News

Three Palo Alto principals announce retirements

Longtime math teacher Ellie Slack also plans to step down in June

Fairmeadow and Ohlone elementary schools and the Palo Alto Adult School are searching for new principals following an announcement Tuesday of a spate of retirements.

Ohlone's Bill Overton, Fairmeadow's Gary Prehn, the Adult School's Kara Rosenberg and Jordan Middle School Assistant Principal Ellie Slack all plan to step down in June.

Overton, who taught at Ohlone for 24 years before becoming principal in 2009, taught earlier at Sequoyah and Green Gables elementary schools.

"I'm proudest of maintaining my energy and passion for kids and their school experiences and have always been proud to be part of PAUSD and this organization's tireless focus to do what's best for kids," Overton said.

Prehn, principal at Fairmeadow since 2011, previously served as principal at Escondido and Juana Briones elementary schools. Before moving to the administration, he taught at Escondido, El Carmelo and Loma Vista. He also taught English and Social Studies at Jordan Middle School.

"It has been such a unique and amazing journey, but I feel it is the right time in my career to close one chapter in my life and open another," Prehn said.

At the Adult School, Rosenberg oversees wide offerings of evening classes as well as the Preschool Family program and English as a Second Language. She first came to Preschool Family in 1978 as a parent with her one-month-old son, and was hired the following year. Before becoming Adult School's principal in 2000, she led a variety of programs, including ESL.

"It has been a pleasure to expand what we offer to the community and to work toward excellence in all of our programs," Rosenberg said. "I am proud of the teachers and the office staff, all of whom have made this happen."

Slack, herself a product of Palo Alto schools, had taught elsewhere for 25 years before returning to Palo Alto in 1994. She began her career in 1969 teaching math at Fremont High School. She later taught at La Canada High School, Los Angeles Baptist High School and Village Christian School for 19 years before her return to Palo Alto 20 years ago.

She taught math at Jordan Middle School and Palo Alto High School for 16 years before becoming assistant principal at Jordan in 2011.

"My favorite part of my career here was teaching mathematics to thousands of students," she said.

"The departure of these four outstanding leaders leaves a hole in our administration team," school Superintendent Kevin Skelly said. "We are sad to see them go, but wish them well on this new adventure. Their positive impact will be felt for years to come."

There was no immediate word on a search for replacements. Skelly announced last month that he himself will resign in June.

Chris Kenrick

Comments

Posted by PAUSD Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I have particularly enjoyed working with Ellie Slack who listens carefully with an open mind and seeks creative solutions that best meet the needs of our kids. I will miss her, and I thank her for her dedicated service.


Posted by former PALY parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I would like to acknowledge a fine Mathematics teacher, Ms. Ellie Slack, who is described as "stepping down" this June.
If there is any way to retain Ms. Slack in a special capacity as an "Emeritus Instructor of Mathematics" in PAUSD or similar, I would recommend doing so.
I know my student who studied with Ms. Slack at Jordan for one year, and who is at a major university studying Mathematics and is currently in Finals and so too busy to be contacted right now, would be the one commending Ms. Slack for her strong teaching, knowledge and positive influence on her students. This positive learning experience was made clear to me by my student and I feel entirely safe in posting these compliments. No Tiger Mom here, either: my student did his/her own work w.o. tutoring etc., which was unusual among his/her peers.


Posted by kerry, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2014 at 1:49 pm

anxious to see how the vacancies are filled
maybe some shuffling of leaders at the other schools?


Posted by Mom of 3, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Sad news about Ms. Slack leaving. I agree it would be wonderful if she could continue to teach a couple of math classes. She was a fantastic math teacher - it's a shame that only one of my children had her as a teacher. She was very clear in her instruction. She's not warm, fuzzy, cheerful, and not everyone understood her dry sense of humor and bluntness, but she sincerely cared about children and is a tell-it-like-it-is person. She will be missed by many.


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Bill Overton was one of the founders of Ohlone School, in 1971 (I think)--the one school within the PAUSD system that in that era emphasized developmental education (roughly translatable as each child learning at her/his own pace, not in lockstep with the rest of the class in a teacher-centered mode of instruction). In the last two or three decades most of the other PAUSD elementary schools have adopted the Ohlone way, in varying degrees.

It's a pity that the author of this article has missed out conveying a whole chunk of Ohlone--and PAUSD--history.


Posted by Former Escondido parent, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:19 pm

High time that Gary Prehn hung up his hat. So say I and many Escondido families he left behind.


Posted by Cheap shots at the principals, a resident of Escondido School
on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:25 pm

If you had a beef with Gary, you should have mentioned it online long ago, don't wait until his retirement. It's weak.


Posted by fm parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 19, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Speaking as a parent, I think Gary is doing a great job at Fairmeadow. In my conversations and interactions with Gary regarding my child, I always found his intent and actions have been to do what's best for the all the kids at Fairmeadow. In the end, isn't that what a Principal is supposed to do?

Congratulations Gary!


Posted by beth estrada, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 20, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Dear Palo Alto Online,
I'm a 5th grade teacher at Juana Briones School. I moved to the district from Cupertino two years ago. I guess I am also a Palo Alto School parent now too. I moved my three kids over to PA schools this year. Two are at Terman and one is at Gunn.

I notice that the comments on your site do not require an attached name. I also notice that many of them are mean spirited and personal in nature. In fact, as a teacher, the type of internet behavior I see on your site is the exact opposite of what I am trying to teach my students in terms of avoiding online bullying.

