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Editorial: The school board's nadir

Original post made on Jan 31, 2014

There are so many ways the public, students and teachers were disrespected by the school board and Superintendent Kevin Skelly in Tuesday night's ridiculous eight-hour meeting that we hardly know where to start.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 31, 2014, 12:00 AM

Comments (329)

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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:20 am

This editorial accurately captures the the many problems with the board meeting on January 28.

It is worth recounting the incident with the child speaker, named Angela, in more detail. Angela is a student at Jordan middle school. Her comments would have taken less than 1 minute to read. The text is as follows:

"Hello my name is Angela. I went to Barron Park and when I was there I was constantly bullied by many kids. I was bullied at school, on the bus, in the classroom, and on the playground. I was bullied so much that I was sad and I also got sick with stomach aches from the stress of being bullied. I no longer felt safe at school or on the bus. I didn't want to leave my home anymore. You ask, why would someone bully me? I am not a special ed kid, I don't look for trouble, but nobody is perfect. God made me unique, as in short, and because of that kids call me names such as shorty, midit (sic), elf, and they would laugh at me. Every time they called me names they got more power. So, I'm here to tell you that not only special ed kids get bullied, and you should protect all kids to stop there (sic) suffering.Right now I am going to Jordan and I have witnessed a lot of bullying. So please stop bullying now."

According to the adult family member who brought her to the meeting, Angela attempted to speak during open forum, but was not allowed, likely because bullying was "on the agenda" for a later time (2:00am as it turned out). Therefore she could not speak during open forum. Dana Tom disallowed that request. When the student attempted to speak on the only item being heard at a pre-bedtime hour that was plausible on topic (middle school), Mitchell cut her off, and threatened the child and the adult family member with being ejected. Staff turned off the microphone on the child.

First, let's be clear. The Brown Act guarantees the right of the people to participate in the people's business. This child wanted to comment on an item of public interest before her school board. The only way that the board can eject anyone from an open, public meeting is for being disruptive and the only way that can be accomplished is by calling the policy. Charles Young had no more authority to stop that child from speaking or to eject any one from a public meeting in a public building that you or I. That act violated the child's First Amendment right to address a public body and her rights under the California Constitution. The board has the right to set regulations for public comment but not to eject individuals who speak off-topic in a peaceable manner.

Second, as a practical matter, why would Ms. Mitchell do such a thing? The child would have read her page in less than 2 minutes and been thanked and gone. The most appalling part of that display was the stony silence of the other board members and the robotic compliance of Charles Young who seems like a caring individual but inflicted real hurt on this child.

It would be nice to believe that the board will reach out to this child, apologize, and invite her back. But given the conduct of Ms. Mitchell at the meeting it would require a turnaround we are not likely to see.

Angela, you received a lesson in local government, but not the one you were hoping for. I apologize for the way you were treated and I hope you continue to stand up for yourself and others.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:28 am


- Aunt M. is taking A. to the super bowl and talks the whole way about the half-time show and how A. will be able to walk onto the field and hold up her "I Love Mommy" poster. A.'s worked on that poster for a long time.
- The game drags on it becomes apparent to Aunt M. that they can't wait to the half-time show if they want to catch their train. Rather than deal with A.'s disappointment, Aunt M. encourages A. to run onto the field in the middle of a play
- A. isn't too sure, it's the super bowl after all and there an awful lot of people. She tentatively steps towards the field unraveling here "I Love Mommy" poster
- An umpire sees the young child and gently tries to guide her back to her seat and tells she'll need to wait until half-time.
- A., dejected, embarrassed, turns and starts to walk back
- Aunt M. is having none of this and storms from her seat onto the field to remonstrate with the umpire
- The super bowl game stops as the umpire now has to deal with both A. and Aunt M.
- Aunt M. refuses to leave and the referee instructs security to escort both of them from the game
- At home, watching, you sit there stunned. What just happened to this poor child? Soon veins start throbbing and spittle flies as you yell at the screen. How could the referee be so inconsiderate? How could they do that to a child? She only wanted to stop the game for 3 minutes to show her mommy how much she loves her!


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Posted by Can this get worse?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:43 am

Keep apologizing for Kevin Skelly and Charles Young and Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom and the rest. Put all our PAUSD might from letting a little kid say a few words instead of putting that energy and overzealousness into finding a capable superintendent. I wish this was the nadir, but I've been musing for almost three years: can this get any worse?


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:47 am

As I said, given the conduct (and views expressed above) of the board members about whose meeting it is as evidenced by "rules exist" above, it is very unlikely that an apology will be forthcoming. Even your analogy above is telling about Ms. Mitchell's thinking. An NFL game is privately owned. A school board meeting is a public meeting. the right of the citizens to petition their government for a redress of grievances is the most central, fundamental, and crucial of all our constitutional rights. It lies at the center of everything we hold most dear in our form of democracy. Angela's rights under both the federal and state constitutions, and under the Brown Act were impeded. There is no right to run onto the field during a private event. There is a right to address your government.

But as a practical matter, the whole thing was just stupid and mean. Ms. Mitchell acted like a churlish neighbor ordering Angela off her lawn. What would have been the consequence to letting the child finish her 1 minute statement? The meeting would have run until 2:18am instead of 2:17am? The whole thing was a mismanaged, mean little fiasco.


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Posted by Can this get worse?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:49 am

Why isn't the link to the video of the PAUSD January 28 board meeting working?


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:49 am

Way to miss the point. There are rules that are meant to be followed. Just because they chose not to follow the rules doesn't given them the right to behave and speak as and when they wish.
Your ire is focused in the wrong direction.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:55 am

No, you have missed the point -- of American government. The "rules" that "exist to be followed" are the First Amendment to the US Constitution, the California Constitution, and the Ralph M. Brown Public Meetings Law. Those are the "rules" that matter and the "rules" that should have "been followed." The board protocols are not superior to the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

The only lawful way a member of the public can be impeded from speaking at a board meeting, or removed from the meeting is by the police, and for disruptive or threatening conduct. A 12 year old trying to say a 1 minute speech about bullying does not fit this bill, and had the police been called I have no doubt that they would have refused to eject this child from her public government meeting.


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Posted by Zippy
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:58 am

Too many teachers and administrators, including our infamous superintendent, apparently still adhere to the old adage that if you ignore bullies they will go away. This is a dangerously false belief that has led to suicides, physical assaults, and even murder and school shootings.

[Portion removed.]

The continued employment of Kevin Skelly by PAUSD is shameful, disgusting, and a slap in the face to parents and students. Complicating all of this is the bad publicity and ridicule up and down the peninsula down to San Jose that this has brought PAUSD--another reason for Skelly's termination.

Why does the Board continue to retain Kevin Skelly in a job he is not suited for, when any other district would have let him go a long time ago? He is a continuing embarrassment and liability!

If Kevin Skelly had an ounce of honor, he would resign. Since he appears to have none, the Board should muster up some honor and dismiss him before he can do any more damage to children, parents, teachers, and the PAUSD name and reputation.
...to say nothing of the legal and financial liability.


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Posted by Jane
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:10 am

@ rules exist to be followed

Yes, rules do exist to be followed, but there is also "free will." Every individual and group has the free will to make a moral, philosophical or practical choice given the particular circumstances of the moment. In your Super Bowl example there are very real practical reasons why no one (let alone a child) should break the rules and run out on to the field of play.

In Tuesday night's real life example, it was inconvenient for the board to hear a child speak to something out of order on their agenda. It was not life threatening. Furthermore, it appears that it also may have been illegal for Ms. Mitchell to prevent the child from speaking.

But the legal or even the practical issues are not what is most stunningly revealed in this event. What is revealed, as this editorial points out so well, are the lengths the Board and the superintendent are willing to go to in order to prevent the public from addressing them in a meaningful way about very important issues.

No one was able to speak to the Board regarding the proposed bullying policies until well after 1 am - not even a young child. Why? The inevitable conclusion is because they do not want democratic participation in their
process - at least not as it pertains to their bullying policy.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:12 am

No, Edmund, you're completely out of line on this one as was Aunt M. on Tuesday. The agenda was well published in advance and the process is well known.
Aunt M. chose to ignore that process and you saw the result.
Nothing I say will change your mind but you might want to review how it all transpired last night and where it could have been diffused. That child didn't need to be used as pawn in your game as she was on Tuesday.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:19 am

I witnessed this event and wrote about it in the comments here: Web Link

I still believe that Ms. Mitchell owes Angela (the 12 year old) a public apology.

EVEN if this young girl was being "used as a pawn" as "Rules" believes, surely that makes it all the more important that our elected officials rise above the situation and treat her with the kindness and consideration that a 12 year old with the bravery to speak before a raised platform of 6 adults deserves.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:28 am

I don't know how to make it any clearer. There is a legal framework that supersedes whatever petty animosities or agenda control protocols may or may not be in play. The child had a constitutional and statutory right to address the board and participate in the meeting. She was threatened with forcible removal from the meeting when she attempted to do so. It doesn't matter whether or not you or Ms. Mitchell (if you are different individuals) like the child's family member. I am sure that the school board of Little Rock, Arkansas didn't like the family members of the 9 students who were court-ordered to attend and did not want to hear what they had to say. Not only does that personal animosity not matter, it makes the situation worse because it suggests that your First Amendment rights depend on whether or not Ms. Mitchell likes you.

The fact that the child is a child of color should make everyone nervous about what happened.

A citizen, in this case a child, attended an open public meeting with the intention of addressing the local elected officials for one minute. She had no practical time in which she could do so, given that the item was agendized for the middle of the night and she was 12. The board is not permitted to make "rules" that make it impossible to participate, like literacy tests. random courthouse hours, and the like. These are impermissible impediments to participatioin. Holding discussion in the middle of the night creates an impermissible impediment to participation for a 12 year old, I think we can all agree on that.

Fortunately our constitutional rights do not depend on being liked by the officials in charge of the schedule. If they did, our country would look a lot different.

Her choice was not to participate at all, or to speak up for herself. As civil disobedience goes, speaking out of turn off topic in a respectful manner for one minute is tame. She was well-within her constitutional and legal rights.

Every citizen of Palo Alto should be concerned about what happened. It shocked the conscience and was out of touch with community values as well as legal rights.


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Posted by pamom
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:36 am

@rules exist -- I wasn't there but find this to be appalling behavior. My understanding is that the topic was the middle schools, and she's a middle school student. The school board should not make a middle school student wait until 1am in the morning to speak. That's a very brave girl to have spoken out at a school board meeting. She should have been able to speak for 3 minutes.


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Posted by Concerned Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:43 am

It concerns me that the student was not allowed to speak early in the meeting. Over the years, the board has consistently extended this privilege to high school students when they attend school board meetings. They should not do it selectively. They should be glad that a student wants to practice citizenship by expressing themselves at a public meeting, and extend them the courtesy that they have routinely shown other students. If they are ending this practice now, then they need to state it for the record to the public, and never make any exceptions to those whom they wish to favor, so we can understand that they don't want students to be able to participate without staying up all night, period. All students need to be treated the same and afforded the same courtesies.

Also all communications to board members are public record, so the Weekly should make a public records request to obtain all those emails and records if it wishes to understand who is influencing public policy behind the scenes.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:48 am

Speaking of rules, what was the agendized time for the bullying item? The board has the discretion to move agenda items around if they're running behind, or based on who wants to speak to them. Unless they don't care how they treat the public.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:57 am

@anonymous. The agendized time was 9:25pm, well after the bedtime of a middle school girl.

Reading about this incident and writing about it are helpful but citizens will have to take more direct action to ensure that the rights of citizens, especially young and vulnerable citizens, are fully protected and do not depend on whim or personal relationship.


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Posted by Can this get worse?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:10 am

The video is up. Thank you for acting on my post here on the Town Square. I get much more action posting anonymously here than Angela and Marielena got on Tuesday with Barb Mitchell ordering them to be removed from the building. Watch the video yourself.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:13 am

The Board meeting is now available to view at this link: Web Link

When the page opens up, the first thing you will see is "January 14th 2014." I have asked
them to fix this. Scroll down until you see the video screen that lets you start watching.
You should be viewing a woman wearing a green and white Paly football jersey. This is
the correct video for the January 28th meeting.

The incident with the young girl takes place at minute 1:26:55. This occurred around
8 pm in real time that evening. I believe the call to order was around 6:35 pm, so the
girl had waited for some time before an agenda item came up that sort of
fit her comment.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:15 am

Midpeninsula Media has fixed the date - it now says January 28th, 2014.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:25 am

@Edmund, and I don't know how to make it any clearer to you. You obviously believe that rules don't apply to you.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:37 am


I agree completely with the editorial, and Skelly and Mitchell are to blame for the way they set the agenda and did nothing to avert the catastrophe.

It was 1 AM + when the BOE had to hear the English proposal, which is full of issues. Could someone have spoken up and said not now! You know, it could have just as easily been a strategy to get it passed without public view because the teachers never made it public to the community, in 18 months!!

So, the transparency issue on English goes BOTH ways. I only found out about the 9th grade thing later, and if I'd woken up to this decision, it would have felt outrageous.

Please do not conflate the student's situation with the English teachers. That's just wrong.




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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:49 am

Wow, someone sure got their $5.99 out of their thesaurus. Both the mystery author of the editorial("staff"...snicker) and selected bloviators who responded. Here's a hint- big fancy 50 cent words doesn't do anything to make your editorial sound better. At best you sound obnoxious. As it stands you sound like someone so unsure of their agenda, you need to cloud the issue (or should I say obfuscate?) with a lot of fancy jawboning in a weak effort to sound relevant.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:55 am

yes but:

I suspect we disagree on the merits of the English proposal but I agree with you that whatever your views are on the de-tracking proposal it was improper to bring it up at 1:00 in the morning and without public participation. It was just as disrespectful to supporters as to opponents as to teachers to do it at that time. Transparency and public participation is a non-partisan value.

I cannot tell what you think about how the child was treated but I invite you to watch the video. At 1:29, Mitchell says "please cut the mike. We're going to ask you to be removed." I don't know what palace guard she was expecting to rush in at that point in this farce of a public meeting to "cut the mike" and "remove" people. If the meeting was broken up by a group of singing, changing, Occupy protestors, she could adjourn the meeting and call the police to restore order.

And what shall we think of Heidi Emberling, who ran on a campaign of protecting children from bullying, who merely sat there stony faced waiting for "order" to be restored as the civil rights advocates were illegally threatened with removal from a public meeting for speaking about bullying?

Threatening a child with removal for speaking out of order is a clear First Amendment issue. If this cues the ACLU and another round of litigation over this troubled board it would be unsurprising. Will no one show common sense and apologize for this fisaco, reagendize this item, and invite her back before that happens?


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:02 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Duveneck Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:12 am

Poor girl - bullied by the brats on the Jordan bus, brings her concerns to the individuals who are supposed to be there to do something and bullied again. All this hiding behind rules/agendas is complete BS. Somebody set the agenda - if children (students in the system) have a valid concern they are trying to bring to the board in a professional manner, the board should make concessions so that students aren't asked to stay up way past any reasonable bedtime in order to communicate with such an august body. Use some common sense you vile petty bureaucrats.


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Posted by interesting
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:16 am

I find it interesting that a 12 year old child wishing to speak to the school board about bullying was then bullied yet again by the adults of the school board. I think this tells us what side of this policy they live.


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Posted by Ashton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:19 am

Child just experienced another bullying incident, this time from adults.


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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:21 am

Clearly several posters believe the lesson to be taught to children is "I WANT IT MY WAY, AND I WANT IT NOW."


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Posted by Laws vs Rules
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:24 am

Public agencies frequently encounter tensions between the rules or protocols they have created to guide their meetings and legal protections provided to the public by state law and federal constitutional rights. While agencies establish their own protocols to try to conduct their meetings efficiently, the courts have repeatedly sided with free speech rights of individuals prevailing over such protocols.
What is particularly shocking here is how oblivious or dismissive Barb Mitchell was of her obligations under the law. The administration and the board appear to be equally uninformed or intimidated by Mitchell.
In addition, I read the agenda along with the comments made by the child. It appears that the child's comments were not directly addressing the policies under the agendized item and should have been permitted under the "Public Comment" item.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:25 am

It's bullying to ask someone to follow the rules? Really? Let's just push that victimization culture all we can!


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Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:38 am

Cutting people off after 1 minute; burying important issues; favoring lengthy, boring presentations by "staff" or developers -- this is all routine stuff in ALL the public meetings I attend. I'm glad this particular one has caught fire.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:45 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Middle Ground
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:55 am

This thread seems to have come down to those who believe the child should have been allowed to speak out of the order of the agenda and those who believe that rules are made to be followed, and we do our children a disservice by not teaching them the importance of rules.

Let's step back and ask when should the child have been allowed to speak?

Sparty? rules exist to be followed?

Under the rules she could not speak in open forum because her topic was on the agenda. Her topic, agenda item #19, was scheduled to begin at 9:35 pm. As it turned out, the topic did not come up until 1:30 am or so, but even by 7:55 pm it was clear that item #19 would not be addressed before 10 pm. So what should the girl have done in order to follow the rules and be able to speak before the board on something that was important to her?

I believe in rules AND I believe in the democratic process. I don't believe in censorship. The way the agenda was structured, and the way this 12 year old child was treated, felt like censorship. It felt like the board was going out of it's way to make sure that there would be little to no public comment or discussion on the proposed bullying items.

I would like the Board to make crystal clear how they intend to handle children who wish to comment on agenda items that come up after 9pm on the agenda. We need a rule that specifically pertains to children of the district and how they may address their Board AND go to bed at a reasonable hour on a school night.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:04 pm

@Anon

Regarding your comment that Edmund Burke throws down the "race card" when losing an argument.

Rather than relying on comments read here in Town Square, be they Edmund's or yours, I prefer to attend the meetings myself and draw my own conclusions. One thing I have consistently observed in each of the meetings I have attended is that many, if not most, of the citizens who come to address the Board are people of color. It would be interesting to go back through the many videos of the meetings and do a demographic survey of who speaks to the board so that we could have hard data, but my overall impression is that our caucasian citizens do not feel the same urgency about speaking to the Board that our citizens of color do.


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Posted by Rubio
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:05 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by wondering
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:10 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm

@Middle Ground,
The real action that should have been taken is for Aunt M. to talk to an official and work out an appropriate time for the child to display her poster. She may not have been able to go onto the field during a play, but could have been shown from her seat on the video board and get her 3 minutes. No disruptions to the game and everyone happy.

I don't know what Aunt M. was thinking telling A. to ignore the rules and run onto the field during a play. Then to go all-in and walk onto the field herself to remonstrate with the umpire. The referee had no choice at this point other than have both of them removed.

I'm all for changes to these board meetings. It's a joke that they run on so long. But you can't just ignore the rules because the meeting don't suit your timetable.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Looking at this from a different perspective.

We have Board Meetings going on until 2.00 am and later. We have teachers, parents and others who have to be there until that time in order to make presentations or take their turn to speak on important issues.

Is this the way to run a Board Meeting?

Is this the way to get individuals to want to run for School Board elections?

Something very wrong with the system when important decisions are made in the middle of the night. This is not State or Federal Government. This is a school board meeting in a small town made up of people who presumably have day jobs that they have to be awake and alert for.

Thanks to all those who attended until that unearthly hour and have reported or took part for the rest of us who were asleep in our beds at that time. I usually like to thank Board Members for their willingness to do a difficult job even if I don't agree with the way they are doing it. This time, I don't think I should.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Rules Exist,

You are wayyy off here. The school board and district work for us. Their operations are supposed to be an open book. The policy of letting kids speak early is long established as far as "rules" go and it is, of course, the decent and courteous thing to do.

Barb Mitchell had no right to threaten to eject anyone for exercising their right to speak, simply speak, at a public meeting. Her arrogance in this matter is telling.

This board is weak and the district has been poorly managed for some time. I only hope that we have some decent candidates for the next school board election.

And, you, Rules, need to take a basic course in US Government and Civics.


