Uploaded: Tue, May 6, 2014, 9:14 am
Principals named for Addison, Fairmeadow and Ohlone
Amanda Boyce, Grant Althouse and Louise 'Nicki' Smith will lead schools
New principals were named Monday for three Palo Alto elementary schools: Addison, Ohlone and Fairmeadow.
Taking the helm at Addison will be Amanda Boyce, who for the past two years has served as principal of Stocklmeir Elementary School in Sunnyvale. Prior to that, she was assistant principal at Stocklmeir and held other positions in the Cupertino Union School District, including principal of a special education summer school program, mentor to new teachers and "intervention teacher."
"I am honored and excited to be recommended to the board as Addison Elementary School's next principal," Boyce said. "As a mother and educator, I appreciate the district's work to ensure that academic progress is balanced with social and emotional development."
Boyce replaces Jocelyn Garcia-Thome, principal at Addison since 2010, who announced her resignation in March.
At Fairmeadow, Grant Althouse will replace Gary Prehn, a longtime Palo Alto elementary school principal who is retiring. Althouse has been assistant principal of Jordan Middle School for the past two years. Earlier, he spent eight years teaching fifth grade at Addison.
"I'm honored to serve the Fairmeadow community as principal," Althouse said. "I look forward to working alongside our students, teachers, staff and parents to embrace Fairmeadow's rich tradition of student-centered instruction, community mindedness, and social-emotional focus."
Ohlone's new principal is Louise "Nicki" Smith, who has worked as a reading specialist at Ohlone for the past three years. Smith has held a variety of teaching and leadership positions in education, including as principal of Slater Elementary School in Mountain View and Jamestown Elementary School in Arlington, Va. She has taught in the Ravenswood City School District and also was principal of a Stanford University-sponsored charter elementary school in the Ravenswood district, which closed in 2010.
"I am really excited about the opportunity to work with the Ohlone community, teachers, parents, and especially the students," Smith said.
Smith replaces retiring principal Bill Overton, who taught at Ohlone for 27 years before becoming principal in 2009.
"We are delighted to be adding these three outstanding educators to our administrative team," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.
Skelly has yet to name a replacement for Gunn High School Principal Katya Villalobos, who announced in March she plans to step down after four years of leading the school.
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Posted by Are you kidding me?,
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 9, 2014 at 2:03 pm
Anonymous attacks hurt real people -- in this case, the teachers at Fairmeadow.
* An additional 200 kids have been dropped into Fairmeadow in the past 5 years. That currently makes for 555 kids.
* The school does whatever it can to keep class sizes small with the new influx and with the district sending overflow to our campus too. We now have 4 classrooms in every grade except 4th grade --- which has FIVE.
* In any (and almost every) classroom of 24 kids, you have 2-5 kids with documented or undocumented spectrum, attention, focus disorders. Add in another 2-3 with documented or undocumented learning issues. One teacher, 24 kids, 4-8 of whom are on IEP or some other plan, or who need additional instruction but don't have resources assigned to them yet. It takes really hard work for parents to get additional resources for their kids, and very few of the kids with significant needs have the benefit of an Classroom Aide. Then add in 1-4 kids in MANY classrooms who don't speak English at all or well, or who have just walked off an airplane from somewhere in the world and have to try to figure out how to get along. Right there you could have almost half of the class who need some sort of individualized or more directed attention from a teacher.
* Add in that teachers get maybe an hour or two of Instructional Assistant time per week.
* Add in that many many teachers give up their lunch break to be a part of Fairmeadow's Noon Sports program that keeps many many kids playing cooperative team sports in a well supervised, safe environment. This program and the teachers who chose to work through lunch are a big reason why the FM playground is as safe a place as can be expected.
*Ever wondered what it must be like to be a kid of any age, trying to find a friend in a sea of 400+ kids during a 20 min recess or lunch? I hear tears about it all the time.
*Walk into almost any classroom at recess or lunch break and you'll see a teacher and a handful of kids doing any number of things. I feel so lucky that when my kids can't deal with that playground scene or when they aren't in a sport, or when they just need to be in a calmer place, they can sometimes be in the classroom, happily doing a project, helping the teacher, reading a book. Teachers don't have to do that for our kids.
*Any idea how many kids go in the library at lunch and just disappear into a book. We are so lucky to have that resource too.
