On July 1, Dr. Stella Kemp will begin her first day of work as the new Superintendent for the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD). Having served as a teacher, a middle school principal, a high school administrator, a director of professional development and a superintendent, Kemp brings 30 years of educational experience to SCUSD.
“I went to the University of Texas at Austin,” Kemp said. “For my undergraduate degree, I was studying Geology. It was during the 1980s when geologists weren’t getting jobs. I went over to the College of Education. I felt like I’d found my home. I became a science teacher and taught middle school and high school science.”
Kemp also holds a Master of Education in Education Leadership from Texas Woman’s University and a Doctor of Education in Education Administration from University of North Texas.
As the current Superintendent of San Bruno Park School District, Kemp discussed a project she has been working on that she would also like to conduct in SCUSD.
“In San Bruno Park, we developed, as a community, a vision called Schools With Tomorrow Inside,” Kemp said. “The vision was around two things. One was around the facilities — planning for modernizing the schools, and the second piece was around the educational program transformation work, the teaching and learning…Now we want to focus on the competencies and skills we want our children to have when they leave the school.”
Kemp brought together associates of the San Bruno Park School District (serving students from K-8) and San Mateo Union High School District and other community members. Over a few meetings, the group members settled on six competencies they felt students should have when they leave the school district.
“Students should be able to say, ‘I am a contributor. I am a critical thinker. I am a collaborator. I am compassionate. I am a communicator. I am creative and innovative,’” Kemp said of the competencies her group identified. “I’d like to bring people to the table and engage in a formal process to look at the portrait of what a student who leaves Santa Clara Unified should look like and incorporate those qualities in the instructional program design and in the student services design. It’s about refining what we’re doing. We’re at a world now where information is at our fingertips. Teaching has to shift. We want our students to process information, not just gather information.”
In addition to exploring how outdoor spaces can be utilized, Kemp explained other ideas in her vision for how the teaching and learning landscape could be shaped at SCUSD in the next few years.
“Let’s just say a student comes into your school and they’re struggling. The teacher can support the students while they’re learning their skills. This is about personalized learning,” Kemp said. “The ability for teachers and the team at a school to utilize technology or small group learning is important when you think about the personalized concept.
“When the students have developed competencies through problem-based learning, we want students to know how to develop solutions to real life problems,” Kemp continued. “When we give students a problem to solve, we want them to be able to communicate a solution. We see the concept of innovation come up in the STEAM Expo, where students solve a problem or take a product and show how they can improve upon it with given parameters. The last piece is about giving back to your community. How do we create a school system where students aren’t only working on academics but they’re also working with their community?”