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Posted by Board watcher
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Mitchell and Tom have been treating the public with contempt for the last year. This is merely the latest episode. They have been systematically excluding the public from policy discussions by holding them in closed meetings with misleading agenda descriptions. We know about what is actually being discussed through inadvertent leaks. It's no surprise that they are willing to violate the Brown Act in this case. They have been routinely violating it without consequence for many months now.


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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:29 pm

As a former parent in the district, I haven't been to a Board of Ed meeting for awhile. I do occasionally look at/weigh in on these boards. I am appalled that the meeting was running longer than 1AM! I remember in past years the drawn-out discussions between Board members and the superintendent - these often seemed to have minimal content but plenty of pauses, "um's" and "uh's" - the off-the-cuff speaking often is long-drawn-out and not well formulated. If the meeting has to go on into the wee times of the night/AM then: compare with other local school district meetings - how are they operated? limit these slow, awkward comments by those on the dais. Call an additional meeting if agenda cannot be completed by 1AM. Good luck.
VERY un-businesslike, I can tell you.
And it certainly gives the impression of bullying a young child. I do remember agendas being altered to give preference to high school students who wished to speak, so they could participate and then get the heck outta there.


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Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:32 pm

AMEN! The English teachers also deserve an apology. They have been working on de-laning 9th grade for SEVEN YEARS, as a result of a W.A.S.C. DIRECTIVE which tells us that we need to solve a significant problem in the achievement gap at our school. We were told a year and a half ago that our proposal couldn't be implemented because we hadn't presented it to the Board. Now we present to the Board and are kept waiting for seven hours (after teaching all day), disrespected, dismissed, and disheartened. Then we are expected to get up and go to work the next morning after being pushed from the agenda from 6:30pm - 1:15 am? And we are expected to continue to spin our wheels attending regular WASC meetings?

This is a group of 20 teachers who have been working for years on something they were told to work on by WASC and by three different principals, and are committed to it for the sake of our students. There is no self-interest here -- it's a lot more work to un-lane than it is to keep things as they are. But because we are committed to our students and our professional obligations and our values, we put our time and energy and souls into this for years. This meeting was a disgrace. Not to mention the larger statement it makes to the lack of trust in teachers and the elitism of the opposers...and the bullied student....and everything else that took place at this circus.


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Posted by Not Suprised
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Wow! Thanks for posting the video link. I see that the little girl stated to speak with confidence and smile on her face. She looked so proud. However when Barbara stopped her, she does not smile anymore even though she continues speaking. Yes, she was bullied even more this time for adults: The elected officials we votted for to protect our kids. Now I know that the board members and Skelly have no remedy. Shame on them. I see on the video that one of the people who addressed the board before Angela was very interested and paying a lot of attention on Angela, he was even stretching his neck in order to see her. To bad, the PAUSd administration was not. All they wanted was to shut her up, so parents at home do not know what is going on in their schools. Angela, if you see this posting, I want to tell l you t hat you have a great future ahead of you. You are a great speaker and are not afraid to tell the truth. Even when the [portion removed]lady cut you off and put you down by telling you that she did not want to hear what you had to say. I am wondering if Young took them out. It makes me feel that they were on a bar and people were waisted and did not know what they were doing, so they called the security to throw them out. The ones who should had been thrown out were the people on the board, and Skelly.


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Posted by pamom
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:37 pm

@rules -- The problem you are ignoring is that there have been other instances when high school students spoke before the school board and exceptions to the rules were made so that they could speak in a timely matter. In this case, the topic was middle schools, so it made sense to choose that time to speak given she should not be expected to stay up so late.

How is that sometimes the school board can make exceptions for certain students but not for other students? Sounds arbitrary and dependent on their viewpoints and disrespectful of public comment and input.


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Posted by Meeting with no time constraints is a JOKE
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:38 pm

The Board meeting is a standing example of how to NOT run a meeting. They have total disregard for others' time. I think a recently elected board
member said that she would refuse to vote for meeting extensions, and did
do that once when I was present. But, to let a meeting drag on and not stick
to the agenda sets a bad example, one that others may try to co-opt but without much success.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Edmund Burke,

I suspect we disagree on the merits of the English proposal but I agree with you that whatever your views are on the de-tracking proposal it was improper to bring it up at 1:00 in the morning and without public participation. It was just as disrespectful to supporters as to opponents as to teachers to do it at that time. Transparency and public participation is a non-partisan value.

I cannot tell what you think about how the child was treated but I invite you to watch the video. At 1:29, Mitchell says "please cut the mike. We're going to ask you to be removed."

OH MY GOD

I have no cuddly feelings for Barb Mitchell and have disagreed with MOST of her decisions in the past, if not all!

But now that I have seen the video I think some of the posters and this Editorial are utterly out of touch.

The most glaring thing I see is the lady Maryelena, who should be held responsible for this situation. This is not the first time I have seen her passion and advocacy, which she has a complete right to advance (much I agree with), but this way was completely out of line.

We're not stupid you know. For a child to stay up that late and address a school board, there has to be parental or adult guidance. If I think this is what it is, it makes me ill.

I commend Barb Mitchell for not totally losing it. I tracked every single one of her comments, and her tone was not full of the outrage I felt when seeing this happen.

Now, Edmnund - with whom I have also agreed with on much on these threads, and I usually knock away at the conspiracy theorists, you have given me much pause today.

If only because you and the Editorial advance this idea that there was an abuse here. It was all a BAD situation, but just like the Editorial completely misses the point on the English issue, there is a major miss on what happened when the young child spoke. She is adorable, and bullying needs to be handled appropriately, and she should know everyone cares. But Maryelena needs to be the focus for what happened at the meeting.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2014 at 1:15 pm

If you just read the editorial, you'll likely by sympathetic to the speaker, and think Barbara Mitchell was being a tyrant. But I just watched the video, and what I saw was a poor girl being manipulated by her family, and Barbara Mitchell acting with a lot more patience than I would have had.

I really encourage people to watch the video themselves. This link will take you directly to the correct time:

Web Link


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Posted by intrigued
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 31, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Teacher,

"They have been working on de-laning 9th grade for SEVEN YEARS, as a result of a W.A.S.C. DIRECTIVE which tells us that we need to solve a significant problem in the achievement gap at our school."

Did the WASC reviewers tell Paly to de-lane 9th grade English

or

was WASC more general, calling on Paly to fix the achievement gap, and some Paly teachers believe de-laning English is how they want to try to do that?


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I guess rudeness is in the eye of the beholder. I watched the meeting. I don't know any of the people involved. I'm with Burke and the Weekly. What was the harm in letting her talk. So what it was off topic. She's 12. So what you don't like her aunt. So what? Just my impression but Mitchell had something against her aunt and had no problem retaliating against the child. Not the best moment for the board. Sure seemed like an overreaction.


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Posted by Oops! They did it Again!
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 31, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Oops! they did it again! PAUSD Board Members and administrators have failed the child who wanted to tell her bullying experiences. I remember that when the mother of Willl, the one who took his life, his mother came to the board meeting and wanted to speak up to the board, but they took a long time talking about lenguages classes, and they just kept going around the bush, till she got sick of waiting and decided to leave after 11:00pm. However Ms. Dixon gave her frined a letter so she could read it to the board. I rembember Ms. Dixon saying that the board was stone walling. They do this everytime there is something of interest to the public but not for the board. Yes they did it this time again. That way they little girl will have to go home.


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Posted by Mixed Views
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I initially read the article and was sympathetic to the sweet Middle School girl. However, after watching the video, I have to say that I felt the school board was pretty courteous and restrained.

The adults chaperoning the girl really acted out of line. To me, this was a low key version of civil disobedience. I have no problem with that - it's a way to get attention when you feel your voice isn't being heard. I would also have no problem with the mic being cut off or the adults being ejected from the meeting for refusing to stop. What I do have a problem with is the adults with the middle schooler clearly manipulating the young girl to suit their own purposes.

I do agree it's a big problem that meetings go on until 2am in the morning. However, I don't see how people talking whenever and about whatever they want will help.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Mixed Views,

I agree with you, the 2 AM thing is abuse in and of itself. For that the teachers and everyone deserve an apology.

The English teachers do not deserve an apology for the rejection of their proposal, and I hope their shedding tears over the entire situation is because it was 2 AM, not because they did not get an approval. That would be really troubling, to have expected a rubber stamp for what has been a secret proposal for 7 years or the past 18 months/ whichever it is.


Mom,

"So what you don't like her aunt. So what? Just my impression but Mitchell had something against her aunt and had no problem retaliating against the child. Not the best moment for the board. Sure seemed like an overreaction."

Not sure where this Aunt M started, the editorial does not say that. If it is referring to Maryelena the lady who was mobilizing around the child, she is a very familiar face in the BOE meetings (I recognized her name from hearing her often speak at meetings). I recall her from WCDBPA We Can Do Better Palo Alto and other bullying items.

Even if you knew nothing about the Aunt though, and erased the sound on the video and just watched Aunt M you could see what was going on.

My interpretation was that Mitchell was shocked that Aunt M. went this far. This gross feeling you get, and you want to end a situation that you know is even badder than it looks.

Whoever said "it's in the eye of the beholder" - I think if any adult is to be held accountable, it's Aunt M. There probably are no laws against what she did, but if Aunt M did what I think she did, I thank Mitchell for stopping it.

There should have been other adults who were aware that this was happening to help prevent it. This lady needs a talk. She should show up at every meeting, exercise all her rights, as an adult, but this situation was very unfortunate.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 31, 2014 at 2:21 pm

What is happening in Palo Alto is that there is a public dialogue and a private dialogue. What is interesting about this Board meeting is that the private dialogue was made public with Ms. Janov and Mr. Foster directly speaking to the Board, and the public dialogue degenerated to the point that the community could see it for the circus that it is.

People without power in the district- the outsiders as described by Paly Parent Trish Davis - teachers, PASS, the Gunn Advisory Committee members, students including Angela, and their fearless supporter Ken Dauber, line up before the microphone for their 3 minutes to speak at all hours of the night. Depending on the mood of the Board they either can say their piece, speak for more than three minutes or be prevented from speaking. Note that Angela is not the first person to be dismissed for a reason of protocol which was later found to be in error.

This side show has no bearing on the decision making process. It is a worthless exercise. The decision making happens in the private space that the Board does not disclose - closed door meetings, private phone calls and email conversations with "elite" constituents.

What is interesting about this Board meeting is that the clash of the public and private spheres. Generally Ms. Janov and Mr. Foster do not directly participate in the public sphere. The Paly laning decision must have had more support on the Board or from the administration than we think.

What is also interesting about this Board meeting is the extent to which the public dialogue degenerated. Ususally Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Tom are more professional in their abject dismissal of the lumpen prolatariat. Usually they stare off in space, fiddle with their iphones or at worst glare at the speaker.

While most poster are aghast at the goings on. I am actually cheered by it. Teachers, don't give up. You have flushed your oppontents out from the shadows. Now you know who you are up against and let me tell you, they put their pants on one leg at a time like everyone else. [Portion removed.] Reach out. There are many in the community and perhaps on the Board who support you. We too know Board members and write checks.




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Posted by Local Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I have to agree that this board does not handle their responsibilities in a clear, efficient way, and that a meeting going on this late is a clear sign of this. However, what the Weekly does not make clear is that this family has been heard from before. They have made their problems with the district more than clear for a long time now. I believe the young lady was bullied, that the district handled it badly, and that a bullying policy is very much needed in order to prevent this in the future. But it is also true that this family has been involved with a group of local activists who have been extremely vocal in criticizing the board, the administration, the PTA Council, and whomever else got in their way. It is no wonder that the presence of these two at a meeting was not handled well. Why does the editorial exclude any mention of this long feud, but rather, present this unfortunate event as if this young lady was acting on her own, and bringing her problem before the board for the first time? It gives a very false impression.


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Posted by Gossip Gal
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 31, 2014 at 2:40 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Gunn Parent, Charleston

And let's not forget the private discourse that goes on between site staff, district staff and the board.

I too am cheered by the process. For one, the 7 year/18 month secret English proposal will get the light of day. And shout out to VIDEO or we would all be in even a darker place.

The English proposal deserves to enjoy the trimming of all public proposals. Not all of us can vote with our checks, or with a union, but I still rely on my ability to read, see, and make my own judgements. Nobody should ever give up for sure.

My 2 cents on the English proposal, on video I heard repeatedly the teachers say they cannot comprehend why nobody signs up for advanced English.

Maybe students have other subjects they want to prioritize, other languages, science, math, electives, tech, and spending an entire year on dystopic novels or getting grades on medieval costumes is just not that interesting or fun.

My suspicion is that the Pathways programs proposed (Sports and Social Justice) are better pathways for Advanced English (critical thinking and writing), in the same way that Paly students later flock to Journalism.

So, unless they make homework optional for 9A, who in the world wants more work with an advanced class? We should be that surprised that Paly students are smart?

If this is a "fight" maybe the Board should speedily grant the teacher's wish, and let's move on.

But, if 9th graders are overloaded with English homework, bored, never getting a paper graded, or have a D in the the "9A" ADVANCED class, what do you think some of us neither insiders nor outsiders will think. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 3:05 pm

A 12 year old girl who is already bullied at school was bullied again by the same people who don't believe that bullying is a problem in PAUSD and that government is the enemy. Very nice.


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Posted by Another Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2014 at 3:13 pm

For the longest time, as a school parent, I had been supportive of our Board and Superintendent and tended to defend them here.

I must say this has put an end to my support. This is egregious. How could they treat that Jordan student so badly, effectively bullying her themselves? This is shocking.

I must add something. I think this Board and Sup are a reflection of the evolution of the Palo Alto community at large, which has been becoming ever more elitist and snobbish.

Case in point: it seems that the most important factor in elections and Sup selections is where the candiadtes/applicants went to college, much more than their qualities as people and their professional track record. I am convinced Mr Kelly was chosen largely because he has a Harvard diploma and in spite of his track record prior to PA. This is ridiculous. It's time for PA, or at least PAUSD, to come down from their little imaginary cloud and get back down to earth, to a spot where people are judged, elected and selected on their actual merits rather than on such superficial factors as Ivy League names in their resumes.

What a shame all of this is.


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Posted by Kookla
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 31, 2014 at 3:20 pm

The entire school board and its superintendent have a big conflict of interest: they do not. believe that bullying is a problem in PAUSD, yet there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Administrators at Columbine High School did not think bullying was a problem there, either, and we all know how that turned out.

Kevin Skelly, the board, et al should recuse themselves from serving in this district, and replacements voted in. [Portion removed.] They have tarnished the Palo Alto image and opened up Pandora's box with regard to lawsuits and big financial expenses. If they refuse to leave of their own accord (due to a lack of pride and dignity), a way should be found to terminate all of them.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 3:21 pm

@another paly parent, that's the problem. Some parents were aware of Skelley's [portion removed] record at his previous job but supported him because he had a Harvard degree. Is that why you supported him? I think you are spot on re the changing values in our community. We have become snobbish and insufferably elitist. This board reflects this tragic change perfectly.


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Posted by Can this get worse?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 3:40 pm

I watched the video again. Barb threatening the girl that "We need to have you removed from the room. Please cut the mike. We are going to ask you to be removed."

Marielena said "You are here to work for the kids." Barb needs to hear that. Skelly needs to hear that.

My scorecard has it Barb was a tyrant and everyone up there was too dumbfounded or scared to step in and give a kid three minutes.


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Posted by Laws vs Rules
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 3:42 pm

@Kookla
I have deep disagreements with how Skelly and the Board have conducted themselves on many policies and their governance processes. And I understand the increasing frustration that many in the community feel over their performance. However, it is irresponsible to recklessly throw around accusations of "corruption" and "conflicts of interest". These are accusations of legal malfeasance and I have not seen any evidence to support such claims. It is fair game to criticize their performance and even values as reflected by their actions, but you undermine the legitimacy of your position by unfounded accusations.


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Barb Mitchell was rude and contemptuous to a PAUSD student trying to address the school board. The rest of the board let it happen. Senior district staff also sat by, or in the case of Young, actually abetted Mitchell's behavior.

Nasty and shocking, but the real issue is the breakdown in governance. The handling of bullying and the OCR investigations has been a fiasco that has led the board into secret meetings, tolerance of dishonest public statements from district lawyers on multiple occasions, and now trying to bury discussion in the middle of the night.

We need fresh blood on the board. This is what happens when elected officials start to believe that their seats are their personal property, not the public's.


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Posted by Dauber 2014
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:22 pm

I'm ready to support Ken Dauber right now. I wasn't really paying attention last time but this bullying thing has got my attention now. From where I sit he look like just what the doctor ordered. I will be donating $500 to his campaign if he runs, or to whomever he endorses. I will email him and encourage you to do the same.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Kookla and Common sense,

Wasn't the one-tier bullying policy nixed because the teachers had reservations?


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Obviously "rules exist to be followed" either is Barb Mitchell or is channeling her. Even someone from Gonzaga U (wherever that is) should know that rules exist for the benefit of society. What a disgrace of a Board President. What a disgrace of a Superintendent.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:39 pm

The Weekly is correct - obviously - that no meeting should run until 2am in the morning (except perhaps a labor negotiation seeking to wear down both sides). Quality decision making is difficult, it challenges anyone who wants to participate, etc. If I'm not mistaken this was the second meeting of the day, so the Board and staff had been in some form of meeting for more than 10 hours. Ouch.

So, the question is, how to prevent that? This is especially tricky given the Brown Act. Clearly the need to hash everything out in public is part of the problem. Unrealistic agenda times don't help anyone either - especially when certain individuals seem to pop up for their 3 minutes for every agenda item at every meeting.

A big part of the Weekly's complaint seems to be that "their issue" wasn't earlier. Understandable, but perhaps the Weekly should point to some of the earlier material that shouldn't have been discussed? Or would that be criticized for not being give a fair public hearing?



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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:45 pm

So, David, rules exist for the benefit of society. Which would imply they need to be followed. I'll take that as agreement.


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:46 pm

@rules exist,
I was in an accident once where I pulled into the "right lane" to turn right. The insurance company had some issue because there wasn't a right lane painted on the road and claimed I was passing on the right. In the end, I prevailed, because the DMV literature says if a road in a business district is always used a certain way by everyone, them's the rules. In that case, the road was really wide, and everyone always used it like it had a right turn lane. The rule was defined by practice, by no less than our rules-are-rules DMV.

It has always been the practice of the board to allow students to speak early. Among other things, in practice it affords them their rights because making them wait all night may in practice deny them their right to speak. You are re-defining the "rules" to suit your purpose, and like the board, using the letter of the law to defy the spirit of the law. Shame on you both.

For Barb Mitchell to prevent this student from speaking early was a violation of the district's own practices. Your analogy was self-serving and ridiculous. The board should have let this child speak like it would have any other child.

Angela,
Thank you for making the effort to speak up, and for not being intimidated by Ms. Mitchell who was trying to bully you, too. If it helps, she can be that way with adults, too. I am proud to know there are students like you in this district.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Two thoughts:

1 - An elected body has the right to change the order of items on its agenda particularly to accommodate either a large number of individuals who wish to speak on an agenda topic or to avoid having someone wait an inordinately long time for a particular agenda item to come up in the normal course of the agenda. The MPFPD Board did exactly this last week to allow the Mayor of Menlo Park to speak on an item that was originally placed later in the agenda.

2 - Elected officials should never forget who we work for - the public. This is reflected in the Fire Board's agendas have FOUR separate opportunities for public comment and all have this preamble:
"PUBLIC COMMENT

A fundamental element of democracy is the right of citizens to address their elected representatives. "


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 5:04 pm

@Anon, I guess you didn't tell them you were driving on the sidewalk. Aunt M. knew exactly what she was doing but obviously didn't care.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 5:05 pm

"Case in point: it seems that the most important factor in elections and Sup selections is where the candiadtes/applicants went to college, much more than their qualities as people and their professional track record. "

Hmm, evidence is to the contrary, I think. Of the two non-incumbents last time, UC Santa Cruz grad Heidi Emberling (profession - educator, as well as PTA president and PIE board member) beat out Yale grad Ken Dauber (profession - engineer, limited school volunteer experience). Draw your own conclusions.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2014 at 5:07 pm

@Edmund Burke - the following is part of my comment on your blog -
...
I understood that the Jan 28th meeting was suppose to address the bullying policies. I watched it until almost mid-night. I was appalled by the girl incident. ... me post on my blog on Wednesday, Jan 29th.
Ms. Gaona Mendoza, the adult who accompanied the girl who was shut up in the meeting, honored me and commented - Web Link

Her detailed comment adding info I could not know had me respond to her yesterday, Jan 30th - Web Link
...

