Counseling, scaled-back summer school on board agenda

After restrictions on charging fees, district reduces summer offerings

Updates on this year's summer school as well as on counseling programs in Palo Alto's middle schools and high schools will be discussed by the Board of Education tonight, Tuesday May 6.

Summer school enrollment will be reduced at the elementary and middle school levels and the program will be aimed particularly at students "whose families may have fewer options for summer learning" or those "needing literacy or math intervention," according to school district staff reports.

The changes follow new state law, which prohibits school districts from charging fees for summer school. Last year, the district had to offer refunds to Palo Alto families who had paid summer school fees as high as $475.

School officials said they would scale back future summer "enrichment" offerings as a result of the restrictions on charging fees, but Palo Alto recreation officials said they would pick up the slack by expanding their fee-based enrichment choices for the summer of 2014.

At the high school level, summer school enrollment will be about the same as last year – 700 in Session 1 and 500 in Session 2 – and the program will focus on making up lost credits, the "living skills" class required for high school graduation, economics, a "freshman bridge" class to acquaint students with high school and a non-credit Spanish class to help students with a new language requirement.

Elementary summer school will be at Barron Park and Escondido elementary schools; middle school summer school will be at Terman Middle School and high school summer school will be at Gunn.

Following years of discord over differences between the counseling models used at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools, district officials tonight will present a report describing "greater commonality in activities" even though programs at the two schools still have different names, delivery systems and frequency of meetings.

Tonight's board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

Chris Kenrick


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2014 at 3:24 pm

A roster of activities without an indication of frequency of delivery is less than helpful in understanding why Gunn High School survey respondents continue to have a much lower satisfaction rating with the college counseling delivery model that Paly. (65% Gunn vs. 78% Paly believed they had received effective college counseling). This situation has persisted for more than 5 years, despite being a significant focus for the School Board and a significant investment of community and staff time and district resources.

This presentation represents an improvement as it links satisfaction metrics to service delivery. In the past, the Board and Dr. Skelly were focused on outcome metrics only - how many students were admitted to Ivy League schools.

The next step of the Board is to 1) rationalize the names of activities so parents can be assured that their student is receiving appropriate counseling services at both high schools 2)indicate the level of frequency by activity for each school - that may be the key to lower satisfaction levels at Gunn 3) publish and track these baseline metrics over time and address any persisting discrepancies 4) look for areas of synergy to develop Centers of Excellence at each school so focused resources can be better utilized. There is no reason to support two websites for example.

With a change in leadership at Gunn, in the Superintendent's office and with the Board, Gunn parents have an opportunity to advocate for continued improvement in counseling services.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Why on earth does it take 5 years to admit there is a problem, make a plan to solve it , and solve it? This is like saying my Honda Civic and my neighbors Tesla are "comparable" because they both have 4 wheels and a windshield. What about satisfaction? Well let's just not talk about that.

Posted by Let's cheer!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Stop complaining everyone. The crowd of counselors and board members are literally clapping for each other at the board meeting tonight as they tell stories of our great counseling program. Tom Jacoubiwsky is going on and on and the board loves it. Maybe they will reward him with the Gunn principalship.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 6, 2014 at 8:39 pm

PAUSD should be providing little or no summer school. To be honest, I don't appreciate the District spending money on summer school except for students who truly need "literacy or math intervention". If a student is truly behind on the basics, lets get them caught up. If they haven't been pulling their own weight, its not up to the District to make up for a student's negligence during the regular school year.

Living skills and Economic are graduation requirements that should and can be taken during the SCHOOL YEAR. If the District needs to offer those classes during the summer, they shouldn't be grad requirements. Since they are grad requirements, student should pass them during the SCHOOL YEAR (which incidentally, means getting a D to pass).

"Lost credits" aka flunking a class is almost always the students fault (if you need to make up a credit, you got an F in the class which is REALLY hard in PAUSD). If you got a D, you probably just didn't try and frankly, I don't want to pay for you to retake that class just so you have a shot at a better college. I also don't think retaking a class you flunked is the $$ responsibility of the whole District.

