In the charged debate over guidance counseling services at Gunn High School, Superintendent Kevin Skelly has suggested hiring an additional counselor and giving the school a year to create a "more thorough revision process."
The recommendation, to be discussed by the Board of Education Tuesday, June 12, comes after a majority of board members have expressed a "sense of urgency" for Gunn to reform its traditional guidance system to provide more adult "touch points" for students. At the same time, board members have said they do not want to "foist" an unwanted counseling model on the school.
The recommendation also comes amid close scrutiny from a parent-led group, We Can Do Better Palo Alto, which has tenaciously lobbied the board for more than a year to implement a guidance-counseling system similar to that at Palo Alto High School.
Paly augments its four-member guidance-counseling staff with 46 "teacher advisers" and several college counselors.
By contrast, Gunn employs six guidance counselors, who are charged with the gamut of academic advising, college and career counseling and student social-emotional health.
In the proposal to be discussed tonight, Skelly said time is needed to implement change, adding, "We do not believe that it is in the students' best interests to shortcut the process with regard to guidance services and direct school staff to adopt a specific model."
He recommended that both Gunn and Paly immediately hire one additional counseling staff member and deploy them as the principals see fit, specifying that "additional staffing at Gunn would be flexible" -- leaving room for a future change in counseling models.
Gunn this spring convened a staff "working group" to explore counseling changes. The group will add student and parent members in September and reconvene to explore long-term reform, with its recommendations expected in February 2013.
"While this is a 'discussion item,'" Skelly said in Tuesday's memo to the board, "clear board direction in these areas would be enormously helpful."
In other business Tuesday, the board will discuss a proposed 2012-13 district operating budget of $163.2 million, using $5.5 million from an unrestricted reserve fund to make up for a revenue shortfall.
In a staff report, Chief Business Official Cathy Mak stressed "a high level of uncertainty" surrounding the budget mainly because Gov. Jerry Brown is relying on passage of his tax package this November to avoid cuts to education.
With an "undesignated reserve fund" of nearly $13 million, Palo Alto is in a better position than most school districts to buffer the impact of state cuts. In any case, less than 5 percent of the district's operating revenue comes from the state, with 70 percent coming from local property tax.
In terms of expenditures, about 86 percent goes to salaries and benefits with the rest going for contracted services, supplies and capital outlays.
Also Tuesday, the board is scheduled to vote on a new homework policy for the district.
The proposed policy -- the product of a 28-member parent-teacher advisory committee that also included administrators and two high school students -- outlines specific amounts of time kids should be spending on homework, with implementation left up to school principals.
Following a 5:30 p.m. closed session to discuss legal and personnel matters, the board will convene its regular meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.