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Emails reveal internal school discussions

Original post made on Jun 8, 2012

Palo Alto school-district superintendent Kevin Skelly has made a practice of communicating with school board members via email about district issues, sometimes polling them on their views and communicating his policy preferences, according to dozens of emails obtained by the Palo Alto Weekly through a Public Records Act request.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 8, 2012, 8:47 AM

Comments (122)

Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:03 am

Whether I agree or not with the individual opinions of these hard working and well meaning people, I'm very angry that their work, which is already very complex and demanding, is being placed under a microscope like this, and the community encouraged to pick them apart. Since they are doing nothing wrong, the picking will be motivated by the individual agenda of the pickers and not by any need to right wrongs. This will prevent their getting meaningful work done for years to come. Thank you to all concerned for continuing to squander the time and limited resources of our district. Many of us will certainly contribute less since we can see our efforts going to waste.


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:07 am

The result of this request will be interesting:

"All communications with PAUSD staff sent between May 1 and 22 that mention Ken Dauber, Michele Dauber, or any other members of We Can Do Better Palo Alto identified as such."

I suspect future communication will be in-person or via telephone.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:08 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Since they are doing nothing wrong,"

They are violating the law - plain and simple.


There is NO question that "polling them on their views" is a violation of the Brown Act.

Here is what the California League of Cities Brown Act Handbook states:

"The serial meeting may occur by either a "daisy-chain" or a "hub-and-spoke"
sequence. In the daisy-chain scenario Member A contacts Member B, Member B
contacts Member C, Member C contacts Member D and so on, until a quorum and collective concurrence has been established. The hub-and-spoke process involves, for example, a staff member (the hub) communicating with members of a legislative body (the spokes) one-by-one for a decision on a proposed action or a chief executive officer briefing a majority of redevelopment agency members prior to a formal meeting and, in the process, information about the members' respective views is revealed. Each of these scenarios violates the Brown Act."

Here is the case law:

Stockton Newspaper Inc. v. Redevelopment Agency (1985) 171 Cal.App.3d 95

"At issue here is whether a series of nonpublic telephone conversations, each between a member of the governing body of a local agency and its attorney, for the commonly agreed purpose of obtaining a collective commitment or promise by a majority of that body concerning public business, constitutes a "meeting" within the purview of the act. We conclude that such a series of telephone contacts does constitute a meeting within the act and, construed liberally as we are enjoined to do (Code Civ.Proc., s 452), that the complaint sufficiently alleges the occurrence of such a meeting and therefore, a violation of the act. Accordingly the judgment in defendants' favor must be reversed."

How can a school superintendent and a school board not read and understand plain english?

The longer the superintendent and the school board continue to claim their 'innocence' the greater will be the public's loss of trust.


Posted by Trish Davis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:25 am

Skelley described "real pain among the staff, a hit to morale, and a sense of defeat" over the prospect of improving counseling by perhaps adopting a TA model at Gunn? The Gunn staff has ignored the board's directive to explore TA and learn more about the TA model from Paly? Truly mind boggling. Camille Townsend has it exactly right. This is stubbornness and obstructionism, plain and simple.


Posted by kids in PAUSD, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:30 am

Actually, in reading the above, my esteem for Klausner and especially Townsend has increased, and my view of the work the board does in general improves from seeing such an intelligent exchange. But my view of Skelly has hit new lows.

We need a leader who understands they are working for and with the community (teachers AND parents), and who can rally the community around a vision. Skelly is too devious and authoritarian. This secrecy is clearly in service of a lack of constructive leadership skills and to serve his interests. I hate to see the board tarred with the same brush.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:31 am

"Whether I agree or not with the individual opinions of these hard working and well meaning people, I'm very angry that their work, which is already very complex and demanding, is being placed under a microscope like this, and the community encouraged to pick them apart. "

This is an example of the weekly stirring the pot.

"They are violating the law - plain and simple."
Not exactly, Peter. You posted on Jay's blog so you read what he wrote. We have one lawyers opinion there and even jay's comments re whether it is a violation of the law.
we have enough exaggeration from the weekly, no need for more from you (though at times you do seem to be a cheerleader for the weekly)


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:33 am

We must be more careful when it comes to criticizing the school board. These are private individuals who have taken the job on and do work hard for us all. Last time there was a school board election, no one stood as a candidate. If we want to continue to have a choice in who is on our school board rather than have another roll over election, then we must remain appreciative of what they do.

I am not trying to condone suspect behavior, but I am trying to put this into the perspective of good people possibly making mistakes.

I have spoken to all the board members at different times. They are basically nice people who are doing something that most of us wouldn't want to do. I may not agree with their decisions, but I don't want to undermine their efforts.

I hope that we have some good candidates to choose between this time around and that we can have some good answers to hard questions, without any nastiness.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:39 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"polling them on their views and communicating his policy preferences" is a clear violation of the law:

"The hub-and-spoke process involves, for example, a staff member (the hub) communicating with members of a legislative body (the spokes) one-by-one for a decision on a proposed action or a chief executive officer briefing a majority of redevelopment agency members prior to a formal meeting and, in the process, information about the members' respective views is revealed. Each of these scenarios violates the Brown Act."

The fact that the superintendent was actually polling the board members was not in evidence at the recent meeting in which the lawyers expressed contrary views. Faced with these new facts no competent lawyer can claim that the law was not broken.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:51 am

""polling them on their views and communicating his policy preferences" is a clear violation of the law:"

Maybe, Peter, you should not make your view sound like it is carved in stone
From the paragrpah below the one you cherry picked your sentence from:
"Board of Education members responded only to Skelly with their views, avoiding a clear violation of the Brown Act, the state open-meetings law, which prohibits a majority of board members from discussing or deliberating outside a public meeting. "

So it is not a "clear" violation of the law.


"Faced with these new facts no competent lawyer can claim that the law was not broken."

So based on the "peter" view any lawyer who states that a law had not been broken is incompetent.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I urge the Weekly to publish the memos which it has uncovered that make it clear the superintendent was indeed polling the board members. I doubt that the Weekly is lying about these facts.


Posted by One more mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:07 am

Here we go again. Another round of Palo Alto school bashing.

Anyone wanting to destroy our school district could not do a better job than what is happening right now, an action spear-headed by a tiny minority group of parents and the PA Weekly.

Maybe the actions of the Superintendent and the Board were borderline, but with the strident parent groups we have, I personally don't blame the Sup. and the Board for trying to work discretely.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:13 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Maybe the actions of the Superintendent and the Board were borderline, but ...."

What a rousing vote of approval !!

Presumably it would be OK if the students just cheated a little on their next exam.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:14 am

"I urge the Weekly to publish the memos which it has uncovered that make it clear the superintendent was indeed polling the board members."

Uncovered?? They were available for anyone that put in a Public Records request. You make it sound like the school board was hiding memos and the weekly were Woodward and Bernstein!!!!
And???? Even the weekly states that the supe polling the board is not a violation of the brown.
Sounds like the weekly and some out of town people are stirring the pot in Palo Alto


Posted by One more mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:21 am

@ Peter Carpenter

As far as I know it is not clear that there were any violations at this point in time.

I stand by what I said. If someone wanted to destroy our schools, they could not do a better job than has been done recently by a small but strident group of people.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Uncovered?? They were available for anyone that put in a Public Records request. You make it sound like the school board was hiding memos and the weekly were Woodward and Bernstein!!!!


How, pray tell, if something is confidential does anyone know that it exists so that they can then submit a public records request?


"Even the weekly states that the supe polling the board is not a violation of the brown."

Not true, the Weekly did not make such a statement regarding the recently uncovered polling - which is clearly illegal.


"I stand by what I said. If someone wanted to destroy our schools, they could not do a better job than has been done recently by a small but strident group of people."

Don't blame the messenger - the damage is being done by conducting the public's business in secret not by blowing the whistle on that illegal behavior. Why doesn't the school board end all of this controversy by adopting a policy of totally open communication and decision making regardless of any narrow interpretations of the Brown Act? What are they hiding? What will they loose by being totally open to the public whom they are sworn to serve?


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:41 am

"How, pray tell, if something is confidential does anyone know that it exists so that they can then submit a public records request?"
The weekly managed, didn't they????

"Not true, the Weekly did not make such a statement regarding the recently uncovered polling - which is clearly illegal."
From the above story:
"Board of Education members responded only to Skelly with their views, avoiding a clear violation of the Brown Act, the state open-meetings law, which prohibits a majority of board members from discussing or deliberating outside a public meeting. "

Seems pretty striaghtforward to me. The whole issue is not "clearly illegal". You want it to be "illegal" so you can stir the post some more.

"Why doesn't the school board end all of this controversy by adopting a policy of totally open communication and decision making regardless of any narrow interpretations of the Brown Act?"
Does everything that the school board communicates have to always be open? Is that in the best interest of the school district and the children they serve?
Despite the desires of a local newspaper and outside agitators, I am not sure that is the way to go.

"What are they hiding?"
Nothing. Not every discussion or e-mail that is sent means that there is something to hide. I believe jay had a tome recently on his "heroic" efforts to get Benest to release e-mails that he sent. Turns out almost all were innocuous. This seems like a case of some people with too much time on their hands looking for a controversy to generate

"What will they loose by being totally open to the public whom they are sworn to serve?"
That is for the citizens of Palo Alto to decide, not you, Peter


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:42 am

Does PAUSD have anything like: Web Link


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:52 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Board of Education members responded only to Skelly with their views, avoiding a clear violation of the Brown Act, the state open-meetings law, which prohibits a majority of board members from discussing or deliberating outside a public meeting. "

That refers to the daisy chain serial meeting prohibition. What occurred was a clear spoke and wheel serial meeting violation when the superintendent polled the school board members on their views.


"Does everything that the school board communicates have to always be open?"


Yes - that is the will of the citizens:

"In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards, and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly."

"The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The
people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

The people reconfirmed that intent fifty years later at the November 2004 election by adopting Proposition 59, amending the California Constitution to include a public right of access to government information:
"The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's
business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny."

The Brown Act's other unchanged provision is a single sentence:
"All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.



Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:11 am

"That refers to the daisy chain serial meeting prohibition. What occurred was a clear spoke and wheel serial meeting violation when the superintendent polled the school board members on their views."

Once again, we have someone making a statement as if it is fact, contrary to other interpretations. Perhaps Peter should contact the weekly and tell them they are wrong--the weekly says it was not a violation, yet peter persists that it was.

Peter has it in his head that our school board are all criminals. The weekly and Sir Peter are the knights on a white horse who will be saving us from this unspeakable evil


Posted by Arch Conservative, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:18 am

If it walks like a duck.
If it sounds like a duck.
If it looks like a duck.
It probably is a duck.
Why pussyfoot around? It is a violation of the Brown Act.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Good people sometimes do bad things - they are still bad things.