The "freshman bridge" class to acquaint students with high school and a non-credit Spanish class to help students with a new language requirement, what does that mean? You aren't ready for high school, but we want to pass you along, so all of the taxpayers in the District pay for it? If you aren't ready for high school, do another year in middle school (a surprising number of students do that at private schools, repeating 8th grade then heading onto Paly or Gunn). PAUSD should either prepare our students during the school year for their next grade or keep them for another year.

Non-credit Spanish? - If we have an new graduation requirement of a World Language, we should be prepared to teach you from scratch in high school. The whole City should not have to pay for additional class over the summer because our World Language departments are not prepared to teach students that have never taken a language (which since we don't offer it in elementary school except to the few Choice students, the majority of HS students have little or no World Language experience). If you choose not to teach a World Language District wide until high school AND you make it a graduation requirement, teach it during the SCHOOL YEAR so kids can pass and graduate. Duh. And if its a requirement, it should be taught so kids can pass is without tutoring or taking the classes at SIL or Lydian (common occurrence in the past).

Most students that need Summer School weren't doing their job during the school year (or very rarely have teachers that weren't doing their job). This is excluding special ed kids or those with 504s or IEPs and those should be receiving enough support during the school year too. The other students whou utilize Summer Classes are the ones who want to get Economics and Living Skills out of the way. That is the District's scheduling issue, the whole City should not have to pay for classes for students that don't feel like taking them during the school year...

District funded dummer school should be for those who remedial help through no fault of their own. Period.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Gunn counseling is a joke. It took almost one and a half years before students even meet one-on-one with a counselor. We're hiring an outside college counselor because we don't trust Gunn counseling at all.

Posted by Whoa!, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2014 at 10:20 pm

@Let's cheer!: Oh ugh, glad I'm not there for that!

@palo alto resident: Those are some pretty rigid opinions! "Dummer school?" Really?

"Most students that need Summer School weren't doing their job during the school year..." Can you cite your sources? There are many reasons a kid may have had extra pressures or difficulties during the school year - they're not robots!

It's not like summer school costs you more. You pay taxes and the school district decides the best use of the funds. What's your real beef?

Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 6, 2014 at 10:29 pm

How do you explain all the Paly kids who hire college counselors? Probably in equal numbers to Gunn. It's because they can and they want to get ahead of their peers in any way possible. You'd have to hire an awful lot of counselors to provide the kind of service a hired counselor provides.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2014 at 10:55 pm

We really miss the old summer school offerings. I've never been able to pay full price for camps and the 6 weeks spanned by summer school acted as an anchor activity for our kids. What a loss. Now the middle class continues to get squeezed tighter while the wealthy are unaffected and the "poor" (however you define that) get the same as they had before. Yay. Progress.

Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 7, 2014 at 8:02 am

What happened to Gunn counseling reforms? There was a whole plan that was supposed to be implemented. Yet last night the report from Gunn did not even mention implementing any of the items on the GAC report. Those parents and teachers just wasted a year of their lives making those recommendations I guess. Although I guess nothing this board and super do should surprise, it did surprise me that they just never even mentioned that. No one said: where's the update on what you are supposed to be doing? Where's any effort to measure to see whether or not conditions have improved? It was as if the whole last 4 or 5 years of effort never happened. Then at the end, the lame duck super went on kind of a tirade against parents calling them "fixated" on improving counseling at Gunn. Maybe he should have been "fixated" on it then it would be better already. It was very surprisingly rude.

The lack of follow-up, the lack of any acknowledgement of the prior work was bizarre as was the super's rudeness. The only speaker who handled herself well was the student from Paly.

Posted by Parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 7, 2014 at 8:28 am

I'm with Anon. The old summer school offerings were great. My only problem was that they were often hard to get in because of limits. Also sometimes we just couldn't afford it - but I do NOT think that's a reason not to offer them!

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm

As everyone should know by now --- it was a little over a year ago that a very small minority of parents complained about PAUSD charging a fee for summer school. They were correct in referring to state law which prohibits such a thing --- but they were in denial in that the predicted result would be a severe reduction of summer school classes.

The bottom line is that only remedial and make up courses will be provided.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 7, 2014 at 5:34 pm

The cost for the full inclusion summer school last year was $810,582 compared to a projected cost of $683,226 for intervention summer school this year. Web Link

Last year 2,641 students attended summer school. This year there will only be space for 1,780 students. High School stays flat while 861 students will be cut from elementary and middle school summer programs. The district is saving $127,000 by eliminating summer school for 861 elementary and middle school students. There are many struggling students who have benefited from summer school in the past who will not qualify for the intervention program. Many of them will not be able to afford the $700 per week price tag for academic camps offered in the city Enjoy catalog.

