Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - October 5, 2012

Tight school board race sparks lively discussion

What's the right balance between central management and 'site-based decision-making?'

by Chris Kenrick

A competitive race for Palo Alto Board of Education has stirred spirited discussion this fall, unlike the last school board race in 2010, when two incumbents ran unopposed.

A major issue that's emerged is the proper balance between centralized rule-making and school-based decision-making the latter a long-dominant culture holding that authority and accountability should stay as close to the classroom as possible.

Most urgently, that concern has arisen with respect to high school guidance counseling an area in which Palo Alto's two high schools dramatically differ in the way they deliver services.

One candidate, software engineer Ken Dauber, has argued that, by this fall, Gunn High School should have adopted what he says is a clearly superior counseling model used at Palo Alto High School, which uses 40 "teacher-advisers" to augment a small counseling staff.

The other three candidates say they're willing to allow time for an internal Gunn committee to recommend reforms to its traditional counseling system which in the past has not used teacher-advisers so long as students at both high schools get "comparable services."

Principals from both Gunn and Paly are due to present progress reports on their counseling systems to the Board of Education next Tuesday, Oct. 9. Board members have said they'd like to see a new system launched at Gunn by next fall in which students would have contact with more adults.

Four candidates are competing in the Nov. 6 election for three available spots on the board.

Besides Dauber, they include another challenger, parent educator Heidi Emberling, as well as incumbents Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend.

The high-performing K-12 Palo Alto school district, with an enrollment of 12,268, is in the midst of a $378 million facilities-bond-construction program to modernize and expand its 17 campuses to keep pace with rising enrollment.

District officials are currently searching for a location to open a fourth middle school, and there's general agreement that a 13th elementary school will be needed in the next five years, assuming enrollment trends continue.

The district also is in the midst of negotiating with the City of Palo Alto over the fate of the district-owned Cubberley High School campus, which closed in 1979 due to declining enrollment and has operated as a community center under long-term lease with the city.

All candidates cite facilities decisions as one of the top concerns for the board, and there is no clear disagreement among them on that issue.

But Dauber has been more critical of the district than Emberling, saying greater sophistication with data could have yielded more certainty about enrollment projections and that shortage of good data means the district has failed to "engage in a full partnership with the city over Cubberley."

Following a devastating string of Palo Alto student deaths by suicide in 2009 and 2010, the district adopted programs to boost the social-emotional health of students, including use of the wellness framework Developmental Assets, participation in the community coalition Project Safety Net and individual school initiatives to increase "student connectedness."

Dauber was an early critic of the pace of change, calling last year for the board to replace Superintendent Kevin Skelly who, Dauber argued, was not squarely addressing issues of academic stress that he believes can contribute to suicide.

Dauber and members of a group he co-founded, We Can Do Better Palo Alto, began lobbying the board for greater attention to homework loads and test scheduling as well as for a change in the academic calendar so that the first semester ends before the December holidays.

The long-debated calendar shift with emotional voices on both sides was approved in a 3-2 board vote last year, with both Caswell and Townsend opposing the change.

While Dauber considers the new calendar a positive step in relieving student stress, Emberling is critical of the district's handling of the decision process, saying the board should have better explained why it was considering the controversial change. She says the potential negative effects of the new calendar should be carefully measured.

Following recommendations of 24-member parent-teacher Homework Committee this past May, the district adopted a new homework policy, outlining specific amounts of time kids should be spending on homework.

Implementation of the new homework policy is among the district's top-priority goals for this school year.

Dauber, who served on the Homework Committee, said he was pleased with the result but believes the district has not moved quickly enough on another stress-point lack of coordination on the scheduling of tests and project deadlines.

He has called on the district to require teachers immediately to begin using the technology tool Schoology to post assignments and deadlines.

Disagreement over the proper pace of Schoology implementation again goes to the balance between central management and site-based decision-making, with the other candidates arguing that top-down orders are less likely to stick in the long run.

"I love online resources, and you do need some push from the top to make things happen," Townsend said.

"At the same time, it's got to be respectful," she said.

"We've asked teachers to implement various technologies that did not work well in the past, so you want to make sure your technology works and you offer a lot of training before you ask everybody to adopt it."

In a recent candidates' forum, Townsend, Caswell and Emberling said they like what they've seen of Schoology but that implementation would have more staying power if teachers are given time for training and allowed to grow the program from the bottom.

Dauber disagreed.