And - THANK you for the time, attention and caring!


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Posted by Sad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 5:16 pm

The aunt could have guided Angela to speak at the appropriate time. Why was she in line to speak on bullying when the topic was about class courses? She was sandwiched in the wrong topic. Very sad for the girl, who wanted to express herself.


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Posted by Mom2
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 31, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I am mortified at the behavior of the board and Charles Young towards the little girl at the board meeting. It is exactly this type of behavior that she was trying to address--not being heard when she had complaints about bullying and wanting a policy in place to protect her. Where are the highly qualified and capable staff at that meeting that we have heard so much about? The board has gone through multiple trainings on this type of issue, has been in trouble with OCR about it, received legal advice paid for with tax payer dollars to clarify how they should respond--for what?! To treat another middle school student this way? If this behavior happens in public and every single board member stood by to let it happen, how much worse is it behind closed doors and with families who are scared of retaliation? This was an eye opening example of it.

To the little girl--you did not deserve to be mistreated by anyone at that meeting. You had every right to stand up and give your feedback for your full three minutes. The bystanders in the room should have at least gotten up to stand behind you and next to you when you were interrupted, at least as a visual sign of support.

"Teacher" now says that the district has been under a serious directive from WASC for seven years. Is this common knowledge? I am shocked that PAUSD has multiple OCR complaints and findings and is now at risk of loosing WASC accreditation. Just when I wonder how much worse things can get in the district, something else surfaces. In pulling up the WASC criteria, it looks like PAUSD is not meeting several areas--school environment and governance seem the most glaring, but the issue of "schoolwide learning results" certainly makes sense as it relates to students of color and special education. What happens when WASC accreditation is pulled or PAUSD is put on probationary status?

Did you all receive the Skelly robo call yesterday about the last push to donate (more) to PiE? This, this is what our donations are going to support?! A big deal in PiE is that at higher donation levels, there is better "access" to Skelly and the board. At what donation level would a child be given her 3 minutes of air time at a board meeting? I'll pitch in on behalf of and in honor of Angela. At what donation level will our district pull it together to approve a bullying policy that meets basic state and federal laws? I'll bet lots of parents would pitch in for that. Who at PiE is the person in charge of writing checks to the PAUSD board? I hope the message is delivered in the strongest possible way that there will be no more fat checks written or signed until Barb Mitchell first publicly appologizes for her atrocious behavior to the little girl--and that at the next board meeting each and every board member does the same.


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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2014 at 5:31 pm

This thread reached the point of being useless at about the 5th post. The majority of "letters" sound like the college entrance exams of precocious 11th graders--with revisions by their petulant parents.

Ironic that it has fallen to accusations of people being blinded by the light of diplomas from the "best" school. There is little to be found here other than a sampling of words hastily grabbed from a SAT study guide.

The folks who want some real change should meet up in person and plot, plan, and campaign. A handful of people repeating themselves will be ignored, the same as every other citizen seen as a crank by public officials. This is the phrase to learn, common in city government, but most often used by police officers after a citizen wildly complains about a perceived problem: "I'll give it the attention it deserves."


Flexing you synonym list at everyone in an attempt to appear more smarter is less gooder than you think... . I assure you, if you claim to speak the way you write, people can't wait for you to go away, home, or anywhere else once they've engaged you in a conversation.

Flogging everyone else with your thesaurus doesn't improve your position. It only makes you come off as a 3rd rate William F. Buckley...and a bit hysterical to boot.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2014 at 5:41 pm

"Rules exist to be followed" is an idea that will come as news to the full complement of OCR staff attorneys working on PAUSD complaints about broken federal laws for the past two years. So if it suits Mitchells purpose to cite chapter and verse on some little protocol it's suddenly that we must Follow The Rules? Red face test: fail.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:22 pm

@anon parent - Barbara Mitchell didn't keep the child from speaking, she saved the child from being used as a tool to disrupt the meeting by her family. Watch the video, watch how Barbara Mitchell is completely courteous and patient, and watch how the family is nudging and prodding the child. I felt terrible for the child not because she didn't finish, but because her family put her in an inappropriate terrible position.

Here is the link again to the video, watch and judge for yourself...

Web Link


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:24 pm

People seem horrified at the response of the Board to the little girl that wanted to speak. However, no one seems to be asking if she, and/or her mother, had previously reported the behavior of her classmates to her teacher, the school principal, and the school district via the avenues available to her? In other words--is this the first time that she tried to speak out? If so, why wouldn't she be expected to use the avenues afforded to her--particularly in writing--for making formal complaints asking for help?

Maybe she was rudely treated--but it seems like she was being used as a pawn to setup the Board.


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Posted by Eric Stietzel
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Dear rules exist to be followed,

In the judicial system, there are rules about the appeals process. There has been at least one case in which, following the rules led to the execution of an innocent man, known at the time to be innocent, but his appeals had been exhausted before the actual murderer confessed and several witnesses recanted their testimony. For details, see Web Link

I frankly don't care if someone's appeals have been exhausted, innocence should trump the rules. HAve you not read The Merchant of Venice (Act 4, Scene 1)? Antonio didn't have to sacrifice a pound of flesh because the judge required that no drop of blood be spilled. The lender, granted the flesh, asks, "Is it so noted in the bond?" The judge replies, "It is not so express'd: but what of that? 'Twere good you do so much for charity."

I had to memorize this passage from that play in high school.
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.

Portia's speech has led me to break the rules on many occasions and to be glad that others have seen fit not to enforce them on me.

It must be a sour and lonely life you lead if, indeed, you follow and enforce all the rules all the time.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:35 pm

[Portion removed.] For those of you who are outraged by a child being shut down, you clearly have not seen the video. It was the adults who they were asking to stop. These adults were clearly using the child.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:45 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:53 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:00 pm

[Portion removed.]

Skelly's evaluation is next week. Does he deserve another $300,000? Or can we finally end this and put him on administrative leave? Dora Dome, CSBA, cut the mike, . . . stop the noise, none of this is focused on kids. Where is Tabitha Hurley and why aren't her $150,000 press releases fixing this?


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Posted by Not Suprised
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:02 pm

To Rules need to be followed. I think you know too much about the child who tried to speak up at the board meeting. Therefore I am implying that you were one of those at the board meeting. [Portion removed.] No one had said before your posting the name of the adult who accompanied the child to the board meeting. You were the second person posting. The recording was not out yet. This is very interesting. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:05 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:14 pm

From Kevin Skelly's Weekly Communication: "I also had a chance to have breakfast with Lou Lozano while I was here. We had a great chat." Going to be hard to portion remove that because it's fact!


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Six years,

No arguments from me on Skelly, he could be fired immediately as far as I'm concerned.

Or, with one meeting he has been able to show the total and utter dysfunction that we are all responsible for.

Not one person came out clean out of this one. Except for the little girl. For what happened to this student, Skelly is also responsible because the OCR stuff, the lack of transparency, and the trust that got broken back then and makes everything worse.

But I don't think we need to start elitism wars and all that. Accusations of racism, and just really bad stuff.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:22 pm

@Not surprised, actually "Aunt M." was based on "Aunt Em" from the Wizard of Oz. I chose to use "Aunt" since she was described as an "adult accompanying her" and not a parent. Without knowing her name, "Aunt Em" was natural.

A child who's initial was "A" was identified in a different thread. So after shortening it to "A." to protect her identify, I don't like the use of her name in this thread, it was natural to change "Em" to "M.".

But continue with your conspiracy theories.


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Posted by asdf
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Yes, but,
if you follow village fool's links and I don't know how valid Fool's blog is, you'll find that Aunt M. asked to have the child speak out of turn but was told that it wasn't possible at this meeting and she'd have to wait until the next one. After that Aunt M., not the child, chose an agenda item and filled out a card to dump the kid into it and, yes, she knew the rules.

That explains why the child was stopped immediately and Aunt M. questioned if the comments were to be on-topic. The child was allowed to continue after Aunt M. assured the board it would be "on topic". Only after it became clear that it was still off-topic and she'd already been told the child couldn't speak out of turn at this meeting, there was only one course of action.

Now, you can question why Aunt M's initial request was turned down and this needs to be followed up by the Weekly. In fact,given the strength of the Weekly's comments they were decidedly remiss in not asking for comments from the board nor understanding more background behind the incident. How does a child arrange to speak out of turn and what conditions apply. It is poor journalism to justify it with "a consideration that has routinely been made for other students" without also providing these details.

However, regardless of whether the official was right to turn down the request, Aunt M. bears full responsibility for ignoring the refusal and putting the child up anyway. At that point what did she expect?


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Skelly has been here six and one half years and he is still throwing around his "I'm learning" and "I want to do better" drivel: "We will discuss this at the staff level and see what lessons we can learn to help things move forward more efficiently." What exactly does he need to learn? He is the leader. He runs the meetings. This is his seventh year and his leadership, when one can find evidence of it, is mediocre at best. The time to deny a contract extension was June, 2012. Instead, Mitchell, Tom, Caswell, Townsend, and Klausner gave him an extension to keep him four more years. That was a huge, huge mistake. Pay the man his 18 months, what is that $400,000 or $450,000? Oh yeah, we've got a long ways to go before PAUSD reaches it's nadir.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:42 pm

It's the responsibility of the board to provide an opportunity for meaningful public comment on each item. What time was the meaningful public participation on the bullying item to occur. If regular people who aren't powerful or connected like those who spoke against the Paly English proposal (and why were they there anyway? That was just a show since that already had the fix in clearly) how are they to know? All they know is come down they are going to address bullying. They don't necessarily have all the info about when precisely they can talk. Honestly if they had read the agenda carefully what would they conclude? They would conclude that there was no opportunity for a child to participate at all . That's not acceptable so they came planing to work it out. Instead they got Mitchell's impression of Mr. Wilson -- get offa my lawn (and get your dad to mow it). Listen I don't care what the aunt did or didn't. You tell me what time she could have talked. Unless you can answer that you are just blowing smoke.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:50 pm

asdf,

[Portion removed.] I cannot understand village fools links so now this makes sense!

I'm going to chalk this off as a misunderstanding from the adult about when to place the child on the podium. But as much as I have never agreed with Barb Mitchel on anything (literally), she deserves nothing but understanding for this situation. Her voice was even, respectful, in what on appearance (to me) was an obvious serious problem, to put a child in that position. I think Mitchell was stopping that.

The Editorial is misleading. It threw me for a loop on the tears about the English proposal and then, at the invitation from Edmund Burke actually, I watched the video only to find this bizarre situation which was very poorly explained as well.


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Mitchell's voice was not even at all. Check the part when she is practically singing Marielena's last name. She was mad and she was going to get her way: "cut the mike!"


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Six years of Skelly,

Mitchell's voice was even, maybe the sound of my own gasp at the situation muffled her singing. I think it's unfair to attribute malice to her, and didn't she say "cut the mike" when Marielena the adult interjected? It was not to the child.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:17 pm

[Post removed for incorrectly characterizing comment of Paly Principal Kim Diorio.]


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Posted by Laws vs Rules
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:25 pm

2yes, but
I agree with you that Barb Mitchel's voice was "even". However, I think that you missed the critical substance of the situation as well as the nuance.
The Editorial states that the student was denied the opportunity to speak earlier at the meeting under Public Comments because the subject that she wanted to speak about, bullying that she had experienced, was under covered under the item that would be discussed at 1AM which was Item 19 on the agenda. Aside from the points made by Peter Carpenter about the obligation of public bodies to make reasonable accommodations for the public, the agendizing of Item 19 does not prohibit an individual from addressing the board about her individual experiences with being bullied. This is what the student spoke about. Under California's public meeting laws, the student should have been allowed to speak under either item.
In addition, Mitchell's voice was not only "even", but confident, firm and condescending. She was clearly communicating her authority over the situation. This was also the voice that she used to direct Charles Young to "remove them". Fortunately for the district, it does not appear from the tape that they were forcibly removed which would have been an illegal act and, arguably, assault. Charles Young does not have any greater authority to physically remove people (students or adults) from a public hearing than would you or I.
The nuance of the situation is that Barb Mitchel's "even" voice is that of an authoritarian leader with confidence in her ability to dictate such actions, regardless of the rights of the individuals and the rule of law. This is particularly odd and in conflict with her past longtime Libertarian political philosophy and affiliation.


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Posted by Pete Seeger
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:38 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:40 pm

I wonder how many decades it has been since a board member got out of control and blurted "cut the mike" and threatened to remove speakers? Either way, is this what we voted in? Are any of you folks really satisfied with the board? How about Skelly? We haven't gotten close to our nadir. The last two years have been a taste of the secrecy and incompetence of PAUSD leadership.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Laws vs Rules,

So, you're saying that if anyone wants to speak about bullying, they cannot be denied that right, and they can speak to it at any point in a meeting? I'm surprised Mitchell would be so authoritative about breaking that rule. Unless she was concerned about something else going on. I'm not believing anyone anymore. If you could post this Board rule, I could understand it better.

As far as my eye caught the situation, her voice was even and the absolutely bizarre, horrible part (to me) were the actions of the adult propping the child. There should be rules, laws, something to prevent that.

Someone asked abut how to get a chance to talk to the Board. Agendas and all that, what are those rules? can you post these rules?


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:54 pm

"Marielena, I'm going to you hold you . . ." Hold you what? Responsible? Then, at 1:29:00 in the YouTube video, Barb is really mad, we hope at Marielena and not the kid, Mitchell's voice gets out of tune. Just because you say you want to be courteous doesn't mean you're being courteous anymore than disrespectng someone after saying with all due respect. Oh, and she denied a citizen a basic right, but let's be clear, that would not be the first rights violation against PAUSD.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I'm assuming the recent comment from Six years is what the Editor had in mind for the readers to understand, and would ask that the Weekly provide more information via Edmund Burke or some legal facts about these violations.

At this point, putting out an editorial and running this mill without providing any further information is really disappointing. I'm out of this thread, it's gotten whacko to talk in code.


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:20 pm

@rules exist to be followed:
>> So, David, rules exist for the benefit of society. Which would imply they >> need to be followed. I'll take that as agreement.

You may take that however and wherever you wish. It's very twisted logic to claim that I am in agreement with you. But (since the opinions seem to be overwhelmingly opposed to your very rabid perspective) I do sense your desperation to find someone in the galaxy who is. Good luck with that.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Okay, then weekly, why did you choose to print a quote which referred to the regular lane kids as dummies?


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Posted by Laws vs rules
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:33 pm

@yes, but
I can't tell whether you really can't follow what I said or you are deliberately trying to miss-represent me rather than defending your own position.
What I said about the student's right to speak was the following. She had a right a right to speak about her personal bullying experience under Public Comments and she had a right to speak to Item 19 during a reasonable hour. She was denied both alternatives.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Off topic comment -
@Pete Seeger - I am sorry to see your post gone. Kudos for the name you choice which is not disconnected from the issue discussed.

Dear student -
What was the House Un-American Activities Committee?
extra credit - how many years were Pete Seeger's songs banned from the radio? why?

"...
On August 18, 1955, Seeger was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Alone among the many witnesses after the 1950 conviction and imprisonment of the Hollywood Ten for contempt of Congress, Seeger refused to plead the Fifth Amendment (which would have asserted that his testimony might be self incriminating) and instead, as the Hollywood Ten had done, refused to name personal and political associations on the grounds that this would violate his First Amendment rights: "I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this."[49][50] Seeger's refusal to answer questions that violated his fundamental Constitutional rights led to a March 26, 1957, indictment for contempt of Congress; for some years, he had to keep the federal government apprised of where he was going any time he left the Southern District of New York. He was convicted in a jury trial of contempt of Congress in March 1961, and sentenced to ten 1-year terms in jail (to be served simultaneously), but in May 1962 an appeals court ruled the indictment to be flawed and overturned his conviction.[51][52]

In 1960, the San Diego school board told him that he could not play a scheduled concert at a high school unless he signed an oath pledging that the concert would not be used to promote a communist agenda or an overthrow of the government. Seeger refused, and the American Civil Liberties Union obtained an injunction against the school district, allowing the concert to go on as scheduled. Almost 50 years later, in February 2009, the San Diego School District officially extended an apology to Seeger for the actions of their predecessors.[53]..."

copied from Web Link


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:08 pm

So I guess Seeger didn't think rules were meant to be followed even if they were unjust or absurd or violated fundamental rights?


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Posted by Duveneck parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:06 pm

Edmund Burke summed it up best.
A citizen, in this case a child, attended an open public meeting with the intention of addressing the local elected officials for one minute. She had no practical time in which she could do so, given that the item was agendized for the middle of the night and she was 12. The board is not permitted to make "rules" that make it impossible to participate, like literacy tests. random courthouse hours, and the like. These are impermissible impediments to participatioin. Holding discussion in the middle of the night creates an impermissible impediment to participation for a 12 year old, I think we can all agree on that.

Fortunately our constitutional rights do not depend on being liked by the officials in charge of the schedule. If they did, our country would look a lot different.

Her choice was not to participate at all, or to speak up for herself. As civil disobedience goes, speaking out of turn off topic in a respectful manner for one minute is tame. She was well-within her constitutional and legal rights.

Every citizen of Palo Alto should be concerned about what happened. It shocked the conscience and was out of touch with community values as well as legal rights.


WE NEED TO GO BACK TO COMMON DECENCY AND OUR DEMOCRATIC ROOTS!


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Posted by Laws vs Rules
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:46 pm

Sadly, the Editorial has probably gotten it wrong. Every few months we think that this Board and administration have reached their nadir and then they eek out a new low. The real nadir is likely yet to come.


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Posted by Stunned
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 12:08 am

I can't really find the words. I finally got around to watching the video of the meeting. I hope that all citizens of Palo Alto do so.

I am ashamed of the adults in charge of this meeting. Barb Mitchell was rude beyond belief to this child. The irony of this being at a SCHOOL BOARD meeting makes it particularly awful.

The other board members should be ashamed of themselves. They were bystanders to bullying. Dana Tom was smirking and checking his phone. Heidi Emberling was laughing, probably nervously. The two high school students looked stunned. Dr. Skelly just sat there.

What were they thinking?

Barb Mitchell seems to think she is the judge of a court or a queen, rather than a public servant. I have never seen such a display of arrogance and contempt towards a child, and I hope I never do again in a civic forum.

Please, Palo Alto, watch this video and make your own conclusion. I am saddened by it.


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 12:15 am

@rules,
Your reply makes no sense at all. Please re-read what I wrote, and explain what you mean in straight language instead of your inapplicable analogizing.

@ Mr. Recycle,
Thank you for including the link. I watched the video.

As you know, there is a history there with Ms. Gaone and I think Barb Mitchell was inappropriately taking it out on the young girl. They should have just let her finish. I waited all night once to speak to the board, said my piece, and they said thank you, too bad it wasn't on the agenda, and that was the end of it. 99% of the time, you're talking to the hand up there anyway. They should have just let the girl finish and get home for the night. Directing her to go speak to Charles Young was worse that cutting her off.

Watching that also made me wonder - why are Camille Townsend and Barb Mitchell still on the board? They don't have kids in the schools. Let them step aside for people who do and for whom it really is more about the kids than themselves.

Well, getting ejected got your statement in front of far more of the parents in Palo Alto, Angela. Thank you for speaking up.


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Posted by Stunned
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 12:23 am

Here is the direct link to the video on YouTube, cued to the correct time (thanks to Mr. Recycle for figuring this out): Web Link

Like I said, please watch it.


