News

Superintendent Kevin Skelly wins contract extension

Palo Alto school board extends superintendent's contract through June 2016

Despite recent strains over communication style, Superintendent Kevin Skelly Tuesday won a one-year contract extension through June 2016 with enthusiastic praise from Palo Alto school board members.

Skelly, who joined the district in 2007 from the southern California district of Poway, where he had been associate superintendent for learning support services, will not get a pay raise.

With an annual salary of $287,163, he is the eleventh highest paid school chief in the state, coming behind heads of the San Francisco, Los Angeles and Fresno districts as well as the Cupertino Union School District, Fremont Union High School District, the Santa Clara County Office of Education and several southern California districts.

Following a closed-door evaluation of Skelly last week, which board President Camille Townsend described as "very healthy and very productive," school board members Tuesday voted unanimously for the contract extension, with hearty praise.

"Thank you for the good work," Townsend said.

"We're very aware of the challenges and joys of the job, and its very public nature. Your style reflects a genuine enjoyment of students of all grades and we appreciate the time you spend on all the campuses, your accessibility, good humor, resilience, knowledge and skills."

Board member Barbara Klausner -- who two weeks ago publicly chastised Skelly for what she described as his failure to accurately communicate the board's direction on counseling issues to Gunn High School staff members -- Tuesday went out of her way to praise him.

"In light of my recent commentary about the board-superintendent relationship, I want to take this opportunity to express my profound appreciation to Dr. Skelly," Klausner said, citing Skelly's "considerable body of sterling work and leadership.

"I look forward to continuing to work together with you."

Skelly said, "I love this job, I love this community, I love this work. Obviously it's hard work and there are times when we have conversations like you do when you're passionate about stuff, but it's really really fun work and I can't imagine doing anything different."

Skelly has been criticized by a parent group, We Can Do Better Palo Alto, which has lobbied the district to do more to directly address issues of academic stress. We Can Do Better co-founders Ken and Michele Dauber 17 months ago called on the board to replace Skelly.

In response to Public Records Act requests from the Daubers as well as from Palo Alto Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson, Skelly in the past month has released hundreds of emails and "Confidential Weekly" memos he sent to the board.

Calling for a halt to the confidential weeklies, Johnson said Skelly's practice of writing them might have violated the prohibition on policymaking by serial communication in California's open-meeting law.

Skelly, board members and school district counsel Louis Lozano maintain no violation occurred, but have referred the issue of communication protocols to a board committee for review and possible revision.

Comments

Posted by Teacher, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2012 at 10:23 am

Bummer.


Posted by yeah!, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 27, 2012 at 10:37 am

Congratulations! Keep up the good work.


Posted by Good , a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2012 at 10:44 am

Congratulations we think u are a real asset to the community


Posted by Gwen Luce, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2012 at 10:52 am

Grateful for all Superintendent Skelly has done for our schools and that he has been able to weather the storms of controversy with grace and good will!


Posted by Triona Gogarty, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:07 am

Congratulations Dr. Skelly!
Thanks for the good work you have done.


Posted by Terman Parent, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

Good news! Just remember the School District before Dr. Skelly came. There has been much improvement, hard decisions made and support for our teachers. He has been an asset to our community.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:19 am

Skelly has his own agendas that he likes to push without reconsidering. I think PAUSD can do better.


Posted by Paly, Jordan parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:37 am

You are right, Terman Parent. While no one is perfect, Dr. Skelly has made hard decisions, and is an asset to our community. Congratulations!


Posted by Teacher in the District, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:38 am

Just wish his extension came with a backbone reinforcement....maybe then he would be able to stand up for the teachers as opposed to bending over backwards for parents.


Posted by Honest Critic, a resident of Hoover School
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

My impression of Skelly is that he is not open to input and is not responsive to parents' concerns. Due in part to his hubris, he has not demonstrated an ability to lead by bringing people together.

It's unfortunate that after he undermined the board's directive on counseling, they chose to reward him with a contract extension. There was no compelling need to do this now. This tells Skelly he is not accountable and encourages him to continue to thumb his nose at those he disagrees with -- including (as public now) the PAUSD board. I'm certain that there are many finer candidates out there. I feel sorry for the students.


Posted by Ironic, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:51 am

Good juxtaposition of posts:

Teacher: "Just wish his extension came with a backbone reinforcement....maybe then he would be able to stand up for the teachers as opposed to bending over backwards for parents."

Parent: "My impression of Skelly is that he is not open to input and is not responsive to parents' concerns."

It's a tough job here in the Palo Alto fishbowl and I'm glad Dr. Skelly is here to do it.