"If we have something that can produce benefit for students ... we should be requiring our schools to do the right thing and adopt the practice system-wide," he said.

The idea of "site-based decision-making" was endorsed in Palo Alto following a 1992 parent-teacher task force on the subject.

Even before that, Palo Alto schools had a long history of deferring to principals on many decisions a practice common among affluent, suburban districts, according to former Palo Alto Superintendent Jim Brown, who convened the 1992 Task Force on Site based Decision-Making.

"It's not unique to Palo Alto," said Brown, who was a superintendent in five California districts over 26 years and now works as a consultant.

"The idea is you'll get a better school system if you allow this degree of autonomy. It's a more empowering culture, and you're more likely to encourage innovation and creativity."

But Dauber says it's time to realize site-based decision-making has gone too far.

"We've emphasized site-based control at the expense of the idea that every child has a right to equal access to services," he said.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 8:53 am

Thank you for this very informative article about the school board candidates. It is very helpful to know where they all stand on some of the important topics.

I think it is important to note that the calendar change is only a two year pilot and we haven't even finished a semester yet, so it will be hard to evaluate that change before the election. There is no reason to think that this pilot scheme will automatically continue without plenty more discussion.

It would be interesting to show the community what schoology is to those who have not experienced it first hand. For me as a parent, I find that since I have experience with facebook and it is setup so similar to facebook that it is easy for someone who knows facebook to learn, that special training is not a big deal for teachers. It is much simpler to use than InClass and has a different purpose than Infinite Campus. For these reasons, the implementation of this at all our middle and high schools is not as difficult a procedure as some may expect it to be.


Posted by Disappointed, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 9:05 am

I was very disappointed at the League of Women Voters forum, specifically Ms Emberling refused to answer how she would vote on the calendar issue. This is critical, as it is slated to come up again in 2 years. Instead, we got a 3 minute lecture on the process, and a complete dodge of the question.

Can we get a little less politician response to question. How about giving us an answer?


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 9:10 am

The answer was "that we need more data" before making the decision. It is the correct response to an unknown.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 9:12 am

Disappointed, thank you for your comment.

You are confirming my suspicion that although Emberling is a very bright individual and her experience with preschoolers and elementary school is valuable for school board candidacy, her experience with our high schools is very limited in part due to the age of her children. I think we need parental experience at all levels of PAUSD for a well rounded school board member.

The calendar issue for elementary families is very different for those with a high schooler. I fear that she realises this and is reluctant to comment, but she will need to vote on this if she is elected so her views are extremely interesting but her vote is more important.


Posted by No-Answer-No-Vote, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 9:13 am

> specifically Ms Emberling refused to answer how she
> would vote on the calendar issue.

It's a candidate's right to refuse to answer any question during a campaign, and it's a voter's right to refuse to vote for such a candidate.

That's what elections are all about. Frustrating at times, yes--but that's the way it is.


Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:15 am

Perusing the online town square forums under "kids and schools" I found a newly posted guest opinion by Barbara Klausner called "What to Look for in a School Board Candidate". It can be accessed here Web Link I am sorry to see Barbara Klausner go but believe that she sheds lots of light on what should be important to parents and all voters in this election. I know who I am voting for based on what I witnessed at the forum. Barbara does not specifically endorse any candidate in her opinion but based on reading the websites of the candidates and my forum attendance it is clear who may be getting her vote. It is time for our PAUSD to implement best practices in all of our schools. I don't want any Gunn students to have to wait for years for the wheels to spin into action. We have best practices that have been demonstrated over many years to use as models. Thanks to Ken for his willingness to step up and call for changes that can't help but improve the well being of ALL our students in PAUSD. I was happy to hear that Ken and Dr. Skelly have met at Starbucks to discuss data that you have researched (revealed by Ken as part of a forum answer at LWV forum). I know that he must value your expertise in this area!


Posted by We need fresh blood, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:31 am

I too have been concerned about Ms. Emberling's vague answers. But between re-electing someone without the good sense to bow out gracefully after 9 years, and someone who will grow on the job, I'll take the newbie. I'm not sure I can take another four years listening to Camille prattle on without saying anything. We have plenty of experience on the board - it's time to thank Camille for her service and retire her.


Posted by Cathy, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:48 am

I have to take issue with Parent over their comment that parental experience at all school levels is required for a rounded board member. Particularly when it came to discussions around the calendar issue, it felt that, because the existing board members all had more recent high school experience, the views and particular issues relating to elementary school parents were discounted or overlooked. I for one would welcome a board member who would ensure that the opinions of nearly half of the PAUSD school community are fully considered at the school board level.


Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Just to clarify my last comment, candidate Ken Dauber mentioned that Dr. Skelly requested a Starbucks meeting with him to discuss data Ken had researched and analyzed.


Posted by Hays mom, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Dauber says we should be "requiring" our schools to implement tools or certain policies.

I find his words hitting hard during this anti-bullying month of October. The definition of a bully: v. to hurt, intimidate, or persecute (a weaker or smaller person), esp to make him do something

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Cathy, Thank you for your comments. I tend to think that there are two ways of looking at this experience. I would be just as concerned about a candidate who moved into the disctrict with kids who were secondary school age and had never experienced PA elementary schools. I think that the sum total of experience at all 3 levels (and even preschool levels) make a well rounded candidate. I also don't think there should be any divide on elementary v high school when it comes to important issues. After all, all high school parents have had elementary age children and all elementary parents will become high school parents in due course. There are of course also a large number of families that will experience 2 if not all 3 levels of schools at the same time.

As far as site based decision making, the examples given have been connected with high school issues, technology based (schoology) and guidance. I would like to mention an elementary example of this.

Palo Verde has for many, many years, through several principals, practised a two tier start and dismissal for grades 1 thru 3 for four days each week. This is known in the school community as early readers and late readers as it historically was designed to help teachers to give them smaller groups in the classroom both at the start of the day and the end of the day. The late readers typically start their day approximately 50 minutes later than the early readers and end approximately 50 minuters later than the earlies. It means that the 1 - 3 grade teachers are in the classroom the same length of time as the 4 - 5 grade teachers, but the students still have less time. This system probably helps with traffic, but must be a good system for some families and a bad system with others as they have to adjust kids' schedules, childcare, etc. accordingly. However since the practice has been going on for a long time, it is probably deemed worthwhile.

As far as I know, no other PAUSD elementary school has decided to copy this system. At the same time, no other school seems to criticize this as being a bad system. I have no idea if some or all of the present board members or even all the candidates are aware this exists. It never seems to be brought up in any discussion comparing elementary schools that I have been aware of.

This creative idea shows that there are positives to school based decision making. I think we have to be careful about how much we should prevent this happening. Obviously there are differences between having 2 high schools where we expect similar results, and many elementary schools where the differences are not so striking (not taking into account the choice programs).

I am not completely sure who I think will make the best candidates, I am still weighing the pros and cons of all. But this discussion is helpful.


Posted by Hays mom, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Parent - what are your views on candidates who have (or have had) children in private schools along the way?


Posted by We need fresh blood, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm

@Hays mom - by your definition, every boss who tells their employee to do something is a bully. Every law is by definition a bullying law because it requires us to do something. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] It's the board's job to direct and require when necessary. It's called policy-making.


Posted by Sickening, a resident of Nixon School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Can't you please stick to the issues without calling someone a bully? You know exactly how loaded that term is and frankly it is just pathetic that you can't go five minutes without making some ridiculous charge. Because Ken has the totally sane proposal to reexamine site based control he's a bully? Maybe people who post anonymous insults are the bullies? Ya think? According to you Barb Klausner is a bully because she says the exact same thing. Just stick to the issues. Whenever people like you start posting the editor shuts down the forum. I want the forum! Please shut up and go away before we all lose the benefit of the discussion.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Site based control can also be viewed as an equity issue. For example, Gunn has an Engineering program and Paly does not. Paly has a great Journalism program, Gunn's is much less extensive. Middle schools teach writing pretty much any way the teacher wants (but that is being worked on). Elementary science programs vary from school to school from the Ohlone Farm to some schools having the Junior Museum host programs to a dedicated science teacher (and classroom) at Escondido.

While some site-based decision making is appropriate - especially at the elementary level where the school population and ESL needs for example can vary greatly) we need to ensure that all of the students are receiving an equal education. Sharing best practices more consistently and more decision making at the District not the school level.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I agree that site based control is a fairness issue. Dauber is right that "We've emphasized site-based control at the expense of the idea that every child has a right to equal access to services," and so is Barbara Klausner when she's saying the same thing. It's no shock to me that both have had kids at Gunn. I didn't even know that Paly has a different guidance system than Gunn until I read about it in the paper this year, and I have a sophomore at Gunn and a 7th grader at Terman. My son has is first appointment with a counselor next week, since he's been in high school!

