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Author, storyteller, and education practice and policy advisor.

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On one of my first days on the job in 2009, I recall a parent imploring me to “please take risks for kids.” I had just come on board as Superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), one of the top 1% of largest school districts in the country and one of the most impoverished and ethnically diverse. During my 4.5-year tenure, those were words I vowed to live by.

Founder of JPR: Taking Risks for Kids and author of “Wildflowers: A School Superintendent’s Challenge to America”.

If you’ve been working to implement whole child education, I’d love to hear from you — your successes, and your challenges.

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Some of the earliest and best memories of my childhood are summers spent at various camps and going on vacations with family to my beloved Cape Cod and the coast of Maine. Thinking back, I couldn’t imagine my life without those experiences. Making new friends, trying all sorts of activities, playing sports, and enjoying the long days and nights swimming, sailing, camping, and playing outdoors. Simply put — it was FUN! Survive the school year to thrive in the summer. That was my strategy.

Growing up white and middle class, I didn’t know so many children — particularly low-income families…


Growing up, my childhood was anything but remarkable — that is until the beginning of my sixth-grade year. My parents had gotten a call from my school’s principal during which, she told them I wasn’t reading at grade level, perhaps I had a learning disability and they wanted to send me back to the fifth grade. Unsettling, to say the least!

To my mother, who had been trained as a teacher, this didn’t make sense. My parents sent me to a psychologist for tests. After two days of playing all sorts of games — the two best days of learning…


I’m continually surprised how easy it is for people to forget the obvious. Like practicing self-care such as eating healthy and nutritious food, participating in regular physical and mental exercise, and getting enough rest. Despite all the data available to us — good health remains elusive. And it is similar with improving public education.

For decades we’ve known about the benefits of Whole Child education. John Dewey, a leading progressive education thinker and practitioner, espoused the purpose of a public education is to prepare young people to be engaged contributors to their communities and society at large. Dewey recognized that…


I always thought that the ones with a tougher job than mine when I was a school superintendent in Sacramento, CA, were principals. At least if I chose to, I could go to my office and close the door. Principals can never close their door! They are too busy greeting students and moving them on to class with a supportive word and sign of encouragement, checking in on teachers, welcoming a parent or community partner to campus, and seeing that the school cafeteria or building staff have what they need. Exhilarating and exhausting!

Which is why a recent study released…


“The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children.” — Nelson Mandela

Throughout Massachusetts, April 5 marked a return to full time in-person instruction for elementary school children. Throughout so many neighborhoods across the state, the annual ritual of parents taking children to school was being played out. In bizarre fashion, what is a traditional marking of the end of summer and beginning of fall was happening just as the daffodils were blooming! How natural and welcome this site looked in this most unnatural of years. And leading the way to school were parents —…


George Washington’s Letter
to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, 1790

I had been planning a blog about the larger purpose of public education, which is to cultivate young people into active participants in our democracy. I was going to call out the importance of preparing our young people to be leaders and voters who understand and protect our unique system of government, founded in the idea that all people are created equal, and all are equally entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I had been planning to write a piece about how urgent it is that public schools empower and excite young people to take action and…


In a structure as rigid and hierarchical as the public school system, what is the most important role of a leader? Here’s my answer in a nutshell: Faced with a vertical org chart, great leaders cultivate relationships that are emotionally horizontal. In other words, leaders make themselves emotionally accessible to their colleagues by forging relationships through trust, communication, collaboration, and empathy.

By their very nature, hierarchical org charts encourage top-down thinking: Unless you’re at the very bottom, there’s always someone beneath you. When I served as Sacramento’s Superintendent of Schools, the school board was “above” me, while the city’s school…


Three girls, three different heights.

As a first-time author, I’ve been surprised and grateful to find out how people are experiencing my book. I wrote Wildflowers, A School Superintendent’s Challenge to America to share the urgent lessons I learned about public education during my four-and-a-half years as school superintendent in Sacramento, CA. I felt the need to reach everyone: parents, educators, voters, policy experts, and legislators. Now, I’m hearing from everyone. And learning a lot.

One pre-publication reader urged me to talk more about the concept of equity in Wildflowers. I’ll admit it: I am wary of terminology that goes “viral” from one day to…


A home visit in Sacramento — Courtesy PTHV 2017

As part of its effort to shift control of public schools from the legislature to local school districts, the state of California agreed to spend over $13 million in the next six years to ensure that local community members play an active role in school district decision-making. John Fensterwald at EdSource gets it right when he calls community engagement “an essential but elusive part of local control.” The elusiveness explains the $13 million price tag. Community engagement has been mandated for years, yet parents and students still feel that their voices aren’t being heard.

Personally, I’m not surprised. As I…

Jonathan P. Raymond

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