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Skelly signals retreat on $150K PR officer for PAUSD

Original post made by Curious, Fairmeadow, on May 12, 2013

Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Kevin Skelly told the school board on Friday that "we were not successful" in hiring a public relations officer at an annual salary of $150,000 for the school district. See Web Link.

Just two weeks ago, Skelly told the board that the PR posting had attracted several strong candidates. He indicated that two Board of Education trustees would be involved in the final round of interviews and selections. See Web Link.

Skelly said that the district might be able to find a communications director sometime in "the future." The existing notice for the position expires on May 31.

Skelly's statement followed by three days a closed session with the Board of Education to consider his performance. Skelly is scheduled to have another day-long, seven-hour performance review on June 19.

The school board voted to hire a PR officer in the immediate aftermath of the news in January that Superintendent Skelly failed to notify the school board that he had signed a settlement agreement with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. The agreement came after OCR found that the district violated the civil rights of a disabled child.

According to the posting, the PR officer was to "promote a community climate of support for the district" and "cultivate" stories in media that portray the district in a positive light."

The school board's decision to hire a PR officer was met with strong public criticism. Former Paly principal Sandra Pearson wrote in a public letter to the school board that she was "puzzled and dismayed" by the board's decision and invited board members to seek input from teachers on more appropriate uses of $150,000. See Web Link.

The Weekly reported that former school board candidate Ken Dauber told the school board that "The district doesn't have a PR problem, you have a reality problem," and suggested that the $150,000 be devoted to a wellness center at Gunn recommended by a teacher-parent committee. See Web Link.

The Weekly also editorialized against the PR officer, and many community members have criticized the board's decision in online postings and at school board meetings.

Comments (16)

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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Curios - Thank you for your on-going follow up and reminders! Some argued that some or all the issues you address are water under the bridge. Seems to me that many keep their initial take about anything. Some do not want to be "confused by the facts". Some are hoping that the issues you mention are just margins, do not reflect anything else. Some think those issues are just the tip of the iceberg. I happen to be reminded of Pandora boxes.
There were many suggestions by those who agreed with the great editorial about systemic issues, as to the way to address these issues. Impartial investigation was mentioned many times. It was clear to me quite a while ago that it was not about to happen, fast. That was the reason that had me address Ken Dauber calling to form Shadow Board. An unusual suggestion, I agree. Understatement. I could not think of any other way to start and collect information ASAP. Recent threads indicate possible trust Mr. Dauber gained. Shadow (anything) is, by definition, formed by the opposition. I thought that a clear ongoing statement was called for, until hopefully some type of formal commission will be formed. A symbolic statement and action. I thought that even if by the end of day no formal commission or other legal action will be take place, no loss here - info being collected by a trusted community member. There may be other ways out there. I was very surprised to see the number of views my open address had prior to my recent reminders about it. link to my open address: Web Link


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Posted by Also Curious!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2013 at 2:42 am

Dear Ms. or Mr. Curious:

I am also curious about why our Superintendent, Dr. Kevin Skelly, seems to be constitutionally incapable of being honest with himself or with residents of Palo Alto whom he is supposed to be serving.

I am curious as to why every time the option for him to remove himself from his position (namely resign) is mentioned in these comments the comment has been removed by the editor. It seems like it would be the easier softer way for Dr. Skelly to get on with his life and for our district to move on in a more positive direction. Unfortunately, It is appearing more evident that PAUSD must rid itself of its highest ranking official. He has not been serving anyone except himself (at a huge salary of 278K I might add). He had his contract extended last year at that huge compensation level without telling the Board or anyone else (if you believe that Camille Townsend didn't know which some people have intimated in these comments she may have known) about the Letter of Finding from the OCR. This would be grounds for immediate termination in the world outside of PAUSD. Please, dear editor, leave the resignation suggestion intact. We cannot afford to have Dr. Skelly bring our district down deeper in the mud nor can we afford to pay out the cash settlements that seem inevitable if these OCR violations continue to pile up. This is quite enough. Enough is plenty as my Grandpa used to say when I was a child.

And what to about the board? It seems like there will come a time very soon when the board will implode or sink into a mass of jelly on the floor because of their spinelessness. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] It is true that some residents say that there is nothing wrong with PAUSD and that, in fact, it used to be considerably worse "pre-Skelly". I did not live in the district pre-Skelly but it is hard to believe that it could have been much worse.

To all reading this comment: Please come to the presentation this Thursday evening at the Ohlone School from 6-8 where representatives from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will answer all of your questions. I hope that Dr. Skelly and the school board will attend and particularly Camille Townsend who says she wants more "clarity" on what bullying is. Camille, this is a perfect opportunity to get all the answers you need to do your job. I hope you can make it!

@not curious: this would be your perfect opportunity as well to verify once and for all your point of law referenced in an earlier and related thread.


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Posted by Remy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2013 at 8:08 am

I am relieved to at least learn that Kevin Skelly is having performance reviews by the board. Actually, since the board has protected him so much throughout all of these scandals that he has caused, the board is probably the least qualified to give him a review.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2013 at 9:02 am

PAUSD: do not hire a "communications officer," PR flack or whatever you want to name this ridiculous, unnecessary, costly position, now or in the future when some think it can be done quietly.