While at Paly students are meeting with their TAs many times a year, and getting information about signing up for classes, getting ready for college, etc. Why is my son not getting any of that because we live in Barron Park? He needs it just as much and I pay the same taxes. It's fine with me to leave it up to the school to decide when to schedule the assembly, but if you're going to give me something a lot worse I'm not OK with that. I want someone on the school board who is going to fix this. I think this is an equity issue, and I don't really understand why this is even an issue.


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Site-based vs. PAUSD Policy:
The purpose of site-based decision making is to allow a reasonable amount of innovation and variety at the local level. It's not a mechanism for allowing a site to veto proven, sane solutions. And it shouldn't be simply to give people time to find the right decision themselves. Doctors have to observe standards because certain treatments have been shown to be better than others. This doesn't mean that we don't value doctors. But they need to be responsible and follow best practices (using sterilized needles). Teachers should have to do the same. So Schoology and Teacher Advisory should be mandated by the Board. That's leadership.

Maybe that in this respect, we should get off our high horses and emulate the less affluent school districts.

Also, just because you don't like someone's view, doesn't mean you get away with calling them a bully. Stick to the issues and debate them, rather than resorting to desperate tactics like petty name-calling.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Hays Mom, good question I had to think about a bit.

As to whether a candidate has had a child or children spend part of their time in private school, I tend to think that as long as they have had at least one child in each level it helps to make them more rounded. If they have decided to take one of several children out and put them into private schools it probably adds to the roundedness. My thinking on this is twofold. Firstly, there had to be a good reason for doing this and that means that they understand the school and the suitability of that particular school for that particular child. Additionally, it gives them a different perspective as they have experience of the private schools and can see which of the benefits of private school could be adapted for public school.

My thoughts are that all experience is beneficial to making any of us more rounded individuals. I also think we should be looking on making sure that the board itself is well rounded and that we have many different types of individuals to add to the sum total of the board, although I like the idea of the generalization of having experienced at least once all levels of PAUSD schools.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 1:52 pm

@determinant:
You state:
The answer was "that we need more data" before making the decision. It is the correct response to an unknown.

The question is whether that should have been known to someone running for School Board.


Posted by Hays mom, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm

If I thought everyone was a bully who shared a different view than my own then I probably wouldn't have many friends. My reason for the post is not based on our views differing. It's on his behavior and actions to this point. I hope that if he is elected, that will change.


Posted by Cathy, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm

We attended the Walter Hays forum and were struck by how little Ken Dauber had to say on specific elementary school issues. His focus seems to be entirely on the high school experience and because of this he has lost our vote. The argument that we, as elementary school parents, will feel differently once our kids reach middle and high school is totally irrelevant and frankly patronizing. Yes, our kids will be in high school at some point but at the moment our issues concern where our kids are today. For example, whoever determined that the school year should start on a thursday was not thinking of its impact on elementary school families, particularly working families. The calendar issue is of huge importance to the elementary school community and many of us feel betrayed by a board that so completely disregarded our opinions.


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm

David, in the forum I was at Heidi stated that she wanted to see additional survey results on the current change. That felt like a totally reasonable response. "We've made the change, let's measure the effectiveness. If it's improving things, continue with it. If it's not working, change it".

"[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]"
That was a weird removal. I guess obliqueness get's removed.
The schools are different. Parents move to north or south Palo Alto because they prefer what each school offers, as well as the make up and culture of the school.
Equality doesn't mean the same. In this case it simply means having the same value. In the case of counselling at Gunn, this is what the board has requested.
Forcing every school to do exactly the same thing is a huge step backwards.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 3:08 pm

"Dauber says we should be "requiring" our schools to implement tools or certain policies."

Unfortunately, I am not surprised by this statement. I regret having to say so, but Mr. Dauber, who has been very vocal regarding school issues for a few years now, does not strike me as a consensus builder. When his group wants something, they tend to come and ask for it, and if they don't get it, they try and try again, sometimes very noisily. Nothing illegal with this, but, in my opinion, they have just been wearing the school board members down until the school board finally gives in on the issue at hand and gives that group what they ask for, in spite of opposition by other parents. This may be perfectly legal, and some people may like this style of behavior. I know I don't. I like people who are able to build consensus, who are able to compromise and who can accept that things won't necessarily always go their way. I will vote for someone who fits this bill.