*Did I mention Science Lab? On any given day that it's open, 5-6 kids (+) come directly there to happily help the teacher, investigate whatever's being studied, disappear into a book.
* Are you getting the message? 21 teachers and 550 kids, so many with special needs, learning issues, social and emotional issues, language issues -- Do you have any idea how much FM teachers give?
*Then add in that the FM community is having a different kind of challenge -- volunteer shortage. There are so many more working families trying to afford to live in Palo Alto. There are so many parents who take time off work to help out where they can, but there are also many who don't or can't or feel constrained due to language. There are many fewer stay-home parents who are trying to step in as much as they can, but there is unlimited need.
* Things that rely on parents to help to keep our kids in a sane and same environment are: library, science, art, reading, math, field trips, community events, sports, and noon activities that only happen if a parent selflessly volunteers their noontime. Also add in people needed to help with fundraisers, PTA, PiE that try to bring funding into the school to make that all happen.
* Speaking of field trips -- every grade level is seeing a growing issue of not being able to get enough parents to drive on field trips. Even the youngest grades where parents tend to be so active are struggling.
* PTA isn't falling apart because of the Principal. Those two things have nothing to do with each other. The PTA is struggling with how to do good things for the school with more and more demands for its money for things that used to be paid for with District and State money. There isn't wasteful spending. There's a lot of need. Ever try to run a volunteer organization with explosive need, the same 30ish volunteers, 200 more kids, many many many fewer active parents? Give it a try and then judge away.
* Ever try to run a volunteer organization that relies on incoming parents stepping up, and finding that they just aren't? This isn't just for PTA, mind you, but all over school where help is needed. How do you reach people who aren't on campus, don't get involved, don't read email? How do you overcome the language barriers so that those who have recently moved here can feel welcome and get involved? There is so much goodwill out there and so many barriers on all sides that make running a volunteer organization like PTA a bit of a brain teaser.
* If I have one ding for anything it's communication and transparency. The lack of those are behind parents' unhappiness re student government, activities, yearbook, open house, etc. Many of those rely on parent volunteers and teacher support. Teachers shouldn't have to step up for something that's extra curricular when it's not that important to even a few parents. Parents need to step up and chip in. Some do. Many don't. We can't ding the teachers for that.
* There are a few issues like Open House where rumors make it around the campus -- old guard vs. new, do more/do less, power struggles, etc. When long-standing traditions are changed silently and parents aren't alerted or in the loop over what the issues are, they feel slammed. The Science Fair/Open House tradition that parents and kids alike count on for so many reasons disappeared without notice and without explanation. Maybe there are valid reasons but parents mostly feel shut out and sad that they don't get a glimpse into their kids world unless their teachers selflessly gave up a night (their family time!) to run their own open house. Kids feel disappointed that they don't get to host their parents, proudly showing them their work. While I can see how the "shopping" aspect of Open House might be difficult for teachers, parents and kids truly benefited touring "next years" grade level classrooms. It was a huge help to calm end of the year stress. If parents had any idea as to why some teachers voted open house away, (or other such big changes in long-standing traditions) maybe there would be less grumbling.
* Maybe there's a different, more simple way these things could be done that would still meet people's needs? Teachers and parents alike should look at things with new lenses to see if things have gotten too complicated. Would making it simpler allow them to keep important events going?
* I have a huge amount of respect for teachers and parents at FM. I have a huge amount of respect for kids at FM who are dealing with all of these challenges every day.
I welcome Mr. Althouse and his new ideas. Three years ago many of us were nervous about losing Mr. Goddard, who by the way was promoted to Administration. Mr. Prehn instituted noon sports and has helped make FM a better place because of it, among other things. Without a doubt Mr. Althouse will have a learning curve but I'm sure he will also bring new energy and perspective. My biggest hope is that he'll help us come together as a community of people from all over the world, that he'll help the teachers unite under the strain of a school that is stretched so thin. Word on the campus is extremely positive about him and the future of FM.
Last and most important -- quit complaining and put your money where your mouth is. Want to see a difference in teachers and classrooms? Donate to PiE (Web Link) Classroom assistants, Art and Science teachers and others are paid for from this fund. Donate to PTA so it can fund more programs and materials that keep kids safe, busy and happy on such a crowded campus and to help teachers handle the many competing needs in their classrooms. I come down to this -- "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem." (Eldridge Cleaver)
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