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Posted by Bob Walters
a resident of University South
on May 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

Finally a sign of sanity, if true.
Hey Weekly, it looks like someone is taking you to school on how to do some reporting on the PAUSD beat. How about some followup on this story?


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Posted by ..and another story
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I agree, curious is doing a great job. I notice there's been nothing on last week's Newsweek release of the best public high schools.

Paly 161
Gunn 583

Web Link

Poway is 317!! Looks like Skelly's old district is doing much better without him...


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Posted by Reality problem
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 13, 2013 at 8:43 pm

If Kevin Skelly wants to be successful he should reach out to Community members who he refuses to speak to and mend fences. He should reach out to CAC and WCDB in particular. He is responsible for building bridges and he has acted like he didn't care. We have an involved, smart parent body and that should be seen as an asset not a problem. Dauber in particular has been constructive on the homework committee and with data analysis and is a very nice and well respected man. I am sure he would be happy to collaborate yet Skelly refuses to even acknowledge him at board meetings which is pretty rude. We're not paying him to hold a grudge. We don't need PR we need new bridges.


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Posted by Who's that trotting..
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 13, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Dauber is only interested in getting his own way. That's the prime reason he came last in November. Hardly someone who's interested in collaborating. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Also Curious!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2013 at 11:13 pm

@Who's that trotting....

Who do you think is "only interested in getting his own way" in our district? It's the one and only Dr. Kevin Skelly. His way is clearly not the way that will benefit our students as evidenced time and time again by his missteps and downright deceptions.

The truth of why Mr. Dauber decided to throw his hat into the ring is that he genuinely cares about creating a better social/emotional landscape for ALL of our students. He is smart, he is sensitive and he is a great collaborator. I don't know where you got your information from (perhaps the Baten/Caswell and Townsend camps?). He was smeared from head to toe in part by the powers that be because they didn't want the public to have the benefit of a transparent PAUSD Board and senior adminstration. I have noticed that Mr. Dauber posesses much more intelligence than many who hold board or adminstrative positions (watch him in action sometime or better yet have a dialogue with Ken...you may be impressed!). Perhaps the agenda was to keep Melissa, Camille and a newby who has thusfar appeared to be very ineffectual (Heidi) on the Board so that the shenanigans of Dr. Skelly would never come to light. The most ridiculous reason for not revealing that we were in violation of federal law (OCR citing)was according to Kevin "I was too embarrassed" Kevin won't even honor parents who ask questions at meetings that make him squirm. He just says, "next" and moves on to the next question. How's that for collaboration?


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Posted by Time for a Change
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2013 at 11:28 pm

I have a dream, that one day Palo Alto school officials including principals, teachers, and secretaries will treat "all people and students with the same respect, no matter what color of skin, how much money they or their parents donate, whose kids are they, or how smart or disable they are. I know it is just a dream, and will stay like that till we have new people who work just on the benefit of all students not on trying to make parents happy. By working for the students most parents will be happy, but mainly our students will thrive and not end up in mental institution, jail, or dead by suicide. It is time to make the change now, no more violation of student's rights nor discriminating parents. Time to move for a change.


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Posted by Who's that trotting...
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

@Also Curious!,
Let's see how curious you really are. You might also consider looking into who sourced the lawyers in the recent case. Quite illuminating.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 14, 2013 at 8:24 am

During the election, Caswell and Townsend were wholeheartedly in favor of transparency and accountability. Since the election, Dauber (and others, including the Weekly) has called repeatedly for a public investigation and public discussion of the systemic issues in these cases. Caswell and Townsend have been completely silent in response, opting instead to go along with Dana Tom's efforts (frustrated now twice) to discuss these issues only in closed sessions.
I'm tempted to use the word "lapdogs" to describe our school board, except that lapdogs at least get up and wander around occasionally. Our trustees remain firmly planted on our Superintendent's lap.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm

@Curious - Thank you!! Please, continue to provide information and reminders. Your posting, above, was extremely helpful. The new info as to PR position, and reminders listing past relevant links - the letter Sandra Pearson sent to the board, for example.
Many wrote prior that knowledge is power. Thank you for paying attention to important details and taking the time to share.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I don't doubt the sincerity of Mr. Dauber's concerns. However the saying, "No broken glass and no dead bodies", escapes Mr. Dauber in his methods of communicating and other actions. That is what has hurt him over time.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Much more damaging to Mr. Dauber, so far as I can tell, have been vague accusations like this one without any substantiation. That reached a crescendo in the election, aided by folks like Mandy Lowell who spent time and money on the project.
I don't doubt that some people do feel wounded, however. I'm reminded of Truman's saying I read recently, "I don't give them hell. I give them the truth and it feels like hell."
I don't want elected officials who think it is their job to ensure the comfort of those they are supposed to be supervising.


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Posted by crescent park mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Yes enough character assassination on Ken Dauber! Why are we even talking about Ken Dauber? He ran, he lost. In light of what's happened since I wish I had supported him but that's water under the bridge. Why don't we talk about Kevin Skelly, Charles Young and the gang that can't shoot straight over at 25 Churchill. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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