"Section 54952.2, subdivision (b), in proscribing the use of "direct
communication" to reach a collective concurrence, does not include a requirement
that the use have been intentional. If a collective concurrence results from
direct communication among members of the legislative body, it does not
matter whether the participants intended that result. The absence of an intent
requirement is consistent with the purpose of the act, which is not merely to
prevent conscious backroom deals but to ensure that collective deliberations,
whatever their outcome, are conducted in public. Id at 550."


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:27 am

Skelly's emails and actions clearly show that he is open-minded to other viewpoints as long as they match his own bias. If the board was 100 ft. awy from actions of dubious legality, they would have nothing to fear and the accusations would be laughable. They are not. To ensure public trust, the board should avoid any appearance of conflict with the Brown Act. They have flunked this standard.

The board should be held accountable at the next election. And we are overdue for a new superintendent - one who is capable of honestly considering other points of view.


Posted by Barbara Slone, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:42 am

As more is revealed, I personally would be angry with Supt. Skelly if I were a Board Member. He is clearly acting in a manner that is unprofessional (to say the very least). I look forward to reading further public records so that we can all see just how deep Skelly's behavior runs. I, too, am acquiring more respect for those Board members who have expressed their frustrations and concern's with Dr. Skelly's MO. It's time for complete transparency. I am so grateful that an active group of concerned parents and community members have expressed a desire to not accept "no sale" when it comes to teacher advisory and that perhaps we will finally get some meaningful action towards getting the counseling services improved for Gunn students. Our students deserve better.


Posted by Consider City Council, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:42 am

Developers often "poll" a majority of the City Council to tweak their proposals to get enough votes. Is that also a violation of the Brown Act?


Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:46 am

In reading through these emails and others previously released (which is incredibly time-consuming but fascinating in a morbid kind of way) a number of things stand out.

As the article above quotes Skelly: “'I don't think there is much, if any, support for being a TA or adopting the TA model at Gunn,' he wrote. He described ‘real pain among the staff, a hit to morale, and a sense of defeat' over the possibility. He reiterated views against TA he had already expressed in a "Confidential Weekly" sent on April 20.'"

Of course, this is from the Supt. who says in another email: "As a parent, I don't really care if the guidance counselor meets with my freshman or sophomore student." And the emails demonstrate he and his staff have worked actively to ferment a backlash against having TA at Gunn.

This includes the school principal who tried to recruit teachers and parents to speak out against TA at board meetings and continually repeats in emails that “I do not support the bringing of the Paly advisory or any other program" to the school. In conversations she claims that she was just trying to address fears that change would happen this year. But her remarks are unequivocal, not nuanced, and the Supt. also fails to make that distinction in his remarks. Sorry, Katya, I'm just not buying it.

Here's all you need to know about the strength of the arguments posed by those at Gunn opposed to TA, quoting from the Gunn student newspaper: “The workgroup does not feel changing to the advisory system would best serve Gunn and its culture. ‘According to research, advisory is most successful at schools with 400 to 600 kids,' [Gunn teacher Brian] Tuomy said. ‘That is not the case for this school.'" This doesn't even pass the laugh test. Uhhh, Mr. Tuomy? There's this school down the road with similar demographics where TA has been successfully implemented. You may have heard of it " it's called Paly.

Regarding the letter sent to Gunn parents, board comments may not have changed the substance of the letter. But the documents show that an important line was omitted from an earlier draft: “In the upcoming weeks students and parents will be invited to respond to preliminary thoughts in this area." Nice " parent participation was literally edited out of this initial process.

The message from Supt. Skelly, the Gunn administration and a sub-set of Gunn teachers could not be clearer. They have extended a united middle finger salute to the board's request that they consider TA. So now it is up to the board: do members allow their authority to be permanently undermined by this resistance, or must they reluctantly force the administration's hand and exert their authority?

Fortunately, from a policy perspective, this is an easy decision. Gunn needs to fundamentally change its approach to counseling and the data and district experience clearly demonstrates that some form of TA needs to be adopted. The board should make that policy direction crystal clear and save the Supt. and Gunn principal from themselves and the mess they have made of this whole situation.

It is at that point that an internal process within the community should begin to discuss how to best implement TA at Gunn (not whether as proposed), learning from and improving upon the Paly model, addressing legitimate teacher concerns and incorporating voices from the entire Gunn community so the school can take ownership of the outcome.
Those of us pressing for change are willing to roll up our sleeves to make this process as successful as possible. It would be a much more pleasant use of our time than exposing the district's subterfuge has been and I'm convinced that together we can make the Gunn guidance system one in which we can all be proud.

But that can't happen if the board doesn't act decisively. And the consequences of not doing so will reverberate throughout the upcoming election and next school year at levels that will make the current uproar seem pale in comparison.


Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2012 at 12:18 pm

People who work together have relationships. They communicate with each other in private. That's the nature of working together. Thinking you can regulate that is just silly. So what if it was an email or voice mail or a conversation in private that no one will ever know about, of which I'm sure there are many. The key is to choose the right people, get out of their way and let them do their job.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Developers often "poll" a majority of the City Council to tweak their proposals to get enough votes. Is that also a violation of the Brown Act?"

Only if the developer reveals to one or more council members what is the position of their colleagues. If the polling is done by a staff member, such as the superintendent, then the polling has the de facto nature of developing an illegal consensus outside of a public meeting.


Posted by Enough already, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm


I copied Hauser's post below, since it's hard to read with the original formatting.
******************
In reading through these emails and others previously released (which is incredibly time-consuming but fascinating in a morbid kind of way) a number of things stand out.
As the article above quotes Skelly: "I don't think there is much, if any, support for being a TA or adopting the TA model at Gunn," he wrote. He described real pain among the staff, a hit to morale, and a sense of defeat" over the possibility. He reiterated views against TA he had already expressed in a "Confidential Weekly" sent on April 20."
Of course, this is from the Supt. who says in another email: "As a parent, I don't really care if the guidance counselor meets with my freshman or sophomore student." And the emails demonstrate he and his staff have worked actively to ferment a backlash against having TA at Gunn.
This includes the school principal who tried to recruit teachers and parents to speak out against TA at board meetings and continually repeats in emails that “I do not support the bringing of the Paly advisory or any other program" to the school. In conversations she claims that she was just trying to address fears that change would happen this year. But her remarks are unequivocal, not nuanced, and the Supt. also fails to make that distinction in his remarks. Sorry, Katya, I'm just not buying it.
Here's all you need to know about the strength of the arguments posed by those at Gunn opposed to TA, quoting from the Gunn student newspaper: "The workgroup does not feel changing to the advisory system would best serve Gunn and its culture. According to research, advisory is most successful at schools with 400 to 600 kids," [Gunn teacher Brian] Tuomy said. That is not the case for this school." This doesn't even pass the laugh test. Uhhh, Mr. Tuomy? There's this school down the road with similar demographics where TA has been successfully implemented. You may have heard of it: it's called Paly.
Regarding the letter sent to Gunn parents, board comments may not have changed the substance of the letter. But the documents show that an important line was omitted from an earlier draft: "In the upcoming weeks students and parents will be invited to respond to preliminary thoughts in this area." Nice. Parent participation was literally edited out of this initial process.
The message from Supt. Skelly, the Gunn administration and a sub-set of Gunn teachers could not be clearer. They have extended a united middle finger salute to the board's request that they consider TA. So now it is up to the board: do members allow their authority to be permanently undermined by this resistance, or must they reluctantly force the administration's hand and exert their authority?
Fortunately, from a policy perspective, this is an easy decision. Gunn needs to fundamentally change its approach to counseling and the data and district experience clearly demonstrates that some form of TA needs to be adopted. The board should make that policy direction crystal clear and save the Supt. and Gunn principal from themselves and the mess they have made of this whole situation.
It is at that point that an internal process within the community should begin to discuss how to best implement TA at Gunn (not whether as proposed), learning from and improving upon the Paly model, addressing legitimate teacher concerns and incorporating voices from the entire Gunn community so the school can take ownership of the outcome.
Those of us pressing for change are willing to roll up our sleeves to make this process as successful as possible. It would be a much more pleasant use of our time than exposing the district's subterfuge has been and I'm convinced that together we can make the Gunn guidance system one in which we can all be proud.
But that can't happen if the board doesn't act decisively. And the consequences of not doing so will reverberate throughout the upcoming election and next school year at levels that will make the current uproar seem pale in comparison.


Posted by Enough already, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm

There are two issues here: governance and Gunn counseling.
The first is governance. Is the school board acting in a way that is consistent with the Brown Act? There the answer is clearly no. There is obviously a whole process going on behind the scenes that the public is only dimly aware of. Skelly is lobbying the school board against its own public mandate on Gunn counseling, and engaging in a full-on decision process around Spanish immersion at Barron Park, including polling the board, reflecting a board consensus back to individual members, and taking action (in this case, apparently deciding not to pursue SI at BP). If the Brown Act permits this, it's a dead letter. The "umbrage" that the Board took at its meeting last week now looks like a toxic mix of hubris and credulity.
Behind this is Klausner's mention of the "leadership team" that should secretly consider SI before deciding whether to let the public in on the discussion. As Jay Thorwaldson pointed out a few weeks ago, the idea that the Superintendent and board members form a "team" misrepresents the actual relationship between them. The board is supposed to reflect the democratic will of the community in the governance of the schools, and the Superintendent is supposed to advise the board, and implement their judgements. Here, we have the Board and the superintendent together on the inside, and the public on the outside.
Acknowledging this and fixing it is necessary in order to fix our broken governance process. Far from "destroying" our district, it's what we need to do to save it. The defenders of a broken process (among them last week, astonishingly, PTAC leaders) are impeding positive change.
For a concrete example, we need only look at the Gunn counseling. As Wynn Hauser points out, Skelly's decision to privately defy the will of the board, and the board's unwillingness to rein him in, as produced a real disaster out of what should be a straightforward process of deciding what is the best guidance model for students at Gunn. The Gunn administration, in turn, has run its own secret process that has deliberately excluded parents, probably because its process and decisions could not survive public scrutiny. Had this scheme (and I use the word "scheme" deliberately) worked, and we not had these public record requests, the community would have received the Gunn recommendations next week with no idea that they resulted from a decision early on to reject the school board's direction.
I agree with Hauser that the Board has only one reasonable course: make a decision to adopt teacher advisory at Gunn (which is an easy decision given the data that has been shared, and the research about advisory, as well as our experience at Paly), and charge Gunn to work on implementation in a transparent process. This management team needs to be extricated from this mess.
On board governance, the board should reject the "team" idea, which has led it to break faith with the community over the fundamental issue of open government.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"People who work together have relationships. They communicate with each other in private. That's the nature of working together. "

That might work and be legal in the private sector but it is illegal for elected officials to communicate with each other in private in order to (or even accidentally) create a consensus without public participation.