Posted by We need fresh blood, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 5, 2012 at 4:06 pm

@anonymous - You should check with the members of the Homework Advisory Committee before deciding about Dauber's ability to build a consensus. That committee came together to offer unanimous recommendations to the board despite starting in different places. Members have praised Dauber for his role in helping build that consensus. People's actual experiences should weigh more heavily than supposition when coming to conclusions about important decisions like this one.


Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 4:22 pm

@anonymous: Sometimes it is necessary to continue to advocate for something because it is just plain "right" even though it may not seem "fair". I for one don't like the fact that Gunn students are forced to have counselors that have such a heavy load that they can't see their students at reasonable intervals. When it comes to any area where improving our student's social/emotional health, we need to make sure that our students have those improvements (in this case the teacher advisory system). I am glad that there is a parent committee out there who refuses to roll over and say, "Okay, let's just continue with the same old same old" and forget about all the evidence out there that TA works in fact, excels in promoting positive outcomes for the students.. Sometimes persistence is necessary. I believe that the changes that have been suggested or are being suggested are all in the best interests of our kids. I am glad that my student can have a stress free winter break and while I can sympathize with those parents who are up in arms about the calendar change all I can say is, "Get over it!" It is time for us to use all of the tools at our disposal in alleviating pressure on our kids. I think that the majority of the school board voted to implement the calendar change because they were willing to agree that maybe, just maybe, improving the quality of our students down time is critical to their overall health and well being. Is this about inconvenience for parents or better all around outcomes for our precious students? Come on now, don't we all want the best outcomes for all of our students? I am grateful that there is a parent group out there that had the desire to do the hard work involved in coming up with better solutions based on solid data. Hey, if we could get over the site-based-control-or-else thing we could benefit by having the Paly TA system or something similar but with a Gunn twist very soon. This would be such great news for our studens. Our kids have waited long enough and they deserve more. I am looking forward to hearing what the Gunn staff will be presenting to the board very soon.


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Amazing, this insistence, that TA is the only solution for Gunn.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm

> But Dauber [said] greater sophistication with data could
> have yielded more certainty about enrollment projections

Lapkoff & Gobalet Demographic Research, Inc. has been the District's demographer for a long time. Is Ken Dauber saying that their work is shoddy? Is he saying that he would see that another demographer should be engaged by the District? What kinds of "sophistication" is Dauber taking about. Does he plan to provide a series of white papers that provide a clear analysis of the problems of this vendor's work, with a precise plan that will provide much better enrollment projects than the District is getting now?

> and that shortage of good data means the district has
> failed to "engage in a full partnership
> with the city over Cubberley."

And just what data is Dauber talking about here? Enrollment projection data, or some other kinds of data. For someone who seems critical of the District's lack of "sophistication", should Dauber be very precise in his claims—from here on out?

Just pointing a finger isn't good enough, time to put up or shut up.


Posted by Disappointed, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Heidi may or may not have high school kids. I don't care. What I care about is that the school board candidates take a few minutes to LEARN THE ISSUES.

This is not a past issue that is behind us. This is not some irrelevant philosophical issues for pondering. This is an issue right in front of us, that has high community involvement, and will be voted on again soon. It is not unreasonable to expect a candidate to tell us her opinion.

It is not like this issue is secret, or there is not sufficient data - for god sakes, read a paper, look at the school board meetings. If she has no opinion, she is either uninformed, or unwilling to express it. Either is unacceptable.

Her complete unwillingness to offer how she would have voted when the question was: "how would you vote?" seems like a dodge.

I get to vote, so I will. Heidi get's a "NO" until she can study an issue and form an opinion.

We don't need any more slippery politicians.


Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm

@determinant: If you have a better solution and can bring that to the Board and Gunn (don't know if you are a parent in the district), more power to you! I don't see any point in reinventing wheels but maybe there is something better out there that you can bring to the table. I am all ears as I am very anxious for all of our students to benefit from your ideas. Please........over to you. I have found that many of the people who object haven't even looked at other counseling system in depth. If you have, please the results of your research! :-)


Posted by Bailey, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I have serious concerns about the behavior of Ken Dauber over the past few years. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] When he was losing the debate in his attempt to water down the high school graduation requirements, he brought up the fact that the Tinsley kids weren't performing as well, and that the board should be ashamed. That was a subtle attempt to make it seem as if the board were discriminating based on race. The board didn't want to be accused of that, and agreed to create a separate set of graduation requirements for kids who couldn't meet the stronger standards the board wanted.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I realize the Weekly likes Ken because he favors the idea of reducing stress by watering down academics, but Ken's behavior disqualifies him for consideration for school board.


