News

Editorial: The Skelly resignation

Appropriately, Palo Alto school superintendent will leave in June

While not a surprise, Superintendent Kevin Skelly's announcement this week that he would leave the district at the end of the school year is a great relief.

Over the last two years, it had become increasingly clear that Skelly's departure was more a question of when, not if. His lack of candor and transparency over the federal civil-rights investigation and settlement agreement relating to bullying at Terman Middle School, coupled with the school board's continued refusal to publicly discuss the problems and to instead plot strategies for resisting the authority of the Department of Education, fueled further controversy and ineffectiveness.

Had the board done its job and not isolated itself by retreating behind the protection of closed doors, perhaps things would have turned out differently.

The timing of Skelly's announcement is a tremendous gift to the community, however, and must not be squandered. It is common, of course, for turnover of school district leaders to occur over the summer. But it is unusual to have this much of a head start, and the school board needs to move immediately to take full advantage of it.

First, it is essential that an independent assessment be made of the district's administrative structure, staffing responsibilities and needs. For those who have had a glimpse of the culture and how things work at 25 Churchill, it is clearly an organization in need of more and better professional management. But it is also not well-structured or adequately staffed to competently accomplish the amount of work the community expects. As a result, too often proposals or reports come to the board without enough thought, preparation or groundwork.

An outside organizational consultant should interview present and former district staff, review the division of responsibilities and make recommendations on how to align staff with needs and expectations. There is no better time to do this than when the conclusions can inform the hiring of a new leader and provide a road map for improvement.

This work can build on the study done seven years ago when a consultant analyzed the mess created by Skelly's predecessor, Mary Frances Callan. Callan's leadership style was nearly the opposite of Skelly's, and she infuriated principals and others with her arrogance and heavy-handedness, leading to an open revolt and her eventual resignation.

The answer was Skelly, a former math teacher, principal at Saratoga High School and associate superintendent in Poway, a district more than twice the size of Palo Alto.

Skelly was appealing for all the reasons that Callan was not. He is a teacher at heart, and loves getting out into the schools, supporting teachers, interacting with kids and celebrating what a great school district we have.

He has successfully overseen a huge school construction program and led the district through substantial budget cuts made necessary by revenue declines due to the Great Recession, while minimizing the impacts on kids and the classroom.

He brought the contrasting experience of having been the principal at a high-achieving school in Saratoga and the administrator at a very diverse district in Poway. Even his harshest critics found him a likeable person without a shred of arrogance.

But he notably lacked any previous background as a superintendent and the attendant experience in leading a complex organization with diverse and demanding stakeholders. And like the board, he was never comfortable with transparency, especially when dealing with controversial issues when it was needed most.

In addition to instituting an internal organizational review, the school board needs to reflect on its own performance, and how to now create a successful search process. This board's defensive, secretive and circle-the-wagons mentality and failure to address the deficiencies of its management team has led to serious doubts about its abilities and has broken the trust of the community. And now this group must hire the next superintendent.

We hope the board will establish a highly diverse and inclusive committee of community members to participate in the selection of the next superintendent. This group should consist of the typical representatives of district principals, teachers and parents, but should especially include those critics who have expressed concerns over governance issues. And given the events and revelations of the last two years, it should most certainly include representation of special education and minority parents.

Hard as it may be, now is the time for the board to meet this challenge head on, let go of its defensiveness and unite the community through real inclusion.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by don't know what you have until it's gone
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:26 am

"Had the board done its job and not isolated itself by retreating behind the protection of closed doors, perhaps things would have turned out differently."

Or, given the current "public" that attend every board meeting, it would most likely have turned out far worse.

"But it is unusual to have this much of a head start, "
The district is going to need it. It's going to be very difficult to find a super that will want to work in the current environment. Unless they promote from within, and even it is unlikely they're willing to take on the job


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:27 am

~~"This group should consist of the typical representatives of district principals, teachers and parents, but should especially include those critics who have expressed concerns over governance issues."~~ "This group should include the Daubers." FTFY.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:27 am

The resignation of course is no surprise. The reason being is that these people in these types of careers do not stay in any one position for more than 7 years - if as long as that. They are career professionals who want to move on to something bigger, better. Our town is just a stepping stone into the next stage of the career. I am willing to bet that in 5 years' time, whoever gets the next job will be just as much criticized as Skelly. The reason is that regardless of how good they appear to be on paper, they will be human with weaknesses and will make some faux pas which will draw the same results as we have now. Personally, I am afraid to say that I couldn't care less about Skelly leaving as he has and has given us a fait accompli.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:28 am

The selection process should include Marielena Gaona Mendoza, who has been a tireless champion for bullying victims and who is not afraid of retaliation. She is also a credentialed special education teacher, but because her first language is Spanish, the board thinks she is a crazy person and ignores her. Isn't everyone who speaks Spanish crazy? They talk so fast, they sound crazy! I know that when I went to Spain I thought wow, they have a lot of crazy people here, just ranting along at top speed. Spooky. But seriously, empowering critics rather than excluding them is how you build legitimacy for decisions. Putting critics like Gaona Mendoza and Dauber and CAC and PASS and SEAN on the committee is how it is done. Then when the decision is made, they are part of that process and not attacking it. This is like community management 101, but somehow that was a class that Skelly and Mitchell missed out on. Only a total fool would fail to put these folks on the committee at this point. As Lyndon Johnson famously said, better to have them inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in. Plus, do you really want candidates in some behind-closed-doors meetings with Barb "Tea Party" Mitchell telling them about the jackbooted thugs of the federal OCR? Who would want to work in that nutty environemnt. The less "alone time" Mitchell has with the candidate the better.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:28 am

Great editorial. Skelly's biggest weakness was his unwillingness to hear opinions that differed from his. I've heard many stories over the years from parents who met a brick wall dealing with the district and the Super. Rather than pulling him out of the foxhole the school board crawled in next to him. I doubt that will get much better until we get a board that isn't populated by the current members and their ilk. The prospect of their running an inclusive selection process seems remote to me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Glad he's leaving
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:37 am

The release of tension in PAUSD with the announcement of Skelly's resignation was almost palpable.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:40 am

The group should also include Bill Johnson, otherwise the Weekly will continue to attack the school district. Maybe the endless requests for emails, etc. will stop with Free of Information requests. That will save the district a lot of money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Explainer
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

@dont know what you have until it's gone

Oh I think we know what we have. Problem is that for all his failings the board is worse. This is the worst school board in PAUSD history.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Demosthenes
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

Paly parent is spot on. Without transparency and accountability, we don't have community control of our school district. When the OCR investigations surfaced Dana Tom, who was school board president, should have dealt with the issues headon in public. Instead he kept all discussion in closed meetings. We still don't know what happened or is happening. All we know is that Barb Mitchell has been trying to resist civil rights laws, and that comes from leaks.