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 8, 2012 at 1:30 pm

If the BOE tells Gunn that they HAVE to implement the TA system, where does the $$ come from (remember, both high schools get equal $$ per student). What happens to the "extra" guidance counselors (since only 4 would be needed, one per grade) who I assume are tenured employees. If the Gunn staff is not on board with the TA system, how do they "force" the teachers to volunteer to be TA's? Where do the teachers come from to cover the classes that the TA's no longer can teach (because they get a prep period).

In other words - this is not a simple process. It pretty much requires the Gunn staff to be on board with the idea. We can not force any tenured teachers to do anything, part of the problem with Unions.

BTW - I think the TA system is pretty good at Paly, could be better and it would certainly benefit the Gunn students.


Posted by Long-term PAUSD parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Superintendent Skelley described "real pain among the staff, a hit to morale, and a sense of defeat" over the prospect of improving counseling by perhaps adopting a TA model at Gunn?
Yes, we should consider the feelings of the staff, but shouldn't the priority be the students? Adults are far better equipped than students to deal with change and challenges. Sure, most people don't like change, but that is what leadership is for. Pre-determing the outcome seems like adults looking after the interests of adults instead of adults looking after the interests of students. (If you read all the postings it is quite enlightening to see how few of them actually discuss what might be best for our children).

After reading the students' survey feedback and comments it seems that they are the ones already experiencing "real pain", poor morale and "a sense of defeat" over the current counseling service. (This is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of counselors and their well-intentioned efforts. It is a numbers game; the ratio of counselors to students at Gunn is just way too high to really get to know all of the students in sufficient depth to understand their individual goals, challenges, issues, problems, etc. Adults opining on this topic should reflect on their own company/organization. Can any manager really know the individual goals, problems, etc of that many subordinates, particularly when 25% of that number changes each year?

The comment " ...advisory is most successful at schools with 400 to 600 kids," [Gunn teacher Brian] Tuomy said..." is hard to fathom. Mr. Tuomy surely knows Palo has advisory and a similar size student body to Gunn. It makes me wonder why someone would make such a statement then. I see the 'absolute" argument, but I don't think it is relevant here. I hope that everyone weighing in on this issue will first take the time to listen to the voices of our children. Please read ALL the Gunn and Paly students' responses and comments. I did and it is clear to me that in RELATIVE terms, the Gunn students are overwhelmingly less satisfied with their counseling model (Note, Not necessarily dissatisfied with the counselors).

The Paly system may well have it's flaws, but it seems to provide a better overall result (as measured the by the student's opinions - not the opinion of me or any other adult). It is actually fortuitous that Katya has deep first-hand experience of the Paly TA system and excellent knowledge of Gunn to be able to help tweak the Paly system and improve on any of its shortcomings. So, rather than pre-determine a solution, shouldn't we have a discussion whether a Version 2 of the Paly TA system would improve the satisfaction levels of the Gunn students?

I like the suggestion of having the Paly TA's speak with the Gunn counselors and staff. Perhaps someone can explain to me what possible downside there could be for peers in the same school district to share knowledge and experiences. I see potential upside, so what is there to fear? Perhaps some adult might "have their feeling hurt" (not sure how, but who knows). However, shouldn't the question always be - could our STUDENTS possibly benefit if there was a full and fair exchange of ideas and opinions from ALL parties, PRIOR to making a decision.


Posted by Cosmo, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm

This reminds me of when Yoriko Kishimoto and Nancy Lytle used to sit in the offices of then City planning director Steve Emslie, dictating to him what decisions the staff ought to make on applications for development. I don't recall the Weekly being too concerned about that at the time. But fortunately other media and concerned residents forced the City to start posting all email communications between Staff and Council. Seems a similar solution would work here.


Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Jun 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

Cosmo,

It was a lawsuit brought by the Weekly against the City of Palo Alto that resulted in a settlement requiring the city to post all email between staff and council. It's worked well, and that is exactly the practice that we hope the school district will decide to implement.


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm

It was fun to finally get at the actual survey data from the above links.
From a standard NSAT analysis of the raw Paly MonkeySurvey data, you get the following results. Note, this applies the generally accepted model ">160 good", "between 100 & 160 problem", "<100 serious problem"
Gunn:
- Good: 23
- Problems: 16
- Serious Problems: 7
Paly:
- Good: 40
- Problems: 37
- Serious Problems: 3

It's difficult to correlate but taking the raw data of the surveys at face value and applying NSAT to the Likert scale questions, the data doesn't show that much difference between how students perceive counseling at each of the schools.
Is this all a storm in a teacup? Who's actually applied real statistical analysis to these results?


Posted by gun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm

that should have read "raw Paly and Gunn SurveyMonkey data"


Posted by Ken Dauber, a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm

@fun

Here's a link to comparisons of the quantitative survey results for Paly and Gunn from the 2012 counseling survey: Web Link. The numbers in the cells report the percentage of students responding agree or strongly agree to each statement. The cells are shaded green when the percentage of students responding agree or strongly agree at Paly exceeds the percentage at Gunn by 5 or more percentage points, and red for the reverse. As you can see, the results are quite clear: there are hundreds of points of comparison where Paly exceeds Gunn by this margin or more, and six such points where Gunn exceeds Paly. Often the margins are much larger than 5 percentage points.
I'm not familiar with the NSAT, which appears to be an internal Microsoft customer satisfaction measure, and I don't know if you have correctly calculated it. But if it can turn this level of difference into a wash, then it seems less than useful at least when applied to this case.
You may also be interested in the over 700 qualitative responses from Gunn students, at Web Link. For more data and analysis, see Web Link.


Posted by Good night nurse, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm

OK, I for one have had enough. We need a new Board of Education that can understand how government works in a democracy. Enough secrecy. Take some responsibility.


Posted by Dave G, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 7:41 pm

I believe that the intent of the Brown Act is to prevent secret meetings of the group, not to prevent individual group members from exchanging opinions bilaterally with other members of the group. While it's good to make the decision process public, the Brown Act usually delays action by encouraging group members to perform in front of TV cameras instead of moving quickly towards consensus. I think Skelly's actions are a laudable attempt to accelerate a process in which the actual final decisions are still made in a public forum.


Posted by HAL, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Dave, you had me until I realized that the Spanish immersion issue was actually resolved in private. Whoops.
Somehow I sense some more billable hours in Lou Lozano's future.


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 8:59 pm

@Ken

Your spreadsheet excludes half the data. I suspect that is where our analysis differs. You can't just ignore data and draw conclusions based on a subset when these surveys are so different.
NSAT is used to analyse survey results as you correctly pointed out. I don't understand why you consider it less than useful. I hope the reason is not because it came to a different conclusion than your approach. NSAT can be applied to any survey. What model are you using and who else uses your model to analyze surveys? Can you link the theory behind it?
I see you have broken down your spreadsheet by grade level. I'll do the same, tidy it up and post it somewhere.
This really is the consultant's job. The board needs to look at the serious problems identified at both Gunn & Paly by these surveys.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"f moving quickly towards consensus"

Democracy is not meant to be a speedy process.


Posted by Ken Dauber, a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm

@fun
I'm happy to have a discussion with you about the data, but it's not going to be productive if you aren't clear about what you're doing and saying. In particular:
1. Please point me to the link where you obtained your data. I'd like to make sure that we are both using the same dataset and I don't see the link that you're referring to.
2. What do you mean by the statement, "Your spreadsheet excludes half the data. I suspect that is where our analysis differs. You can't just ignore data and draw conclusions based on a subset when these surveys are so different"?
3. I didn't point out that "NSAT is used to analyse survey results." I said I'm unfamiliar with it, probably because it appears to be an internal Microsoft customer satisfaction measure. You have offered it as a useful metric, it's up to you to say why. It's not a standard tool used by social science researchers, so I can't help you with that.
4. I'm not using a model to analyze the survey. I'm presenting the percentage of students responding to the survey who agree or agree strongly with various statements where they can be compared between the two schools.
5. Since you don't provide any details about what you did, I can't really tell whether NSAT is useful or not. If you did correctly apply it, and the results mask a difference of the magnitude in this data, then it's not a useful tool.
6. A persistent strategy in this discussion, beginning with the district's instruction to the consultant not to compare the two schools, is to say that both Paly and Gunn have "serious problems", etc. While Paly is by no means perfect, a more accurate reading of this data is that guidance effectiveness at Paly is much higher than at Gunn.


Posted by my thoughts, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm

i'm really sad that some parents have put the school district in such a defensive position as the parents try to get their own specific wants into our PAUSD daily lives. I beg our PA community to reject the abusive nature of these "WCDB" parents (and i put it in quotes because of the irony involved) and instead TRUST our elective school board officials to do the job we've elected them to do.

I'm really really disappointed in the behavior of these parents in demanding emails and such from our school district. They are costing ALL OF US lots of money with the time and resources it takes with these requests.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 7:24 am

To thoughts, you have it backwards parents have had to use public records demands to get information because PAUSD is so defensive and stubborn and wants to keep things secret. See Townsend's email in the article.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 9, 2012 at 7:29 am

This issue of "findability" is one that is not solved by Google alone. I would suggest that what is needed is a complete catalog/inventory of documents on the City's/School District's web-site. Conceptually, it would be along the lines of a well-designed table of contents/index that we are accustomed to using in high-end text/reference books. (But there is a lot of room to innovate, obviously.)

For instance, both the School District BoT and the City Council issue resolutions of one sort or another. If you try to google "resolution", it's not likely that the search results will produce a list of resolutions that are presented in any kind of usable order--such as ordered by date. Nor are the results presented in a way that allows interested parties to order the search results, either. Some well-designed web-sites do have data sets that can be downloaded in multiple formats, although these generally are not the results of a dynamic search. So, having a data set that includes all of the resolutions, by date, by title, and a link to the resolution, available in a text, or .xls, format (at a minimum), would be a good start to adding what one might call web-based "finding aids" to the City and PAUSD web-sites.

This idea advanced by Nancy Pelosi ("You have to pass the Bill to find out what's in it") demonstrates just how off-center the political class has become in this country. Simple technological solutions would go a long way to "leveling the playing field" for the rest of us.

And there is really no reason that staff need be involved in the daily managing of the site document inventory. Programs/scripts/web-page code generation can do all of this work, as well as testing to insure that the documents and the links in the web-page code are synchronized.

But all of this needs top-down direction—commonly called "management".