$127K seems like small potatoes to support all of our kids.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2014 at 7:51 pm

What is missing from your analysis is how much of the $811K was offset by tuition fees --- what was the net cost/loss?

The $683K will not have any tuition applied against it.

I'm guessing that it probably was a lower cost/loss to run the 2013 program than what it will cost this summer. If so, then that is a lot more to absorb than the stated $127K...

Posted by tuition refunded last year, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 7, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Tuition was refunded last year.

The Paly mom analysis was correct.

It's a bit like a basketball flop here. Make it look like the summer program was pushed over, when for another $127,000 the whole program can be offered for free. This is less than half the cost to the district of a single PR position.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 8, 2014 at 4:38 am

So it is exactly as we feared. To make sure that the laws are upheld, we are losing a valuable resource to many families who cannot afford to pay for the more expensive offerings elsewhere. I am sure that all the lower income families are pleased to know that the law is helping them out and they are being treated fairly by PAUSD.

Whoever stirred this one up, I hope you feel proud of yourself. It worked well in the past and now it has gone.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2014 at 6:06 am

Correct - tuition was refunded last year...but only to those who requested the refund. So a better comparison would be to summer 2012. I think my theory would still be correct.

Posted by Corbin, a resident of College Terrace
on May 8, 2014 at 6:32 am

Summer school tuition was refunded last year to everyone who paid. You didn't have to ask for a refund.

Posted by Civics lesson, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 8, 2014 at 7:44 am

I do feel proud of myself, actually. Following the law is not optional. Maybe in your world you can pick and choose what laws apply to you and which do not. But in a democracy, we live by the rule of law. If you don't like the law, contact your elected Assembly member. What you can't do is just decide that here in Palo Alto we can do our wink wink work arounds and since it's Palo Alto it's OK. That's anarchy, and it's anarchy that favors the privileged town of Palo Alto which is so wonderfully fantastic that the law shouldn't apply here. Don't they know who we are? Our great intentions? Our wonderful classes?

The law provides what it provides and this is a country of laws not of men. Take your remedy at the ballot box not through deciding when and whether to obey the law.

No one should have to beg for a waiver or apply for financial aid for things that are guaranteed them under the California Constitution. If you don't like that, call Rich Gordon.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 9, 2014 at 1:23 pm

@Crescent Park Dad
I appreciate your attempt to make sense out of the decision to eliminate enrichment summer school. Sadly the numbers I posted are correct. The cost savings for eliminating enrichment summer school is $127,000. This information was provided to the Board in their October 21, 2013 Board meeting packet. (See link below)

During that meeting almost every board member made a comment lamenting how the district could no longer afford to continue enrichment summer school due to the loss of student fees. Some board members commented on the impact this would have for low and middle class families. Not one Board member questioned whether the district could find the extra $127,000 to continue the full program. To view the meeting and comments scroll to item D:
Web Link

Here is a link to the October 21, 2013 board packet with the detailed summer school budget on page 211.
Web Link

In 2013 expenditures were 810,582 against zero revenue. 2014 is projected as expenditures of $683,221 against zero revenue.

Here is a link to the October 23, 2012 board packet with the detailed summer school budget on page 33 when fees were being collected.
Web Link

In 2011 expenditures were 915,068 against revenues of 892,232. In 2012 expenditures were 835,559 against revenues of 547,298.

Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 9, 2014 at 5:12 pm

If summer school enrichment programs were free to every child in Palo Alto, it would be impossible to fill the need as everyone would want to sign up. Think of the uproar if kids were turned away.

Posted by Let's cheer!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Kevin Skelly and the board value their public image more so they fund a $150,000 PR person. If they valued summer school, they would fund it more fully. It's pretty simple.

Posted by foot self gun, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Yep, very simple. Summer school + scholarships vs. no summer school. I know what I'd want if I was on low income.