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Posted by I'll Get You My Pretty
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 1, 2014 at 12:25 am

I love how Mitchell says "I want to be courteous" right before she says "cut the mike" and "we are asking that you be removed." When she says "courteous" her voice could curdle milk. The best part of the video is watching the other people on the dais. Watch again and take a look. Left to right, Dana is laughing like a monkey. Camille looks nervous and like she doesn't exactly think this is a good idea. Heidi is smiling like someone just told her she is getting a lolipop after this is over. Melissa looks terrified. Kevin looks like he's going to puke. The two students are absolutely ashen and they are staring straight ahead, eyes slightly downcast, carefully not looking at the child. That look, is the look of a bystander.

Well done board. You have produced an instructional video that can be used in the "Be and Upstander!" video for Steps to Respect. Like the Paly Math letter it will probably take on a life of its own on the internet as an example of a callous, unfeeling white school board exhibiting contempt for minority citizens and bullying. These citizens may not be as wealthy and educated as others but they want to access their government and are trying to do so.

The deep irony here, not appreciated by most people, is that Marielena Gaona-Mendoza has been treated by this school board as if she is crazy for years merely because english is not her first language. However every thing she has told them turned out to be true. She warned them repeatedly about the OCR situation at Terman and they just ignored her, usually with the same ridiculous smirking and condescending treatment. When they were found responsible for discrimination, they were all stunned because they had convinced themselves that Marielena was crazy because she speaks Spanish. Isn't everyone who speaks Spanish not worth listening to. I had endless fun a few years ago listening to Melissa mispronounce Marielena's name a different way every meeting and then laugh about it. Ha ha, that was funny! Tee-hee. Not so funny once the feds got involved.

The board's treatment of spanish speaking parents is like some 50s throwback. Where is the translator who should be available for every board meeting? Where is the agenda in Spanish? You people are just living in a bubble.

Obviously they have learned nothing from the whole OCR experience except that they were somehow victims. Well, if being a victim of your own hubris counts, then yes, they are.


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Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 2:52 am

A TWEAK TO MEETING RULES

I wonder how it would work for all of us, concerning these Board meetings, if children 18 and under, no matter what topic they wished to speak on, were allowed a say during Open Forum. (It comes early enough in the evening for those with early starts the next day.)

There could be a place on the request-to-speak card for requester to note his or her age.

But these speakers could also be given the option of waiting and speaking later, when the evening had progressed to their topics designated junctures.

Sincerely,
Marc Vincenti


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Posted by Pleasanton resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2014 at 4:39 am

This story about the abominable and atrocious treatment of a middle school child is making its way around the entire Bay Area.

The rude superintendent, board members and staff at PAUSD must be taking lessons from the rude superintendent, board members and staff Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD).

However, Pleasanton Unified adjourned a meeting at 3:30 AM six weeks ago.

No wonder California schools have such a poor reputation.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 1, 2014 at 7:34 am

@anon, think about it. Just because everyone always used the road like it had a right turn lane doesn't give you the right to drive on the sidewalk.


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 7:38 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is from Pleasanton, I believe she was a school board member there in the past. She has returned to work with Kevin Skelly since Liat B. took off. Maybe Kathleen Ruegsegger can give our community some advice on how to replace this board so the new board can end the six, soon to be seven, years of Skelly. Ruegsegger's latest advice on pleasontonweekly.com was to suggest making a public information request, something that Skelly has criticized for the past couple of years. Also, Charles Young was an administrator in Pleasanton as recent as 2011 and then was selected by Skelly to be his asst. superintendent. These are some of the facts. Please don't delete. They have been deleted in the past for some reason.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2014 at 8:44 am

When is the next PAUSD election?


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Posted by I am Outraged and Ashamed!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 9:00 am

@I'll Get You My Pretty.......this is spot on. I couldn't believe my eyes when this was happening and the characterizations of the Board Members is telling.

I am ashamed that our elected officials treated Angela with such contempt and dismissiveness. I want you to know Angela that there are many people in Palo Alto who care about you and will stand with you. It took lots of courage to stand up to the big bullies on the pulpit. Thank you for giving the Board and Skelly a chance to demonstrate the depths to which they can dive. You didn't deserve to be treated like that and once our citizenry becomes aware of the real character of this Board and Supe we may have a chance of moving into a new chapter.......one that treats the students with the respect they deserve.

The Board should be ASHAMED of their performance. They were obviously afraid to cross Mitchell and their failure to upstand for this child says it all. The whole Board should be replaced with people of the calibre of Haussner, Klaussner and Dauber (Hey, that would be a great team!) . We cannot limp along anymore with this pathetic team on the dais.

SKELLY MUST GO AND THE SOONER THE BETTER! we cannot afford the legal bills and our children cannot be at the receiving end of Kevin's mismanagement and constant "bungling".

Kevin's concealment of the fact that the district had been cited by the Federal Government's Office For Civil Rights because he was "too embarrassed" (it's on the video after the story was leaked to the Weekly) just blows me away and should also blow away all of the district parents. Most of them are just unaware that any action is necessary because of Kevin's constant statements that "everything is just fine in the district". He sends out emails to the parents assuring them that all is well in perfect PAUS.

COME ON PALO ALTO PARENTS, JOIN ME IN FINDING SOME REPLACEMENTS FOR THE BOARD AND SUPE!!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 1, 2014 at 9:06 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Elected officials should be leaders, not managers.

Management is about following the rules.

Leadership is about using judgement to inspire others.


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Posted by good grief
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 9:13 am

Great idea, Peter. I'm sure that's what our district has been telling the OCR all this time!


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Posted by District Teacher
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2014 at 9:36 am

I am no fan of the current Board or district team and think that this meeting is a complete train wreck. However, I watched the video and it made me wonder that if the girl had been able to speak without Marielena interrupting, maybe they would have let her speak? I know it's a stretch, but it seemed to me that the girl (and her mother or whoever the other adult was standing next to her?) was being manipulated by her. Please know that I support the girl 100% and think that the board was wrong in the way they handled this (and, of course, a lot of other issues), but it was painful to watch/hear Marielena step in and try to speak for the girl. Also, while I think the girl or any other student has the right to speak and be heard, especially about something so serious, this was not the right time on the agenda to talk about her case. Someone posted earlier that students should be able to speak at an early time regardless of the agenda order and I agree. The current system is broken and a joke, but the people who encouraged the girl to speak should have anticipated that this would happen and tried to work either around it or within the (ridiculous) rules.

I suspect I will be lambasted for even the hint of support for the board, but, again, please know that I think they and the current admin are an embarrassment to education. The girl has every right to say what she needs to say. It's too bad that the lesson that she might take away from this event is that adults can be users and and disappointments.


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Posted by District Teacher
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2014 at 9:44 am

...and another thing: had I been on the dais, regardless of protocol, I would have interrupted BM and told her to let the child speak. It's about doing the *right* thing and not what the rules say are the right thing. I mentioned above that it was painful to see Marielena interrupt, but it was also painful and embarrassing to *not* see any of the other adults in 'power' step in and stand up to do the right thing. Shameful.


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Posted by adf
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 1, 2014 at 9:57 am

So, District Teacher, even after Aunt M. was told A. wouldn't be able to speak out of turn at this meeting. Then, after Aunt M. put the child up to speak when a different topic was being discussed anyway. Then, after Aunt M. assured the board the child would address the topic under discussion when asked. Then, after it became clear that Aunt M. was totally abusing process. Then you would do what is "right"?


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Posted by District Teacher
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2014 at 10:13 am

My comments were offered in the spirit of kindness, hope, and justice. Signing off...


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Posted by Bayard Rustin
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 1, 2014 at 10:28 am

There was nothing wrong in my view with what Marielena did in trying to advocate to late the child finish her statement. She was in a very difficult position because the board was allowing her no time to speak. It was a mild act of civil disobedience to sign up at the wrong item in order to gain a chance to speak that was being unlawfully denied and there is nothing wrong with that.

We should honor those who are willing to take a stand. This was very mild as civil disobedience involving children goes. It wasn't filling the Birmingham jails with children or sending children out to be bit by dogs. But that is a hallowed tradition and we should honor it and be filled with shame that it has come to this. People should know that what they witnessed was an act of retaliation against people who have complained about violations of rights. That act of retaliation is on video and could form the basis for yet another complaint. District teacher you are correct about the bystanding . What you don't know is that this was retaliation against our low income Hispanic families for trying to get help.


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Posted by johns
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:02 am

"The board's treatment of spanish speaking parents is like some 50s throwback. Where is the translator who should be available for every board meeting? Where is the agenda in Spanish? You people are just living in a bubble."

To "I'll Get You My Pretty" - Why aren't Spanish speaking parents learning how to speak English? We speak English in the school district so I think it is important that Spanish speaking individuals learn the English language if they want to support their children's education. It seems to me that people not learning the English language are the ones living in a bubble.


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Posted by Seconded
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:04 am

@Marc--I like your idea! What're the next steps to make this a reality? Anyone?


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:11 am

"I'll Get You My Pretty" commented above that - "… they are staring straight ahead, eyes slightly downcast, carefully not looking at the child. That look, is the look of a bystander… ".

Anyone who was bullied knows this look.

@Edmund Burke -
The following are parts of my comment on your blog Web Link:
The new policies? I have no clue. I did not stay up to 2:00 AM, and I think you may agree...
THANK you, again, for your on going dedication and the time you take to educate us in a clear, eye level, graceful way.
...

I was appalled by the way Ms. Gaona – Medzoa was treated on the Oct 8Th meeting. I wrote an open letter to her, including the exact timing of her talk to the board. I wish It was watched, then. (Web Link).

May I suggest to watch also the beginning of the meeting – a long celebration of Unity… Compare that to the response to Ms. Gaone-Mendiza.
...
As it turned out, PAUSD was under CDE invertigation on Oct 8th. I related to this issue in (Web Link).
...


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Posted by Former PAUSD staff
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:11 am

The Skelly "era " has been an era of bullying. He [portion removed] to the board about OCR investigations. He hired/promoted some of the poorest, ill-equipped people in the district to principalships & district offices (except for Ms. Diorio). Skelly and Bowers have allowed and promoted the bullying of staff members (over 40, women). OCR and other federal agencies are investigating discrimination complaints against PAUSD - in particular one of the high schools. When will this reign of the bullies end? When will justice and integrity be restored to PAUSD?


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:26 am

I find it remarkable that the citizens of Palo Alto, certainly among the most educated and smart any city around the world can hope to have, have managed to vote in the most awful and dysfunctional school board imaginable.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:27 am

If Angela B. wished to file a bullying complaint against Barb Mitchell, to which office would it go? Is there any recourse outside of PAUSD?


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Posted by sad
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

If Angela spoke at the appropriate time she would not have been asked to stop. Why is it so hard to follow the rules? The Aunt should have known that if she wanted Angela to be heard she should have not pushed her to speak during a topic on class courses. It sounds like the Aunt has a history of being present at the board meetings, so all the more reason to follow procedure to make your position more effective. The victim in all of this is the child. She was unfortunately misguided.


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Posted by Nixon mom
a resident of Nixon School
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:59 am

Marc Vincenty's proposal is already the law. The child had the right to speak during Open Forum. Dana Tom denied her that right, which was the first violation of her right to participate in a public meeting. Then Mitchell denied her right to speak on the middle school item, even though it was the only chance she was going to have.

It's obvious that Mitchell and Tom hold the public in contempt, particularly if they are not in the affluent demographic inhabited by the board members.

I applaud those adults who stood up for this childs right to speak. It's too bad that did not include the other board members and school staff. Truly sad.


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Posted by Palo Alto Student
a resident of Hoover School
on Feb 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Based on the evidence above, I think it is true that Skelly is having some issues with the board. But based on my experience with the schools of Palo Alto, the level of education and safety is just getting higher and higher. Although this might not relate to Skelly directly, I think he is doing well with the education level.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

As appalled as I am about the treatment of the girl, not just by the Board but by the adults putting her in the situation as a pawn. As a parent I can't see that my kids would have got the idea to do this by themselves, so feel that she was coached by somebody.

My real reason for commenting however is that we are stuck with this BoE because we have had so little alternatives over the past few elections.

I can't say we need a new board without getting some idea of what other people are prepared to be on the board. Ken Dauber is the only person who has run and not been elected in the past two elections.

Where are we going to get a better board from?


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Posted by Bayard Rustin
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm

@sad

Please tell all of us what the "appropriate time" was? Not at open forum. You can't speak on agenda items at open forum and Dana Tom said no. Is it your contention that the 12 year old should have spoken at 2am? Please , everyone wants to know when the appropriate time was. If you can't give one please stop posting that the family was wrong.

If Dauber runs again, he'll win easily after this mess (IMHO). We need one more person. What about Christina Schmidt. She was impressive at 2 in the morning no less.


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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm

As much as I disappointed in Mitchell's handling of the student's attempt to speak, I think some attention needs to be focused on the bigger picture of how this administration and school board is conducting the public's business, as evidenced by this meeting. Potentially controversial issues are buried in the agenda and the public has to play detective to determine what is actually going on.

Meanwhile, the bullying item (the first time this has been on a board agenda in the last year) is placed at the end of the agenda and gets discussed at 1:15 a.m.

I suggest everyone take a look at that segment of the meeting Web Link and see how poorly informed and confused everyone is. Is this the quality of government we are satisfied with?


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Posted by Nixon mom
a resident of Nixon School
on Feb 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom were elected 9 years ago and didn't have any opponents in the last election. They are both up for election this fall.

Let's make sure they have opponents and lose this time. Enough is enough. They have obviously lost touch with their rule as elected officials. I am embarrassed that they behaved like this with children present, not just Angela but also the student board members.


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Posted by Nixon mom
a resident of Nixon School
on Feb 1, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Good point, Big Picture. Dr. Skelly and Mitchell put the bullying item at the end of the agenda on purpose, and then put fake time estimate in the agenda so it would look like the meeting would be over by 10:00, when it supposed to end.

Why do I say fake? Because in Skellys weekly communication to the board he asked that he knew beforehand that the meeting would run late.

This train didn't derail, it was driven right off the cliff on purpose.


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Posted by And your little dog too!
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 1, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I think they scheduled it for the very end to make sure the student board members were long gone. This current crop of students is very independent. The brain-destroying virus that usually afflicts student board members has yet to infect them . I doubt they would have agreed with The board to cancel the bullying policy.


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 2:13 pm

@rules,
You still make no sense. I didn't drive on the sidewalk nor even contemplate it - if we're going to be lost in a ridiculous analogy, you should know, there was no sidewalk at all. And given the way others have dscussed process and rights, our young charge didn't stray off the road, either, she did something practical that was within the rules, for peope not trying to use the letter of the law (or ridiculous analogies) to thwart the spirit of the law. Capiche?

Parents: Have you never wondered why you have no rights in regards to specific policies you don't like, equivalent to referendum and initiative at the city and state level, even though school boards exist in order to give local autonomy and control? It's supposed to be YOUR control and autonomy.

The rules need to change, and we're not just talking meeting procedures, but we could start there. Do you want to be on the school board? Investigate and come up with a plan where significant parent input, such as the 800 elementary parents who asked our district to just wait a year and try a math program they wanted that hadn't been considered because of a technicality and was being offered free to try that year by the printer - where significant parent input like that can influence district decisions because we are supposed to have that kind of local autonomy.

What needs to change? Can our school board make procedural changes to accomplish that? If so, come up with the changes, and run on a platform of giving families that autonomy and control of their own children's education. If not, then what needs to be done? Rule change at state Dept of Ed level? Lawsuit? Law introduced at the state level? How?

Stop whining about Skelly, the district is made up of a lot of people and he's not really that bad. I actually think he could be pretty good with different rules and some key staff changes. (If you think he's bad, try firing him and letting Charles Young in charge, then you'll be very, very sorry.). Fix the problem of insularity and no matter who ends up in power, things will ever end up here where those in charge can operate in such arrogance, incompetence, and insularity.


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I meant:
Fix the problem of insularity and no matter who ends up in power, things will NEVER end up here where those in charge can operate in such arrogance, incompetence, and insularity.

(Now how to get apple to fix this ridiculously poor accuracy on the ipad keypad...)


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 3:51 pm

From reading so many of the comments in this thread—it's very easy to see how lynch mobs can well up in otherwise peaceful places.

For those who claim that the School Board had no right to restrict this girl's speaking—it stands to reason that everyone living in the jurisdiction (about 70,000 people, at least) should have the right to attend every meeting and speak as long as they want. That would be their Constitutional right, would it not? Certainly "rules" restricting how long they can speak would be "unconstitutional" to people making these sorts of arguments. So, how does everyone in the jurisdiction get a chance to speak, in accordance with their putative Constitutional rights?

BTW—did the Board tell her she could never speak about what was bothering her—like at the next meeting? Did the Board threaten her if she sent them a written communication? Did it threaten her if she filed a complaint? NO! Members of the Board simply pointed out that she needed to wait until the topic on bullying was before the Board--later in the evening. Arguments about her being in school, and needing to go to bed, suggest that her presence was more staged, than not—since the Board's agenda is published before the meeting.

NB--the PAUSD Board has not been overly interested in public comment for a long time. This is not news; it is just the way things are. Maybe the next time there is an election, people might try to force the topic of how other kinds of public input can be provide by, and accepted by, the PAUSD. However, given the track record of the PAUSD electorate—it's not all that likely that they will do anything more than maintain the status quo.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 1, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"the PAUSD Board has not been overly interested in public comment for a long time. This is not news; it is just the way things are"

It is the Board's responsibility to encourage and facilitate public comment. Those who do not demand that the Board fulfill that responsibility have only themselves to blame. The highest office in the land is that of Citizen - sadly few citizens fulfill their responsibility to hold their elected REPRESENTATIVES accountable.

To say that"it is just the way things are" is a disgrace.


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Posted by pamom
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 4:14 pm

@Bob you are missing the point. The board placed the "bullying" item at the end of the meeting. I can't prove it, but it sure looks like they don't want input. Since the board knows there will be a lot of interest on "bullying", it stands to reason that this would be among the first items.

And, do you expect a middle school student to stay up to 1am in order to exercise her right to speak? No one is suggesting that speakers have unlimited access and time to speak. It was certainly reasonable to allow the middle school student to speak for the limited time of 3 minutes, when the discussion of the middle schools came up.




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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Bob,

The other thing you apparently don't realize is that the board routinely makes exceptions to their speaking rules for students, so they can express their views without staying late into the evening. The denial of this courtesy to this girl was targeted specifically at denying her that opportunity.


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Posted by Can this get worse?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Lynch mob? You must be thinking of those parents who ganged up on Mary Francis Callan in 2006, now that was a mob. Where are they now? Their actions helped open the door for Kevin Skelly in 2007. Their silence now means support for Skelly and the board. Don't delete, I copied this list from the Weekly. It's a fact!

Danny Abramovitch, Alex Aiken, Wendy Akers-Ghose, Susan Alters, Anne Avis, Amy Balsom, Dory Bleich, Jonake Bose, Martha Bowden, Ronda Breier, Steven Carothers, Pancho Chang, Dave Charleson, Mark Christopherson, Melinda Christopherson, Cindy Chun, Dan Dykwell, Claude Ezran, Dan Farley, LaVonna Floreal, David Foster, Jon Foster, Rita Giles, Sabine Girod, Carolyn Godfrey, Ellen Harris, Wynn Hausser, Scott Hayes, Kate Hill, Ann Hubbell, Steve Hubbell, Ann Idzik, Bruce Jaffe, Elizabeth Jensen, Lindsay Joye, Nancy Kelem, CeCi Kettendorf, Jenny Kiratli, Lydia Kou, Amy Ladd, Duncan MacMillan, Pam MacMillan, Lynn Morton Magill, Grace Mah, Jamie Maltz, Vera Michalchik, Natasha Moiseyev, Erwin Morton, Pauline Navarro, Cosmos Nicolaou, Evelyne Nicolaou, Joni Okamoto, Joan Phelan, Ken Poulton, Katherine Terhune Ratcliff, Miriam Rotman, Al Russell, Kathy Schroeder, Scott Schroeder, Stephanie Schubert, Ilona Sockol, John St. Clair III, Debra Sutherland, Kathy Tracy, Preeva Tramiel, Carolyn Tucher, Samir Tuma, Dianne Vernon, Mark Vernon, Lanie Wheeler, Jennifer Widom, Julie Williams, Blake Winchell , Mara Yarp, Cindy Ziebelman


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Posted by I am Outraged and Ashamed!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Elitist indeed! I can't wait for the video clip of Skelly when he was confronted by the Board about the OCR citation. The Board found out via the news media (thank you PA Weekly and the child's caregivers who helped bring this to light for all of Palo Alto to see).