Skelly is leaving, but the biggest problem is a board that is unresponsive, secretive and beholden to a narrow section of the community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:49 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:52 am

@parent, Paly

Yeah. The First Amendment is overrated. Totally. And where the First Amendment is used to try to get information that the school board would rather not share, there should be an exception. For instance, the district should only talk about rape culture in the high schools when they are getting to go on NPR and blast that poor child's experience from sea to shining sea. That's the kind of "press freedom" that the district cares about. But what went on behind the scenes with that whole fiasco, whether the parents gave permission for the district to pimp their daughter's story to NPR, whether the law was followed, nope. We are for press freedom when it gets us prizes. We are against it when it might make us look bad.

Attacking the press is a definitive sign that the district leadership is horrible. It's the last refuge before the total collapse.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JP
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 9:27 am

To the Palo Alto Weekly,

The title of this article is disrespectful.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by one wonders
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 9:50 am

"but should especially include those critics who have expressed concerns over governance issues."

Does that include the Weekly? Yeah, anyone who wants the district to do as they say and can't get elected gets to be in on the selection! Great one, Weekly!
"I want IB added to the curriculum. I believe the majority of the district want this change as well. I get to be included in the selection process to make sure this is a priority for any incoming superintendent."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Professorville mom
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

Why would the idea of broad community participation in the Superintendent selection process be controversial? I think it is a great opportunity to get lots of voices and perspectives involved. We have had way too much secrecy on things that really should be public.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2014 at 10:51 am

Now if only the City Manager would resign followed by City Council.....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 10:56 am

The hiring committee should be balanced with the significant stakeholders represented. And while some people may not agree with my opinion, the parent component should be balanced as well...in other words it should not be stacked with any vocal minority. For example, if our district is made up of (guessing here) 10% VTA students, then 10% of the parent component should come from VTA parents. Same goes for special needs.

Another way to put this...the parent component should not be all special needs parents or all PIE board members, etc.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PAmom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 11:26 am

The one time I met Skelly, he was very cordial and friendly. But I was too polite to ask him why he'd never responded according to district policy to the two complaints my spouse and I had sent him regarding a serious situation where my child, a minority student, was bullied, in part for our religion. The current principal at my child's elementary school had been rude toward me in my attempts to resolve the situation at the school level, causing a break down in communication. I am told I'm such a sweet, polite person that I'm "not good at being bad". I went to the district hoping for support, and got no response. I later heard many stories from other parents that the same kinds of things had happened with their child. I considered going to the school board, but I was warned that they would be the opposite of supportive and would only protect their own, so to speak rather than hold them accountable, so I didn't bother. That system is dysfunctional and needs to be overhauled into one that is trustworthy and accountable.

It disheartens me when parents insists on these threads that ALL parents who ever have a complaint about the way their child is treated are just being difficult and are always at fault. Every situation and the people involved is different, and we can't make assumptions; we need to keep an open mind. Chronic bullying can have serious effects on a child, causing their entire personality to change, and it is heartbreaking for a parent to watch. I applaud everyone who has the compassion to help their child not only stand up for themselves, but stand up for and advocate for their child.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a little positivity please
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 11:40 am

Youch!
I hope we will be able to find someone who wants the job. The critics in this community are harsh and relentless.

I for one would like to say Thank You to Skelly and the Board for their service. None of us are perfect, but fortunately there are some people who are willing to serve and work in education despite a hostile environment.

It would be a good idea for everyone to take a deep breath and contemplate a moment of gratitude. We live in a wonderful, priviledged time and place. Our complaints, though many, are small potatoes compared to the true hardships that face the majority of the world.

The loud, angry voices are not the only ones.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2014 at 11:45 am

The Weekly editorial did get one thing right: Kevin Skelly gave the PAUSD a gift in announcing his resignation well in advance. He did it because he a a principled gentleman with the interests of the district and its students at heart. Thank you, Kevin Skelly, for your great service, your efforts at healing a wounded school district, and at working with the vocal minority of critics and the local newspaper who did their best to make your tenure impossible.

For the record, I did not teach in this district. My kids went through Green Gables, now Duveneck, Jordan, and Paly. They got a fine education, learned to deal with some bullying issues even without the OCR and a burdensome reporting policy, and went on to colleges, careers, and families. They don't understand, nor do they like, what the atmosphere in Palo Alto has become, and neither do I.

I shudder to think of what sorts of candidates will want to subject themselves to the sniping and attacks that have become endemic in Palo Alto. Perhaps we'll be lucky enough to have someone who's a consummate politician, adept at playing factions off against one another, standing up to a bullying weekly newspaper, and doing the infighting that this atmosphere demands. Such a candidate may not devote as much energy to the good of the students as Dr. Skelly did, though. Or perhaps well get an ideological reformer who will dominate, fire anyone who disagrees, and increase the stress all around.

It would be wonderful if a spirit of cooperation suddenly blossomed in this district and town. After the events of the last few years, I don't hold out much hope of that, unfortunately!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by citizen
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 21, 2014 at 11:48 am

This editorial is a thinly veiled demand to get WCDBPA onto that selection committee. Thank goodness MGM no longer lives in PAUSD and other members have no ties to the school district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anne Barry
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Dear "a little positivity please,"

Thank you. I agree with every word of your post.

I'd like to add my thanks to Dr. Skelly for his many positive contributions to our district, and for his willingness to keep trudging in the face of relentless accusations and name calling.

I'm also grateful for the five enormously hard working people who stepped up to run for their local school board, and who must feel relentlessly beaten down. I don't agree with every word or decision either, but they were each fairly elected by our community to serve in difficult, thankless jobs, and I respect that.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I am certain The Weekly and a small group of parents are harming the PA School District - all of this divisiveness and misinformation is simply wasting resources and demoralizing teachers, staff and the many volunteers who are making the district better. Everyone understands the need to combat bullying, but it is misguided to fight bullying with demeaning and disrespectful behavior. I will never vote for anyone supported by The Weekly and I hope others follow.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Thanks @a little positivity please and @Retired Teacher and @Anne Barry--

I've been in the District long enough to have worked with 4 different Superintendents, and Dr. Skelly has by far been my favorite. He truly has the best interests of students in his heart, and has done so much to inspire and support good teaching, good educational practices, across the District. I'm sad to see him go, but can't say as I blame him in the least. He has served a long time, as Supes go, and deserves a break.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Thank you for an informative article about Skelly and what he has done right and why he was chosen. I've been involved in PTA and agree, he is a very nice person, but too nice for the job - he isn't enough of a leader and I can understand why he was not transparent when he and the BoE are always dodging bullets. Both are thankless jobs because there will always be criticism. The Sup definitely has to be a hard-shelled person who can stand up to opposing opinions.

It would be a good idea to post the names of the candidates - we'll have thousands of parents checking out their histories - I think there were issues at Poway that were unchecked?

And PLEASE, Palo Alto, do not allow top-tier college educations to fog your thinking! Ivy League and top-tier degrees say nothing of how a person performs in the workplace.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by one wonders
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm

@Professorville mom,
Nothing wrong with requesting broad community participation in the selection process.

A lot wrong with suggesting a tiny unrepresentative group of people should be in that selection committee simply because of their opposition to the board.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Longtime PA parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Insiders always feel like its unfair when their exclusive place at the table is questioned. Mandy Lowell, Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom took charge a dozen years ago, wrenched the district in the direction of chasing test scores and increasing stress, and are now insiders.