Posted by Sad and disappointed too, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 9, 2012 at 8:02 am

@my thoughts
I'm really really disappointed in the behavior of our superintendent and Gunn principal in leading Gunn teachers in opposition to what the School Board Trustees have very politely requested. I'm really sad that the superintendent and Gunn principal have put the some teachers' fear of change ahead of the Gunn students' cries for help. Thank you to the School Board for listening. Keep up the good work.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 9, 2012 at 8:18 am

> I'm really really disappointed in the behavior of these parents
> in demanding emails and such from our school district. They
> are costing ALL OF US lots of money with the time and resources
> it takes with these requests.

This is not a very enlightened point-of-view for a 21st Century American. Access to public records is one of the fundamentals of self-governance that separates the US from most of the rest of the world. Having requested a fair number of public records, myself, it's amazing how many government employees are not aware of the laws that secure our rights to know what the government is doing. I actually had an FAA employee tell me "you have no right to see government records". Here in Palo Alto, it usually takes a unit manager to properly understand, and deal with, public information requests. Most people employed as clerks, and such, generally have no idea about these laws—which is a sad commentary on their public school educations, as well as a lack of training on the part of the City/School District.

The City of Menlo Park seems to "get it", when it comes to offering the public access to incoming public emails to the Council/Government--

Menlo Park Council E-Mail Log:
Web Link

There is no reason that this sort of minimal access can not be provided with a few programs/scripts that take email from the government's email server and creating the coding necessary to create these web-pages without involving any staff time, save periodically checking to see that every is working correctly. (And even most of that work can be done by other programs/scripts).

Looking to the future—it would really be an improvement in transparency if every governmental agency were required to post telephone logs. Given the proliferation of cell phones, this opens all sorts of doors that would allow politicians to easily end-run this requirement. But at the least, all of the calls that are handled through the main PBX should be cataloged, and made available for public review, in some way.

Where email is concerned, there have been a number of cases around the country where elected officials have been using 3rd-party email accounts to do government business. Generally, these email accounts have not been subject to public information requests. There should be changes in the various state codes to mandate all government business be conducted through government email accounts, so that tracking can be achieved.

All of this transparency will no doubt seem invasive to the folks who have been elected to office in the past. But given that we have the technology to provide this transparency, we need to start using it. People running for elected office will have to get used to operating in the light of day. Hopefully, this will bring a new class of politician into the public square. But human nature being what it is, we'll just find a new, more clever, form of evasion to deal with.


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 9:26 am

@Ken,

Point "1.".
The link to the data is available via Web Link. In the "disclosed materials", you can download all the emails from Katya Villabos. This leads to emails with the topic "MonkeySurvey Data" and two attached files:
- PalyactualvalueSheet.xlsx
- Gunncompletedata_actualSheet2.xlsx

Point 2.
You only look at 2 of 5 possible values.


Points "3." and "4."
NSAT is a tool to analyze surveys and has been used extensively within a number of companies for that purpose. Internally it is used to identify satisfaction with the management team and morale across the group. This would correspond directly to how these surveys were constructed for Gunn & Paly.
Turning the question around, I don't see how your analysis is or can be used by any social science researchers. In fact, you've admitted that you made up your own analysis and don't know of anyone else that uses it.
I'll leave it to the board to decide which approach is more appropriate and robust.


Point "5."
You've yet to define how you get this "magnitude" and why it is statistically significant. Looking at your conclusions, it reminds me of the contestant who chooses not to swap what's behind door 3 with door 1 after seeing what's behind door 2.

Point "6."
Yes, I agree. However, the issue at hand is what needs to be fixed at Gunn and Paly. Not implementation of TA at Gunn which is the current focus of these threads.
The analysis identifies 7 serious problems at Gunn and 3 at Paly. Yes, significantly more serious problems at Gunn and these need to be addressed immediately. The Likert scale question identify point failures. Then there are the open ended questions to identify themes. It's the consultant's job to provide the feedback here.

The problem issues at Gunn & Paly are:

Gunn:
ga - I feel comfortable going to my Guidance Counselor about personal issues that I might be struggling with
gb - If I am struggling with a personal issue, my Guidance Counselor is among the first adults at school that I would go to for help
gc - In order to fit in with my friends, I believe I have to get into a top college
gd - I feel tremendous pressure to succeed at athletics
ge - My Guidance Counselor helped me with the transition from middle school to high school
gf - I found Freshman Orientation / Link Crew and Titan 101 useful for helping me to transition from middle school to Gunn High School
gh - The Junior Manual was a helpful tool for me

Paly:
pa - If a friend is struggling with a serious personal challenge, I would advise her / him to go see their TA
pb - In order to fit in with my friends, I believe I have to get into a top college
pc - Advisory is a valuable use of my time

The nature of these issues doesn't scream "implement Advisory at Gunn". In fact, the last response from Paly flat out states that there is a serious issue with Advisory at Paly.
The various threads indicate the discussion at Gunn focused on addressing ge, gf & gh without implementing Advisory. This is a reasoned approach given the data at hand.

I'll put this altogether and send a presentation to the board. You can pick up the email from them.

Thanks.


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 9:49 am

Actually, I do see where there is a problem with my NSAT analysis dealing with the negative questions, which requires the results to be inverted. The actual numbers are:
Gunn:

- Good: 21
- Problems: 10
- Serious Problems: 11

Paly:

- Good: 36
- Problems: 27
- Serious Problems: 9

The serious problems are:

Gunn:
- I feel comfortable going to my Guidance Counselor about personal issues that I might be struggling with
- If I am struggling with a personal issue, my Guidance Counselor is among the first adults at school that I would go to for help
- My family expects me to attend a top college
- I feel anxiety about getting into the colleges that I want to go to
- I feel tremendous pressure to succeed academically
- I feel pressured to take a challenging load of Honors and AP courses
- I feel anxiety about my workload at school
- My classmates and I compete to do well in school
- My Guidance Counselor helped me with the transition from middle school to high school
- I found Freshman Orientation / Link Crew and Titan 101 useful for helping me to transition from middle school to Gunn High School
- The Junior Manual was a helpful tool for me

Paly:
- I feel tremendous pressure to succeed academically
- I feel tremendous pressure to succeed at athletics
- I feel pressure to take a challenging load of Honors and AP courses
- I feel anxiety about my workload at school
- My classmates and I compete to do well in school
- I feel anxiety about getting into the colleges that I want to go to
- I believe that if I do not attend a top college, I will have failed
- If a friend is struggling with a serious personal challenge, I wouldadvise her / him to go see their TA
- Advisory is a valuable use of my time

This is updated for accuracy. Look at the last two responses from Paly and decide if you want to include it at Gunn.


Posted by Hamstercraft LLC, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

Dear fun: I have a way to build a rocket ship to the moon using hamster power. When it gets there the astronauts can eat the hamsters. I have been seeking vc funding and high level technical expertise to assist in the design docs. You seem like the perfect CTO. Please place your application in a tin foil packet and send to the school board andI will pick it up from them. Sincerely, David Brent, CEO Hamstercraft LLC.


Posted by One more mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2012 at 10:28 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

@HLLC

Sounds like a great idea! CV incoming, remember to duck!


Posted by Unambiguous, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2012 at 10:43 am

I read the memos about Spanish immersion. In this case Skelly is clearly communicating the views of other board members to Barbara klausner. This is a clear violation of the brown act and it doesn't even look unintentional. He's telling her that he doesn't have to care about her view because he already has a majority in favor of his proposal. So why did th board take "umbrage" at the weeklys letter and ahead the community treated to that dog and pony show in which their lawyer absolved them of an error whatsoever? Did lou Lozano read the Spanish Immersion memos? We can't find out because whatever he told them about that is privileged. Next time the board members can bring their mothers in addition to their lawyer for an equally unbiased view of their conduct. What a waste of taxpayer money this charade has been.

The other problem besides the glaring brown act violation is that skelly is horribly rude to klausner and essentially tells her to sit down and shut up. He is telling her that he has a majority of the board in order to intimidate her and terminate her objections in private before they become public. He's very imperious in his treatment of her, very bullying of klausner in particular. The rest he just seems to ignore. He never even answered Camille and its obvious he doesn't take her seriously. Why are they accepting this kind of treatment. I hate to say it but I think it's because they are women.

This is a clear case for decisive action to replace dysfunctional leadership ASAP.


Posted by Q and A, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2012 at 10:50 am

Question: If you were a high school principal would you be content with a guidance model which:

- Only 33% of students felt that the time they spent with their advisor-counselor was valuable (even more -- 37% - said it was NOT valuable)?

- Left only 50% of students with an adult on campus they felt they had a close, trusting relationship with? (The guidance model is designed so that the advisor-counselor will be the person on campus with whom students develop that close relationship.)

Answer: Not if you wanted to keep your job and help kids.

Question: Which of our high school's guidance models does this describe – Paly's or Gunn's?

Answer: Paly's.

Stunning isn't it given that Paly students meet with the same advisor, sometimes 2 to 3 times a month, over several years and have lots and lots of opportunities for "touch points" with that person.

Web Link

[Gunn students' responses to similar questions:

72% valuable, 12% not (Gunn lots better)

49.1% (both high schools are the same)]



Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Palo Alto.....Democracy, Soviet-style. Would you want to be a teacher or firefighter or cop there? Maybe George Orwell would.

PA Online could generate a heated argument about the weather, and all the regulars would chime in to do their thing.


Posted by Happy Family, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm

@Q&A
I followed your link to the PAUSD report on counseling. Here is what Paly students reported about teacher advisory:

My TA makes time for me if I need help : 73.9% agree, 5.6% disagree

I find it easy to talk to my TA: 76.6% agree, 8.2% disagree

I am satisfied with the level of services I get from my TA: 71.9% agree, 4.4% disagree

And to those who claim that Paly students do not meet with their teacher advisors:
In this school year so far, I have knowingly missed the following number of Advisory
Sessions: 0 = 63.8%, 1-2= 27.5%, 3 or more= 4% don't remember how many: 4.7%

Our family is very satisfied with the level of service we receive from the Paly guidance system. My student has a teacher adviser, guidance counselor and a college counselor. It's a pretty good deal.


Posted by pa parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm

@Unambiguous,
You have just described how I feel as a parent when I've have interactions with the Suptndt.


Posted by anotherParent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm

@pa - I agree, parents in this district are treated with disdain and disregard.


Posted by Yoohoo, Lou, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Well, well, well.

It seems like only last week that Bill Johnson was sitting over at 25 Churchill Street being taken to school by the School Board at the suggestion that anything that our vaunted school "leadership team" may have done that could conceivably have run afoul of the Brown Act. Watching the video, I was happy that I didn't have to sit there and watch Bill Johnson be subjected to this.

Lou Lozano, the district's lawyer argued over and over that *the only thing* that would violate the Brown Act would be if Kevin Skelly was to "communicate to members of the legislative body the comments or position of any other member or members of the legislative body" which, according to Lou, would violate Section 54952.2(b)(2) -- language he put up on a great big slide in boldface when he said it. See Web Link, about 24 minutes in.