Skelly had the responsibility to reveal this very serious fact to the board when it first surfaced and instead he hid it while negotiating for a contract extension and raise. I was appalled when he was confronted by the Board at the PAUSD meeting about this revelation in the press. When asked flat out why he didn't reveal this his response was, "i was too embarrassed" delivered with a hang dog look. Why the Board accepted this and didn't put him on immediate administrative leave while investigating the matter is a question that will forever have me baffled.

I would like someone who has the technical expertise to put the clip of Skelly being confronted with the OCR citation next to the clip of Barbara Mitchell's disgraceful "cut the mike" performance the other night. I think this could go viral. It is a shame that they won't be able to have a secretary like NIxon who accidentally deletes major portions of the tapes. These videos speak volumes about how sick the district and its leadership is. I think that people outside PA (and hopefully the parents inside PA) would love to see how we operate in elitist Palo Alto (some call us Shallow Alto). I think that Mitchell's performance could give us a new name "Callous Alto."

@And your little dog too: We obviously aren't in Oz anymore......Actually I wish the Board and Skelly would drop in on the Wizard and try to get some brains, courage, and heart. That would be good for a start. Just because Skelly went to Harvard really doesn't say much obviously.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Can this get any worse?

Interesting post!

I googled the names and came upon the letter they signed. Web Link

The following letter, signed by 75 Palo Alto school parents, was presented to the Board of Education early in a special meeting Tuesday, Oct. 3:

"To the Trustees of the Palo Alto School Board:

"As district parents and community-minded citizens, we strongly support Palo Alto's tradition of educational excellence. We especially appreciate the dedication of the many educators, at all ranks, who make our schools great.

"Recently, we have become aware of deep concerns among this district's administrators, who have raised questions about trust and communication which are clearly fundamental to our district's success.

"We are writing to you, the Board, with one request: that you speak directly with all of these professionals in a safe, confidential forum, and listen to them with the full attention they deserve so that this matter can be resolved in full. We appreciate and support your thoughtful attention to this matter."

Sincerely,

All the names you posted....

They had ONE REQUEST: that the Board "speak directly with all of these professionals in a safe, confidential forum, and listen to them with the full attention they deserve so that this matter can be resolved in full."

So, this group of parents seemed to have stood along Administrators and teachers to oust the Superintendent at the time. Right or wrong, the approach delivered results.

Their silence today may have to do with the fact that Administrators and teachers are not calling on Skelly's resignation.

Or are they?


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Posted by Palo Alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Regarding the student, I suspect if it had been another student or if her aunt was not with her, she would have been allowed to speak. Her aunt is known for being "vocal" I'm the past. Incidentally, minorities are covered under the "new" bullying policy, pretty much only the non-disabled white students are the only ones not included.

@can this get worse, very few of parents you named still have students in the Distrct.


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 6:13 pm

What are teachers and principals going to do? They've each received thousands of dollars in raises regardless of performance. Doesn't matter how they taught or led, show me the money! As for those infamous names, why does it matter that some don't have kids in PAUSD? They are culpable. I did notice Kathy Shroeder, she's got special access to Skelly as head of PiE. Preeva Tramiel writes for which little newspaper. Grace Mah, she likes to talk, why has she been so silent? If we are at the nadir, why don't theses self-appointed leaders speak out?


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Posted by boscli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm

We need every single board member to be defeated in the next elections and replaced with competent and caring human beings. This board reminds me of characters from a Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol play.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 6:22 pm

"I suspect if it had been another student or if her aunt was not with her, she would have been allowed to speak. Her aunt is known for being "vocal" I'm the past."

The student's right to speak should not be dependent on whether or not she is accompanied by a "vocal" adult. Nor should a "vocal" adult be penalized for being "vocal" in the past. These are public meetings of elected officials. The student was not allowed her opportunity to comment during open forum because this board strictly disallows comments on agenda items during open forum. She was not allowed any opportunity to speak later because the item was not called until 2:00 am the next day.

The board is allowed to make reasonable regulations for the conduct of the meeting but they cannot unreasonably inhibit public participation. They cannot effectively bar individuals from participating, and cannot single out individuals, for a relatiatory motive, and limit their protected speech.

There was, in fact, no time that the board provided for a middle-school student to speak to this item. Public participation was limited impermissibly by the board. This violated the girl's rights under the Brown Act.

When the Board President said "cut the mike" and "we're going to have you removed," she may have violated the speakers' rights under the First Amendment to the federal and state constitutions. When she threatened them with ejection from the meeting, she imposed consequences and intimidation on the valid exercise of their rights. That kind of intimidation has a chilling effect on political speech, which is the most constitutionally protected category of speech.

All of this is true but it also misses the point. The actions of the board were petty and lacked an ounce of common sense. The heavy handed performance by Ms. Mitchell took far longer than Angela would have taken had she just allowed her to speak and moved on.

if this cues either a retaliation complaint with OCR or involvement by ACLU it will not be surprising.


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Posted by ashamed
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Barbara Mitchell intimidates and threatens a child with physical force while she's trying to let the board know that bullying is alive and well while the rest of the school board members and sup Skelly sit silently and do nothing. I would not have believed it had it not been captured on video. To say that this is disgraceful is just the tip of the ice berg.


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Posted by It's the aunt
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 11:43 pm

[Post removed due to known factual and defamatory inaccuracies.]


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:36 am

I wrote an open letter to Ms. Gaona-Mendoza, expressing my admiration, respect, gratitude and shame after I watched her addressing the board on the Oct 8th meeting - Web Link

I am very curious to see, if possible, PAUSD board's reactions when Ms. Gaona-Mendoza spoke.

The Oct 8Th meeting can be watched here - Web Link (the meeting started with a long Unity celebration).
Ms. Gaona-Mendoza - 1:46 hours (the board is not shown).


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

[Portion removed due to referencing a previously deleted comment.]

It appears that the board put bullying on the agenda, the local media covered bullying extensively, the child has experienced some form of severe bullying in the past at Barron Park School, and the she wanted to tell the board about that. She wanted to share her story. There is nothing hard to believe about that.

What happened next is the part that is hard to believe. The child was interrupted by Mitchell just a few seconds into her speech, and then repeatedly interrupted. The full text of her speech took approximately 40 seconds to read without interruption. Mitchell ordered the child to stop speaking and go the back of the room to confer with Charles Young, although it is not clear why since Charles Young is the compliance officer for discriminatory bullying and plays no role in nondiscriminatory bullying based on being short, which is what Angela was reporting.

At that point, the child did not move and attempted to finish her statement. Her adult helper remonstrated to let her finish. Mitchell at that point threatened the group with forcible removal from the meeting, saying "cut the mike" and "we are going to ask you to be removed."

Under the law, a person can only be forcibly removed and arrested from a public meeting if they are creating a "substantial impairment" of the meeting. ""Whether a given instance of misconduct substantially impairs the effective conduct of a meeting depends upon the actual impact of that misconduct on the course of the meeting; the question cannot be resolved merely by asking persons present at the meeting whether they were `disturbed.' McMahon v. Albany Unified School District, 129 Cal.Rptr.2d 184 (2002). There is no evidence in the video that a 12 year old reading a 40 second statement about how she was bullied was a "substantial disruption."

In McMahon, a citizen angry about trash that was being left in the area by students brought 5 13 gallon bags of trash including drug paraphenalia and broken bottles that he had allegedly picked up from the area around the school. He proceeded to dump this trash in front of the school board dais, which was being held in a school cafeteria. The board adjourned the meeting and called the police, who eventually removed him from the meeting. The court held that the arrest did not violate McMahon's First Amendment rights because his action constituted a "substantial disruption." Actually disturbing or impeding a meeting means "[a]ctual disruption" of the meeting; a municipality cannot merely define disturbance "in any way [it] choose[s]," e.g., it may not deem any violation of its rules of decorum to be a disturbance. See Acosta v. City of Costa Mesa, 718 F.3d 800 (9th Cir. 2013).

While the school board is entitled to control the agenda and to create reasonable rules governing times allotted for speaking what it cannot do is forcibly remove, or threaten to forcibly remove speakers who are not creating a substantial disruption. In this case, at the point at which Ms. Mitchell threatened to forcibly remove Angela and Ms. Mendoza, Angela was reading a 40 second speech about how "God made her short" and that is why she was bullied. She was on the last sentence of her statement. Ms. Mendoza attempted to intercede with the board to allow Angela to finish the last sentence of her statement, telling them "you work for the kids and this is a kid and she is trying to bring you an issue. You should let her finish."

Neither Angela's harmless 40 second statement about bullying nor Mendoza's pleading with the board to allow her to read the last sentence constituted a "substantial disruption" equivalent to dumping 5 13 gallon bags of trash on the floor of a school cafeteria. As the Ninth Circuit held in Acosta, merely because Mitchell was disturbed by the interruption of the agenda does not mean that it constituted an actual substantial impairment or disruption of the meeting.

Mitchell did not have a stack of 20 cards to comment on an out of order item. She had one card, from Angela. She was facing no disruption, and should have allowed her to proceed.

The only disruption was a slight, 40 second delay, in the agenda. It strains credulution that in a meeting in which the times on the agenda were ignored, and the meeting ran substantially off track until it constituted what the Weekly called a "train wreck," that the board was so keen to stick to its agenda that it had to threaten to forcibly remove a young citizen and her adult helper for speaking off topic.

Moreover, the board itself created this situation when it violated Angela's rights under the Brown Act by providing her no meaningful opportunity to participate in this issue. She could not speak at open forum because the item was on the agenda. She could not speak at 1:45am when other public comments were finally taken. Students are an important part of the citizens affected by the actions of the board and it was incumbent on the board to ensure their participation in this item.

As I said above, all of this is rather beside the point given that common sense could have placed us where the law does. This child, if unimpeded in reading her 40 second statement about how God made her short and she was teased for it at Barron Park would have been over and done and gone. Mitchell's heavy-handed reaction was completely unnecessary and appeared to be based on personal animus toward Ms. Mendoza.


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Posted by is there anyone looking out for this girl?
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:02 am

Did anyone explain to the girl what she was being asked to do by speaking at that point during the night?
Did anyone ask the girl if she wanted to perform an act of civil disobedience?
Did anyone explain the potential consequences to the girl of performing an act of civil disobedience?
Did anyone give this girl a choice?
Was there any adult in that room looking out for this girl's interests? [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:21 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"She could not speak at open forum because the item was on the agenda"

The customary practice of limiting public comment at the beginning of the agenda to topics not on the agenda is NOT required by the Brown Act. There is a common misunderstanding that an elected body can only take comments about a topic at the time that the body is deliberating on the item in question. In fact the Brown Act provides that the public has the right at every regular meeting to provide testimony on any matter under the legislative body's jurisdiction. (§ 54954.3(a).) The Brown Act does not require that public comment be heard at any specific time in the meeting but simply that public comment must be received BEFORE deliberating on any specific item.

This entire situation could have been avoided by wise leadership and good judgement.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:24 am

Peter, you are absolutely right. I should have said "by the board's rigid enforcement of its local prohibition on speaking to agenda items during open forum."


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Posted by Nixon mom
a resident of Nixon School
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:31 am

@"Is anyone looking out for this girl?"

It is amazing to me that some people want to continue to blame the victim in this case. A student and a citizen of this community wanted to address her school board on a topic that was of interest and concern to her about her school life. We should encourage that!

If there was a threat to the child, it came from a school board president who is vindictive, emotional, and showed incredibly poor judgment. And also from Mr. Dana Tom, who told the child that she could not speak during the open comment period, because bullying was going to appear on the agenda later! He put her in a Catch-22. I can't help but think that both Mr. Tom and Ms. Mitchell just wanted to avoid public discussion of bullying, especially from a child.

I don't know whether what they did is illegal. I can't see that elected officials are allowed to threaten anyone let alone a child with being forcibly removed by the police from a public meeting for spending a few seconds expressing their opinion. This is America, after all!

I know that I don't want these people representing me on the school board, though. I am ashamed for their behavior, and they owe Angela and the community an apology.


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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 9:07 am

With this latest example off incompetence, recalling the entire board should now be a serious option to be considered. Note that once it is within 6 months of a scheduled election, an official up for re-election at that time cannot be recalled. That would be May 4 (the next election is on Nov. 4) and would pertain to Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom. So a recall of the entire board would have to be initiated (filing of a notice of intention to recall) by that day.

Web Link


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 9:18 am

The board doesn't need to apologize. They need to go leave. January 28 was not the nadir, it was the latest revelation of incompetence, it's just a meeting, no need to yell cut the mike, but also showed what happens when power is threatened. These folks make up one collective Richard Nixon, spending an amazing chunk of their time to controlling the outcome of dialogue and democracy instead of focusing on the fact that they have won and that they have the power.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 10:51 am

Weekly,

I'm saddened and sickened by the pulpit you have given Edmund Burke on the topic of the work surrounding bullying policy at PAUSD. It was ok to throw about some theories on these blogs about the 1-2-3 tier policy scenarios, but upon re-reading Edmund Burke's comments on this thread, it is much more than that. The little girl's comment effectively asks for a one tier policy.

Do we know that a 1-tier policy is the only right path? Having participated in the chatter about all options, I wasn't absolutely sure. I would think that you have a responsibility to provide reporting that includes a variety of perspectives, in this case in particular, legal perspectives.

I would especially like to have more objective reporting on a comment you have had on this thread

from Bayard Rustin, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
23 hours ago

"This was very mild as civil disobedience involving children goes. It wasn't filling the Birmingham jails with children or sending children out to be bit by dogs. But that is a hallowed tradition and we should honor it and be filled with shame that it has come to this. People should know that what they witnessed was an act of retaliation against people who have complained about violations of rights."

I would like to know what "hallowed tradition" exists for adults to do what Aunt M. did, that she could not have done herself as an adult, without involving the child.

The mistakes amongst adults are several, but this child cannot continue to be used because there are issues surrounding the adult. My interpretation of what Barb Mitchell did is that - she stopped an injustice. Maybe not, I do not know for sure, but if you guys are throwing around legal opinions, you need to have several.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2014 at 11:07 am


"Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed."


― Herman Melville

The above quote was "Barnacle"'s comment - Web Link.

Here is a reminder to all who expressed concerns about the well being of Brave Angela - Web Link


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Posted by Another Perspective
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 11:11 am

As a young teen in middle and high school, I was encouraged by my social studies teachers and parents to participate in local and national politics. I answered phones and stuffed envelopes (what we did in those days at campaign offices), went door to door handing out campaign literature, and attended city council and school board meetings, sometimes as part of a school assignment. This tradition is still with me today as an adult, and I am grateful for the adults who encouraged me in my youth to participate in politics. I believe it is part of good citizenship and a working democracy. There are those today who worry about how too many youth are disaffected and not engaged in civic affairs. It is a real problem throughout the nation.

In my experience, young people have lots to say, but are often afraid to speak their views in front of adults. It takes a lot of courage for a young person to actually come and speak at a public meeting, and in this kind of situation, they may need some adult support to do it. Still, if encouraged in appropriate ways, they might find it to be an empowering experience. With some practice, they may gain greater confidence that what they have to say matters and can make a difference.

We (adults) don't value young people's voices enough in this community. Too often we don't believe they have anything important to say. We underestimate their desire to participate, and don't make it easy for them to do so. We seem to presume (based on many of the above comments) that they don't have their own ideas, their own volition. I say: let's take the kids at face value. Let's listen to what they have to say, without judging whether they know what they're doing. Let's treat them as if they have their own views and initiative. Calling a young middle schooler a "pawn" makes presumptions (I believe) that are condescending to youth.

I recall one example of middle schoolers coming to the school board in the past, invited and accompanied by school officials and parents, to speak about the value of the social-emotional learning in Jordan's "Open Sessions" program. No one called these middle school students "pawns." They were listened to with great respect and thanked at that meeting. They were viewed, appropriately, as providing some important feedback on the positive impacts of the Open Sessions program. It was good to hear their voices, and I hope they felt the experience was a good one.

However we can't always choose which youthful voices to hear. We can't just applaud the positive feedback, and not listen with equal attention to problems some youth want to raise and discuss. We can't send a message that if they have a problem to speak about, they can expect to be dismissed. That is a chilling message to send to students. All student voices should be accepted as valuable to the process, regardless of which adult they arrived with.

Angela may well have been at the school board meeting of her own volition, her own choice. She may have been grateful to the adult friend who drove her there. She may have asked the adult friend to be near her for moral support as she spoke. She may have been thankful that the adult friend stepped in when the public officials challenged her right to speak and cut her off. After all, I believe this was Angela's first time before the school board, and she is only 12.

We can't know everything about what brought Angela to the meeting of course, but I would encourage an open mind to the possibility that Angela is an individual with her own desire to speak and be heard and that is why she came to the meeting. I think that presumption is more respectful to her and to any other students who may decide (for whatever reasons motivate them) to venture into a school board meeting in the future.




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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 11:16 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 11:52 am

[Post removed due to incorrectly quoting another person.]


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Posted by And your little dog too!
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 2, 2014 at 11:56 am

Barb Mitchell is the one who should "be removed" as school board president. I think that he community clearly has no confidence in her leadership of the board based on her conduct of this meeting. She should step aside as board president and let Melissa step in. I personally don't give a crap why she was in the feud with the adult. It was her job to rise above it and put the child first. Preventing an injustice? She acted horrible. This board has degenerated to farce under her . Vote of no confidence.

As for Burke thank God for Burke. He's the only honest broker in this sordid mess.


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Posted by My perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Thank you, Another Perspective. Well said.

I believe that Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Tom violated not only the right of one child to be heard, but also our collective right as a community to have a local government that honors youth and listens to them.

One of the Developmental Assets is listening to youth. Dare I point out that this value is honored mostly in its breach?

@yes but. This young child was not trying to make an arcane point about 1 tier vs. 2 tier policies. She was trying to tell adults about what it felt like to be bullied because she was short, and to ask for our protection.

That she instead got the back of Ms. Mitchells hand is our collective shame


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm

And your little dog too,

I would say the adult should have put the child first, PAUSD bullying policy negotiations second.

Bloggers are now brokers?


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Posted by Local Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm

I have to second the comment from Yes But, who asks that the Weekly provide balanced coverage of the awful situation our community is in with regard to our school district. By taking sides in these difficult matters, the Weekly has made its coverage suspect at best, and at worst irrelevant. We can not as citizens, make informed decisions about any of these things when there is zero coverage in the local media that does not represent a one sided, emotional, sanctimonious, opinionated stance. This is not what a news outlet is supposed to do, and this has contributed greatly to the bad situation in which our students find themselves. Badly done.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note that the purpose of an Editorial is to express the opinion of the Editor, not to provide balanced NEWS coverage.

I fail to see that the Weekly has not provided balanced NEWS coverage regarding the PAUSD and its board.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:12 pm

My perspective,

"This young child was not trying to make an arcane point about 1 tier vs. 2 tier policies. She was trying to tell adults about what it felt like to be bullied because she was short, and to ask for our protection."

The comment made, as posted by Edmund Burke was

"I'm here to tell you that not only special ed kids get bullied, and you should protect all kids to stop there (sic) suffering.

This is a reference to the policies.


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Posted by My perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Aren't the above writers providing a perspective that defends the school boards action in silencing this child? Mitchell and Tom also have as much right as anyone else to defend themselves publicly. I would welcome hearing them comment in their own words.

I myself doubt that we will be hearing from them, however. It is one thing to silence a child from a dais. It is another to engage in open dialogue with one's fellow adults.


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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:16 pm

@Local Parent, Sadly enough, it's only because of the Weekly that we know about any of this. Is that what you prefer? Thank goodness they have stuck with this story in spite of all the efforts to keep it from coming out.


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Posted by And your little dog too!
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:18 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Peter Carpenter,

"I fail to see that the Weekly has not provided balanced NEWS coverage regarding the PAUSD and its board."