Want a parallel: see Nancy Sheperd: "The anti-growth advocates are bullying me!" No, they just don't agree, and you might have to make room.

The only secure way to hold on to power in a democracy is to be responsive, transparent, competent and inclusive. If this board chooses that way forward, they may still survive.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Voter
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm

@one wonders, if you're talking about Ken Dauber, 16,000 people voted for him in the last election. That's not a tiny number. Who do you have in mind who is more representative?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by YES
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Editor,

"First, it is essential that an independent assessment be made of the district's administrative structure, staffing responsibilities and needs. For those who have had a glimpse of the culture and how things work at 25 Churchill, it is clearly an organization in need of more and better professional management. But it is also not well-structured or adequately staffed to competently accomplish the amount of work the community expects. As a result, too often proposals or reports come to the board without enough thought, preparation or groundwork."

The understanding of the admin structure is critical.

Without professional and clear levels of scrutiny for the projects which impact classrooms, and school culture, we are left with side shows which nobody understands.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by one wonders
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

@voter, with that logic all losers of past elections should be included! Participating in an election does not give you a mandate for inclusion in all subsequent processes.

There are a lot more deserving people in this community that should be included. That have far more involvement, participation and insight into what is needed.

Ken can put himself forward as can anyone else. Automatic inclusion is not acceptable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Voter
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm

wonders, neither is automatic exclusion. If you want to argue that he represents some kind of fringe view, you're going to have to deal with the inconvenient fact of 16,000 voters. I have no idea if he even wants to do this but I can see the effort brewing to close off the process.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Good Editorial. A better selection process is needed for the next Superintendent.
Also, someone shloud look in depth into the School Bond Construction Program. It is in Court now and rumor has it that the entire program is in trouble.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by justhelp
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Many of the posters here who write sympathetic to bullying victims seem to be bullies themselves, these forums being a testament to that.
If you have strong opinions, you are not right for this job. Because you will
be imposing your opinions on others. Thus, if you have an organization that
can do better from the outside, continue to be there as a watchdog.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:33 pm

I agree with the above, Dr. Skelly was bullied in this OCR case where he was pushed into silent mode, was afraid to inform the board even though that was not his fault.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Going Forward
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:48 pm

The next Superintendent needs a number of traits: communication and organizational skills certainly part of it, but I would place as number one:

Principled Leadership. And the principle is this: always place the children first.

Kevin was a nice guy, and did some good things for this district; however he was all too willing to dismiss individual problems as either a site-based problem or a "whining" parent problem. We never heard him manage the sited, never once mentioned in his newsletter, never in public or private. He offered little leadership to the sites to ALWAYS PUT THE CHILDREN FIRST. His sites and their leaders would consistently undermine Kevin. Any good work he did would go unnoticed, as a regular parade of mistakes within the sites quickly dominated the public discussion.

The buzz-saw of Palo Alto politics is ugly; we can see that. However, at the root of all the controversy, the complaints and hostile reaction is a parent protecting their child. The path forward is very narrow, but simple: always put the children first.

Our schools are not a safe place for many kids. The issues are real, and the anger is no less focused if you are told that "...its not a district problem, it's a site problem.". Ignoring parents doesn't work. Ignoring the site problems doesn't work. Some of our sites are very broken. Jordan is certainly high on the list for a complete reset. This is a horrible place to send children, and they are not safe. The staff is intimidating, the principal is unconcerned, the teachers openly bully students. This behavior is emulated by other students. The thought of encouraging students to learn is simply non-existent. Students are told from day one: "I have 130 students, how can I possibly care about you." This attitude needs to end. The new Superintendent will have to clean up this mess. A lot of our problems in High School start here.

The new superintendent will need strong leadership skills, and this includes setting clear expectations to his direct reports that he expects outstanding leadership in the site, and that he demands that they always put the children first.

That will end the buzz-saw politics. It is very hard to complain when your child is well-treated.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by one wonders
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:07 pm

@Voter, I can only assume what you describe as "[] effort brewing to close off the process" is a reaction to the Weekly demanding automatic inclusion. Re-read the article. Here is the pertinent piece: "but should especially include those critics who have expressed concerns over governance issues."

The inconvenient fact is: for automatic inclusion, you need to get elected. You lose, you don't get automatic inclusion. There isn't any consolation prize. Deal with it.

I've already said anyone can put themselves forward so you're attack is way off. Automatic inclusion should be off the table. That the Weekly is pushing for it is a joke. What about some journalistic integrity. It would reflect extraordinarily badly on any selection process.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Voter
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Wonders, absolutely. I assume that also goes for PTAC, PIE and other insiders.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Agree completely with this editorial except for one thing:
"Even his harshest critics found him a likeable person without a shred of arrogance."

Oh my God! I've found him to be one of the most arrogant people on the planet. How else could he justify harboring secrets and telling the board one thing while doing another? His arrogance is legendary and matched only by that of Barb Mitchell.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm

@parent:
"I agree with the above, Dr. Skelly was bullied in this OCR case where he was pushed into silent mode, was afraid to inform the board even though that was not his fault."

One word: hogwash.

He tried to sweep it under the rug and got caught. What a horrible message to send to 10000 students!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm



I think our next superintendent should be Ken Dauber. That way he can get a taste of his own medicine.

PA Weekly: what a disgusting article.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm


PA Weekly take note: This is what good people do.

February 21, 2014


Dear fellow PAUSD community members:

While I'm sure my school board colleagues share many of the same sentiments, I am writing to you as an individual, not as their spokesperson. I want to take this moment to thank Kevin Skelly for his compassionate, student-centered, and adept leadership during the past seven years and to express my sense that our school district is losing one of its best champions ever. As you know, Dr. Skelly announced his decision to step away as superintendent effective June 30.

Only one superintendent in the past 40 years has served our public schools longer. Like Newman Walker (1975-85), Dr. Skelly understood the vital, complex, and peppery challenges that come with leading one of our nation's finest public school systems. Former school board president Don Way once explained the role of a PAUSD superintendent this way: "The job description is simple: Walk on water, twice, before breakfast." Despite the high expectations we have, this superintendent has delivered for us with integrity, good humor, and countless impressive results that were indeed what he termed "worthy of the promise and talents of our students."

Casey Stengel once said, "Getting good players is easy. Getting 'em to play together is the hard part." Kevin Skelly has done this "hard part" especially well. I think the Yankee skipper would have indeed admired his empathy, resolve, and ability to explore and fulfill common interests while surrounded by a diverse and expressive cadre of board members, administrators, teachers, parents, students, and community members.

Our community is full of good players - students, administrators, principals, teachers, parents, and homeowners who care deeply about the education and wellbeing of our young people, the excellence of our schools, and the high expectations we have of our school board and district leaders. That is as it should be, and I'd like to share just a few of Kevin Skelly's contributions.

In his first year, back in 2007, Dr. Skelly asked PAUSD stakeholders for their opinions about district services. With help from a highly acclaimed consulting firm, he received over 4,000 responses that led to an array of district-wide initiatives, including a fruitful focus on improving college readiness; an innovative new preschool readiness program for low-income children; a strengthened high school guidance and peer-to-peer support system; increased middle and high school academic electives; a more inspirational structure for teachers to develop and share instructional practices; and 300,000 square feet of much-needed new classrooms, science labs, libraries and athletic facilities. Our superintendent initiated a 360-degree evaluation process to hold himself accountable year after year and robust, user-feedback surveys to monitor district progress through the lens of students, parents, and teachers.