@Honest Critic - any PA city leaders you can think of in the last 10 years who you would hold up as a good example of what you are looking for? We seem to do a good job of chewing up our elected and hired leaders. At some point, you have to wonder if the problem is with them or with us.


Posted by former Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:58 am

Well put Ironic! We are fortunate to have these public leaders willing to put up with us!


Posted by Relatively new, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Our family is new to PAUSD. We have experienced a variety of schools, private and public, some of the best and some mediocre due to our nomadic careers. PAUSD is not perfect, but I will have to say that PAUSD has it's act together. My younger child experienced some bullying incidents at school and due to the wonderful policies and training already in place - the teacher and principal knew exactly what to do. They handled everything with gracefulness for all involved and it was nipped in the bud. School policies are thoughtful, parents are always invited to participate appropriately and to be part of the feedback loop.


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm

This is good news for the district. Let's hope the siege of Dr. Skelly is over and he is able to spend the year working for the benefit of all students in the district, and also for the benefit of the teachers. The teachers and other district staff deserve much praise and support, as does Dr. Skelly and the school board, however the work is for the purpose of educating the students, not the other way around. I hope those of us in the community who have opinions and a stake in what happens here will go forward in a spirit of cooperation, and mutual respect. There is so much actual work to do.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I think Skelly has hired some great principals, for sure (Winston, Milligan, Barnes). Don't know how much authority he has in hiring.

I was at an Everyday Math meeting where teachers were ordering him around and he allowed it. He is not a leader.


Posted by Deja vu all over again, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Skelly has once again proved that the one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind. No one was probably more surprised, or more horrified, by their recent outburst of independence than the board itself. This sets things back to the status quo ante. Without real reporting we're all left wondering why just 1 year and why now?


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Skelley has been an utter mystery to me. I just don't really know what to make of him. I have difficulty understanding him - not a master communicator, though I gather a Harvard grad, which may be all that matters to some folks.


Posted by Happy, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jun 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I'm very happy that Dr. Skelly will be sticking around for a while. I greatly respect his work and think he's made a huge positive impact on the district overall.


Posted by parent, too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I'm afraid Honest Critic speaks for me, too. No one is without good and bad, but we really need better negotiating and leadership skills from a superintendent in this district. Skelly isn't a very strategic or forward thinking person, either, which hurts us at a critical time and will have negative impacts into decades to come. It pains me to say this, but over time I have come to think he doesn't have the integrity required of a position like that.

I find the very conflicting opinions about whether he supports the teachers or parents or not to be interesting. I haven't felt he was open or supportive of parents, even while he lacks the integrity and backbone to lead. As a parent, it's felt almost like his management style have been closer to deviousness and manipulation, never mind this latest Brown Act stuff. I'm not suggesting this about his character, only how his management style comes across, perhaps because he doesn't communicate well with parents.

I wanted to like Dr. Skelly, and I do think he has been working hard. I just wish the board were looking, that's all. The reality check on his salary is that he's making more than the governor of the state and every one of the state supreme court judges including the chief justice. This is a plum job, and I don't think his performance has warranted more than lukewarm praise.


Posted by DDee, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 27, 2012 at 7:38 pm

His job performance aside... you all sound like we are so lucky he decided to stay. Who the heck wouldn't for that salary!
Put up with a city full of spoiled parents and stressed out kids, eh, no problem, just show me the money.
But, begrudge the teachers, police and firemen their compensation as being too "entitled."
Ay Palo Alto... with all the influence you have had in crafting our national outlook on values as well, no wonder our country is so deeply in neo-liberal hell.


Posted by What the ?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I am wondering if a decision about extending a contract by one year is mandatory every June or if the contract extension decision could have been put off until Skelly shows that he is willing to change his management style which the previous poster "parent, too" perfectly described as being closer to "deviousness and manipulation". I have been very disappointed with his lack of transparency and the utter disrespect he displayed around the counseling change issues at Gunn. I was so impressed with the fact that Barbara Klausner showed some backbone in calling out Skelly for his huge mistake. By the way, all of the other school board members agreed with Barbara's assessment except for B. Mitchell. I know that all of our kids and the district as a whole will benefit by all that has transpired around this but honestly, I don't think that given Skelly's recent behavior he deserved to be talked about in such glowing terms. Yes, Kevin, you have done many good things for our kids and I am more than willing to acknowledge that you have some good qualities. I hope one of those good qualities is following through on what you agreed to do at the last board meeting after Barbara Klausner reviewed your recent behavior. I appreciate that Barbara Klausner wishes to set the tone for fruitful work going forward.......please Kevin, know that we can all do better including you. If anyone knows about contract extension guidelines, please chime in here. I am curious as to whether Kevin's reward (extension) could have been put off until he proved that he is willing to do things in a transparent and responsible (to the board and all of students, parents, teachers and staff in the district) manner. I hope this next year makes me feel that you have earn your next extension!