The news portions are great, the part I am confused about is the way you manage comments. I strongly believe that allowing people to post comments without a name encourages negative and destructive comments. I also believe that the fact a local new source allows this to happen creates a dangerous community climate. All superintendent and board candidates have to go through a strange filter. Only people who are willing to be victims of online bullying need apply. Only people who are willing to put their families in this situation should apply. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. We did not have this problem in Cupertino.

I guess the part that really has me frustrated is that I am teaching my students to be better than this. To avoid sites like yours where this happens. To never post online comments of this nature. To never say something online that you couldn't say to someone in person. I teach them that they leave a trail on the internet and to be careful and respectful when leaving their own digital footprints. And I feel bad every time I read Palo Alto Online because I feel that I should not support a local news source if it is allowing this to happen to its own community. I feel bad asking my students to use your site to read about local news, it makes me a hypocrite.

I wanted to share this with you in the hopes that you will hear my opinion and will consider the impact your policies have on the community that you serve as journalists. I hope that you will consider this and change your policies in time for our district to make big changes and add leaders. It would be good for our district to go through a hiring season without anonymous online comments. It would be good for our students to have a local news source that modeled the type of behavior that we hope to see in our students.

Sincerely,
Beth Estrada
- look, my real name :)


Posted by Cheap shots at the principals, a resident of Escondido School
on Mar 20, 2014 at 9:43 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by if I were from Cupertino, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2014 at 10:59 pm

I would post my real name.
I am sorry that I cannot post my name. I guess if I were a teacher from Cupertino who works under a principal who came from Cupertino, a principal who followed another principal who came from Cupertino (the first one was in charge of Human Resources in Cupertino), I would have felt free to post my name.
Unfortunately, I do not have this protection. Unfortunately, too many who are related to PAUSD in various ways have experienced severe retaliation when speaking out, thus, the unwillingness to identify themselves.


Posted by Beth estrada, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 21, 2014 at 2:51 am

I am sorry that you don't feel safe enough to use your name. I really am.
[Portion removed.] It is possible to work towards a better PAUSD and a better community without your tone.
You are almost making my point for me.


Posted by Adblock plus, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2014 at 6:28 am

Beth, the Weekly is only interested in clicks. When it restricts comments to registered users no one clicks. The Weekly gets no money. They have little interest in What is good for the community.


Posted by Beth Estrada, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Mar 21, 2014 at 6:40 am

Right, I get that. They are a business and I'm ok with that. I don't read many news sources that are a non-profit. However, I have been really pleasantly surprised that the Weekly has kept up my post and has removed inappropriate responses to it so far. I feel a bit protected when that happens.
I do realize that if people cannot post without their names that this unfortunately silences the voice of dissent when there is fear of backlash from the district. Not that I've ever see that but I understand in theory how that could be an issue. I like the fact that dissenting voices are heard but I notice that they often lose credibility when they make personal attacks and get nasty. And the issues get hijacked by this poisonous climate. A lot of people who value manners will steer clear of the conversation and that's too bad because their voices matter too.
I realize that there is responsibility on two parties: the Weekly and individual commenters to monitor inappropriate content. I think using names would help, but obviously, based on the personal attack I got when I posted, there is a need for individuals to monitor themselves too.


Posted by Cheap shots at the principals, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2014 at 7:16 am

The Weekly has always been fickle with deletions. I have posted some hard-hitting criticism of both teachers and administrators and it has been left intact, while other innocuous posts have been sent away. I'll keep posting. If you read the Town Square rules, you'll be surprised. I consider it good input and feedback. The threat from posting your name for some of us in the community is real, it cannot be ignored. But Beth Estrada's snipes at other posters does nothing to help the dialogue. [Portion removed.] I hope this post helps her, I really do, because it doesn't matter if you were raised in Palo Alto like me or if you have been here less than two years (that other poster made me think about hiring practices), all opinions should be welcome in a democracy or Town Square. Labeling them mean, angry, or otherwise is a fair opinion, but it's just that.


Posted by Cheap shots at principals, a resident of Escondido School
on Mar 25, 2014 at 7:07 am

Congratulations one more time to all our principals retiring and to our teachers receiving tenure at the board room today, and to both for acting with class as they handle their new-found power to speak freely about just about anything.


Posted by kerry, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 25, 2014 at 1:34 pm

has anyone heard word on backfill plans yet?


Posted by Gunn Student, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm

The word on the street is that Villalobos announced her departure today as well.


Posted by parent of Gunn student, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 25, 2014 at 5:36 pm

@Gunn Student

Just got an email to confirm that. Sad!


Posted by Curious, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2014 at 8:35 pm

What reason did Villalobos give?


Posted by Cheap shots at the principals, a resident of Escondido School
on Mar 25, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Skelly mentioned adult school or something for Villalobos at tonight's board meeting. Frankly, sounds like a demotion or another health issue. You folks that got the email know more. Now back to Charles Young bungling a common core presentation while Camille goes off on everyday math. Can you imagine Young as your next superintendent?


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2014 at 11:20 pm

To Beth Estrada

You say your name is Beth Estrada, and I suspect you probably are, but you may not be as there is no way of knowing that somebody posting is using their real name.

I used to post with my real name. My posts were honest and respectful. I got used to being picked on while picking my kids up or even when I was grocery shopping. I felt I could not give an honest opinion on how I felt. My kids did not like being picked on by teachers or other parents because of my opinion. I decided that posting my name was not the best thing to do as my kids suffered as a result.

We have secret ballots at an election so that people can give their honest vote without fear of retaliation. We can post here anonymously for the same reasons. Just because we do not give our names does not mean that we are disrespectful. My words and opinions are valid regardless of whether you know my name.


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