Well, they provided opinion on the meeting. Not news coverage.

It would serve to have news coverage along with opinion.

I completely agree with Local Parent "By taking sides in these difficult matters, the Weekly has made its coverage suspect at best, and at worst irrelevant."

Most people are probably already sane enough to not be here.


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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:26 pm

@Big Picture,

Wrong again, the Weekly did have a long news report on the meeting.

Web Link

Any criticism of that you'd like to make?


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Posted by My perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:27 pm

The Weekly did cover the meeting in its news coverage. That article didn't mention the incident where Mitchell threatened to remove a child from the meeting though. I agree with you that that is news and should also be covered in an article. Hopefully the Weekly will correct that omission.


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Posted by Another Perspective
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Here's the Weekly's news article about the school board meeting (that was also the subject of the editorial):

Web Link


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm

My perspective,

"Aren't the above writers providing a perspective that defends the school boards action in silencing this child?"

I piped in here at first to jibber about 9th grade English. My view was that if the (secret for 18 months) proposal had been passed in the middle of the night, that would have been just as bad with respect to transparency.

I thought to conflate 9th grade English that with what happened to the young girl, video which I had not seen yet was odd.

At the invitation of Edmund Burke, I saw the video.

What you see is my opinion from what I saw on video. It may sound like I am defending the BOE, but I am basically saying what others have also pointed out, the issue of using a child for advocacy.

I have not been convinced by what Edmund Burke has encouraged everyone to believe. That's it.


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Posted by CSI Palo Alto
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:41 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by My perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Adults should not have to protect children from school board members. That seems obvious to me at least.


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Posted by Laws vs rules
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 12:50 pm

@yes, but
Despite the temptation, I was holding back on describing as jibberish your convoluted Orwellian reasoning that denial of the student's free speech rights was somehow a protection of her interests. But your self effacing honesty did it for me. Thanks


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Posted by Jane
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Seem to me that The Weekly has become a favored punching bag for those who support the Board.
I think it is just a deflection tactic - instead of addressing the valid issues that the paper and people on
this forum post, the board's defenders try to focus everyone's ire on the The Weekly.

If The Weekly covers anything to do with the school district in anyway other than positively, we are told that the publisher hates the district for personal reasons. If the Board refuses to release public documents and forces the paper to make a freedom of information request, we are told that because of The Weekly the district is spending a fortune on staff time to fulfill these requests. Never mind the fact that the documents legally should have been released without a freedom of information request. And, never mind that the district's expenditures on lawyers to deal with special ed. families has gone up tremendously during Dr. Skelly's tenure.

And now, we have the newest complaint. The paper is not covering this meeting as a news story, only as an editorial. Unfortunately for the paper's critics this simply isn't true. See the many links to the news story in the above comments. Are these critics really saying that The Weekly doesn't have the right to print an editorial? Or, are they saying the paper doesn't have a right to the editorial opinion they have printed?

In any event, all this criticism of The Weekly is simply another way of distracting the public from the real problem.
The problem of this school board merely paying lip service to transparency and democracy. Unless you share their opinion they are not interested in you being heard. This, in fact, is the problem they and their defenders have with The Weekly. The paper persists in covering the board's affairs as public service to this community, and when The Weekly's editors disagree with the board they are not afraid to tell their reading public. If The Weekly was only available to the public between midnight and 2 am, I'm sure the Board and it's supporters would rest more comfortably.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Laws vs rules,

The issue of the student's free speech rights should be a news item, not opinion.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm

This board seems to be of the opinion that bullying doesn't actually exist in the district because Palo Alto is just too special and wonderful for such a thing to exists here, and if they just consistently pretend that it doesn't exist, it will not exist. Right now, the board and the Super are circling the wagons and will stifle any attempt to discuss a problem that they deny even exists. On top of that we have at least one very influential board member who hates and suspects government and will resist any attempt by any government agency to intervene. True to the libertarian philosophy that particular board member holds, bullying is not an issue because life is a fierce competition and only the strong survive. Let the markets decide.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 2, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Moving forward what is important is to prevent this from happening again.
1 - Elected officials should never forget who we work for - the public. This is reflected in the MPFPD Board's agendas have FOUR separate opportunities for public comment and all have this preamble:
"PUBLIC COMMENT

A fundamental element of democracy is the right of citizens to address their elected representatives. "

2 - It is the Board's responsibility to encourage and facilitate public comment. Those who do not demand that the Board fulfill that responsibility have only themselves to blame. The highest office in the land is that of Citizen - sadly few citizens fulfill their responsibility to hold their elected REPRESENTATIVES accountable.

3 - -Elected officials should be leaders, not managers.

Management is about following the rules.

Leadership is about using judgement to inspire others.

4 - An elected body has the right to change the order of items on its agenda particularly to accommodate either a large number of individuals who wish to speak on an agenda topic or to avoid having someone wait an inordinately long time for a particular agenda item to come up in the normal course of the agenda.

5 - The customary practice of limiting public comment at the beginning of the agenda to topics not on the agenda is NOT required by the Brown Act. There is a common misunderstanding that an elected body can only take comments about a topic at the time that the body is deliberating on the item in question. In fact the Brown Act provides that the public has the right at every regular meeting to provide testimony on any matter under the legislative body's jurisdiction. (§ 54954.3(a).) The Brown Act does not require that public comment be heard at any specific time in the meeting but simply that public comment must be received BEFORE deliberating on any specific item.

In summary: This entire situation could have been avoided by wise leadership, good judgement and a commitment to serving the public.


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Posted by Vicki
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 2, 2014 at 3:34 pm

@ yes, but
The issue of free speech rights was raised by the commentators on this thread, not by the editorial. The opinion expressed by the editorial is that "the public, students and teachers were disrespected by the school board". The treatment of the middle school student was just one of many examples that were given to support this opinion.
Free speech guarantees our rights to voice our opinions at public meetings and through public media.

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear" George Orwell


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Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 2, 2014 at 3:58 pm

I see three separate issues regarding the public comment event. I will ignore the Paly proposal issue here, even as it is clear to everyone, including the board, that meetings stretching into the middle of the night are not conducive to deliberative process.

1) Can the board regulate 'free speech,' and 'public comments'?

Clearly, yes. Brown Act requires gov't bodies to provide opportunities for public comment *within regulated parameters*. If someone argues that the regulations are illegal, one can try and sue the body over them. But expecting no limits or regulations on comments is unreasonable -- no elected body can conduct its business w/o regulations.

2) Was the board treatment of the middle school student reasonable?

Clearly, yes. The child tried to circumvent the board's rules. The response of the Board President was civil and rather gentle, and she allowed the child to "retry" and get on topic. When the child returned yet again to the off-topic subject (bullying) she was stopped. When her aunt subsequently disrupted the meeting, she engaged in unruly behavior and became subject to eviction or other sanctions.

3) Was the treatment of the girl wise?

That's a completely different question. Judging by this thread, and by Weekly's editorial, the answer seems "no". Time (and elections) will tell -- much of the professed anger here sounds a bit insincere and used as a cudgel, at least to me.


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 4:10 pm

@Ze'ev,
It could reasonably be argued that Angela was speaking to a broader topic than the one on the agenda later that evening. She was saying, consider THIS, not JUST what you have on the agenda. Mitchell's cutting her off smacked of "the guilty flee where no one pursueth," frankly.


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Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 2, 2014 at 4:21 pm

anon parent -- perhaps, or perhaps not. Each one has a right to an opinion, but please realize that the presiding official (chair, president, judge in court) has the latitude to decide what's on topic and what is not. Time is the most precious resource in any public meeting, and it must be managed both fairly and efficiently.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 2, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Time is not the most precious resource in a public meeting - Trust is far more important.


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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 4:32 pm

@Ze'ev Wurman,

I agree with your general point, but what you may not realize is that the board's practice has always been to let students who are present and desiring to speak to do so early in the evening out of consideration for their need to study and get to bed. While Mitchell may have had the "power" to do what she did, it's inconsistency with prior practice makes it look content-based.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Ms. Mendoza has been to and spoken at enough board meetings to have a clear understanding of how things work. She has frequently spoken on the topic of bullying. [Portion removed.] I think the board is fully aware that bullying occurs at the schools. This seems to bring unnecessary attention on the child. Most children who have been bullied don't want it made public.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 5:07 pm

@ Peter Carpenter

I completely agree with you that "moving forward what is important is to prevent this from happening again."
However, I don't see how it can be prevented with this board. As far as I can tell they do what they want when they want.
I see no way to "prevent" them from doing this as often as they want. Obviously, we will have an opportunity to vote for two new board members in November, but until then how do you suggest we persuade them to behave in a more transparent and democratic manner?


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Posted by Nixon mom
a resident of Nixon School
on Feb 2, 2014 at 5:08 pm

@Ze'ev Wurman, in fact, the board president did not have the right to forcibly remove either the child or accompanying adults from the meeting. That requires a substantial disruption in the proceedings, which attempting to finish an (at most) 3 minute statement does not constitute. Mitchell's threat to do so violated the child's rights under the First Amendment. In addition to being nasty and unwise, of course.

The statement that "time is the most precious resource in a public meeting" has already been commented on by Peter Carpenter. I would just point out that anyone who has watched a PAUSD school board meeting knows that the school board members themselves are the most profligate wasters of that resource. If they were held to a standard of relevance, in fact, seven-and-a-half hour meetings would not be an issue.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 5:41 pm

@Wurman

"Time is the most precious resource in any public meeting."

Only someone who has no understanding of what happened at that, or any other school board meeting, could possibly think that what the board is striving to do is manage its time efficiently.

As to the rest of your comments, you are incorrect.

First, the "regulations" that the board was "enforcing" are opaque and inconsistent. The board has a general practice, pointed out to you above of allowing children to speak early. That practice was not followed by Dana Tom.

Second, The board gave out instructions on how to comment at that very meeting that stated that Open Forum would be at 8:30, but it was held at 6:30. Dana Tom reportedly refused a request to permit Angela to speak in Open Forum because "bullying" was on the agenda. Of course, the girl arguably actually wanted to speak about something NOT on the agenda, which was the bullying policy to cover non-protected status students, which was not agendized and not up for discussion. She could have properly spoken at Open Forum and if her request to do was was in fact disallowed, that was wrong.

Third, the board gave conflicting information about the time of Open Forum that was confusing to the public. A handout at the meeting, stapled to the agenda stated that it would be at 8:30 pm. These instructions appear also on the district website under "How to Address the Board of Education: "If you wish to address the Board on an item that is not on the agenda, you may speak during the Open Forum which is scheduled to occur as close to 8:30 p.m. as possible."

See: Web Link

All in all, the board's rules about who can say what when are clear as mud.

Your comment that the relevance of a speaker's statement is determined by the presiding officer. That may be, however, what the presiding officer may not do is escalate that disagreement over relevance into an edict to "remove" people with differing views of relevance from the meeting. In order to be forcibly removed from a meeting a speaker must be creating a substantial disruption, as I described above. One 12 year old talking off topic with one adult imploring for her to allow to finish a 40 second statement on bullying would not constitute a "substantial disruption" for First Amendment purposes.

You confuse, either accidentally or otherwise, the right of the presiding officer to follow the agenda with her right to forcibly remove speakers with whom she does not agree, or who talk out of turn. The First Amendment applies to political speech in public meetings and the bar to forcibly remove someone under such conditions is very high.

At best, what Ms. Mitchell was permitted to do under the law was to note her disagreement about the item being on-topic and ask that the speaker conclude her remarks. She was not justified in threatening forcible removal. If she really strongly did not want to hear the adorable child talk for 40 seconds she could always adjourn the meeting. That is, incidentally, what boards are supposed to do in order to establish a "substantial disruption" has occurred prior to calling for the police to make a "forcible removal."

I hope this clarifies the matter for you.


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Zeev and Marielena have both acted as the gadfly at PAUSD meetings and both have rubbed PAUSD personnel the wrong way, but only Marielena has had the mindreaders of the school board (Barbara Mitchell, Dana Tom) and the Town Square assume they know her intentions and daily life. Marielena and other Latinos, and specifically Mexican and Mexican-Americans, are in now way treated as equals in PAUSD. Why should they when Kevin Skelly's own words set the tone almost exactly five years ago:

"It's just not possible for the average kid who comes to this country in seventh or eighth grade, or even third grade, without a word of English and parents with little formal education, to match the achievement levels of kids whose mom has a Ph.D. in English from Stanford and can afford to stay home and spend time supplementing the education of her kids."

Is there any wonder why so many of our finest teachers give up and give in to their low expectations (Paly math letter)? How about principals and kindergarten teachers retaining a disproportionate amount of African-American and Latino boys? And what about that principal, or was it Michael Milliken, who was questioning the legal status of a mom? Marielena should not have been as successful in bringing down Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, and Holly Wade, not to mention the arrogance and dismissiveness of the board. Can you imagine the savings in dollars and how intact the PAUSD culture of secrecy would be had they simply given her a sliver of her demands?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 2, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"how do you suggest we persuade them to behave in a more transparent and democratic manner?"

If each of the next 6 Board meetings begins with 5-10 citizen, who have no other agenda, speaking out at the beginning of those meetings on the importance which the citizens place on the Board listening to the people whom it serves then I think you would see a change


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Posted by I'm melting, I'm melting
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 2, 2014 at 7:25 pm

So if Mitchell just couldn't stand to listen to Angela for one more second she could adjourn the meeting? That wouldn't have looked silly.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:00 pm

@ Peter Carpenter

Thank you so much for your reply. I think you have a good idea. However, as you mentioned in a previous post, it is the rare citizen who will actually show up at a meeting and speak. Those of us who do speak repeatedly are marginalized and ignored. Interestingly, in last week's meeting the Board indicated that they get a lot of community feedback by email, regular mail, and phone, but none of that is released to the public so it is very difficult to know the basis upon which many of their decisions are made. Mysteriously, at least to me, by the time they come to the public meetings they appear to already know what they (as a group) plan to do on any given subject. During the year that I have followed them closely they have always voted unanimously. During the rare times that one of them will disagree with the group during discussions, they still vote with the group when a vote takes place.


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Posted by Local Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:26 pm

No. I am not asking for coverage of just a school board meeting. The meeting is online for anyone to see. I am not a supporter of either the board or any district employee. I am a parent, a citizen, a long time resident of Palo Alto and I am asking the Weekly to cover this feud from a three hundred and sixty degree perspective so that we all have access to as full an account as possible of what is really going on. Where are the interviews with the key players? Where are the reporters asking the difficult questions of those who are being accused constantly? Where is the research? I don't know who Edmund Burke is. Legal jargon may be fun to put in the comments section but it will not stand up because it has not been subjected to any scrutiny. It has not been vetted. The Weekly is supposed to do that. I have been reading everything I can find on these things, some of which I have been present for and I am not able to find the kind of professional, convincing, researched information a news source is supposed to provide. I would very much like to make an informed decision and move forward with my vote, with activism if needed, and with confidence that I have a sense of what is really going on here. Again, I am not a supporter of anyone involved as I refuse to join sides in a feud that I can not understand. How are we to stop this cycle of infighting that is destroying our school district if we do not have quality news?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Parent is a crazed stalker
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:48 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Former PAUSD parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:53 pm

@Local Parent,

You must not have been following the extensive and very balanced coverage the Weekly has provided on these issues, as well as the difficulties they have encountered getting information from the district and its leaders. It's all there if you look for it on the web. For starters, you might check out these, which were easy to find with a little Googling:

Web Link

Web Link




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Posted by CDSS
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:55 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Local Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Here is an article about the importance of investigative journalism. Web Link# What we have instead is bits and pieces, comments that read like blogs, which have a personal bias, and are generally not on record. Journalists are supposed to try and get people to speak on the record. They are supposed to ask the difficult questions. I have never seen one creditable interview with Skelly here. I have never even seen any account of a reporter having asked for him to speak on a subject an being turned down. Even that would be helpful.


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Posted by Miller Time!
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 2, 2014 at 9:00 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 9:13 pm

@Ze'ev,
If time was the most important, then Mitchell could have let the girl speak, it would have been what, at most 30 seconds more?


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Edmund Burke,

"Of course, the girl arguably actually wanted to speak about something NOT on the agenda, which was the bullying policy to cover non-protected status students,.."

Of course.

You provide a lot of information, here. What do you suggest should be done about what happened at the meeting?


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 2, 2014 at 9:49 pm

I agree with Local Parent - reading PA Online about PAUSD is like listening to Fox News concerning anything to do with the Presidency. In both cases all we get is nonsense that is unfair, unbalanced, based on political agenda - PA deserves a better source of news. You have to read the comments in PA Online to fill in some of the missing pieces, but even that is difficult because contrary views are systematically censored by the editor.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 10:29 pm

@yes, but

I suggest that the board recommit itself to transparency and public participation. From this basic commitment the following should flow:

A. Regarding bullying, holding the discussion at 2:00am is appalling. The board should re-agendize the bullying policies as an information item for the first item of the next meeting. Have a staff presentation that actually informs the public about the various options and why the particular option being recommended was selected. Invite groups such as CAC and WCDB that have played a role in trying to assist the district in reviewing its policies and improving them over the past year to comment and insure a full, open, transparent process.

B. Going forward, the board should establish a "student open forum" for each board meeting that happens promptly at 6:30, to be followed by adult open forum at 7:00.

C. The board should allow the public to comment on agendized items during open forum. It makes little difference to the meeting conduct, and the board should encourage as much public participation in as many ways as it can. The board should not be looking for ways to limit participation and should avoid any appearance that it is trying to censor or restrict comment based on content.

D. In conflicts like the one that arose the other day, a good prudential rule would be to err on the side of allowing the comment rather than restricting it. Certainly the board president should never threaten a speaker with forcible removal for so minor an offense as speaking in what the president thinks is "off-topic."

E. In any incident happening on the fly like that, it is very difficult to ensure that the board president can actually tell for certain whether or not the comment is on topic or not. Angela might have planned to say at the end of her comment "and that's why I think that the middle schools should have an anti-bullying class." That would have made the whole thing on-topic. Thus, in a conflict happening in the moment, unless there is truly a substantial disruption the best judgment would be to allow it and then perhaps express an admonishment after: "Let me remind members o the community that the item under discussion is middle school courses, sp please try to keep your comments to that." That would be better than yelling "cut the mike!" at a pre-teen.

The board president is potentially risking creating a legal problem when she threatens people with forcible removal for petty offenses like talking on the wrong topic. It's just the wrong direction to go.

F. In my view, this school board has no idea how to run a meeting. Their agendas are unrealistic, their comments ramble uncontrollably, they exhibit no respect for staff time, they are repetitive, they go off-topic incessantly, etc. They have the least self-discipline I have seen in anything like a "business" context. My observation is that they take no responsibility for this and instead blame the public commenters for their problem with out of control meetings. They then try to curtail public comment.

They need to discipline themselves, and run an efficient meeting (which I believe is currently a focused goal). Blaming the public commenters, who are routinely better organized and make more sense, for their shoddily-run meetings is wrongheaded. These are the public's meetings doing the public's business.

In sum, this board has problems with transparency and accountability. Its relations with the public and distrust by the public is at a low point -- and it is not just because of bullying. There have been a myriad of issues, including math curriculum, the calendar, Mandarin Immersion, bullying, Gunn counseling, the Paly Math Letter, and more that have all generated waves of public dissatisfaction not just with substantive outcome but with process.




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Posted by Laws vs Rules
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 11:07 pm

@Alphonso
Thanks so much for shedding light on what's really going on here.
It's diabolical for the Weekly to claim that public discussion of important policy matters should occur before 1AM. And their bias is even more obvious by the absurd assertion that a middle school student be allowed to speak on an item prior to then or that agendized items actually convey the subjects that will be acted on.
You've shed light on the reality that their calls for transparency and for the public's business to be conducted in public are actually part of a vast right wing conspiracy likely in collaboration with the Fox News inspired black booted storm troopers from the OCR in cahoots with the state Dept of Education. Whew!


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:04 am

@Anon, that is too perfect! Not only were you driving on the sidewalk, you are in denial the sidewalk even exists? BTW, this is your "ridiculous analogy", I'm not surprised you're trying to abandon it.

