Homework, counseling on crowded agenda

Board of Education also to vote on new graduation requirements, two-year property lease

Homework policy, graduation requirements, high school counseling and possible school budget cuts crowd tonight's agenda of the Palo Alto Board of Education.

The board is expected to finalize new high school graduation requirements, effective with the Class of 2016 -- today's eighth graders -- that will align with entrance criteria to California's public, four-year universities. The new policy also will offer customized "alternative graduation requirements," to be negotiated by students, parents and the school district, for students who cannot or prefer not to pursue the standard route.

The new rules will not affect 80 percent of Palo Alto students, who already routinely meet or exceed the four-year college prep course load.

School board members also are scheduled to vote tonight on a proposed two-year, $10,000-a-month lease of property at 525 San Antonio Road, which was purchased by the school district last November with the idea of eventually putting classrooms there.

The primary lessee would be Athena Academy, a small, nonprofit, startup school for dyslexic learners. Athena plans to sublease space to Champion Kinder International School, which currently operates day care and after school Chinese programs at Stratford School, 870 N. California Ave.

The board will hear a presentation from a parent-teacher Homework Advisory Committee, which has met monthly since December to examine the "purpose and volume" of Palo Alto's K-12 homework as well as the schools' policies for distributing test and project deadlines.

On the topic of high school counseling, Superintendent Kevin Skelly will present a staff analysis of nearly 1,700 "open-ended responses" by high school students about counseling services. The responses were part of a larger student survey on counseling administered in March.

The parent-led group We Can Do Better Palo Alto, which has lobbied the board for more than a year to have Gunn High School adopt Palo Alto High School's "teacher advisory" counseling model, previously has published a separate analysis of the student comments.

Also tonight, Skelly and his staff will present an update on the school budget outlook following the May 14 budget revision proposals from Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor's latest proposal assumes passage of his proposed tax initiative this November.

But staff members said that districts are being advised to plan for "trigger cuts" of $450 per student should it fail.

Tonight's public session convenes at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

The board also will convene earlier today, at 1 p.m., for a study session on enrollment projections and facilities planning. That meeting will be held in Conference Room A of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

Related story:

School board to discuss middle-school growth

Chris Kenrick


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Get involved, parents! this affects YOUR FAMILY!!!
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 22, 2012 at 11:41 am

PAUSD Staff recommends "Postpone consideration of school facilities on the Cubberley site until at least 2019," based on lack of bond revenue to build and desire to keep $7 million lease payment. Can the city continue to pay this money to the district? Will they?

PAUSD staff also proposes increasing JLS and Jordan to 1250 students, possibly more. Staff has said more than once that an option is to leave portables that were put in place for construction period for a longer (unspecified how long) term beyond the construction period.

Bigger middle schools...more portables. Parents MUST get involved in this planning process NOW.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I will not be able to attend the meeting this evening, but I am very interested in the homework discussion. I hope that the reporter attending this meeting will cover the homework discussion when reporting.

I particularly welcome the curtailment of group projects that involve students meeting together outside schooltime. I would like to see the end of busy work - coloring for high schoolers and cooking for languages. I also think that the makeup policy of one day per day out of school is too little. A student who has been in bed for a couple of days with flu or something similarly incapacitating, does not need double homework on the first day back at school when still not back to full strength.

Middle school enrollment also interests me and needs to be reported on.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 23, 2012 at 10:49 am

They really need to adjust the workload in 7th grade. Both my children got pummeled with homework in 7th, thus, became depressed and feeling like failures. It is also a time of adjustment for girls because 7th grade girls are psycho and my girls had to deal with the social dysfunction as well as the rigorous class load. They "hated" 7th grade.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by guest
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2012 at 10:02 pm

@ Paly Parent:

"I also think that the makeup policy of one day per day out of school is too little." Well, that's what the Ed Code says, so you'll need to take that up with your state legislators.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2012 at 6:47 am

I agree with "Parent" above...the year my child had the most homework was 7th grade, which is crazy. My child had to curtail outside sports to free up enough time to get the work done. Most of the assignments were just busywork, but that still took up lots of time. I remember one especially useless assignment of drawing four illustrations of anything on the science notebook cover page.

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