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Los Altos High School English teacher Michelle Bissonnette and Assistant Principal Perla Pasallo have been appointed to new roles in the district office: Pasallo will serve as the director of student services and equity, while Bissonnette will take on the role of community outreach specialist.
Both are new positions that fall under a larger district reorganization approved by the board of trustees last night.
Bissonnette — a veteran educator who, with the exception of two years working in the Department of Education, has taught English at Los Altos since 1998 — will broadly be responsible for communicating with and gathering feedback from the community to inform policy across the district.
“Being a teacher is truly something that I’ve done for so long that I will always feel it is part of my identity,” Bissonnette said in an email interview. “The reason I am willing to step away from the classroom is because I believe this role will simply be an extension of my ability to help students and families — it will help the district to build its capacity to be more responsive to the needs of our students, and that is why we are all here!”
A district description of Bissonnette’s new position also emphasizes her role in supporting the superintendent in the “emphasis on student voice toward district improvement.”
“I think that if at the end of my time in this role I could say that I helped families feel like their voices and experiences were valued and honored, and that I helped build the capacity of the district to improve life outcomes for all of our students, I’d feel like I had spent my time well,” Bissonnette said. “I know that’s not super specific, it’s more aspirational. But it’s what I do hope for.”
Pasallo will be responsible for supporting and guiding the district’s English learner programs, special education department and equity initiatives; a particularly important role as the district implements its early intervening services plan to address the disproportionate identification of Latino students for special education, as noted by Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer.
She’ll report directly to Teri Faught, the similarly recently appointed associate superintendent of educational services.
“I want to help create and implement programs that will support all students [in achieving] their academic goals,” Pasallo said in an email interview. “Especially students who have struggled and experience challenges in achievement. Since my focus is around academic counseling, second language learners and critical learners, all of my goals revolve around identifying ways to support those groups and promoting equity for our students of color.”
Pasallo started her relationship with the district as a therapist and case manager at Alta Vista High School in 1997, becoming a counselor and later department coordinator at Los Altos five years later.
She began her current role as assistant principal in 2010.
“The pro [of taking this new role] was having the opportunity to promote change that will promote academic achievement for students and narrow the opportunity gap,” Pasallo said. “The true difficulty was the thought of leaving my Los Altos family and amazing administrative team.”