Our students, parents, and teachers are thoughtful judges of district goals, efforts, and results. Last spring, thousands of survey respondents reported 90% parent satisfaction with the education students receive; 84% parent satisfaction with the social-emotional experience of students; 88% student satisfaction with the quality of teachers, and 87% parent satisfaction with home-school communications. Our superintendent's efforts provided the necessary supports for students and teachers to reinforce some of the highest college readiness rates in California, with 85% of this year's senior class meeting rigorous University of California admission requirements (up from 75% in 2008), including an unprecedented 26% of them qualifying as National Merit Commended or Semi-Finalist Scholars. 94% of last year's graduates are attending college.

I want to reaffirm that Dr. Skelly's decision was entirely his. His departure is not what the school board wanted for our school district. He has earned our confidence, respect, and gratitude during every evaluation period throughout his seven years of service, and full support for every contract extension. We had good reason to draw such conclusions.

As one who graduated, whose husband graduated, and whose four children graduated from our exceptional public school system, I can opine with conviction that there has never been a better time to be a student in PAUSD. That is in no small measure due to the steadfast contributions of our superintendent and the time and talents of the principals, teachers, and parents in our schools.

Moving forward, the school board will review its successful 2007 superintendent search process and promptly develop a timeline and process to recruit and select an outstanding individual to lead our school district going forward. We will invite your participation as we solicit community input over the next month on the specific attributes that you seek in our next superintendent.

As my school board colleagues and I look forward to serving our students, families, and district staff in the coming months, please join us in recognizing Kevin Skelly for the energy and talent that he fostered here for our schools.

Yours truly,
Barb Mitchell
President, Board of Education
Palo Alto Unified School District
bmitchell@pausd.org
650-245-7575


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 21, 2014 at 3:58 pm

This is what someone with no concept of management thinks: " His departure is not what the school board wanted for our school district. He has earned our confidence, respect, and gratitude during every evaluation period throughout his seven years of service."

Reason enough for a recall. He LIED TO YOU. Get it? HE LIED TO YOU. Oh wait, maybe. . .facepalm. He and you lied to us.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fairmeadow dad
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 21, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I have to disagree with Barb Mitchell. The high achievement of our kids is not due to the Superintendents work. It is due to the affluence of our community and the work of teachers. On the things that were actually his job, including compliance, ensuring equal services across the district, making decisions based on data, including the community in decision making, taking care of kids with special needs, honesty in disclosure, he fell short in my opinion.

I understand why Mrs Mitchell is praising him but I think the board should have found us a better leader years ago.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 4:10 pm

@ anon - totally agree with you. I'm sure if Dauber were superintendent he would freely publish every single email and text he sends, just as he has requested of this superintendent. I just wish he would publish all his emails and conversations between him and Bill Johnson.

Don't worry about the ugliness of the editorial. No one I know reads the Weekly anymore unless they are deeply involved in the schools and community and that is a very small number. I think the plan of searching deep for any little problem that would rile parents has backfired on Mr. Johnson. From the alleged violation of the Brown Act to the English Kerfluffle, people are tired of the negative slant. No one I know understands his motivation. I wish he would write an editorial on that.

For the record, there are 13 FOI requests from Bill Johnson, four are ongoing. There are 3 from Terry Lobdell, his wife, 8 from Ken Dauber and 1 from Michelle Dauber. There are thousands of pages they have reviewed and what has turned up except for a bunch of innuendo. Certainly no smoking gun. Of course it probably takes all of the employees 2 to 3 times as long to write an email because of the probably paranoia these requests have engendered. Good use of time and money.


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Posted by one wonders
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm

@Voter, totally!


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Posted by Longtime PA parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 4:47 pm

The best way to avoid Freedom of Information requests is to tell the truth and conduct the public's business in the light of day.
Just off hand, I can think of these facts uncovered by FOI requests:
- Barb Mitchell's secret memo advocating resisting federal authority over civil rights (her response to that one: give it back, and don't publish about it -- summer 2013).
- Secret school board meetings at which resisting OCR authority was discussed -- summer 2013, still ongoing?
- Violation of the Brown Act involving a serial meeting about Spanish immersion at Barron Park -- spring 2012.
- Skelly's defiance of school board on Gunn counseling -- spring 2012, led Barbara Klausner to question Skelly's integrity.
If the family involved had not told the press about the initial OCR investigation and finding, the only way that would have been public is through a FOI release. Skelly wasn't telling anyone.
I'm always amazed when district personnel complain about FOI requests, given that track record.


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Posted by Educator
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 21, 2014 at 5:46 pm

These things can all be equally true:
--Skelly is a nice guy
--"Longtime PA Parents" list of obfuscations is undeniable
--Being a superintendent is a difficult job having to serve many masters, and being superintendent in PAUSD is even harder given the tenacity of uber parents here
--The board does not function very well
--The Weekly has been a beacon in the community for 30+ years, and it is just holding up a mirror to reflect what Skelly and the Board has bumbled on in recent years

No need to attack anyone at this point; better to move forward and use this as an opportunity to fix a broken mess.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Longtime PA parent:
Lots of school districts thought the OCR letter went way overboard: (a couple examples) Web Link

Web Link
In fact, Russlyn Ali stepped down after her Dear Colleague letter on sexual harassment and many have indicated that she was pressured to do so because she was overstepping her authority. Who knows the truth?

Any Brown Act violations actually identified? Lots of suspicion but I haven't heard that anyone was actually found in violation. Have you?
Gunn doesn't want TA. Why would Skelly impose something that no one would be able to enforce if the teachers didn't want to do it. If the majority of parents and students REALLY wanted it, it would be there. Vocal minority.

By the way, the most recent FOI request (2/18) from Mr. Johnson is here: Web Link
Please tell me what he could possibly be looking for. I hope he found it since the majority of comments are very positive.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 21, 2014 at 6:41 pm

The Dear Colleague Letter to which "parent" refers is a 2010 letter from Assistant Secretary Ali on bullying. Assistant Secretary Ali remained in her position until after the end of the first term. She did not in any way resign under any pressure, and the administration wanted her to remain. However, she accepted a position running Laurene Jobs's educational initiatives for the Emerson Collective. Her Dear Colleague Letter on bullying was regarded as controversial only by far-right wing ideologues such as the Manhattan Institute (cited by the author linked parent above): Web Link

The actual article cited by parent concludes that the OCR guidance is just a restatement of preexisting OCR policies and that Ali did nothing new.

The NSBA also lodged a concern (fully addressed by Ali at the time four years ago) with OCR about its policy because it deviated from restrictive Supreme Court precedent. The actual scope of that disagreement is very narrow. OCR says that for regulatory purposes, an act can be "severe, pervasive, or persistent", while the Supreme Court says :"severe, pervasive, and objectively unreasonable." There are some other differences, but they are all as much in the weeds as that one, and aren't worth explaining. The bottom line is that the controversy doesn't matter a whole lot. The NSBA ultimately accepted the legitimacy of the DCL and dropped its complaint.