Posted by Let's cheer!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2014 at 11:47 am

If you were on low income. Boy, does that sum up the worst of Palo Alto!? You are making this too easy.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Here is how Irvine Unified School District addressed the funding problem in 2011:

"As you are aware, schools throughout California have been severely impacted by the state budget crisis, and a recent legal settlement prohibits districts from charging fees to enroll in summer school. While some districts have opted to cut their summer programs entirely, the Irvine Unified School District is seeking to preserve this valuable opportunity by asking for donations from participating families. Below each course description in the catalog, you will find a "suggested donation" amount to help cover the cost of the instructor, materials and facilities. Please know that a donation is not required to enroll, and families that choose to contribute may do so at any amount. Our goal is to offer each of these courses, and your donation will help support this goal. Please know that insufficient enrollment and insufficient funding could result in course cancellations. Families that contributed to canceled courses will be refunded the week following registration.

IUSD's Summer School program presents an incredible opportunity for our students, whether they're pursuing remediation, enrichment or the chance to get ahead. As such, we're hoping our new funding model is enough to sustain these courses in 2011 – and for many years to come."

Their summer school program is still going strong funded by parent donations.

Posted by Paly ad, a resident of Community Center
on May 10, 2014 at 2:24 pm

@ Paly mom,
Thanks for your reference to the Irvine model. That is exactly what we should have done and could do in the future, although it is probably too late to get it in place this year. It complies with the law and would achieve the desired results.
Why our administration and board could not offer such an alternative is a mystery. I sure hope it's not vindictiveness resulting from being forced to comply with the law that applies to every district in California. Even without the donation alternative, PAUSD received around $5 million more in property tax revenue this year than they projected compounded on top of a similar increase over projections last year.

Posted by for, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 10, 2014 at 3:47 pm

I love this! What a way to poke fun at the law. You don't have to "donate" but if you don't "donate", we'll have to cancel the class. It's brilliant! Talk about a finesse! Why isn't our district smart enough to ignore the law like this?

Posted by civics lesson, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 10, 2014 at 9:58 pm

The Irvine model does not comply with the law. You cannot list a "suggested donation." All of the Gunn and Paly athletics programming, and ESPECIALLY the cheerleading program at Paly are blatantly illegal and they are next.

What part of "free" don't you understand?

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 10, 2014 at 10:51 pm

I don't think so. The athletics participation fee is voluntary. If you don't have the money, you can still one is excluded.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 10, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Plus there is a distinct difference between academic programs and extra-curricular activities.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2014 at 9:22 am

PAUSD's law firm Lozano Smith provided a client news brief in October 2012 detailing updates to the Ed Code due to AB 1575. According to the brief pupil fees may not be charged for any school activity including extracurricular and this limitation on fees does not apply to requests for voluntary donations. See Web Link

"Effective January 1, 2013, AB 1575 will add Education Code sections 49010, 49011, 49012 and 49013, as well as amend Government Code section 905. Section 49010 establishes a statutory framework governing the scope and nature of the free school guarantee in California's K-12 public schools, principles largely derived from the California Supreme Court's decision in Hartzell v. Connell (1984) 35 Cal.3d 899. Section 49010 defines "educational activity," for which no pupil fees may be charged. This section also defines a "pupil fee" as any fee, deposit or other charge that a pupil or a pupil's parent or guardian are required to pay in violation of new Education Code section 49011 and article IX, section 5 of the California Constitution. Those laws require K-12 public schools to offer educational activities to students and their families free of charge, and under such laws a "fee waiver" or "scholarship" program cannot cure unlawful pupil fees. Within this broader definition, section 49010, subdivision (b)(1)-(3), specifies that a "pupil fee" includes:
A fee charged to a pupil as a condition for registering for school or classes, or as a condition for participation in a class or an extracurricular activity, regardless of whether the class or activity is elective or compulsory, or is for credit;

A security deposit, or other payment, that a pupil is required to make to obtain a lock, locker, book, class apparatus, musical instrument, uniform, or other materials or equipment; and

A purchase that a pupil is required to make to obtain materials, supplies, equipment, or uniforms associated with an educational activity.