Posted by Lies and the lying liars who tell them, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 5, 2012 at 6:40 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 5, 2012 at 6:55 pm

@Lies and the lying liars who tell them: I did notice that the Weekly cut the horns off the top of Ken's head on the banner ad (probably so that nobody could substantiate the rumors). I am really concerned with the last comment that Bailey made because that is not at all like the Ken I have witnessed. Please do not lie about Ken. Too many of us who have witnessed him in action and know what he stands for can call you on all of this. Thank you. It doesn't pay to put a pack of lies up in this forum or anywhere else (let Romney do that!).


Posted by Issues, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Stick to the issues and the truth.


Posted by frustrated mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

We have good candidates, but at this time, I believe that Ken is the candidate to vote for. He has so much experiences in both private and public school. Just like I do. There are many ideas that can be taken from private and put into action on the public school. One example of this is the school lunches are so tasteless and unhealthy. Go to private schools and see how they serve food that it is prepared right there in the cafeteria. With Ken changes like food improvement will happen, and may others in the benefit of our students. if he does win, we will continue with the same old story, and our children will keep stressing out, having unequal quality of counseling at the high schools. Also Ken has been a parent who has had different kinds of experiences as a parent as every child is unique, and that experience can be very helpful to take school decisions on behalf or district students and parents. I wish you would get to really know him who he is both as a parent, husband and as a volunteer. He has so much to offer. It is time to make a change. People we have to move forward to improve our schools. We lost too many kids already, and others are suffering in silence or in hospitals due to stress and bullying. Yes, Ken might come strong at times, but I think that will be a quality that will help him when taking decisions that will benefit our kids. Give him a chance. Our kids deserve it.


Posted by Rajiv Bhateja, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 6, 2012 at 9:52 am

Rajiv Bhateja is a registered user.

@determinant:
>> "Amazing, this insistence, that TA is the only solution for Gunn."

Not the only solution but the best for which we have data.

FAR more amazing IMHO: the ludicrous resistance to TA!


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm

determinant is a registered user.

Rajiv, the best data says that Paly Students consider Advisory to be a complete waste of time. The best data says that Paly Students wouldn't recommend going to a TA if they were struggling with a personal issue. The best data says that Paly Students themselves wouldn't go to a TA with a personal issue.
More concerning, the besta data that says the most serious problems Paly and Gunn students are facing is the pressure the students feel from parents, peers and to get into a "good" college.
Now...tell me again, why the focus on TA? This is a classic case of focusing on the solution instead of the problem.


Posted by I VOTE FOR HEIDI, HERE\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm

I VOTE FOR HEIDI, HERE\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ is a registered user.

I will be casting my vote for Heidi Emberling. I am encouraging others to do the same!

I have never in my life expressed a public opinion about any political election. I have never put a sign on my lawn. I have never hosted any fundraising or candidate promoting events. This year, I am doing ALL OF THESE THINGS.

Heidi is running for the school board because she can make a difference for the families in our district, for the students in our district, and for the teachers in our district. We must all support each other as we grow our kids into educated, engaged, life-long learners. We want our kids to become the next generation of leaders, great thinkers, and innovators. She feels that for those for whom the word "barrier" is an exciting challenge, it is not a closed door.

I met Heidi when my now 3rd grader was 2 years old. I had only recently left a very intense and rigorous career with high-ranking positions. I was still in the mode of 'performance, talent, productivity, insight and effectiveness.' I found Heidi to be all of these things as well as intuitive, articulate and committed. This was a combination that created a powerful learning environment for me, a profound sense of support and leadership from Heidi to me, and the knowledge that allowed me, a discerning person to say the very least, to trust her wisdom, approach and content.

When I learned that Heidi would be running for school board earlier this year, I had one thought. PALO ALTO is lucky to have such a top notch professional WILLING to take on the challenge of making a great school district even better. She will do this by her extraordinary ability to listen, observe, to ask very difficult questions and persevere until she gets the answers she needs. She will guide with her knowledge and experience. She will fight for what children, schools, families and our community need to put our children in the best position to succeed in life. This will be a combination of not only academics, but guidance, social / emotional wellness, engaged families, wise administrators and the best of curriculum development in the nation and the world.