Mostly the big deal was that OCR found that schools have to be somewhat proactive in preventing and addressing harassment, while this republican dominated Supreme Court has decided that schools can often comfortably look the other way. This is especially true about rape rules, which they hate, and protection for gays, which they double hate.

Here's the summary: some far right wing groups, and the school district trade association, did not want school districts to have to regulate bullying, harassment, or be responsible for stopping sexual assault and harassment. Especially against the gays. They especially did not want to have to do that. Some First Amendment advocates are bothered by sexual harassment laws, and whatever, they can go back to the last century.

Ali had the full support of Secretary Duncan and President Obama. You don't get to just run around issuing DCL's without administration support. This district needs to understand its actual position vis a vis the federal and state government and it does not. It may take more stringent enforcement to bring it to heel and I hope to see that happen as the district's current policy of resisting the federal regulatory authority is disheartening to say the least.



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Posted by Someone Sitting Outside the PAUSD
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Whoever is brought in as the next PAUSD superintendent will last 3-4 years tops.

The problem is the school board, not the superintendent. The PAUSD's track record of chewing up and spitting out superintendents is pretty clear evidence that the school board is largely dysfunctional.

But hey, feel free to ignore me: I don't even have kids.

Good luck guys.


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Posted by Backroom Barb
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 21, 2014 at 7:55 pm

I think Barb Mitchell sent that letter because she knows it's not likely she's going to have another super who cares so little about transparency that he'll go along with keeping all the OCR information secret and have secret meetings every two weeks about it. There's not a lot of professional educators who are going to allow their reputations to be thrashed even after the local paper starts accusing them of violating the CPRA and the Brown Act to just keep stiff-arming the public like this. How likely is it that she's going to get a quality candidate who wants to go along with her shenanigans?


And how likely is it that she's going to find a candidate who agrees that it's a good idea to be challenging OCR's legal authority based on some pro-rapist rant on the Manhattan Institute's website, Web Link, that among other things defends Penn State. You better put stickers on your glass front door, PAUSD so that candidates don't burst through the plate glass as they run screaming away from this Tea Party.

Yes, Backroom Barb is going to miss Silent Skelly.


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Posted by YES
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Editor,

"An outside organizational consultant should interview present and former district staff, review the division of responsibilities and make recommendations on how to align staff with needs and expectations."

ye, yes, yes - including the site based control/district connection which needs a serious review. OCR, Kerfuffles, IT security breach (repeated over five years?), bond, who know what else, we need an ambulance full of objective professionals looking into this.


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Posted by I am thankfull
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 9:30 pm

I am thankful, and we should all be thankful that Skelly is leaving on his own and we did not have to initiate a superintendednt recall. Now that he has resign with some kind of dignity, we need to analyze what went wrong when Skelly got hired so we do not make the same mistake again. More parents should be involved in he process, not just the board members who at this time are also in question. One of them even had the guts to cut the mike on a little girls who wanted to tell her bullying experience. These kind of people should not be taking decisions on out students education. How can we recall these silent board members who see unjustice happening and they just do nothing about it. I think they are as guilty as the ones who violated the student in the OCR case. I bet Skelly will never forget this case, neither the child and her family. I hope he learn a good lesson, but I doub it, because he spent a lot fo time and $ trying to defend the district or himself and Katherine Baker.


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Posted by Ralph B
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2014 at 9:35 pm

@parent, You ask if any Brown Act violations were identified.

Below is a November 15, 2013 online posting outlining two Brown Act violations involving PAUSD. see Web Link


"Posted by Anon, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm
If the Weekly really thinks the district is violating the Brown Act with the Policy and Review Committee, then you should threaten to sue. Remember the last time the Weekly accused the district of a Brown Act violation. I believe the allegation was that a memo from Skelly to the board constituted the violation. So the Weekly went ballistic. It turned out Skelly's memo was perfectly legal, was something other districts were doing, and the Legislature refused to make illegal. So when I read that the a Weekly is accusing somebody of violating the Brown Act, I'm skeptical.

The editor responded:

Anon,

Thanks for bringing this point up. We informed board chair Dana Tom and Superintendent Kelly last week of the Brown Act problem, and Tom acknowledged that the committee is a Brown Act body and said that it was an oversight that the meetings were not noticed or open to the public. As a result, the meeting of the committee that was planned for this week and that had not been properly noticed was cancelled and all future meetings presumably will be handled in accordance with the Brown Act. Had the district tried to maintain the committee was not a Brown Act body, the Weekly would likely have sued and asked a court to enforce the law, but resolving this without expensive litigation is much better.

Regarding our Brown Act dispute with the board a year ago, your recollection isn't quite right. Our Brown Act concerns were over the confidential emails that were going back and forth between the Superintendent and school board members about issues that were, or would soon be, in front of the board for action. The law does not allow members of a governing body to utilize emails to convey their thoughts on an issue to their chief administrator (or each other) and allow him to essentially "poll" the body, all without the public having any idea of what's going on. As a result of our objection to the practice of these confidential emails, while the board did not believe it had done anything to violate the law, it agreed to make future emails public. In addition, at our request, the District Attorney's office reviewed several of the emails and advised us that there had been one clear violation and that other emails were probably not advisable but also probably not illegal."


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Posted by Question
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I just read barb Mitchell's letter to the community.
Her statement that "he has earned our confidence, respect, and gratitude during every evaluation period throughout his seven years of service, and full support for every contract extension" is jaw dropping. Whether or not one believes that Skelly's tenure was more positive or negative, how could the board give him their confidence and full support after he concealed from them and the public a "Resolution Agreement" imposed on the district resulting from a federal investigation?


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Posted by reporter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 21, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Does this mean that Skelly's six-figured salary PR person gets cut too? The whole idea of a PR person for a public school district is completely absurd. PR people largely exist to shield senior management from public scrutiny, to cloud facts surrounding unpopular, immoral, or illegal activities, and to allow 'leaders' to say in the future "I never said that..." of course not, the PR person did.


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Posted by YES
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 10:46 pm



The weeds of the grievances are endless. At some point we need to focus on the path forward.

Editor,

I appreciate your focusing on the opportunity to change the dysfunction that allowed all the bad stuff to happen in the first place, it was not just the people. How do we convince the board to get an outside consultant to take an objective look at the admin structure?

Anyone out there with ideas about that?


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Posted by complain, complain
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Just let Johnson and the Daubers decide on the new super. Sounds like they can solve all of the district problems. At least the staff will not have to spend all of their time working to answer their requests. Good luck on the pool of candidates.


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Posted by Caring parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 11:28 pm

I'm getting pretty tired of the trashing of parents in this district. The parents here are very involved, that's usually a good thing. They are also very caring and giving. I know we have given out of proportion to our means in many ways. I think the parents in this community are a cakewalk comared to most, and a huge source of free specialized labor. Oh, and we drive the kids to field trips to save the district from having to pay for buses, make great aides and lunch monitors, among so much else they rely on us for that you could never get anywhere else.

