MBEP Member Spotlight: Pajaro Valley Unified School District

Pajaro Valley Unified School District: Rethinking and Redesigning Learning for Student Success

As one of the largest school districts in the Monterey Bay region, MBEP’s newest member Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) has a robust school program built on its mission to educate and support learners in reaching their highest potential. This means preparing students for highly-skilled, high-wage careers in high-demand, locally relevant fields, such as sustainable agriculture, biotechnology, systems programming, and graphic design. PVUSD identified those as its CTE Signature Pathways, part of its Career & Technical Education (CTE) program designed to provide opportunities to acquire professional career and technical skills, earn certifications, and access work-based learning experiences.


Supported by California’s K12 Strong Workforce Program (K12 SWP), which allocated $150 million on an annual and ongoing basis, PVUSD was able to launch the Signature Pathway Biotechnology at Aptos High School and Graphic Design Pathway at Renaissance High School this year.

Pajaro Valley Unified School District is focused on creating collaborative and fluid learning environments that lead to not only a strong academic and literacy foundation, but also multiple social-emotional competencies, inclusive school culture, and climate, success in life including college and career, and development of the whole child.

That expanded definition of student success has guided its approach to serving students, families, and communities.

The district’s numerous successes and progress are outlined in its 2020 State of the District, released via a live streaming event on Wednesday, Oct. 21. Congressman Jimmy Panetta was among the guest speakers joining PVUSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michelle Rodriguez.

Notable achievements in the PVUSD educational community in 2019-2020:

  • Dramatic improvement in literacy rates in grades K-2 at all 17 elementary schools;
  • Expansion of its Latino Youth Film Institute and El Sistema VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) programs;
  • Creation of a second Computer Science Immersion School at Ohlone Elementary;
  • Collaboration with Cabrillo College which resulted in the first two dual-enrolled courses for 2019-2020 and expanding to five in 2020-21;
  • Completion of 65 facility improvement projects.

This fall also marked the opening of the PVUSD Virtual Academy, a fully online independent study experience that currently serves about 440 K-12 students who get support and one-and-one instruction from PVUSD certified teachers and staff. The district’s 33rd school was born as a response to significant community interest from families, students, and staff.

PVUSD is actively rethinking and redesigning learning, as exemplified in the district-wide theme, “Learning Redefined through Connection, Unity, and Purpose.”

“Due to the collective resilience and creativity of our students, families, staff and community partners, the last three months of school and the following summer resulted in the development of new capacities, strengthened community connections and a continued focus on serving the needs of the whole child,” said Dr. Rodriguez.

The district received national recognition for rapidly pivoting to distance learning and was featured by local, state, and national organizations including CalMatters, EdSource, Policy Alternatives for California Education (PACE), and Collaborative Classroom. Its community engagement efforts, including a multi-pronged approach to reaching the district’s 450 Mixteco-bajo language families, earned the district a spot in Cohort II of California Collaborative for Educational Excellence’s Community Engagement Initiative, a peer leading and learning network focused on effective community engagement practices in public school districts.

The district’s CTE Signature Pathways are inspiring high school students to prepare for college and career through programs that provide opportunities to acquire professional career and technical skills, earn certifications, and access work-based learning experiences.

And the district continues its legacy of culturally and linguistically responsive instruction: As a leader in ethnic studies, PVUSD is helping create students who embrace learning about diversity in society through ethnic studies courses and graduates who proudly learn to master fluency of a second or third language and receive the Seal of Biliteracy.

In addition, the district has cultivated a diverse range of community partnerships with educational providers, nonprofits and local companies, including MBEP members Graniterock, Martinelli’s, Community Foundation for Monterey County, Kaiser Permanente, CSUMB, UC Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College, Ow Family Properties, United Way Monterey County, Monterey Peninsula Foundation, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, the City of Watsonville, and Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“Those programs are providing students, families, and staff the right tools so that all our students can succeed,” said district spokeswoman Alicia Jimenez. “We’re so grateful for the partnerships that we have with many of our community partners.”

Jimenez said the district’s affiliation with MBEP in recent years has strengthened its collaborations across the region. Recently, PVUSD officially joined MBEP as a member organization. “It’s a very exciting time for PVUSD, and it’s really awesome that we’re becoming a member of MBEP.”