@Edmund what sort of paranoid dystopian world do you live in where every request to abide by the rules is an attack on your rights? What do you think Dr. Young does at these meetings? Why do you think the request was made on several occasions to talk to him? Watch the video. You were wrong. Live with it.

As Peter best said "rules exist for the benefit of society". They are not an attack on your rights. You don't get to choose which rules apply to you. Or, as with Anon, you end up driving on the sidewalk and considering it appropriate behavior!


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 9:33 am

Eileen 1,

"During the year that I have followed them closely they have always voted unanimously. During the rare times that one of them will disagree with the group during discussions, they still vote with the group when a vote takes place. "

From having written emails and never had my way on what I have supported, it might be that on the really big items the Board votes unanimously because they know in advance 1) What will fly with the teachers, or 2) What the teachers are asking for.

Look at each one of the controversial decisions, which Burke points out as the "myriad of issues, including math curriculum, the calendar, Mandarin Immersion, bullying, Gunn counseling, the Paly Math Letter, and more that have all generated waves of public dissatisfaction not just with substantive outcome but with process."

Usually one Board member becomes the standard bearer for one issue, they get the teachers or Admins on their side (or vice - versa) and voila. Math curriculum was Barbara Klausner, Mandarin was Townsend, Gunn Counseling was probably Skelly and Gunn. Many options were proposed for calendar, and for the best of all worlds proposal (finals at the end of the semester and the later in Aug start), I recall something about English electives, that department could not agree to - never made sense to me, but the union was involved. Stress was a good reason to do it, I'm all for it, but the result could have been better. The Paly Math letter, well how do you think that would go.

On the big items, I've often wondered why even have a Board. The big power player (block of teachers and admins) have a parallel leadership structure (with zero transparency), and individual parents don't stand a chance. Not to say though that the teachers may in fact know best.

It's to this general operating procedure which most everybody is aware of that a child was put in the middle of to advocate for a complex bullying policy issue. For me, this was Edmund Burke's denir because the "information" that he/she shares so prolifically misses the big picture, and could be misleading.

The 2 Am thing is a special deal. Was it on purpose, or just being sloppy. The patience with Skelly's competence is still a mystery to me. Who really wants him, the teachers, the parents, or the Board. I don't know anyone who would sign a letter to keep him, and yet he keeps turning up.

What has been added to this picture is that so many, including myself, have been reading legal opinions and morality lectures (you think nobody else would like better meetings?) from a person who we have no idea about. Edmund Burke, we don't know anything about this person.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 10:34 am

One look at the video and it's clear that Barbara Mitchell's political career is over.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 10:48 am

@yes, but

You asked me what my recommendations would be and I gave them to you. If you were interested in the answer to the question you asked, one might think you would respond to the substance.

It is true that I write my blog anonymously. I have reasons for that which are given on my blog. I am not the only anonymous blogger on paloaltoonline. You are absolutely free to disregard or disparage the views I offer because I offer them anonymously. You are under no compulsion to read what I have written or agree with it. Any one is free to answer, anonymously or otherwise, on the substance of what I have said. If you have a different view, which you seem to, then you are (anonymously, I might point out) able to disagree and are doing so.

You say "Edmund Burke, we don't know anything about this person." We also don't know anything about you, or about any of the 99% of others who post here anonymously. While I can understand why you would like to know about the credentials of an author to make comments, you will have to decide your view of my posts based on the merits rather than on my resume. If you prefer not to read at all that is your choice.


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Posted by angry mom
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 3, 2014 at 10:55 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 11:07 am

@ rules,
"@Anon, that is too perfect! Not only were you driving on the sidewalk, you are in denial the sidewalk even exists? BTW, this is your "ridiculous analogy", I'm not surprised you're trying to abandon it. "

You have gotten so ridiculous, your bizarre take is almost too far gone to address.

I was NOT driving on the sidewalk, nor did my description suggest it. I was driving on the ROAD. The accident to which I was referring happened when I was using the right turn lane to turn right, on a street that was really wide, and where everyone traditionally used the right side of the ROAD in that business district (ROAD, NOT SIDEWALK) as a right turn lane. Even though there were no lane markings, the DMV RULES said that was considered a right turn lane, and that I was ACTING WITHIN THE RULES to treat it like a right turn lane. (The insurance company had tried to call it a one-lane ROAD in order to try to claim I was passing on the right. Passing on the right means DRIVING ON THE ROAD. Driving on the sidewalk would not be passing on the right, it would be driving on the sidewalk. Sheesh!)

No sidewalk there. No sidewalk in the picture. No sidewalk in the story. No one was talking about the sidewalk. But you are so lost in your inapplicable analogies, you somehow are blathering about a little girl speaking at a board meeting, arguably within the rules, as the same as driving on the sidewalk!

Thank you, Edmund Burke, for listing the very reasonable ways Angela was within the rules and how her rights were violated by our board, who should be encouraging young people to speak up, not bullying them the minute they say something the board doesn't want to hear.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2014 at 11:44 am

@rules exist to be followed

In your last post you quoted Peter, I assume you meant Peter Carpenter, saying "rules exist for the benefit of society." You went on to use this statement in support of Ms. Mitchell following the rules of the board meeting, commenting that "You don't get to choose which rules apply to you."

This comment of yours demonstrates the same confusion that Ms. Mitchell displayed at the board meeting. I took the time to go back through this thread and you should have been quoting David Pepperdine as he is the one who first used this phrase. Furthermore, he replied to you saying that he was not in agreement with your assertions. Still, three days later you refer to his comment as being in support of you. Odd. I think the point he was making, and the point many commenters have made on this thread, is that since rules exist for the benefit of society, society has the option of bending or changing the rules if they believe that they are not being benefited by them.

Ms. Mitchell believed that she was following the rules by preventing Angela from speaking at the wrong point in the agenda. She also believed she was following the rules when she repeatedly extended the meeting until it finally ended after 2 am. However, there are many of us who believe that her rule following was not of benefit to our society (the public of Palo Alto). We are calling attention our belief here in this thread. No matter how you attempt to twist our words with your confusing logic, the fact remains that we do not agree with you. Sometimes common sense and common courtesy trump the "rules."

[Portion removed.]

These are the exchanges that I believe you are quoting in the post you wrote this morning:

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Obviously "rules exist to be followed" either is Barb Mitchell or is channeling her. Even someone from Gonzaga U (wherever that is) should know that rules exist for the benefit of society. What a disgrace of a Board President. What a disgrace of a Superintendent.


Posted by rules exist to be followed, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:45 pm
So, David, rules exist for the benefit of society. Which would imply they need to be followed. I'll take that
as agreement.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:20 pm

@rules exist to be followed:
>> So, David, rules exist for the benefit of society. Which would imply they >> need to be followed. I'll take that as agreement.

You may take that however and wherever you wish. It's very twisted logic to claim that I am in agreement with you. But (since the opinions seem to be overwhelmingly opposed to your very rabid perspective) I do sense your desperation to find someone in the galaxy who is. Good luck with that.


Posted by rules exist to be followed, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
4 hours ago February 3, 2014

As Peter best said "rules exist for the benefit of society". They are not an attack on your rights. You don't get choose which rules apply to you. Or, as with Anon, you end up driving on the sidewalk and considering it appropriate behavior!


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 11:57 am

@Eilleen 1,
Thank you for your posts.

I would just like to point to my post above yours -- that I was never driving on the sidewalk nor did I ever suggest it, it was the anonymous poster "rules exist" who went off into that very strange line of thinking.

Fortunately on this forum, unlike in the board meetings, the public has the opportunity to answer when someone is wrong or twisted in their logic.


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 11:59 am

@Eilleen 1,
In an attempt to clarify something to you, I may have left the impression I was addressed you in that last statement -- I was, of course, alluding to "rules exist"s twisted logic, not your very clear and reasonable posts.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 3, 2014 at 12:29 pm

@Eileen,

Where was Aunt M.'s common sense and common courtesy?

Barb guided the child to talk to Dr. Young several times so that she could be included at an appropriate point in time. This was common sense and common courtesy so that her comments could be received and not lost in current topic under discussion. Aunt M.'s reaction to this common sense and common courtesy was astonishing!

As I said to Edmund previously, nothing I can say will change your mind. Fortunately we have the video.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2014 at 12:34 pm

#anon parent

I noticed that the post by "rules exist" was so bizarre that both of us decided to address it!
As you say, thanks to this forum (provided by our local newspaper), we are able to answer one another and explain our thoughts and opinions. Thank you for your support of my posts.

I hope that you, and the others on this thread who have expressed their disappointment in the board, will come to the next meeting on Tuesday, February 11 at 6:30 and use the open forum section of the agenda to request that the board operate in a more democratic and transparent way. In one of Edmund Burke's more recent comments he posted a series of ideas (a-f) on how the board could change to commit themselves to transparency and public participation.

As Peter Carpenter wrote yesterday, " It is the Board's responsibility to encourage and facilitate public comment. Those who do not demand that the Board fulfill that responsibility have only themselves to blame. The highest office in the land is that of Citizen - sadly few citizens fulfill their responsibility to hold their elected REPRESENTATIVES accountable."

If several of us got up in the open forum section and used our 3 minutes to tell the board that it is their responsibility to encourage and facilitate public comment, it would help. The more people the better, but any NEW voices coming to say that last week's meeting was a disgrace and that we hold the entire board accountable for the hugely over scheduled agenda, the shameful treatment of the student who wished to speak, and the amazing lack of respect for our district's teachers' time and energy, would put the board on notice that the community is not satisfied with our elected representatives.


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Posted by Local Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Former PAUSD Parent, Of course I read those. As I mentioned, I read all of the coverage. I insist that it is not enough. Lobdell is a fine journalist. We could use a lot more of her work. However, the tough questions, along with their answers, are missing from the Weekly's coverage. Here is an instructional discussion about interview techniques. Web Link Among other things, it includes a brief summary on asking difficult questions. It is easy to get people to tell you their talking points on any subject. Getting to what is really going on is hard. What really went on in the meeting the other night? Is Barb Mitchell a terrible despot? Is she someone who was exhausted from many meetings, saw Auntie M. coming, yet again, and made a poor judgement call on the fly? I do not know. I do not believe the people making all of these rash comments know. We have surface story and we have opinions. And yes, I am anonymous here. But, then again, even though I have been present for much of this, I am not presenting judgments and conclusions I haven't the expertise to make.


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Posted by Anti-spin
a resident of Monroe Park
on Feb 3, 2014 at 12:42 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 2:15 pm

@ rules exist,
So now that other posters have given good reasons that the girl was speaking within the rules and Barb Mitchell was violating them, your definition of "courtesy" trumps the rules? (Funny how you've dropped your analogizing instead of extending the courtesy of apologizing for coming to a wrong conclusion, crowing about it, and otherwise being rude in your wrong conclusions.)

Yes, fortunately we have the video. What I saw was Barb Mitchell inappropriately and rudely cutting off a little girl because Mitchell has issues with the grown up with her from past experience.

As far as directing her to Charles Young, the whole point in telling her story publicly and to the board is that talking to Charles Young is already like talking to the hand.


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Excuse me -- clarifying again -- I meant:

So now that other posters have given good reasons that the girl was speaking within the rules and Barb Mitchell was VIOLATING HER RIGHTS...


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 3, 2014 at 2:22 pm

@Anon, please watch it again. We have a video of Barb explaining the topic of discussion and asking the girl to see Dr. Young to find the appropriate time to speak.
No rights were violated as much as you need that to support your argument.
All was courteous until the continued outburst from Aunt M.


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 2:41 pm

@rules,
You're only giving support to Eileen1's suspicion that you may be Barb Mitchell or someone close to. I can think of a number of adjectives to describe Ms. Mitchell's tone and behavior in the video, but overall, courteous is not one of them. Being referred to Charles Young was more like a slap, regardless of the tone. Regardless, I am in agreement with the analysis above that the girl should have been allowed to speak, that it would have only been right to afford her her right to speak, and that Ms. Mitchell was overreacting and reacting to the presence of Ms. Gaone.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 3, 2014 at 3:01 pm

@Anon, the child was speaking on a topic that was not under discussion. It is not rude or a slap in the face to ask her to talk to Dr. Young to arrange an appropriate time. Since there was a current topic under discussion, as Barb clearly stated, that wasn't the appropriate time for the child to speak as much as you believe it was.
Having the child come back after the current topic was completed is perfectly reasonable.
There was no rights violation and there was no problem until Aunt M.'s outburst. The only person at fault here is Aunt M.


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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm

As important as this incident was, I think the discussion about it has run its course. Given that it was more an example of an emotionally-charged mistake rather than anything else, it's much more important in my opinion that we address the other points raised by the editorial. Especially what the editorial called "manipulative agenda planning".

Why was 10 minutes allotted to the extremely controversial issues of de-laning 9th grade English and creating a sports "pathway" to graduation? Why did Skelly bring this to the board without working with the teachers to first inform the parent community? He knows darn well that without getting parent support for a proposal like this it would fail, so it seems like he set up the teachers for a disappointing defeat after he had allowed them to spend over a year on the idea. What was the point of that?

And given all the controversy and district-created confusion over bullying policies, why would you put that at the end of a long agenda?

Whatever happened to the notion that important issues should be discussed at a time when there is maximum opportunity for public participation, and that you encourage not discourage such participation?


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:12 pm

@ rules exist,
Now you are wholesale rewriting what happened to suit your perspective. [Portion removed.] Since you are just repeating statements that people like Edmund Burke have well refuted, I'll leave it at that and ask people to read the previous discussion again.

You know what bothered me the most about the video, and I had trouble putting it into words until now: Barb Mitchell treating Angela almost like she wasn't even there, like she wasn't a real person, her focus (just like yours, hmmm) was inordinantly on Ms Gaone. You know how some adults are -- they talk to other adults over the heads of kids, like they aren't real people.

I wish I could rename my moniker "School Boards Exist for the Kids". [Portion removed.]


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm

rules,

All the adults are at fault. Aunt. M didn't get there all alone, and yet she was alone. I don't disagree that the little girl deserves an apology, it should just be a broad one.


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm

@Big Picture,
You make some good points. I think if you got out the whole text of the board policies -- which are "binding" -- you would see a whole bunch of them violated in spirit or in fact, not just at that meeting. However, what is the consequence? What leverage or recourse do families have in that event? Often none. So how do we make that binding promise enforceable?

To that end, I am pulling out my key point from above, since it's now buried:
"Parents: Have you never wondered why you have no rights in regards to specific policies you don't like, equivalent to referendum and initiative at the city and state level, even though school boards exist in order to give local autonomy and control? It's supposed to be YOUR control and autonomy.

The rules need to change, and we're not just talking meeting procedures, but we could start there. Do you want to be on the school board? Investigate and come up with a plan where significant parent input, such as the 800 elementary parents who asked our district to just wait a year and try a math program they wanted that hadn't been considered because of a technicality and was being offered free to try that year by the printer - where significant parent input like that can influence district decisions because we are supposed to have that kind of local autonomy.

What needs to change? Can our school board make procedural changes to accomplish that? If so, come up with the changes, and run on a platform of giving families that autonomy and control of their own children's education. If not, then what needs to be done? Rule change at state Dept of Ed level? Lawsuit? Law introduced at the state level? How?"


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm

@Anon, Edmund's argument was built entirely on a straw man. He wanted you to believe "the board violated this girl's rights". As the video showed, this was not the case. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I watched the video of the school board meeting and thought that Barbara Mitchell was perfectly polite and within reason. The student was being handled by Ms. Mendoza who ignored the meeting norms which she knows very well from speaking there on so many previous occasions. Of course this was a set-up designed to make the school board look bad in retaliation for scheduling the bullying item so late on the agenda.


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:33 pm

@rules/observer
"Of course this was a set-up designed to make the school board look bad in retaliation for scheduling the bullying item so late on the agenda."

It definitely looked for all the world like Barb Mitchell began with that assumption rather than letter the girl speak. I was prepared to be wrong, but when watching the video, thought Mitchell was rude and dismissive. It just only makes me wonder what on earth is her reason for remaining on the board.


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:34 pm

P.S. The school board doesn't need a "set up" to make it look bad.


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:36 pm

@rules/observer,
Sorry...I have to add -- You get from this that a young girl trying to speak at the most appropriate time available at a reasonable hour is her plotting to set up the board to look bad, rather than trying to speak so she can be heard and go home to do her homework and sleep?


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Posted by Spike
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:44 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the Brown Act language on disruption:

54957.9. Disruption of meeting
In the event that any meeting is willfully interrupted by a group or groups of persons so as to render the orderly conduct of such meeting unfeasible and order cannot be restored by the removal of individuals who are willfully interrupting the meeting, the members of the legislative body conducting the meeting may order the meeting room cleared and continue in session. Only matters appearing on the agenda may be considered in such a session. Representatives of the press or other news media, except those participating in the disturbance, shall be allowed to attend any session held pursuant to this section. Nothing in this section shall prohibit the legislative body from establishing a procedure for readmitting an individual or individuals not responsible for willfully disturbing the orderly conduct of the meeting.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the Brown Act's requirement for allowing public comment:
"54954.3. Public's right to testify at meetings
(a) Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the
public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body's consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body, provided that no action shall be taken on any item not appearing on the agenda unless the action is otherwise authorized by subdivision (b) of Section 54954.2."

Note BEFORE or during the legislative body's consideration of the item,


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:55 pm

@Anon, please watch the video. When the girl began with "I was bullied..." how much more does Barb need to hear to determine it is off-topic? She was also polite and asked for and received confirmation from Aunt M. that the talk would be on-topic and allowed the child to continue.

How is that "began with that assumption rather than letter the girl speak"? You see, your post is just another straw man argument. Again, fortunately, we have the video to correct you.

This goes to your previous post about Barb address Aunt M. Addressing Aunt M. was also correct, since the child wouldn't understand why she was asking that question.

Again, I ask you to not only watch but also listen to the video.

@Editor, since the 2nd part of my last comment was removed, I'll just refer to the wikipedia defintion of a straw man argument: Web Link "A straw man, also known in the UK as an Aunt Sally,[1][2] is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of the topic of argument."
Since the basis of Edmund's argument is false, all subsequent representations based on that argument are deemed false.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Couldn't disagree more with Anon parent. Mitchell is very perceptive and knew just what Ms. Mendoza was up to as does anyone who views the video - or has seen Aunt M. operate in previous situations. Mitchell belongs on the board but needs to change the norm to let kids talk by a certain hour - that's all - it's very simple.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Observer has it right. This child was totally manipulated by her aunt. Does anyone believe she came up with the idea to speak before the board on her own? Does the average 12 year old even know there is a board of education? 99% of kids who speak before a school board have been put there by their parents. I can just see now that everyone who wants to subvert the accepted rules the school board has been operating by for many, many years, will now ask a kid to do their speaking for them. It's pretty clear to me that the child had adult help in writing her statement.


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Nice assertions about Mitchell. If only her behavior demonstrated that she was open, honest, and perceptive. I've read a lot of things about her in the Town Square, but I haven't read or heard evidence that she is psychic, able to read the minds of speakers at the podium and instantly judge whether or not it is appropriate. That's not how the concept of free speech works. Only an arrogant [portion removed] would cut off a little kid reading a brief statement about her needs to the school board and then make threatening comments to intimidate her and the two adults into silence. We've seen plenty of real latitude given to the public at board members over the past years, but this looked like bullying a child who already felt victimized and her two adult supporters. If Marielena was one of those Stanford Ph.D. moms like he spoke so reverently about in 2009, we don't have Mitchell ordering Charles Young to cut the mike and asking the police or Sergeant at Arms to remove the offender from the public building. This episode revealed just a little what so many of us think about Skelly, Young, and the board. We don't need new rules, the rules are fine. We need better folks who can judiciously enforce those rules.


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Posted by anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:23 pm

@ parent,
Wow, I'm really sorry you either don't know the kids in this district, have a really narrow experience of only the most helpless and unmotivated of them, or just are unable to see what's in front of you.