The only tussles we have been in with the dstrict came because they just seem to have a reflexive mistrust of parents. That's actually pretty common in education admin, I just think in this district it's a bad match and leads to much of the unnecessary conflict. If they had a more positive and inclusive attitude toward families, our interactions would have been just another way we provided free labor to the district for the kids' benefit. I really wonder how many of the above people slamming parents are really other parents, since I find the parent communities here concerned and even loving. I find our teachers the same. I appreciate Barb Mitchell's offer to include families in the selection process and think she is sincere.

No parent community is perfect, but holy cow, this is some kind of geek utopia. We need to find admins who think that's great rather than who are threatened by it and see it negatively. I actually think Mr. Skelly was not on the top of the problem administrator list, and am concerned he is leaving while the worst ones remain.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2014 at 5:24 am

@ senior blogger. You are implying that the entire bond building program is in deep legal trouble and that the district is the culprit. You are spreading rumors without any facts to support this opinion and it is (IMHO) irresponsible. Yes, there is a lawsuit between the contractor and PAUSD over the Paly project - not for the entire program. And if you've read any of the articles in the Weekly, you'd know that it is over extra costs on the Media Arts building and who is responsible for those costs.


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Posted by citizen
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 22, 2014 at 8:02 am

The whole district will become one big Ohlone if WCDBPA populates the selection committee and/or the school board. That is the problem with having them too deeply involved. So many kids will just not understand what it is they are supposed to be learning and failure will be blamed on their lack of motivation.


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Posted by Maya
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2014 at 8:18 am

What a horrible an uninformed article.


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Posted by Former PA teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2014 at 9:06 am

It's not really an article, Maya, it's an editorial, you know, an opinion.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2014 at 11:02 am

As they say, don't argue with someone who buy ink by the barrel - or in this case, owns the local online paper/forum. Bill Johnson never liked Skelly and has been happy to lend a hand to others who share that view. If Skelly had not been too proud to suck up to Johnson, things might have turned out different. It was good of Barb Mitchell to put herself out there to provide a public counterbalance. I hope she keeps that up.


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Posted by Former PA teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2014 at 11:09 am

Barb Mitchell as a counterbalance? Three words: Cut the mike!


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2014 at 1:08 pm

@Former PA teacher - what does that mean?


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 22, 2014 at 2:32 pm

@Fred, Why do you say, "If Skelly had not been too proud to suck up to Johnson, things might have turned out different." What is your evaluation of Skelly's performance? The problem with Mitchell's letter is that it ignores the facts about Skelly's tenure that have upset people, including board members (e.g., Klausner). Aren't those issues enough to justify the Weekly's position? Why are you accusing the Weekly have an opinion that could have been swayed by flattery?

I'm not trying to attack you, just trying to understand what you are saying.


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Posted by Question
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

@Fred
I've read your postings on other threads as well as this one and thanks for your frequent insights as to the inner workings of the board and administration. As you have done here, you frequently provide readers with understandings of the motivations and inner workings of the district that many of us can only speculate on from the outside.
In particular, your knowledge of Barb Mitchell's actions and motivations has been very informative, even though I have periodically found those actions at odds with the long term best interests of PAUSD. She has clearly been very effective publicly and, more importantly, privately at getting Skelly and the board to adhere to her political and social values.
I don't know if you have ever met him, but Barb Mitchell's husband is also named Fred. You may wish to get together with him sometime for coffee to discuss the libertarian values that you may hold in common.


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Posted by Caring parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Oh please, Bill Johnson is a fair-minded person who bends over backwards to ensure the paper is cognizant of the fact that every controversy has an aftermath and those involved are part of this community. No, I am not related, employed, or even a FOB.

I just find this very discouraging: Skelly quits after a very long and often controversial tenure, and a few people are lashing out at our parents, the local paper, a very dedicated parent volunteer who ran for school board, special needs children, etc.

I think that song Man in the Mirror is a very apt reminder at this time...


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 22, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I think Fred is suggesting The Weekly editorials about the PAUSD are like the ones you hear on Fox News - you know they will be full of political hatred before you start reading/hearing them. At best the editorials just reflect the fact that Mr. Johnson does not like the Board and Mr. Skelly - just a blind effort to get them for whatever reason. At worst the editorials are simply written by the Daubers and copied in the paper. I would bet a number of the "journalists" covering the PAUSD are Facebook friends with the Daubers - there is no effort to even pretend independence. It is all about an agenda and nothing else.


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Posted by Backroom Barb
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 22, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Another facebook stalker of the Daubers. What a surprise. You people are just obsessed with this couple. She's a law professor at Stanford, and a national expert on discriminatory harassment. He's a Googler and educational data expert. What a couple of slackers. Certainly not the kind of people we would ever want to befriend.

journalists who friend local political figures are not "friends" with them. They are following them. Bill Johnson is doing a great job trying to inform the community about the issues affecting the schools. Attacking the press just shows how near to collapse this whole mess is.

What is wrong with this community? It's not that you can never disagree with the schools, even very vigorously. The calendar crazies and the everyday math opponents were far more raucous than Ken Dauber ever was. Have you ever seen him? He's so calm he must have low blood pressure. He talks about data and helping outsiders. He never raises his voice. Unlike his wife, he never seems to get upset. He is a nice person with the patience of Job. [Portion removed.] Dauber says in a polite but persistent way that the district needs to do more about stress, equity, suicide, and bullying and had the guts to run for office on that platform and he's the enemy.

Kevin Skelly is his own worst enemy. Barb Mitchell is a right winger who in her heart probably does not believe that OCR should have the right to require anything for protected class students. She probably rejects the authority of the federal government over education period, like Reagan did (remember dissolving the DoE)? Whether she or Dauber truly represent PAUSD values is a good question. I would suspect it is evenly matched and a debate between them would be highly informative. I would pay money to attend such a debate myself and think the Weekly should call for it, host it, and sponsor it.

That would help the community to understand where we are and who represents us. "Backroom Barb" Mitchell has done real damage to PAUSD by fighting OCR and challenging their authority. When she has publicly stated that she has cooperated this has not been the whole truth. People would be shocked (well, half the people). She should come clean.


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Posted by Backroom Barb
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 22, 2014 at 4:05 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 22, 2014 at 4:09 pm

@Alphonso

I asked Fred because like @Question I have observed that he seems to be "in the know" or at least to reflect a particular perspective. I hope you're wrong that he's just drawing the blinds and muttering darkly about nattering nabobs of negativism, like some of the people posting here.

I have to confess to be particularly interested in Barb Mitchell, who seems from leaks reported in the media to be active behind the scenes in a way that is at some variance with her public pronouncements.


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Posted by Former PA teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Quoting Man in the Mirror is truly a new nadir.


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Posted by Caring parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2014 at 4:49 pm

@Alphonso,
I'm having trouble following your conspiracy theory about Dauber, Johnson, et al.

I like that Ken and Michele Dauber both are willing to engage, even disagree, sometimes have their minds changed. Their reasoning is always intelligent, and it isn't just to justify a view they already have for other reasons like so many other people. I wish I saw that trait in other public servants around town. They really care and that's their motivation. They aren't using school board as some stepping stone to something else, or for connections and power, they're giving to the community and the kids of our community. They're willing to step forward and take heat in a fearless way even though I know they are real people who aren't impervious to the meanness.