The board members then competed with each other to pile on the Weekly about how they were owed a retraction and an apology. Barbara Klausner was indignant as she recounted how terrible it was to be falsely accused of doing anything wrong at all. That was sure fun! You told him! Yes, you are all victims of an over-zealous press! Lou said we didn't do anything wrong!

But Lou, you forgot to read the emails about Spanish Immersion. Whoops.

As a result of Bill Johnson's excellent and tenacious reporting, we now know that Dr. Skelly emailed all the board members to poll them about their support of the idea of implementing Spanish Immersion at Barron Park School. They all replied at some length. There was a long chain of communication. Mostly they liked the idea and authorized him to go ahead and work on it. But Board Member Barbara Klausner had some skepticism.

As "Unambiguous" states above, when Klausner did not give Dr. Skelly the answer he wanted, he responded by TELLING HER THE VIEWS OF THE OTHER BOARD MEMBERS. "There are varying degrees of enthusiasm from board members" for reopening the SI lottery to the entire community, he told her in one reply. In another exchange he told her that her concern that he was not allowing sufficient time for a public process, he informed her this was a point that "he hadn't heard from other board members." He then concluded by telling her that her skeptical comments were not shared by other board members but were at the "far end of the board comments I have received."

Barbara Klausner never told him: "Hey, stop sending me the views of other Board members! Uh-oh! Why are you telling me this?! Stop?! My extensive training in the Brown Act at School Board conferences which I have attended as part of this crack leadership team has informed me that this is not allowed! Desist!"

Instead, Klausner wrote: "OK. All of my commentary is meant to be helpful as you/we move forward."

Whoops again.

Ironically, Dr. Skelly then informed her that she could find his "next steps" in his Confidential Weekly Memoranda -- the very document that Lou read and approved (without knowing the backstory). Congratulations, Lou! You are as much in the dark as all the rest of us.

In the end, this is a classic serial meeting, by email, using a hub and spoke intermediary (as Peter Carpenter points out extremely clearly) to reach a collective concurrence, which they did reach, and take action (authorizing exploration of SI at Barron Park) which they did take. The cherry on top is that the views of Board members were communicated to Board Member Klausner -- a fact that even her own lawyer cannot defend (though he might have to).

Even by Lou's deliberately narrow definition of a Brown Act violation, the fact that Dr. Skelly communicated to Barbara Klausner the views of other Board members is deeply problematic. Both Klausner and Dr. Skelly owe Bill Johnson an apology and the community owes Bill Johnson a debt of gratitude for staying with this important story and for ensuring that we have open governance in our local affairs.

We have only seen two months of email and already we need Lou: The Sequel. What are the odds that this is the one and only time that Dr. Skelly told board members the views of other members outside of public view? All Board members, including Dana Tom and Barbara Mitchell, should have to stand for election in November to give the public a chance to weigh in on this at the ballot box.


Posted by elections, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 9, 2012 at 10:06 pm

i don't usually vote in elections but if there's anyone from We Can Do better PA running for the school board, i'll be there to show my support... for their competition.

I support our current school board. I'm disgusted by the borderline harassment of these "records requests" by the weekly and the daubers.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2012 at 12:57 am

@yoohoo Lou
I am looking forward to voting for all the people who will be lining up to run for school board because it is so financially lucrative and it is really fun to have every email scrutinized by narrow minded people. I hope to see your name on the the ballot.


Posted by Bill Kelly, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 7:49 am

Is it the School Boars's job to micro manage Gunn? What the hell is wrong with our system that the school board is jumping all the way down to a 'solution' at Gunn without having the affected people do the work? I'm having issues with the Brown Act, but I'm having bigger issues with an overly aggressive school board which looks to me to be meddling in the structure of a single department at a single high school. The board is OVERSIGHT nt micro management.


Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 10, 2012 at 9:36 am

@ elections
"i don't usually vote in elections but if there's anyone from We Can Do better PA running for the school board, i'll be there to show my support... for their competition."

Although, I do usually vote in elections, I agree completely.


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm

The next level of problems from the survey, those in the 100-120 range so we're getting down to shades of gray, are:

Gunn:
- In order to fit in with my friends, I believe I have to get into a top college
- I believe that if I do not attend a top college, I will have failed
- I feel tremendous pressure to succeed at athletics
- I feel free to consider options after high school other than going immediately to college

Paly:
- In order to fit in with my friends, I believe I have to get into a top college
- My Guidance Counselor has helped me to better understand my career interests
- I feel comfortable going to my TA about personal issues that I might be struggling with

As noted previously; this applies the generally accepted model ">160 good", "between 100 & 160 problem", "<100 serious problem"

The results shows yet more problems for TA at Paly. It's a shame that the focus has been on Gunn when Paly's TA should be responding to these results

@Ken,
You're advocating introducing TA at Gunn but there are two themes identified by these results and neither of them recommend this:
1. Being seen to "succeed"
2. Paly TA

How did we get to the recommendation to introduce TA at Gunn? The data forcefully rejects this option. What the survey does suggest is remove TA at Paly, students consider a waste of time, and extend Guidance Counselling at both schools. Though the immediate priority is addressing this pressure to succeed.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Instead of trying to make decisions for our schools, I think the people who are part of We Can Do Better should change their focus from such a narrow one, from how counseling is offered at one site, to a broader one: how do we get the parents and adults in this community to quit pressuring their kids to succeed at all costs. In the children that I have seen who are stressed out about the schools, the pressure comes from within themselves and from their parents, not someone at the school telling them to take 5 AP classes. Read this front page NYT article and wake up about what we, not the schools, are doing to our kids.
Web Link
Having the TA system at Gunn isn't going do much to help our kids survive the pressure they are under to succeed. It's certainly not going to stop them from taking the path that many of the kids in this article have done.


Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm

@elections: I love how you criticize people who are actively engaged in democracy while you don't vote and throw stones anonymously from the sidelines. Sweet.

@parent (the latest posting). Please look at the WCDBPA web site Web Link and Facebook page. Web Link We have been doing exactly what you advocate around homework, school calendar and other related issues in addition to teacher advisory. No one is saying TA at Gunn is a panacea but it is an important piece of the puzzle.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Hopefully all of the posters on this topic will realize that the unwanted, undesirable, and inappropriate outcomes being discussed are all the result of a fundamentally flawed process that systematically excludes the public from participation in the decision making process.

Unless the School Board and the Superintendent abandon confidential communication and publicly commit to complete transparency there will be no trust and the outcomes will continue to be unwanted, undesirable, and inappropriate.

Public boards which have embraced total transparency and a commitment to the spirit of the Brown Act "The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny" have found that both the process and outcomes are better.

For those who are accustomed to secrecy the transition of openness is scary. Which model do we want to set for our children?


Posted by elections, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm

"Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, 1 hour ago

@elections: I love how you criticize people who are actively engaged in democracy while you don't vote and throw stones anonymously from the sidelines. Sweet."

I wouldn't call the harassment of our public officials and demanding of emails from our school employees as "people who are actively engaged in democracy."

And I will be voting in the next school board election... against your very vocal yet very small group of "we can do better" (which in itself is dripping with irony).

Every post I see from someone from WCDBPA just strengthens my resolve to campaign against them, especially the long ones.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I wouldn't call the harassment of our public officials and demanding of emails from our school employees as "people who are actively engaged in democracy."

Then you probably wouldn't have approved of the Boston Tae Party or the Declaration of Independence.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I'm saying stop expecting the schools to correct all the ills of the society our children live in. Start holding parents responsible for their behavior starting with quit putting such extreme pressure on you kids for them to be successful.


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm

@Wynn

Please explain how TA at Gunn an important piece of the puzzle when it is identified in the survey a major portion of the serious problems with counselling at Paly?


Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm

@elections: I personally consider it a badge of honor that someone like you, who admits they rarely vote, sends nasty notes without daring to stand behind them with their true identity and who doesn't understand why the Freedom of Information Act is an essential part of our democratic freedoms, is on the other side of this issue. Every posting you make just brings people to our side, so I hope you continue.

@fun - I don't accept the premise of your question because I don't buy your data analysis. And again, there's that problem with you not identifying yourself, which makes you easy to dismiss. Now I have a question for you. My kids are at Gunn. I'm pretty sure you don't have any there given you identify as being from Crescent Park. So why do you even care? No one is saying Paly shouldn't improve its program - only that it is better than Gunn's. And besides the data and my personal experience, I've spoken with dozens, maybe hundreds of parents with personal experience with the Gunn counseling system and have a similar perspective as mine. So I am convinced there is a problem and am participating in finding a solution. Unlike those like you who apparently don't think my kids deserve a good counseling system but would rather attack those of us who are trying to actually do something.


Posted by elections, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm

"@elections: I personally consider it a badge of honor that someone like you, who admits they rarely vote, sends nasty notes without daring to stand behind them with their true identity and who doesn't understand why the Freedom of Information Act is an essential part of our democratic freedoms, is on the other side of this issue. Every posting you make just brings people to our side, so I hope you continue."

I think you mistake the small group of (250) parents, many of whom probably aren't even involved and just signed up to get random e-mails, for a "side". I'm part of the silent yet significant majority who are appalled by the actions of the group you boast to be a part of. When the elections next happen, I think the result will be very clear what Palo Alto thinks of WCDBPA.

Also, whether I post my name or not has little to do with the conversation at hand. Sometimes the silent majority doesn't need a face to take credit for a long-winded post, as we are legion.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Sometimes the silent majority doesn't need a face to take credit for a long-winded post, as we are legion."

"elections" is a voice without identity or source credibility.

Long winded or not, you have zero credibility as long as you are an unknown entity.


Posted by elections, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, 17 minutes ago

"elections" is a voice without identity or source credibility. Long winded or not, you have zero credibility as long as you are an unknown entity."


Disagree.

See: "Also, whether I post my name or not has little to do with the conversation at hand."

I've found when someone has lost the argument at hand, they'll raise the "well, i'm not posting anonymously" flag. I'm not surprised that's what has happened here.


Posted by One more mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm

This forum allows anonymous contributions and many of us have our reasons not to use our names here. Not that we are insiders of the board or of school management and staff. I definitely am not.

I agree with "elections". WCDB is a small group although vocal. The silent majority can agree with some of your goals. I am all for improving counseling at Gunn if needed. However, we completely disagree with your methods. The end just does not justify the means.

We think you act in a very destructive way and that you can potentially harm the school district for the long term because you will discourage very dedicated, hard-working, talented people who will simply quit their positions from PAUS rather than have to put up with your vitriol. Many good teachers already have quit at least in part because of overly vocal parents. Those good people will probably not be replaced by people with equivalent motivation and talent, because the reputation of the district will be irreparably damaged. Is that what you want for our schools? Maybe you publish your names but you act in a very arrogant, and apparently not always very thoughtful manner.

