus make a real difference for our students,” she explains. “Music, dance and theater are what our community of students really enjoys.” As a result, Barron Park utilizes a portion of its PiE funding to support a Ballet Folklorico program in both kindergarten and second grade, where students study and perform a regional Mexican dance. Principal Fittoria sees benefits of the program that go beyond the physical joy of dance. “The ballet requires listening, learning, and memorizing,” she explains. “It’s a mental exercise as well as a physical one.” PiE funding also allows older students at Barron Park to have an opportunity for creative expression through the Theatreworks’ “Playing With Poetry” program or dramatic re-enactments of colonial history.

Palo Alto’s 12 elementary schools are all unique. Thanks to PiE, principals can fund programs that respond to the special needs and interests of each school community. From dance to drama, physical movement and beyond, Palo Alto elementary students have opportunities to develop new skills and grow outside of the classroom as well as within it thanks to flexible funding from Partners in Education.