New Education Code section 49011, subdivision (a), sets forth the express prohibition on pupil fees imposed in relation to participation in an educational activity. Section 49011, subdivision (b)(1)-(4), specifies that under this prohibition, all of the following parameters apply:

All supplies, materials, and equipment needed to participate in educational activities shall be provided to pupils free of charge;

A fee waiver policy shall not make a pupil fee permissible;

School districts and schools shall not establish a two-tier educational system by requiring a minimal educational standard and also offering a second, higher educational standard that pupils may only obtain through payment of a fee or purchase of additional supplies that the school district or school does not provide; and

A school district or school shall not offer course credit or privileges related to educational activities in exchange for money or donations of goods or services from a pupil or a pupil's parents or guardians, and a school district or school shall not remove course credit or privileges related to educational activities, or otherwise discriminate against a pupil, because the pupil or the pupil's parents or guardians did not or will not provide money or donations of goods or services to the school district or school.
Significantly, section 49011, subdivision (c), reaffirms existing law under which schools' solicitation of voluntary donations and voluntarily participation in fundraising activities by pupils or their parents or guardians is not prohibited. This provision also specified that offering prizes to pupils for recognition of their fundraising efforts is not unlawful."

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2014 at 11:04 am

There was some discussion last fall that the City of Palo Alto would step in to provide some of the enrichment type courses through their existing education programs (Enjoy). This make sense, since they have the infrastructure and can charge appropriately. I don't know if they what, if anything, they have done.

While a donation-based program seems possible, it has risks. At both Paly and Gunn, the switch from athletic participation fees to donations has hit hard, with a significant drop in funds coming in. I guess I'd rather see something that is set-up to succeed long-term, such as a non-profit or the city charging appropriately.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2014 at 1:54 pm


There was a discussion of having the city provide academic enrichment camps. One board member asked for staff to provide an update but this did not occur when the item came back for action. The city contracted with a private firm, Communication Academy, who is providing a very limited and small selection of one week academic summer camps. The camp sections are broken down by age group with an average limit of 8 students per camp. The math and reading camps offer 4 sections for elementary school, so can serve approximately 32 elementary students this summer. The weekly fees range from $365 for a half day to $725 for a full day.

Can you provide data to back up your claim that after school high school sports have been hard hit in our district? The switch from mandatory student fees to voluntary donations for high school after school sports happened over a decade ago perhaps in response to Fiscal Management Advisory 97-02 dated October 30, 1997. Web Link

I have not heard of any after school high school sports programs being at risk or canceled due to lack of funding.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2014 at 2:21 pm

@Paly Mom - thanks for that info.

"Provide data" - the Gunn AD/Boosters have been sending emails to spring sports participants for the last month saying they had a significant drop-off/deficit and needed families to make the donation; the Gunn AD told me that Paly had also come in short. The Gunn PTSA approved a one-time donation to the sports program to fill the deficit there; if the deficit continues next year, I don't think anyone knows how it will be handled.

Posted by civics lesson, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 11, 2014 at 3:56 pm

At Gunn and Paly the "donation" is required in order to try out. No one would ever believe that these thinly disguised fees are voluntary donations. For the middle schools the websites don't even bother to call them voluntary -- they are just the fee. For gunn, you bring a check with your child's name on it to tryout for your "voluntary' fee and if your child doesn't make it, it's refunded. Even though it was a voluntary donation.

Those that didn't pay the donation are stigmatized by being required to attend all charity fundraising events. It's gross, and illegal and of course the PAUSD leadership follows the same rules that it does with respect to following the rest of the law -- the "Don't You Know Who We Are?" plan.

Palo Alto is trying all kinds of completely illegal things to keep the machine working. The only kinds of donations that are valid and permitted are those that go to support the whole program and are not earmarked for your child (and obviously not refunded to you if your child doesn't make the team). The only kind of fundraising is the big, general, type. Suggested donations for your child are fees.

This is just illegal and sports programs are going to either follow the law or they can be cancelled to pay for Tabitha also.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by longtime parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2014 at 4:46 pm

In the EC sports programs we have participated over the years, the people who help run everything are parents. I used to feel guilty with the amount of work they did compared to my driving to a game occasionally. If we would add up volunteer time, the programs would be prohibitive to run.

Isn't civics not just about rights, but about duties? To expect everything 100% free is unrealistic, but apparently that is a real issue.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2014 at 4:46 pm

"At Gunn and Paly the "donation" is required in order to try out."