This is who Heidi is. She does all of this because of her keen mind, her commitment to excellence (from herself and on behalf of others) and her tireless and calm energy, her integrity and her GRIT. Heidi's style is not one of inflammatory comments. Not one of sound bites. Not one of arguing. Does this make her ineffective? Not at all! This makes her respectable, determined, collaborative (without be compromising), purpose driven and unrelenting in her desire to do what is best.

Look only at the endorsements she has from a veritable who's who of politicians, professionals, and parents to see that those who have WORKED WITH HER have successes and triumphs as wells as respect and confidence in what she could bring to the job of the PAUSD School Board.

www.heidiemberling.com



Posted by iSez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 7, 2012 at 12:53 am

iSez is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Rajiv Bhateja, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Rajiv Bhateja is a registered user.

@determinant:

All teenagers likely regard any type of counseling as a waste of time. They probably regard conversations with their parents the same way. So I do not associate any value with that position.

Also, regarding your statement:
"More concerning, the besta [sic] data that says the most serious problems Paly and Gunn students are facing is the pressure the students feel from parents, peers and to get into a "good" college."

Is this just another opinion or is there support for it?

Here's hard data:

In gross terms, there are 125 measures on which Gunn and Paly can be directly compared. For 95 of these measures (76%), Paly students are 5 or more percentage points more satisfied than Gunn students. For 6 of these measures (5%), Gunn students are 5 or more percentage points more satisfied than Paly students.

QED


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm

determinant is a registered user.

Or you could just look at the survey results instead of taking someone's word fit it: Web Link
I've always wanted to know - Why is the 5% points statistically significant? No one seems to be able to answer it.


Posted by Spencer, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Spencer is a registered user.

That this passes for a qualified discussion amazes me. Please, keep gossiping about my education like twelve-year-olds, adults of Palo Alto.


Posted by PalyStudent, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm

PalyStudent is a registered user.

@determinant

I am a Paly senior, and I disagree. Advisory, especially by junior and senior year, is helpful in organizing information the school year as well as the college process. That being said, most Paly students would not go to a TA with a personal problem (but definitely would go to guidance counselors). However, in advisory, we talk a lot about hotlines and resources to consult for personal problems, so while the TA themselves aren't the fixers of problems, they provide help. Personally, I wouldn't go to my TA with a personal issue, but if I were referred to mine, I would have no problem talking to my TA about personal issues.

On your final point, about being accepted to a "good" college. I would not be anywhere near as confident as I currently am about the college process without my TA and the advisory system. We've been given countless helpful information sheets, had deadlines and the entire process explained to us clearly and helpfully and been given copious amounts of support. I agree, 99% of my stress comes from college pressure. But School Board candidates won't change the fact that we live in Silicon Valley and are surrounded by highly successful people and an environment that going to Stanford/Harvard/Northwestern is necessary to succeed. However, they can provide more help to students to make the college process as stress free as possible. The TA system is the way to go.

I'm currently writing this from tonight's School Board Forum, and I will say that Ken Dauber is the only candidate that has impressed me. He's the only one serious about quitting dilly-dallying and getting down to business to solve issues. On the subject of Schoology, the mandate is the only way to change things. I'm one of the editor-in-chief of Paly's newspaper, and personally wrote an editorial critiquing the district's failure to fix the underlying issues of online softwares. However, I also believe that Schoology is a vast improvement to old systems, and there's no way it would have been implemented without the district wide mandate. I've talked to several of my teacher's who have stated that it was not very difficult to change to the new system, and having all teachers on one site is a big help to students. The mandate is the way to go.


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm

determinant is a registered user.

@PalyStudent

Individual experiences are all well and good. That's the point of open-ended questions at the end of surveys.

Now let's look at the actual data. The #1 problem raised by Paly Students in the recent survey was "I feel anxiety about getting into the colleges that I want to go to". To put numbers to this, out of 1348 responses:

Strongly Agree (428)

Agree (524)

Neither Agree nor Disagree (253)

Disagree (109)

Strongly Disagree (34).

I guess you must be one of the 34 Paly students who don't have anxiety about getting into a good college. That's great for you but you're in a very exclusive minority out of 1348 responses.

The bottom line is that TA is failing Paly students with their #1 issue. TA, if implemented at Gunn, will also fail Gunn students with their #1 issue.


Posted by another parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm

another parent is a registered user.