Posted by Underpaid, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm

273k is a ridiculous salary for our district to pay along with other benefits and pension.
Gross overpayment. He isn't that good and the job isn't That hard.


Posted by Query, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Question for the Weekly ~

Must every article about the schools and school district mention the WCDB group or the Daubers?


Posted by Teacher, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2012 at 7:58 am

Yes, bummer.


Posted by Marcus, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2012 at 8:23 am

@Query,
Well, WCDBPA was calling for Skelly's head over a year ago!


Posted by Satisfied Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 28, 2012 at 9:41 am

I've enjoyed working with Dr. Skelly on the PiE Board and think we are lucky to have his responsive, thoughtful leadership in Palo Alto. As a parent I have viewed him as supportive of both staff, teachers and parents. I'm surprised by the reaction of teachers to his contract extension and am wondering why teachers don't like him? What would they have him do differently? One teacher mentioned that he bends over backwards to parents. How is that bad for teachers and what policies should he reconsider to make you happy? If teachers snipe at Skelly without a clear explanation of what he should do differently, how can any of us consider supporting your positions or view you as anything other than a disgruntled pausd employee unwilling to suggest change in a fair manner and open manner.


Posted by Most Administrators, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Most administrators have perpetual three or four year contracts with clauses that call for a one year extension with a satisfactory evaluation each year. Not extending a contract would be a signal from a board for the administrator to start looking elsewhere.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Satisfied Parent - maybe, just maybe teachers (and others in PAUSD) have a reason not to express opinion openly. Maybe, even if they are wrong, not willing to express opinion openly presents a problem in the environment/culture.


Posted by parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Skelly's communication with students and parents certainly needs improvement. Some of his communications have been off-putting.


Posted by Robert, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 29, 2012 at 11:05 am

How charming that whereas a few weeks ago Barbara Klausner aggressively and rudely criticized and confronted Skelly in public session about whether he adequately followed the board's marching orders about guidance counseling systems, now she's "profoundly appreciat[ive]" of his "body of sterling work and leadership."

LOL.


Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 29, 2012 at 11:17 am

@Robert
Agreed - I found this rather ironic as well. The sudden flip flop of opinion about Dr. Skelly certainly makes me question her motives. Why publicly criticize him one week and then publicly praise him the next?


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm

My sense is that Mrs. Klausner criticized him one week because she felt he had badly stepped out of line on an important governance issue and had to be called out on it. The next week, she made it clear that despite this mis-step, she had a good opinion of his overall performance. Both seem appropriate to me. Dr. Skelly does a good job in my view, but like everyone else he makes mistakes, and in certain situations needs to be called out for it.


Posted by What the ?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I am assuming that nobody knows about contract extensions for the supt. as my inquiry on an earlier comment was not addressed. Does Kevin's contract automatically come up for a one year extension every June? I am wondering why he was rewarded an extension at this time. Was there something such as his receiving an offer from another district that forced the Board into an extension now? Just curious. Anyone familiar with the inner workings, please send out the info. Is the Supt. always given 3 more years of job security? The article didn't address this and I would like to know. Thanks.


Posted by parent, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 30, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Congratulations Dr. Skelly. Keep up the good work for our children.


Posted by Job offer? , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Wanted: superintendent of schools. Must have autocratic management style. Willingness to evade board direction, dissemble, apologize, and repeat at frequent intervals a requirement. Needs proven track record of Brown Act issues, governance problems, and damaged community and local media relations. Extra consideration will be given to candidates who have goaded school board members into televised public rebuke of conduct. Candidate should have prepared, poorly thought out rationalizations for conduct hinging on thin distinction between "policy" and "operations." Must be comfortable with entirely white male leadership team. Stream of negative press implicating school board members in wrongdoing helpful though not required.


Posted by No thanks, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm

@Job Offer - just make sure to add - 'requires hazardous duty - must work with and for Palo Alto parents, including occasional fanatics' - that should thin the resume pile quite a bit.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I really don't think we should be blaming parents for Dr. Skelly's mistakes.


Posted by No Thanks, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 1, 2012 at 8:18 pm

@Me Too - I agree, there is plenty of dysfunctional things to blame parents for.


Posted by journalism is a competitive field you know, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Hey Weekly do you think you might [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] tell the community what happened in Kevin Skelly's 2013 perf eval? In 2012 in June he received a 1 year contract extension to 2016. Was this eval his annual eval? Why was it done in May instead of June this year? What happened? Did he receive another extension to 2017? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Former teacher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Prescient, some of the above postings are, while the supporters (especially Triona Gogarty's and the PiE poster) look . . . well suspicious.


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