That is not our experience - in our kids sports this year, there was no mention of the donation until after the roster was announced. I have been told that in some teams the donation participation level is <50%.

"Those that didn't pay the donation are stigmatized by being required to attend all charity fundraising events."

Again, not our experience, though it may be different in other schools/sports. Fundraising is done at the team level (at least in our experience) and the coaches don't really have a strong incentive to collect the voluntary fee, since it goes into a collective pot. Indeed, part of the participation issue seems to be that some teams feel like they don't get "their money's worth" from the common donation.

We are definitely in an evolving funding environment. It is not clear to me that we will be able to continue to support the sports program based on voluntary donations. Indeed, I could imagine sports programs becoming separate "after school activities" not sponsored by the schools (as middle school sports are today), simply to be able to charge a fee. I can see the summer school enrichment program going the same way.

Posted by Paly ad, a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm

The good news is that PAUSD is receiving around $5 million more in property tax income this year than was projected. That's on top of the ~$5 million increase above projections last year so that this years' revenue is ~$10 million above what they budgeted two years ago. Consequently, we shouldn't need to cut summer school and we have funds to keep sports programs going strong.
However, the board and the administration have not had a public discussion about these issues. As parents, we should insist on such open, transparent discussions. Do you agree?

Posted by civics lesson, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 11, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Here's the Jordan website:

Web Link

The team plays in school uniforms. Information is given out at parent night. The "cost" is listed right on the Jordan website. The district website clearly states that "Students at all grade levels can participate in a wide variety of intramural activities during and after school. We have a "no cut" policy to give all students the opportunity to participate in sports activities. After-school intramural sports teams are run in partnership with the City of Palo Alto Recreation program."

Financial aid is available but only up to a maximum of 50% of the cost and up to an overall annual maximum. Thus, paying something to play on the school team is in fact required.

All three middle schools state that they charge a cost to participate. This is blatantly illegal. The fig-leaf of city leagues does not help. If it was truly a city activity it would not be "run in partnership" with the district, would not appear on the district website as a district program, and would not wear school uniforms. The uniform's a bit of a giveaway, and by the way, you have to pay for the uniform -- it's included in the fee.

The high schools don't use the "it's a city program" fiction. They use the "it's a donation" fiction. That's also clearly a subterfuge. For example at Gunn, it's not subtle. The boy's tennis team website states: :he 1st link is the current Gunn Ticket to play Web Link All of the required information must be provided along with the required medical form, with authorized signatures, prior to participation in any practice or match. Please also include a donation for $175 made out to Gunn High School.(If you do not make the team this will be refunded). . . Please make sure to note your athlete's name and sport in the memo line at the very bottom of the page." The Gunn website says that the $175 "amount is set by the district."

At Paly, to participate in cheer costs $1000. Under the heading "Financial Commitment," it states that "Each JV and Varsity team member will be encouraged to pay a suggested donation of approximately $1,000 to cover team expenses such as uniform fees, practice attire, camp instruction and other squad expenses." Failure to pay this $1000 (meet the "financial commitment") leads to consequences. At Gunn, the handbook for cheer states that "Athletes on scholarship must attend ALL fundraising events unless notified with legitimate explanation of absence."

All of this is illegal. It's pay to play. It's not voluntary if it comes under the heading "Financial Commitment."

Someone above asked, "Isn't civics not just about rights, but about duties?" Yes. Palo Alto has the duty to follow the law.

But this is perfect Palo Alto where "Make Me" is the unofficial slogan of PAUSD.

So, when they are forced, they will do it. Sports should be funded by the district. Certainly any "sport" with a $1000 "financial commitment" is obscene and should never be allowed.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm

@Paly ad - yes, there is good revenue these days, given the boom times in the state economy and local real estate. We can't necessarily budget around the booms, of course, since when the bust comes, the cuts would be painful and it hard to find other funding sources in a hurry. In terms of PAUSD this year, it seems like the approach has been to comply with the law as it is now understood, while holding the "non-fee" funding constant, and seeing what happens.

I'm not sure if you are implying that somehow these topics are being kept from the public eye. I don't know anything about that. Certainly there could be public discussion of these topics at the board meetings or elsewhere. Perhaps you could raise it at school board meeting or write the board members to ask that it be discussed. You can even "insist" on it if you like ;-)

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2014 at 6:42 pm

@civics lesson - could you check that link to the Gunn web site? I got a "page not found" error.