Bill Johnson is a consummate journalist and extremely aware of the importance of community, as well as the responsibilities of the 4th estate. I have had occasion to be very upset by something one of the sister papers wrote, and penned a highly critical and somewhat angry letter to him, and he handled it well and took my complaint seriously. In fact, I've been critical of other coverage (constructively, I hoped), come to think of it, but was always responded to with respect. I was retaliated against for far less by our school district admin (NOT Kevin Skelly -- I am not piling on Mr. Skelly here, please do not misuse my point).

In fact, people are not islands. I think Kevin Skelly has many good traits, and working in a different group of administrators, might have been remembered in a less controversial light. Perhaps one could fault him for not cleaning house, but I think it's unrealistic to pin every failing of our district office on him.


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Posted by Caring parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2014 at 5:05 pm

@ Former PA teacher,

Then how about a quote from the Bible with the same sentiment? "...first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye..."

That's always a good one to remember on those occasions when it's just always EVERYONE ELSE's fault, as posters above have been doing, especially lashing out at parents in this district who are some of the most giving, nicest people, good parents, and one of the reasons we stay here.

I am reminded of what a wonderful elementary library program we had, and realizing that the district paid only for the space (at one time, via the parents) and the teacher's salary (again, via the parents and community). The books, the programs, supplies, computers, volunteer help, everything that made the library great for our students, all came directly from the parents. We are expected to give like that at every turn, but are treated with mistrust and derision for being involved? Returning to a higher level of community involvement and ownership of the schools is a good fit for this community.


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Posted by Question
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 22, 2014 at 6:51 pm

@Alphonso
You equating the Weekly with Fox News is fascinating, but only in a distorted Orwellian sense. Love them or hate them, but the Weekly's editorials have consistently advocated for what would normally be thought of as "progressive values". Their support has been for district governance that is transparent, inclusive, effective and which abides by state and federal laws that aim to protect equal rights and educational opportunities of all students. They have also consistently supported a school environment that genuinely appreciates and embraces the an understanding that kids thrive best and are most successful when they learn in an environment that places a priority on their social and emotional well being.
But heck, what do I know about Fox News anyway? I don't watch it. Perhaps Fred can clue us both in.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2014 at 9:58 pm

@Question - I don't think I've ever seen Fox News (except on viral clips) so I can't help you there.

I do think the Weekly adopted a "can do no right" view of Dr. Skelly and the Board, which I personally do not think is justified by their performance. I had heard from a couple sources that Johnson and Skelly do not get along - a specific quote was "too much testosterone in the room" - hence my comment about not picking fights with newspaper publishers. I have found in the past that a surprising amount of media coverage of politicians and appointees is driven, in large or small part, by personal feelings vs. objective facts (like many other things in life).

While I have met school board and staff members and follow events, I don't have inside knowledge; I spent part of my career involved in politics, so I do try to piece together what might be going on. Here, I think Ms. Mitchell may believe the critics have a voice out of proportion with both their numbers (amplified in part by the Weekly) and, in her view, the strength of their argument. She has put out a couple of "public letters" (one on bullying, now this latest one) which make an affirmative case that things are (mostly) fine and that the critics are taking a stilted point of view. People can decide whether they agree or not, but personally I like that someone is doing it despite that it draws personal criticism (e.g. "Backroom Barb" above). I have never spoken with her about any of this (or much else), so this is all speculation.

Sorry for the long post - I usually don't read them myself if they are this long ;-)


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 22, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Backroom Barb said "journalists who friend local political figures are not "friends" with them. They are following them."

Certainly is possible, but if that was the case why do The Weekly "journalists" only befriend people on one side of the political discussion? Journalists who write one sided stories are no longer journalists - they fall into the category of propagandists


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Posted by Caring parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 12:55 am

Alphonso,
The Weekly has written some very critical articles about Ken Dauber and positive things about the district and Kevin Skelly. You have a selective memory.

Ruled by testosterone-fueled emotion is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of either Kevin Skelly or Bill Johnson.


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Posted by Backroom Barb
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2014 at 1:20 am

I agree with caring parent. If Johnson was so against the district why did he endorse every sitting board member other than Camille Townsend (including Mitchell)? If Johnson just wanted Dauber to win in 2012 why did he endorse Caswell and Emberling? He's obviously not a very smart strategist for someone masterminding a conspiracy.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2014 at 6:16 am

On the subject of bullying, and a few other issues, Skelly behaved like a climate change denier. Since according to his thinking the problem didn't exist and was manufactured by hostile and irrational parents, he ignored it and tried his best to not even acknowledge it in any way, let alone do something about it.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 23, 2014 at 7:36 am

@Fred, thanks for your reply. I have read Mitchell's public statements. I have found them less persuasive because she seems to ignore the "elephants in the room" -- in the case of bullying, the breakdown of management in the district that she is supervising, and for Supt. Skelly's performance, the various failures of management, transparency, honesty, etc. But I can see that others who are not following events very closely might find them reassuring!

As I said, I am most intrigued by the difference between these (to me) bland public statements, and what she is saying behind the scenes. She has never spoken publicly about her argument for resisting OCR's civil rights authority or her opposition to Obama's appointees in that area (of course, neither has Dana Tom). I was interested to see that her letter reveals the details of the board's internal previously confidential discussions about Dr. Skelly. Apparently none of the board members saw any real issues with his performance, which is consistent with their full-throated support over the days since he resigned.

Anyways, all most interesting!


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Posted by Question
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 23, 2014 at 12:22 pm

@Gunn Parent
You mentioned a point that I was curious about. Mitchell's public statement announced what she claims were the individual positions of her fellow Board members from Skelly's performance reviews. I thought that closed session discussion were not public, except for whatever official statements were authorized by the Board. Since she appears to have disclosed previously "confidential" information in her "personal" letter, did she receive authorization from her colleagues to do so? What are the rules or laws governing unauthorized disclosure of such confidential information?
On the other hand, I think that the various press accounts this past week only quoted Mitchell and Dana Tom with their effusive praise of Skelly. While the other board members are likely to accentuate the positives of his tenure, it will be interesting to hear whether they will be as effusive in their praise of Skelly and whether they affirm Mitchell's claims that the Board continued to have unanimous full support for Skelly last year and this year. If their support of him was unwavering in the aftermath of his admission last year that he deliberately concealed from them and the public the negative results of a significant federal investigation, among other issues, then that would speak volumes about the Board.
Hopefully, we will learn more about what has been going on behind the curtain. But, as the Weekly has emphasized, one of the hallmarks of this board has been a profound lack of real transparency on the most substantive issues. While I, like many parents, enjoy the weekly missives that we receive from the district, they are not a substitute for the transparent governance that we deserve and have a right to expect.


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Posted by chal'n'cheese
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm

To voter's comment "I assume that also goes for PTAC, PIE and other insiders."