I also agree that WCDBPA could probably not withstand running for the board. You would be soundly defeated. Maybe that's why none of you have announced any intention of running in future elections.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I've found when someone has lost the argument at hand, "

Who has lost the argument at hand? Certainly not the posters who do so in their own name.

Be anonymous if you wish but recognize that an anonymous voice carries no credibility - how can a reader judge the validity of your postings if they do not know who you are and what is your relevant expertise?


Posted by elections, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Peter - Please see One More Mom's post above. Thank you.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"elections" and One More Mom's postings are voices without identity or source credibility. Long winded or not, you have zero credibility as long as you are an unknown entity. I have searched in vain for a posting history for either of you so I can also assume that you have no history and hence no source credibility. Feel free to post your comments but unless those comments are totally self contained with complete logic and analysis I will simply ignore them.

Woud you accept medical or legal advice from a stranger without any credentials?


Posted by elections, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by elections, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm

@Wynn

There are none so blind...
Are you really not willing to re-visit your options when shown the actual data? I will be sending my analysis to the board, super, et al.
As I've said before, this is really the consultant's job. It's her data.


Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm

@One more mom - you are entitled to your opinion and have every right to post anonymously. My only point is that when you make that choice it is easy to discount what you say. For example, you say "Not that we are insiders of the board or of school management and staff." Well, I know for a fact that board and PTAC insiders, management and staff have posted anonymously here. So your claim is hollow and I can't trust you when you say that you are one of those people.

Also, when you speak anonymously in the royal "we" you can claim that you speak for a whole lot of other people but you have no credibility because you can't back it up.

I know of no one involved with the schools, on the board or otherwise, who has spent more time or energy than some members of our group working for the betterment of our schools. So the claim that people won't spend the time because of us is ludicrous. And the only reasons the teachers I've spoken with have given for leaving the district is because they can't stand the bureaucracy, or the parents who demand special treatment for their own kids. Point to some specific instances where what you say is true and I will listen. Make broad generalizations that you can't or won't back up and I won't. Pretty simple.

Here's a question: why in the world would I or any other parent in our district try to damage our schools? I've lived in Palo Alto for almost 30 years because I love the community. We moved into our neighborhood specifically for the schools. I've put in thousands of hours to make kids' lives better. My property values are tied to the reputation of our schools. Do you realize how silly the arguments sound that somehow we don't care?

Finally, how do you know no one from our group has any intention of running for the board? Or that people who have announced or will end up running don't agree with us on the policy questions? The truth is: you don't.

I don't plan on spending any more time responding to these kinds of attacks. I'm going to spend my time more constructively working to make our schools better for our kids. Sorry for those of you who don't share those values and feel better about yourselves when you attack others from behind a screen. To the rest of you, if you want to have an honest, open policy discussion about our differences of opinion, or hear more about why I feel so passionately about these things, I am easy to find.


Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm

@fun: At least when you send your data to the board we will know who you are...


Posted by Interested, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jun 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm

@fun: I suggest you deliver your data analysis to the School Board at the same time you apply to be CTO at Hamstercraft, LLC (should you decide to take up the offer to lead up this mission that is!). I believe that the offer from David Brent is still open.


Posted by PA Teacher, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm

I just read the entire thread. As a long time PAUSD teacher at the middle school level, I have much insight into how PAUSD works. I really wish we can do better PA had more support because the bottom line belief in their mission is valid. However, in reading the posts by Wynn, Peter, the Daubers, et al, I find it very challenging to support their beliefs.

While I don't agree with our superintendent on much and I didn't vote for our current board, your vile attacks on the work they do is both insulting and short sighted. I don't believe I find myself agreeing with the anonymous posters in the forum... But I do.

My best advice for those wanting change is to work within the system and not become alienated evils trying to push their own agendas through.

I'm posting without my real name because I teach in PAUSD and have had the children of some of the above posters from we can do better in my classroom. I feel I know all of the parties involved and sadly I find myself agreeing with those posters against the closed-fist nature one would describe we can do better PA following.

I wish this were not the case.

Feel free to dispute my truths because I post hidden from your google searches. Sadly, given my status as a PAUSD teacher, I must.




Posted by Huh, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm

What does a tree falling in a forest sound like?

Hint: this thread


Posted by Skeptical, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 10, 2012 at 11:38 pm

PA teacher, I hope you are not actually a teacher. That was a remarkably content-free post.


Posted by PA Teacher, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 11, 2012 at 12:07 am

You don't have to agree with my viewpoints. I keep them as anonymous as I can. I stand by my earlier comments.


Posted by Data, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 12:52 am

Data is notorious for allowing multiple interpretations, but I've frequently seen blatant misrepresentation of data and it's interpretation on Town Square.

Can someone explain whether fun's interpretation is in any way sound or why it isn't?

Is it simply an excuse for those who wish to ignore the data or is it a possible perspective on the data?

It's easy to snow non-statisticians.


Posted by Paly math teacher, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2012 at 1:10 am

@Data - I always follow the precept that in doing statistical analysis the simplest tool that gets the job done is the correct choice. Otherwise one runs the risk of obscuring rather than illuminating. That is happening in fun's case, I fear. Put more bluntly fun is a perfect example of why I insist that my students show their work.


Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 7:10 am

@Wynn
I'm willing to live with that. It's ironic it was Ken's request for this information that allowed me to do this analysis. Be careful what you wish for...

@PPT
In that case, would you choose an analysis that took surveys created for one purpose and "re-purpose" them; along the way, compare apple to oranges, only use some of the values, only include some of the questions and re-use the same result 10 times; Or an analysis which used the surveys as designed, left the data alone, used all questions and simply applied a standard formula to identify the significant problems?


Posted by letter to WH, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 7:30 am

To Wynn Hausser:

Based on the survey, parents at Gunn should want a better model than Paly has.

There must be some non-obvious, non-data driven reason why you think Paly's model should be brought to Gunn since Paly students are saying that they do not find Paly's advisory a "valuable" way to pass their time as Q&A and Fun post above.

Perhaps you have "spoken with dozens, maybe hundreds of parents with personal experience with the Gunn counseling system" who share your view. Two problems:

One, there are 4,000 parents at Gunn. So the "dozens, maybe hundreds" you've talked is a small sliver of the parents at the school so you do NOT REPRESENT all Gunn parents.

Two, it is the kids we should be listening to anyway. Which brings us back to the lukewarm Paly survey results.

Not to be a pop psychologist here, but your defensiveness is causing you to miss the positives in this thread - many seem to agree that counseling is important and should be improved at both high schools.

But less-than-perfect is not the system-wide condemnation you and others in your group make it out to be. Same facts. Different conclusions.

What people also are saying is that your group does NOT RESPECT others (Gunn parents, Paly parents, school board members, principals, superintendents, teachers and, of all people, PTA moms) who reach different conclusions.

Hopefully that'll change over time so you and your group don't follow through on your threat above to beat the district into submission:

"The consequences [if the board] doesn't act decisively ... will reverberate throughout the upcoming election and next school year at levels that will make the current uproar seem pale in comparison."


Posted by Hamstercraft LLC, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 11, 2012 at 7:53 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Ken Dauber, a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 11, 2012 at 8:18 am

At the center of this discussion should be what our children are telling us about the quality of guidance services they are receiving at Gunn. We asked them to respond to a quantitative and qualitative survey (as we have many times over the years), and they obliged in large numbers. Here are the quantitative results: Web Link. And here are the qualitative results: Web Link. I encourage everyone to take some time to look these over.
On the quantitative results, I used a straightforward method, the same one used by Kelun Zhang, the district's counseling consultant: I computed the percentage of students who either agreed or strongly agreed with a series of statements. Many of them ask whether students were able to access guidance services for dealing with specific issues (e.g., selecting classes to take, struggling in a class, answering questions from family about school, etc.). Others ask students about their relationship with adults in guidance roles, for example, whether they have sufficient time with them, whether they feel known, etc. Unlike Zhang, who was instructed by the district not to compare results from Paly and Gunn, we did compare them.
It's certainly possible to figure out how to ignore the plain message of this data, either by cherrypicking numbers (there are, after all, six measures on which Gunn exceeds Paly by more than 5 percentage points, albeit hundreds where the relation goes in the opposite direction). It may also be possible (though I doubt it) to find a measure that correctly applied spins straw into gold, though not one in general use in social science research. But I just wouldn't call that decision data-driven.
The gaps in service provision between Paly and Gunn are so large that we can be sure that they are real and that Paly students are receiving far better services than Gunn students. No one has ever argued that the Paly system is perfect, only that it is good, and that it is much better than the Gunn system. I know that Phil Winston is constantly working to make incremental improvements to the Paly system, but as everyone acknowledges the issues at Paly are not nearly as serious as those at Gunn, nor are they rooted in basic structural factors. The issue is thus one of equity and basic fairness. All students in the district should receive equally good services.


Posted by Ken Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 8:40 am

For those of you who are interested in why school board president Camille Townsend is quoted above as telling Kevin Skelly that the internal process in the district and at Gunn around counseling changes is "obstructionist", I've begun a thread on the internal process at Gunn: Web Link. Linked from there is a chronology of events at Gunn that is based on many PAUSD documents received from public records requests.


Posted by Not-Impressed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 9:31 am

> I've spoken with dozens, maybe hundreds of parents
> with personal experience with the Gunn counseling system
> and have a similar perspective as mine.

Dozens is generally used to mean less than a hundred. Hundreds is often used to mean less than a thousand. So, which is it? Less than a hundred parents, or less than a thousand parents, that you have spoken to about Gunn "counseling"?

> So I am convinced there is a problem

Since you ran for School Board, did you make the community aware of this problem at the time? Did you attempt to make the community aware of this problem, in a public way, such as writing up your experiences, offering that write-up to the School Board and the community, at large?

> Unlike those like you who apparently don't think my kids
> deserve a good counseling system

And just what is a "good counseling system"? So far, all we've seen is one survey that is clearly poorly designed, in need of much follow-up work, and a lot of thinking by everyone concerned. The push to make Gunn like Paly seems short sighted, since there is not evidence that Paly's approach is the best in the nation, or even considered as "best practices".

What's really missing here is a meaningful mechanism to identify problems in the schools. All we're seeing here is innuendo, back-stabbing, and the involvement of a local newspaper which has a long history of slinging mud at people in the community.

What the He** are the PTAs all about? Petitions For Change, and/or elections? Remember, no one ran last time there were openings on the Board, so the Board appointed its own to sit out another two years. No one cried "FOUL! We have a big counseling problem at GUNN!".

If this problem has been known for so long by so many, why hasn't it been brought into the light of day before now?