You may be right about the middle schools, I'm not sure. Perhaps they should drop the school names. Looking at that Jordan web site, it does look like the program is run by the city - the Jordan "Athletic Director" listed has a city of palo alto email address, not PAUSD. But this could become the model for after school sports - loosely school centered, but not school affiliated.

I don't know anything about the Gunn cheer program but they may need to change things. Your description ($1000 per student cost) is a good example of where the voluntary donation model may fall down. If in fact the program costs $1000 per student (or more) to run, it may be challenging to run in on voluntary donations only and untenable to add it to the district budget. They would either have to decide on a cheaper program (not sure what that would entail but I'm sure it can be done) or non-school affiliated.

FWIW, in the three sports we have experience with, the donation requests have come after rosters are announced.

Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm

The Middle School sports programs have been run by the City rec department for many years. I don't think you need to even been a student at the school to participate, just the right age. And I don't think Cheer is a sport, I think its actually a club.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2014 at 7:47 pm

@palo alto parent -

Cheer/Dance certainly presents itself as a sport - the web page refers repeatedly to the "athletes" and it is listed on the Gunn web site as a fall sport. On the other hand, it is not a CIF/CCS sport. But regardless, you raise a good question about how clubs should be treated under the current rules. Can school affiliated clubs (which definitely have to meet certain district rules and gets funding via the student activity funding process) have participation fees? I'm sure this has been worked out, probably exhaustively, by others already.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2014 at 11:35 am

The restriction against charging student fees applies to all student activities whether they are curricular or extracurricular.(see below) "Schools can solicit voluntary donations of funds or property, and voluntary participation in fundraising activities" per CED Fiscal Management Advisory 12-02. Web Link

The Gunn Cheer policy requiring mandatory attendance at all fundraising events for scholarship students violates the law. The Paly Cheer Financial Form stays within the bounds. They ask for a suggested donation with acknowledgment clearly stated on the form that all families cannot afford the suggested amount. They request a donation commitment (monthly payments or lump sum) up front so that they can budget to fundraise for any shortfalls. The donation offsets the expense of uniforms $350, camp $450, Coach stipend and misc $200.

Per Ed Code Section 49010 Web Link
"A pupil fee includes, but is not
limited to, all of the following:
(1) A fee charged to a pupil as a condition for registering for
school or classes, or as a condition for participation in a class or
an extracurricular activity, regardless of whether the class or
activity is elective or compulsory, or is for credit.
(2) A security deposit, or other payment, that a pupil is required
to make to obtain a lock, locker, book, class apparatus, musical
instrument, uniform, or other materials or equipment.
(3) A purchase that a pupil is required to make to obtain
materials, supplies, equipment, or uniforms associated with an
educational activity."

Fiscal Management Advisory 12-02 Web Link
provides a list of fees that are authorized by law. The list includes fees for transportation, food, safety glasses if the child takes them home as long as free use is provided at school, materials for projects if the student takes them home (i.e. sewing, woodshop), field trips as long as no student is denied participation for lack of funds, charges for lost or damaged school property, adult ed classes, outdoor science camps as long as no student is denied access for lack of funds.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I don't think that the school district should be solely on the hook to fund athletics. For example, football jerseys are personalized --- that is something that the athlete keeps - the athlete should pay for that.

The cheer vernacular of referring to their team members as "athletes" is a trend started by the cheer community, not by the local HS athletic department. There are many (year-round) club cheer programs that compete in regional and national competitions. Competitive cheer leading is an athletic event. But cheer leading at the Paly or Gunn is a student activity, it is not part of the athletic department.

Even drum and bugle corp. competitions now refer to their participants as athletes.

It's all about trying to gain some respect for the training and effort that goes behind these types of activities.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm

On cheer, Gunn and I imagine Paly, do compete in regional / state competitions, not just appear at games. They have a coach, who I believe is hired by the school's athletic director. They fill out the "ticket to play" and I am pretty sure had to pay the participation fee (prior to this year). I'm not sure if the district pays for the coaches' stipend. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ...

But for this discussion, I don't think it makes a difference, sport or no sport. It is a school sponsored activity, and should be governed by the same rules, as far as I can tell.

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