Funny you should attempt to compare WCDBPA to the PTA or PiE

The PTA is a nonpolitical organization made up of volunteers and part of every school and provides school supplies, scholarships, community events, un-ended hours of volunteering and are an essential part of what make our schools great. Every child and school in this district has benefitted from the PTA's efforts. Instead of being an ego trip, each years nominating committee has one of the hardest jobs of any in the PTA.

[Portion removed.]

PiE is also a nonpolitical organization and formalizes the previous two organizations into a single co-ordinated group to raise funds for the district. This organization raises millions of dollars of funds each year to benefit every child in the school district. All members of the board do extensive volunteering in the district.

[Portion removed.]

@Caring Parent, can you point me at the "Weekly's critical articles about Ken Dauber"?


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Caring parent, don't take the bait. They just want you to repost critical things about this family and they have been through enough.


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Posted by Caring parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 2:38 pm

@Gunn parent,
Thx, no intention of taking the bait. Chal, I leave it to you to read up, so you see both the positive and negative. Suffice it to say, there have been a few occasions when I wondered what the Weekly had out for KD. He's had the courage to be a public figure to try to improve our schools, and he has a backbone. I would have liked to see him on the school board for that reason, always good to see brain and backbone and heart all in the same person.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2014 at 2:44 pm

@chal... I'm fine with nobody getting an inside track. Once you start putting some select insiders at the table and excluding others, things start to go off the rails. I don't want it to look like the school board is only involving people who agree with them. For PTAC, they weren't elected and haven't really been active in policy questions advocating for kids as far as I know. Not saying they shouldn't apply but I agree with the others that they shouldn't get an automatic pass.


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Posted by chal'n'cheese
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm

@Caring Parent, I looked, couldn't find any. I've read the Weekly for a while. Long before Ken Duaber came onto the scene. Lots of column space devoted to him, including several opinion pieces accepted from him. All the Weekly posts I could find referencing him were full of roses. Couldn't do enough for him.

Sort of undermines your claim of "selective memory" when you can't point to the Weekly's "very critical articles about Ken Dauber". It does make it difficult when they don't exist.


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Posted by Jane
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 23, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Good grief! I can't imagine anyone wanting to take a position as Superintendent in this contentious school district. No doubt a high salary will entice someone, but it is unlikely he or she will stay more than a few years in such a thankless job. The adage: You can't please all the people all the time certainly applies here.

As for this opinion piece, it is truly offensive.


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Posted by Caring parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 3:13 pm

@Chal,
I think maybe you are not looking too hard, I just found several critical statements, references, and an article using Google, where KD is an employee.

As I am trying to keep this positive - have more negative to say about Skelly over the years but prefer to focus on the positive there, to - I will leave you to improve your Internet search or open-mindedness skills, whichever applies.


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Posted by More Chal
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm

@Chal,
I couldn't agree more with you that PIE should have a big seat at the table. Those of us who gave big dollars to PIE deserve proportionate representation. Like lots of things in life, it's "pay to play". If you haven't learned that yet, get over it.


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Posted by Caring parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 3:23 pm

@Jane,
All school districts, cities, and governance involves negotiation and conflict. It's actually pretty tame here, and as I said, the parents a cakewalk. By your measure, places like UC Berkeley would never have governance, and yet they do. Let's hope our school board knows to look for the kind of person who finds working with high intelligence, high volunteerism - and generous - parents and teachers (lets not forget they are more accomplished than typical) a good thing and not a bother or a threat. There is definitely a divide in school admin philosophy - let's look for less old school, more engaged.


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Posted by YES
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Voter,

"For PTAC, they weren't elected and haven't really been active in policy questions advocating for kids as far as I know. "

That seems right. They do state type advocacy, convention type stuff. They're not leaders on anything locally, as far as I can see.

Whoever has a say though, that information SHOULD BE PUBLIC. As a matter of fact, there needs to be a letter from Tabitha describing exactly who the candidates will interview with, and exactly what the vetting process will be like.

In terms of who should be vetting, I think Ken Dauber is much more important than a PTAC rep. PTAC people are not only not elected, they get "nominated" to the job by some secret cabal which not even long serving PTA volunteer parents ever know about (it may include the Superintendent's vote, so that's not a good connection to have). Other than being friends with the Super, PTAC doe not have leadership functions at the school sites.

As a matter of fact, please confirm to us that PTAC will not have a voice. I say this without necessarily agreeing with Dauber on everything, but at least the guy is endorsed by both student newspapers, ran a thorough campaign, and had thousands of voters.


Editor,

Can you inquire what recruiters PAUSD is using?


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Posted by chal'n'cheese
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2014 at 3:30 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 4:11 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2014 at 4:23 pm

[Portion removed.]

It's ok that the Weekly prefers some politicians to others - that's part of their job. So I don't see anything wrong with them siding with Dauber against Skelly and the Board. I do think their view is awfully strong, and may be motivated in part by personal feeling and issues, which again is not that unusual, but worth being aware of. It doesn't mean they are wrong; simply that, like any other source, they have a perspective that may slant their view. Barb Mitchell has a different perspective and view, and good for her for speaking it up.


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Posted by palo alto native
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2014 at 4:26 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 4:28 pm

So if a newspaper prefers Dauber it's "personal feeling and issues" rather than professional judgment? [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 23, 2014 at 4:34 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Caring parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2014 at 4:38 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 23, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I couldn't agree more with you that PIE should have a big seat at the table. Those of us who gave big dollars to PIE deserve proportionate representation. Like lots of things in life, it's "pay to play". If you haven't learned that yet, get over it."

Actually, and fortunately, we have a democracy where issues are decided by the citizens and not by the size of your 'contribution'.

You cannot and should not be able to simply buy your place at the table.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Fred is a registered user.

"So if a newspaper prefers Dauber it's "personal feeling and issues" rather than professional judgment?"

The editors view could be driven by one, the other, or both. As I said, my sense in this case is that some of both are involved.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 23, 2014 at 11:04 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

My sense is that you have a vendetta against Johnson, probably for criticizing Barbara Mitchell, who you seem so keen to praise. You try to maintain a moderate tone in these forums, like Mitchell in board meetings, but your snarling denigration of Dauber and Johnson and whoever else disagree with Mitchell betrays your true feelings as far as this reader is concerned.

I agree with "Backroom Barb." We've had enough shady backroom dealings in this school district. We need transparency and legal compliance.

Here's another thing: Mitchell wants the district to give a no-bid contract to Leadership Associates, the same search firm that brought us Kevin Skelly, and the same search firm that has been involved in "facilitating" his performance reviews. I'm not sure how much more of of LA's "help" we can afford.

If they have been in Skelly's performance reviews, then Leadership Associates is privy to all the backroom, secret information about the OCR investigations, because that was surely part of those evaluations. Mitchell considers Leadership Associates to be able to keep its mouth shut about our dirty laundry and to find us another Super who will have no problem keeping secrets from the public. Leadership Associates is tainted by its participation in the secrets of Mitchell and Skelly regarding all of this. They need to be replaced by a firm that is committed to transparency, not given a no-bid contract to do more of the same.

Weekly: please investigate the fact that Rene Townsend of LA was present at Kevin Skelly's perf and is aware of the OCR mess and probably of secrets not known to the public about how it is being handled. The district should not give this firm a no-bid contract.


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