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 9:46 am

@"Not"

"If this problem has been known for so long by so many, why hasn't it been brought into the light of day before now?"

I am glad you asked. The problem with Gunn counseling has been well-known for many years. Beginning with the WASC accreditation surveys in 2008-09, and then carrying on into the Strategic Plan surveys of 2008 and 2010, it was clear that Gunn counseling had serious problems.

It's not Wynn Hausser or We Can Do Better that thinks Gunn counseling is an issue. It is our own School Board. As Board Member Barbara Klausner, herself a Gunn parent, noted in an email to Kevin Skelly (quoted in the above story) "so many Gunn families have such low expectations of the guidance support offered at Gunn that they may actually place low stakes on improving a system that they have come to essentially ignore." This was echoed by Board President Camille Townsend, when she also, separately told Skelly that "You hear a ton of Gunn parents complaining about their students not getting college. . .I personally have put forth the counseling issue for years now .... comes up at every dinner we have with the high school students at Gunn."

Aware of these issues, the Board set improving counseling as a focused goal and as a strategic planning goal for the past 5 years. When Noreen Likens was Principal at Gunn in 2008-09 she attempted to implement (with Phil Winston) a modified version of TA at Gunn. She worked with parents, students, and staff, and went through the site council, in order to build support for it. As part of building that support, she surveyed students in the 2008-09 WASC about whether they wanted advisory and 78% said that they did want advisory.

The fact that you are just finding out about this does not mean that it is not an issue of longstanding. You can learn more about the history of the effort to bring advisory to Gunn here: Web Link

This has been going on for a long time. Many people have worked hard to bring Gunn students and families the same high-quality experience enjoyed by Paly students and families. As Board President Townsend says, it is just "obstructionist" not to follow through at this point.



Posted by Not-Impressed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 10:14 am

> The fact that you are just finding out about this does
> not mean that it is not an issue of longstanding.

The community, as a whole, does not get up every day just to learn the latest minor issues associated with the PAUSD. To what extent this (Gunn Counseling topic) is a big problem really seems to be which camp you are in, and what your long-term political agenda might be.

But the principal point that was being made in the post is that there needs to be a better process in place to allow this sort of issue to get attention, or to be dismissed. For instance, since we have two high schools, are we not looking at potentially hundreds of problems of "Paly Has.. Gunn Doesn't"? How long before the Drama Department at Gunn realizes that Paly has a huge new theatre, and Gunn doesn't? How long before some other group arises and claims: "The Gunn Drama program is awful!"

Most people living in the PAUSD jurisdiction do not have kids in school. And those that do, or have had, generally lose interest as soon as their kids leave. So, to speak snidely to me about my "not knowing" (typical of the "putdowns" that have been dished out all too frequently in this discussion) is not going to gain any friends.

As pointed out in the post, there was no school district election last time, and absolutely no one stood up and said: "We should be having a discussion about the Gunn Counseling Program problems", if they are as bad as some people claim. So far, no one has even begun to address this long-term issue dealing with problems and change.

And by the way, it doesn't take much math to see that if you have 2,000 kids in two high schools, and you want these kids to have, say, 2 hours a month counseling--that's probably going to take a staff in the range of 100 people (or more). And with parent counseling added, that might well increase the staffing sizes, unless a radical approach is considered. All-in-all, this discussion is out-of-control, and should be stopped until the District responds to its current mandate for dealing with the problem.


Posted by Not-Impressed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 10:30 am

BTW .. it's more than odd that there have been virtually no high school students contributing to this discussion. With a thousand, or so, just released into the world .. why not round up a hundred or so, and have a debriefing about the Guidance Program in both schools.

It might be interesting to find out how many students were denied entrance to a college because of what they perceived as a lack of "guidance" during their four years at Paly or Gunn.


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 10:33 am

@Not

You make some important points. I did not mean it snidely when I said that the fact you are just finding out about the problem does not mean that it is not an issue of longstanding -- I meant it quite seriously. That is why I gave you a link to learn more.

You on the other hand, not so nice to Wynn or the Weekly: "All we're seeing here is innuendo, back-stabbing, and the involvement of a local newspaper which has a long history of slinging mud at people in the community." This was a fact I didn't mention and decided just to treat you as if you were reasonable even though you were pretty much frothing at the mouth.

Finally, I think you give yourself away in the last line: "this discussion is out-of-control, and should be stopped until the District responds." No. This discussion is an important part of democratic control of the schools, and of media sunlight on our political and governance process. You can simply stop reading any time you like, but you have no right to tell us to stop talking about an issue that is of importance to members of the community.

This Tuesday, parents will attempt one more time to obtain fair and equitible counseling for Gunn students from the School Board. As the internal school documents and emails show (Web Link) our district staff has been organizing itself against the Board's directive, even the minor directive to merely meet with Paly TAs and consider the program for Gunn. It is time for the Board to reassert democratic control of the schools. Will it?


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 10:38 am

For people who are interested in learning about the secret process to resist the School Board's directive that Gunn consider implementing advisory, please see: Web Link


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 11, 2012 at 10:40 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" It is time for the Board to reassert democratic control of the schools. "

Dealing with this issue FIRST will ensure that specific issues like counseling are all dealt with in a manner than is both more acceptable and better supported by the community.


Posted by Help, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2012 at 10:40 am

The PDF of the April 6 memo has a macro or something in it that makes it impossible to read from at least some phones.

Is it possible to post an HTML version or more plain PDF?


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 10:46 am

@Help. Ugh. it works from my laptop. I can ask Ken to look at it when he gets home. Sorry. If you email me I can share it with you directly? mldauber@gmail.com


Posted by Ken Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm

@Help

I'm not sure what's going on with the PDF -- I can see it fine -- but here's a link to the PDF as a single image: Web Link


Posted by anotherParent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm

@PA teacher writes:

"My best advice for those wanting change is to work within the system and not become alienated evils trying to push their own agendas through."


Truthfully, this is attempted all the time. The reality is that there is simply NO system in place to allow parents to work within the system. Parent's input is systematically ignored by teachers, instructional supervisors, Principals, district.

It pushes us to the brink of frustration, to be so marginalized.

That is why the Brown Act violations generate so much angst and anger - we are being ignored by the very board we elect. It just adds to the evidence that this school system is completely uninterested in parent input, reform, change, or accountability to the community.

I wish it weren't so, as I suspect much better solutions could come from collaborative engagement. However, there is no willingness on the school system to engage parents in any discussions of substance.

I don't think anyone enjoys conflict, least of which a conflict with your own kids school. If there were some mechanism of engaging the parents & community at every level in the schools (classroom, site, principals, district), we would find the overall level of conflict and strife greatly reduced, and collaborative discussions greatly increased.

But it requires the system to accept community input to the system. That will only happen when the leaders of this system show enough courage to hear a different opinion, to see the frustration of parents, and to listen to criticisms of their ideas.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm

My understanding of what has generated these charges of violations of the Brown Act stems from a very small but vocal group's insistence that Gunn implement the same teacher advisory system that Paly has. Not knowing much about advisory, I did a simple Google search "teacher advisory high schools" and came up with the following information. It is clear that there is no real substantive research around the effectiveness of advisory and that implementing it primarily makes intuitive sense. I found the following group, Education Northwest, who published a piece on What the Research Says or Doesn't Say About Advisory. Here is the link:
Web Link

I've included an excerpt from one of the articles they reference that answers the following question: What are the greatest challenges associated with advisories at your school?
 "This question provided the most consistent response. First and foremost, of course, was time! Finding or creating time to make advisories work is the greatest challenge for any school. What was also mentioned, and equally challenging, was the work of preparing teachers to be advisors, an incredibly important component to developing successful advisory programs. Overseeing academic advising and college prep work, keeping the "tool kit" fresh for teachers and balancing the teacher load regarding teaching and advising were other items mentioned. Underlying the issues of sufficient time and adequate advisor preparation, I believe, are the needs for staff buy-in, careful, long-term planning, and decisive leadership. Advisories do not work when they are mandated and solely top-down. But bottom-up initiatives present an array of challenges, too: they require time, planning, and administrative support. If they are to succeed, advisories are not something that should be taken lightly or treated cavalierly." From: Web Link

Please pay particular attention to the last couple of sentences. While I think the intent of the group We Can Do Better Palo Alto to improve guidance at both schools is good, I think they are going about it in completely the wrong way by asking senior administration to tell the sites what to do. In reading through some of the many emails that have been published, it seems to me that if staff are rebelling against implementing advisory, it is because of how it has been forced upon them. This is a huge proposition. Please take time to read through some of the studies published. Please give the high schools time to plan and implement their own plans, not those of the group, We Can Do Better.

As to the comments above from "another parent" : If there were some mechanism of engaging the parents & community at every level in the schools (classroom, site, principals, district), we would find the overall level of conflict and strife greatly reduced, and collaborative discussions greatly increased." I find that many parents have not taken the time to educate themselves on how they can engage the sites. Many principles have open door policies. All are available to make appointments with as are I think the district level people. Site council is always open for parents or community members to bring up issues. They are not closed meetings. Board meetings are available. PTA meetings are also helpful as most are attended by the principal.




Posted by Who else but parent, a resident of Ventura
on Jun 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm

"My understanding of what has generated these charges of violations of the Brown Act stems from a very small but vocal group's insistence that Gunn implement the same teacher advisory system that Paly has."

This point of view has always confused me. As a child 50 years ago, it seemed that some people would think this way but no one would voice the view for fear of appearing small minded.

It is analogous to complaining about police resources being squandered to hunt down a mugger, because only a small but vocal group has complained about being mugged. Then presenting some googled theories about the increasing spread of income inequality, veterans with PTSD gained by service in foreign wars etc. Finally we have arguments regarding how prison inmates rarely do better than their previous lives once released.

It's simply not relevant to the big problem staring you in the face.

This time, the administration's secret machinations work toward your goal. But next time they may work against your goal. You should be as concerned now as if the board were working to prevent something dear to your heart and of big need by your children.

Counseling and advising high school students is a complex and difficult thing. It's a great and important thing to be able to present your arguments and research for public view, and I for one appreciate you doing that.

It's another thing for the school administration to violate the transparency required by law in order to achieve goals that happen to currently align with yours. It doesn't matter if only a "small and vocal" group that wants something you don't blows the whistle.


Posted by anotherParent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm

@parent writes:

"Many principles have open door policies. All are available to make appointments with as are I think the district level people...."

There is a difference between meeting and doing. Yes, these meetings are available. I am well aware of this, so are others.

However, rarely is anything done.

The system is just not constructed to respond to parents (or kids). Either the teachers, principals and district personnel are not empowered to do anything. Or they just don't really care about parents input. Or both. Certainly there is no accountability. There also appears to be no leadership initiatives to respond to parents effectively. If anything happens at all, one is left to believe it was an individual act of engagement, not a system which encourages engagement. If you are lucky enough to get a good teacher, they address issues directly with your child and problems are solved. If not, good luck.