We need fresh blood - "You should check with the members of the Homework Advisory Committee before deciding about Dauber's ability to build a consensus. That committee came together to offer unanimous recommendations to the board despite starting in different places. Members have praised Dauber for his role in helping build that consensus. People's actual experiences should weigh more heavily than supposition when coming to conclusions about important decisions like this one."

I must say that I was a member of the Homework Advisory Committee and I completely disagree with your statement saying Dauber built consensus. While Dauber certainly presented interesting views, some of which I agreed with, the recommendations from the committee were not unanimous. The entire process was constructive and enlightening for all participants due to excellent leadership by Charles Young. It would be great to continue the conversation to ensure buy-in from all the stakeholders so that improvements are made. However, there were some significant additions to the regulations that were strong-armed in by Dauber and his group during the last few meetings (which were not regularly scheduled meetings and did not have 100% attendance as a result) that did not have unanimous support among teachers OR parents.


Posted by PalyStudent, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 11, 2012 at 5:55 pm

PalyStudent is a registered user.

@determinant

I would actually place myself in the "strongly agree" category. And the TA system has helped me and my peers an incredible amount in the process, minimizing a lot of the stress around the college process. The TA's are focused mainly on the college process and are incredibly helpful to students. The system isn't failing students, it's undoubtedly a success.


Posted by Nadine Gordimer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Nadine Gordimer is a registered user.

@ another parent
I served on the homework advisory committee and attended the last meeting where the vote was 100% thumbs up for the new Homework Board Policy. Dr. Young did an exemplary job chairing the meetings; insuring that the discussions were respectful and that ALL voices were heard. I did not see any evidence of strong arming and also don't know who you refer to in your statement about "Dauber and his group". I agreed with Dauber so I guess I am part of his group along with everyone else who attended the last meeting and voted in favor of the new policy.


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 12, 2012 at 8:59 am

determinant is a registered user.

@PalyStudent
In the space of two posts you've managed to contradict yourself.
Now, lets analyze your comment on advisory. You say that "Advisory, especially by junior and senior year, is helpful in organizing information the school year as well as the college process". So, lets take a look at the data.
"Advisory is a valuable use of my times" comes in at #9 in the list of issues. Putting numbers to this, out of 1389 responses only 34% would agree with you. TAs are doing much better here than on the previous question where only 10% would agree with you.
Simply looking at the data and your answers, you are certainly in a minority that considers TA to be working at Gunn.


Posted by PalyStudent, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 13, 2012 at 11:35 am

PalyStudent is a registered user.

@determinant

I think you are mistaken as to what "contradict" means. In both posts I supported the TA system.

I think that data isn't as specific as it should be. As a freshmen or sophomore, I would have considered advisory a waste too. But by second semester of junior year, advisory became a valuable asset. Advisory has been great in the college process, however, a lot of the school has yet to go through that process, and hence hasn't felt the great effects of advisory. If that poll were recalibrated to just juniors and seniors, I would be surprised if students felt the same way.

Now, this brings up two points. First, advisory is a big waste of time for underclassmen, right? Only a little bit. Freshman year, a lot of advisory is devoted to acclimating students to high school. It's boring, but helps. Both freshmen and sophomore year, advisory talks a lot about mental health. Once again, most students are bored by the topic and feel it doesn't apply to them, but it does help students in need. Advisory is unpopular with underclassmen, but serves a purpose that is critical. I bet "math class is a valuable use of my times" would poll way under 34%, but it's not the place of education to teach what is popular, but to teach what is necessary.

Secondly, according to the data you cited, isn't the college process what most students are stressed about? And if the main positive point of the TA system is that it helps students be less overwhelmed by the college process, isn't it a good thing that the #1 source of stress for students is being treated as the #1 most important issue in advisory?


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 16, 2012 at 10:53 am

determinant is a registered user.

This is a necro thread so don't expect any response.

@PalyStudent

Try reading your posts again. Your support of TAs in the face of contradictory responses is indicative of your bias.

"If that poll were recalibrated to just juniors and seniors, I would be surprised if students felt the same way."

Ok, let's look at the data breakdown as you suggest:

9th: 32%
10th: 37%
11th: 38%
12th: 32%

So, surprised yet? Again the data doesn't back up your assumptions. Across the board, Advisory is considered a waste of time.

It's unfortunate that you're so blindly supporting a system that is failing the majority of its students. You should make your decisions based on the actual data and not on how well you get on with your particular TA before attempting to thrust it on another school.


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