The overall impression is that the community is held at arm's length; the secret memos and backroom decision making just adds weight to this impression.

The Board should have taken this Brown Act issue as an opportunity to engage the community and double their efforts to give both substance to transparency and the appearance of transparency. It really doesn't look like they want to give that impression.

We are left wondering when the community will really be engaged, and I doubt it will ever happen seriously within the sites, or district.

Maybe the Brown act will hopefully force engagement at the Board.


Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm

@PA Teacher – I can understand why you would want to stay anonymous given your position with the district. What I have a harder time understanding is why you would choose to post here instead of contacting the parties directly if in fact you've "had the children of some of the above posters from we can do better in my classroom." If your relationship with them as parents was that bad, that may be coloring your opinion here. But if not, wouldn't a one-on-one conversation be more constructive? Regarding your characterization of my behavior, I admit to being very frustrated and sometimes get on my high horse a bit too much. I am human like everyone else and try to apologize when I go too far. But I hardly think anything I've said has been "abominably wicked; shameful or evil; morally despicable."

@ letter – You are taking my quote out of context – I was responding directly to someone speaking in the royal "we" without any back-up. I was simply backing up what I was saying to that person. I have never claimed to speak for all Gunn parents. And I do respect people who come to different conclusions when they are presented to me in a civil manner; that just hasn't happened in this forum. But I tend to treat people with disrespect who treat me with disrespect and every post I've made in this thread has been in response to someone attacking me first. I know I'm better off ignoring it – I'm working on it, believe me. I'm sorry I'm not better at it. But consider the irony of the messages being sent on this thread, basically "You're not being civil you scum of the earth #$%^%$# SOB hater!"

@not impressed – Yes, in fact I did talk about this problem when I ran for the school board. The social and emotional well-being of our students was one of the cornerstones of my campaign. And I'm proud of the fact that while I was the only candidate talking about it at the start of the race, everyone was talking about it by the end. I will note that that was in 2007 and the problem has gotten worse. I've also had first-hand experience as a Gunn parent in the meantime. And yes, I've spoken to school board members, other Gunn parents and the Gunn administration about this for several years. What's behind the frustration I feel and many others I've talked with share, is that despite bringing it to people's attention, very little progress has been made. So escalating this as an issue has not been a first resort – it has been a last resort.

To everyone else – If I have offended you personally and you have not attacked me, then I do apologize. As I said in an earlier post, I'm easy to find for anyone wanting to have a real dialogue about this. I'm just not going to apologize to people who hurl insults and mud anonymously.


Posted by Survey?, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 7:51 pm

One thing that can give pause in this discussion is the point made above and in other threads that a survey is just not a particularly valid source of information.

Even if an analysis of the data is perfect and the kids perfectly represent their opinion or impression, what kids want is simply not always the best for them, or the most effective allocation of resources.

Is there any other source of information that backs up or complements the survey data?

Reacting to a survey is not always the most effective approach in reaching the root source of a problem.


Posted by oh you kids, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

so, @Survey, "What kids want is simply not always the best for them, or the most effective allocation of resources".

Like these silly requests from Gunn students, maybe? - easier access to counselors, fewer lines, designated times so students no longer have to miss class time to see a counselor, 2 meetings per year (one for intro and one for follow-up), better ratios of counselors to students,meeting with the counselor to talk about future goals instead of just during an academic struggle, less wait times between making an appointment and actually seeing a counselor? And these came from just the first 5 open-ended comments on the survey(paraphrased). There are 700 more along those lines - just as ridiculous. Have you read them yet? Web Link

Would you consider their comments as another source of information that backs up or complements the survey data?

It wouldn't hurt any of us to just read the student comments - powerful in number and in the impression they leave about students' experience with counseling at Gunn. They were asked for their input. It seems respectful to listen carefully (and right to have a worthy response).


Posted by Survey, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm

No need to be snide, I am askIng a fair question with respect.

Look, a survey of our city or state would show that people have too much of a tax Buffon but don't get all the services they want. A survey often just doesn't by itself point directly to the best action. I'm asking if there is supporting analysis or data for action that will help get better survey results in the future.

The survey should help answer where we want to go, but it doesn't answer the question by itself.

Wasn't there an effort to do something about this before the survey? What was the information driving the decision to make that effort?


Posted by oh you kids, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2012 at 7:38 am

My apologies, Survey. I allowed myself some snide and really should have been more disciplined and kind.

In reading this thread, I have become more and more frustrated with the ongoing "sword fights" over whose stats have the true analysis or tool, with rare to no mention of the actual insights of the students themselves. Hundreds and hundreds of heartfelt comments that provide us with a picture of a serious problem with the guidance system at one school. At least that's what I heard in their writing.

Your comment "...what kids want is not always what's best for them, or the most effective allocation of resources" landed hard (given their comments).

Your question may be "fair", but in the context of this thread and in light of their thoughtful and detailed comments, I read it as dismissive and disrespectful to students themselves. I could only believe by your questions that you had not seen/read their comments. And thanks to that proverbial "straw", I boiled over. Hence my snide...sorry.

I do agree with you that surveys should help answer where we want to go, but they don't answer the question by itself. But my question, which I believe is also fair - why do the actual voices of students count for so little in this analysis, this search for what is needed or where we want to go?

Please read their comments. I think you will agree they do not provide the actual answer, but they can and should help answer where we need to go.





Posted by fun, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2012 at 8:36 am

@Oh you kids

The issue is with the proposed solution. Everyone agrees we have a problem. And contrary to opinions given, the problem is just as bad at Paly as it is at Gunn.
Unfortunately a certain group, for whatever reason, is trying to force TA on Gun when students at Paly consider TA a waste of time. How will implementing such a solution at Gunn help with the many heartfelt comments?
Yes, we need Gunn to improve as we need Paly to improve. One serious problem identified with Gunn is that students do not feel comfortable going to their guidance counselor with problems. This is also identified as a serious problem with TA at Paly. How will implementing TA at Gunn fix anything?

This discussion goes on and on because neither side is willing to re-visit their preconceived notions in light of the data. Where the data doesn't support their position, they ignore it. You can see that in this thread.
Didn't you ever ask yourself why Ken left the most damning question "Advisory is a valuable use of my time" off his analysis?


Posted by Endless, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 12, 2012 at 8:58 am

I do not trust Kevin Skelly. This latest "finding" has sealed the deal. New leadership is needed. Time to clean house from the attic on down.


Posted by Better yet, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

From a member of the WCDB group, "No one is saying Paly shouldn't improve its program - only that it is better than Gunn's."

Why not find the system that works best for both schools. Our schools should be modeled after the best counseling system in the country rather than once again competing with the school across town. Palo Alto does not have all of the answers. The energy being consumed to make Gunn like the slightly better system at Paly could be used to find what is best for schools that are growing rapidly and that have an ever changing population.


Posted by Blinders, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:48 am

@ fun... who are you arguing with? Ohyoukids is suggesting students should be listened to - that's all. And what proposed solution? Teacher Advisory is being advocated by WCDBPA, true. And the Board wants the Teacher Advisory model actively studied, along with other approaches, as BOTH schools work on their guidance problems.

For argument's sake, if Paly has issues with their TA program, it doesn't necessarily follow that the Teacher Advisory as a model shouldn't be carefully examined or considered by Gunn in this process. There's academic scholarship to more than suggest that it is worthy of consideration. One source: Web Link

Is your point that Teacher Advisory should not be considered in the process? Or is it that because Paly's program isn't perfect we should throw the baby out with the bathwater? I would argue that everything should be on the table. The Board seems to believe that too.

No one's voting on TA at Gunn tonight. Granted there is incredible pressure (and need) to do something substantive. What we will see is how the schools responded to the direction of the Board, each school's vision for next steps and action (basically what their best effort looks and sounds like).


Posted by Gunn Alumni, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 12, 2012 at 10:07 am

Dear Palo Alto Community,

Although I don't agree many things they say, I would like to first applaud Mr. and Mrs. Dauber for their tremendous dedication, leadership and hard work.

As a very recent Gunn Alum, I would like to address some of the community concerns from my perspective. Although counseling isn't perfect at either school, I believe this really isn't the primary way to address academic stress (or stress in general) at our schools. I was very pleased and still have a fantastic relationship with my counselor and this is because I sought his/her help from an early stage at Gunn. Any student can experience good counseling if they personally seek it and make an effort (yes, this may involvement a few road bumps or obstacles, but the Gunn counselors I know and I have spoken with just about all of them, will help you). No matter how "good" a counselor or a counseling system is, it still is the student that needs to initiate the relationship. I completely agree that not all students have the ability/desire to create this relationship. This is precisely why I don't think changing the counseling system or creating all this controversy over which counseling system is better (which is clearly offending and hurting people) is the right source of action. Even a "perfect counseling system" won't suit every student, because it is the student that needs to seek the help that they need.

Instead, I think that instead of changing counseling to address adolescent stress, we should take quick and easily applicable measures to lower the amount of adolescent stress and increase community spirit. Palo Alto should have well organized community-wide gatherings to watch Gunn/Paly football, basketball, water polo, swimming, track, baseball games/meets (Good spectator sports in which Palo Alto athletes are really good at). These games should be community-wide events that involve tail-gating and fun for the community. There should be more exciting ways to increase connectedness between students and teachers or students and students rather than forced meetings. For instance, school wide "dress like a teacher you don't know day and meet them at lunch" day, or how about, encouraging more involvement in physical fitness with wider publicity of Gunn open track workouts or open gyms (students at any physical level will benefit and I know from personal experience that these are fun and inviting atmospheres). I think everyone posting on this board can agree that more physical fitness will help students physically and mentally. In a short period of time, I thought of three ideas which I know will instantly help the student body at both Gunn and Paly. Let's focus on increasing the overall community of Palo Alto and lower the need for counseling in the first place. Let's attack demand, not supply. I know that if I could think of three ideas while writing this post, the creativity of our students and our community will address these issues significantly better than changes to the counseling systems. Hell yes, We Can Do Better Palo Alto! Let's direct our energy to more exciting events that encourage student involvement rather than force it!

Finally, let's take a step back and realize how privileged and lucky we are. So many things have to be going right for us to have two schools which produce students who become Olympians, actors, entrepreneurs, community volunteers and overall fantastic citizens. We are in a privileged and world-renown community and our students have been and will be changing the world. Issues exist, but let's not beat up our administrators and school board. They work tirelessly and have the same goals as you have. Let's remember that many of these folks have children also in the district. They are just as invested as you are and care just as much as you do about the well-being of our schools. Let's embrace the positive energy of our community and the people that create it.

Go Palo Altans!


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