I am regularly amazed by what accomplished, poised, caring, concerned, and altruistic kids we have in this district. I know quite a few kids who would have known and wanted to speak before the Board, as I've known kids who wanted to speak to City Council on various issues (including one who waited until 11pm one night and had to go home, asleep, without having had the chance to say his piece). My own child has asked to speak on various issues to CC and BOE, but we are limited by the practicalities of life that Ms. Gaone was clearly helping this child to overcome so she could speak.

It's pretty clear to me that Angela was speaking from the heart, and that Ms. Gaone was sticking up for her when Barb Mitchell ran roughshod over her.

Given that Angela was speaking to a broader issue that WASN'T on the agenda, because the administration's decision to stick with just procedure for protected classes was what was being discussed, I think Angela's use of the word "bullying" shouldn't have triggered Ms. Mitchell's response anymore than the word "vote" or "education" or "OCR". Again, I saw Mitchell's response as an overreaction, a guilty-flee-where-no-one-pursueth response that clearly has backfired as it brought more attention than Angela's statement would have if she had just been allowed to speak.

Our current board is pretty detached from the families in the district and current needs, as is this administration that really doesn't know how to work with families -- and would jump to criticizing them and call denigrating names instead of learning how to work with families. Having worked with many families myself as a volunteer, I think it's a real shame and a waste when our administration doesn't know how to capitalize on the wealth of family assets we have here (while in East Palo Alto, they openly seek such engagement).

Some of what happened there flows from this whole attitude of antagonism of our administration toward families, rather than of collaboration.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Naaa, sorry but Angela, although heartfelt and brave, was being handled. Mitchell erred when making up the agenda, inviting this type of theatrical stunt, and perhaps deserving some of the flack she is getting. But it was a theatrical stunt, no question.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Thank you Peter for posting the text of 54957.9. The important first sentence states "In the event that any meeting is willfully interrupted by a group or groups of persons so as to render the orderly conduct of such meeting unfeasible." Let's take a closer look at this sentence. First, what we see is that it applies to a "group or groups of persons." In this case, the alleged interruption was caused by a 12 year old reading a 40 second statement on bullying, which was in the opinion of the board president, the wrong agenda item. It is arguable that she was not a "group." Her adult friend or relative implored Mitchell to allow her to finish. Did that make them a group? This section seems more applicable to an organized group such as Code Pink, which has a political strategy of breaking up meetings through political protest, or of Occupy, which uses both serial and unison speech to deliver political messages. It is hard to see how one 12 year old and her adult caretaker constitute a "group" under this section. Let's assume however, that they do and see where this takes us.

The "group" has to "render the orderly conduct of such meeting unfeasible." Even if Angela B. and her adult caretaker constitute a group under this statute, there was nothing that rendered the orderly conduct of the meeting "unfeasible."

There are many scenarios in which Angela's comment was perfectly lawful. Maybe she meant to assert that middle schools should have anti-bullying curriculum (courses). That is entirely within the topic. At worst, she was off-topic. In that event, she would have talked for 40 seconds, and left the meeting. That certainly in no way rendered the orderly conduct of the meeting "unfeasible."

Indeed, it was Mitchell's heavy-handed insistence on a confrontation with Gaona-Mendoza that nearly rendered the orderly conduct of the meeting unfeasible -- when Mitchell yelled "cut the mike," and then threatened the girl and her adult caretaker with "being removed" in violation of the First Amendment and common sense for possibly talking out of turn.

This section of the code applies in the case of what the courts have called a "substantial disruption." They do not apply to one adorable little girl talking in a quiet voice for 40 seconds.

That's the law. But do you need to know the law to know that this was not the right thing to do?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:44 pm

@anon parent: Yes, I know the kids in Palo Alto are brilliant and above average, however, I will politely continue to disagree with you. I remember going to a board meeting where a very articulate young man was speaking about the counseling system at Gunn. I happened to be sitting next to him and asked him why he was there. His response was that some "adult" from We Can Do Better, Palo Alto" asked him to speak as he was the president of the student body. [Portion removed.] Many kids spoke up about the calendar, however, their parents who complained extensively about the changes, were right behind them. I find it amusing that everyone talks about the importance of listening to the kids, but only when it is convenient for their point of view.
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by xSIpar
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Just saw the video--absolutely outrageous. What was to be gained from censoring a student? Was there fear that she was going to mount a filibuster?
Barb Mitchell was running the meeting and should take most of the blame, but none of the other
Board members did anything and are equally responsible for this fiasco (Dana Tom looked like he
was actually smiling.)

Great editorial, by the way. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:47 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Edmund Burke has it right, "But do you need to know the law to know that this was not the right thing to do?"

Angela came to the school board meeting to tell her story of bullying in school. She had a right to do that as a citizen of Palo Alto, and as a student in the school district. Barb Mitchell, Dana Tom, and the other board members met Angela with contempt and disdain.

Perhaps that was because of what Angela came to tell them about. It has been obvious for a long time that this board and staff does not want to talk in public about bullying or civil rights. That is why it was slated for item #19 on a long agenda.

Perhaps Barb Mitchell doesn't like the adults who accompanied Angela. Ms. Mitchell has sought behind the scenes to limit federal authority over civil rights in Palo Alto. Ms. Gaona-Mendoza, along with others in the community, has stood against Mitchell's efforts.

We can make up stories about how Barb Mitchell was really trying to help the little girl while interrupting her twice in 45 seconds, and ultimately turning off her mike and threatening to have her forcibly removed. We can also try to erase Angela as a person, so that we don't have to think about what it felt like to stand up to tell her story and have Mitchell bully her in response.

I am old enough to have seen adults standing in the school house door, claiming to be acting on behalf of children who they are ignoring and turning away. I'm sickened and saddened to see it in Palo Alto. I'm with the Editor. I fervently hope that this is the bottom.


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 7:02 pm

@parent,
"I find it amusing that everyone talks about the importance of listening to the kids, but only when it is convenient for their point of view. "

Oh? I actually disagree with WCDB Palo Alto and agree with Skelly on this policy, that it's probably better to have a clear policy and let the schools deal with most bullying incidents, and only escalate the ones where broader civil rights issues are at stake. I wrote what I thought was persuasively for that perspective when I thought the district was going to come up with a policy to escalate all bullying complaints to the district level. I thought that would be unnecessarily intrusive and end up encouraging a kind of "it's not my problem" behavior among staff that would backfire and hurt the kids. My own experience with the way staff handles bullying at the middle school level has been good, but there weren't discrimination issues, nor persistent bullying, nor did it involve any of the people whose stories have been in the news. Just because I didn't have those problems, doesn't mean I think no one else has or that I think their problems shouldn't be dealt with seriously (as some people seem to irrationally conclude).

I do think it's a good idea in a well-functioning organization to have a fluid organizational structure where those at the bottom have authority and influence to speak with those at the top and the power to make major decisions on their own as you find in industries of very high risk but low accident rate and high performance. Meaning, I tend to see collaboration and egalitarian control as more effective than rigid hierarchies.

And I would tend to err on the side of giving a middle schooler her first amendment rights and a say, and would consider what she has to say seriously, even though I go into the statement with the opposite conclusion. Maybe I need to change my mind, maybe I don't -- I wanted to hear what Angela had to say.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 3, 2014 at 7:09 pm

@Common sense, no one was denying A.s right to come to the board meeting and tell her story. She was guided to Dr. Young so she could do just that. The issue was that she was speaking at the wrong point in the meeting and was asked to speak with Dr. Young to arrange an appropriate time to speak.
There was no treating the child with disdain and contempt. Aunt M. was asked the first time to confirm that this was the right time for the child to speak. Aunt M. basically lied to her and said it was and Barb allowed her to continue. After it was clear that A. wasn't speaking on-topic, she asked her to talk to Dr. Young.
Against this background, shown in the video, the rest of your post doesn't make any sense.


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 7:20 pm

@rules,
Angela was not being directed to Charles Young to provide her with another time in the meeting to speak, she was being directed to Charles Young to speak to Charles Young rather than allowing her to speak to the public, a violation of her rights.

As you probably already know, Charles Young has been the point person in charge of compliance with civil rights laws for the district, and we all know how problematic that's been under his watch. If the family had any personal experience with him. they would have perceived it as the brush off it was, as talking to Charles Young on these issues would have been worse than a waste of their time. She was there to speak to the public, not Charles Young (which is pointless).

People calling for Skelly's resignation would do well to pay more attention to those under him who would be even more dangerous.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 7:47 pm

[Post removed for incorrectly characterizing statement by Paly principal Kim Diorio.]


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Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 3, 2014 at 7:53 pm

@Big picture asks some good questions. Here are my answers.

BP:Why was 10 minutes allotted to the extremely controversial issues of de-laning 9th grade English and creating a sports "pathway" to graduation?
A: Mitchell, Skelly, and Caswell (who set the agenda), allotted 10 minutes to these topics so that the meeting would end on paper by 10:00pm, as required by the board bylaws. Skelly acknowledged in his weekly communication to the board that he expected the meeting to run late. The time estimates were a fiction.

BP: Why did Skelly bring this to the board without working with the teachers to first inform the parent community? He knows darn well that without getting parent support for a proposal like this it would fail, so it seems like he set up the teachers for a disappointing defeat after he had allowed them to spend over a year on the idea. What was the point of that?
A: Skelly may or may not support the English 9A proposal. But the board members had already made up their mind, based on lobbying by friends of theirs (Jonathan Foster, Louise Valenti, and Lauren Janov all spoke at the meeting). Skelly is in a weakened political position after the OCR debacle, so he isn't in a position to try to mobilize support for a proposal disliked by the board, no matter how worthy.

BP: And given all the controversy and district-created confusion over bullying policies, why would you put that at the end of a long agenda?
A: Because of all of the controversy and district-created confusion, of course.

BP: Whatever happened to the notion that important issues should be discussed at a time when there is maximum opportunity for public participation, and that you encourage not discourage such participation?
A: That notion is enshrined in the Brown Act and ideas about democratic governance. It is not part of the practice of the school board, and particularly not Barb Mitchell's. To the contrary, the school board increasingly conducts its business in "closed meetings" out of public view, and communicates via memos protected by attorney-client privilege.

And a question of my own.
BW: Why do people like "observer" trade in misinformation like the post above, when she says that the Paly principal called some students "dummies".
A: Here's the whole quote: "I've had conversations with freshman students who self-identify as being in the dummy class -- they see themselves right off the bat as not being as smart as their peers," Paly Principal Kim Diorio said. "I think that sets them up in that mindset that they're in a fixed place in our school, and that's really troubling. In our school we talk about equity and structural inequalities that exist in our system and how we can raise achievement for all students." Answer: observer is attempting to distract people from the real issue by creating a fake controversy.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Thank you Board Watcher.

One issue that has not been given sufficient attention is the disrespectful treatment given the Paly english teachers. Their hard work to remedy racial inequality in the Paly 9th grade english class distribution should have been celebrated. Their work to align English 9 and 9A is exactly the kind of equity-enhancing initiative that should be prized by any district, especially PAUSD where equity has long been a slogan rather than a reality. Instead, they were held at the meeting until 1:00am only to be treated with disdain. Diorio and her staff deserve our praise and gratitude.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Wow, Edmund. All of a sudden what the teachers think is paramount? Why when the teachers at Gunn didn't agree with teacher advisory did you feel it necessary to treat them with disdain? Why don't you do a public records request about the transition to one lane of English 9 and see how many parents oppose it? One reason they oppose it is that lower performing students tend to take up more of the teacher's time on behavioral issues. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 8:21 pm

[Portion removed.] Public schools have to provide an education to all children, which is as it should be. However, when you have a child who is not interested in learning, it impacts all children in the class. And, you can not blame it all on the teacher. There are a lot of factors that contribute to lack of motivation.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 3, 2014 at 8:21 pm

@Anon, no, she was being directed to Charles to arrange the appropriate time to speak. She was speaking in an off-topic discussion and arrangements to allow her to speak at an appropriate time would need to be made.
As you are aware, Dr. Young performs a number of roles, the primary one is Associate Superintendent.

Don;t take my word for it. You're welcome to confirm this with Dr. Young and Ms. Mitchell.

Again, no rights were violated. The meeting would have continued and none of this would have occurred without the outburst from Aunt M.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm

"rules exist to be followed" is adopting the same strategy as "observer". Tell a whopper, and trust that some subset of the population won't bother to investigate.

Contrary to "rules" assertions, Mitchell didn't direct Angela to speak to Dr. Young in order to arrange another time to speak. Mitchell did, though, order that Angela's microphone be cut off and threatened her twice with forcible removal from the meeting.

Really, all of this spin is an acknowledgement that what actually happened does not reflect well on Mitchell.


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Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 3, 2014 at 9:05 pm

One day and a hundred comments later a lot of heat seems to have been dissipated but very little new light shed. Oh well. Like before, I won't address the Paly English proposal.

Couple of specific but minor points first.

- I have been watching the board for quite a long time and the practice of letting students talk early IS NOT a routine or common one. It happens typically by a request to a staff or board member and then typically a whole item is moved ahead. Off the cuff I don't recall *ever* that a public comment was given early while the item itself was discussed much later. But even if my memory betrays me, this is certainly not a routine behavior that happens by default.

- The various "legal" opinions from Peter and Edmund are simply ... their opinions. The presiding officer typically has the authority over rules and their interpretation, unless there is a parliamentarian assigned. That a member of the board, or of the public, may disagree with such makes little legal difference. And if the presiding officer decides that certain behavior is disruptive and the behavior is repeated, the violator(s) can be removed. It's not for me or for you to decide that it was sufficient or insufficient reason for removal. We can express our opinions at the ballot box if we feel strongly about it, but not pretend we represent some legal authority.

Which brings me to the real issue that was mentioned by a few but deserves putting it in the center of the discussion.

(1) That the board operates inefficiently, frequently into late night, sets unreasonable and/or time-wise "unfriendly" agendas.

(2) That the board rules do not allow/encourage meaningful public input.

Both are generally political issues rather than legal issues. In fact, I agree with both of those statements to a large degree and I suspect so do at least some members of the board itself.

The Open Forum was in the beginning of the board meetings for many years until the board, under the leadership of the late John Tuomy, decided in late 1990s to move it to rather late in the session. I always felt (and publicly argued a few times) that it was done to eliminate much of public input -- those were still the days of the curriculum wars, establishing choice programs, etc., and the public spoke at almost every meeting.

In the same vein, the board meeting materials had a section on public communication, where the board published all public communication (emails, letters) received since the previous meeting from the public. This served to bring up issues to the board ahead of time, and without the need for many to come to the meeting itself and speak up. This friendly practice has disappeared gradually in the late 1990s too.

Finally, the board frequently professed to trying and limiting the length of the discussion by its members but had not succeeded in upholding it.

If I am right in my summary, I'd suggest that the way to effect changes in the public input process and in the way the board runs its business is a political one. Let the members hear you -- over and over and over again -- through letters, Open Forum, phone calls, letters to the editor, whatever, the changes you want to have. If sufficient number of people sticks to it for a few months, changes will happen. But anonymous venting on Town Square once in a blue moon, and only when a particular topic dear to your heart happens to lose, probably won't make much of a difference.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 3, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Board watcher, as I mentioned, you don't need to take my word for it.
Unfortunately none of your arguments are holding water. Even your assertion that "A.'s mike be turned off" is incorrect. As the video shoes, Aunt M. had pushed A. out of the way and taken over the mike. As with all your arguments, you accusations have no basis in fact.
Please watch the video before posting.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 10:51 pm

@Wurman

"And if the presiding officer decides that certain behavior is disruptive and the behavior is repeated, the violator(s) can be removed."

There is still a First Amendment that governs what is lawful. The presiding officer must act within the law. She does not govern by fiat. If the presiding officer is incorrect about whether or not the citizen has caused a "substantial disruption" then it is possible the police will refuse to remove the individual. If the police remove the individual and it later turns out that the presiding officer was acting unlawfully, then the district will face litigation over that violation.

So it is not the case that the presiding officer just "decides that certain behavior is disruptive." Indeed, both California and federal courts have held repeatedly that the presiding officer must confront an actual substantial disruption -- it cannot be just any violation of rules or protocol, and a presiding officer cannot merely declare any disruption to be substantial.

The courts exist in part to exercise a check on arbitrary government action against the individual.

However all of this is known by common sense and the law is an afterthought. As I once said, "It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do."


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 11:20 pm

BW, thank you for posting that quote. [Portion removed for mischaracterizing statement.] Put yourself in the place of a student who would be perfectly placed in English 9. They may face name-calling in the 9A every day as they are expected to measure up to advanced students. Much better to face it only periodically when someone asks them who their teacher is or what lane they are in.

This real issue also reads onto the bullying problem. Delaning could very well increase bullying. IF we look at the examples of adult behavior modeling, we see it clearly here.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Do not mistake me for parent. It sounds like parent does not want his or her children mixing with the riff-raff. Rather I would keep my children away from the poor behavior of the advanced students. Had enough of it in elementary and middle school.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 4, 2014 at 7:00 am

@observer, You should go back and listen to the meeting. Here's the link: Web Link.

The English teachers said that at this point the content and homework for the two classes are the same, so there really are not two distinct "lanes". There are advanced and proficient students in both classes and both classes already include a mix of abilities. Teachers are doing a lot of differentiated instruction in both English 9 and English 9A. So this proposal isn't about "delaning", it is about recognizing that all 9th grade English students are really taking the same class.

Why should some students get a "lower" level label on their class, and feel like they aren't as capable? This change makes sense to me, frankly. I don't really understand the board's concern, I wonder if it was so late that they weren't really able to focus on it.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 7:36 am

Paly parent,

Everyone knows that English at Paly depends on the teacher. And some teachers do a better job at "differentiated" instruction than others, but good luck with "differentiated" homework load.

The dummy comment is caused as much by the teachers who drill into students that they are in an "advanced" class, and need to do "advanced" work.

I would support the change if the class is called 9. Not 9A, to assure normal levels of homework load. Everyone already fears English because they are not sure what teacher they will get, and now they have to forced to be in an advanced class. Being trapped in and Advanced class, that's a real fear.

And can everyone keep in mind that the current choice students are making is to NOT go Advanced? The answer to that question is why many families fear this proposal.

And shocking as it may sound, it is because many of us do not want to suffer the climate with advanced kids or the advanced teachers.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 4, 2014 at 7:45 am

[Post removed due to repetitive post.]


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 7:52 am

One more thing, things get very competitive in High School, less personal, 9th grade is an adjustment year (rife with fears as it is), so to equate the 8th grade all level class to high school does not seem right. Many people choose TEAM just for this reason,


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Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:18 am

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

Further comments on the topic of the girl and how she was treated will be deleted, as they are now all repetitive. Please feel free to continue discussion on other issues relating to Tuesday's school board meeting.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:23 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:32 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Can this get worse?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 9:00 am

Thank you for keeping this thread open. Though many of our posts are repetitive, enough people in Palo Alto are interested in this issue to almost hit 300 comments and thousands of views.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 9:16 am

Town Square Moderator,

There is a separate thread which Village Fool keeps resuscitating which I believe is a method to ignite controversy surrounding similar issues. It's among your top posts of the day. If people click, it just gets more views, usually few people have commented since the original thread was started.

I have appreciated your delivering news on the topics regardless of controversy; however, when posters use a thread to ignite passions towards one view or another, that seems unnecessary. Astroturf movements on Town Square should at least have real people behind them.


Palo Alto Online Moderator Response:

Thanks for pointing this out. We've closed that topic from further comment so this won't happen any longer.


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 10:05 am

I actually was grateful for the moderator finally stepping in. [Portion removed.]

Now, back to the topic: has the school board reached it's nadir? I actually think Heidi and Melissa would do much better if Dana, Camille, and Barb were gone. The long-timers have become so detached from the purpose of serving on the board, it makes me wonder why they are doing it. (I mean, really wonder.). The smarter more honest ones seem to have no spine or independent initiative, which would be okay if those with the most spine were acting more in goodwill and intelligence. Soon, I expect we haven't seen the nadir.


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Posted by the "aunt"
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 10:11 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 11:34 am

@ observer. If a student was called names every day in 9a that would be a serious bullying issue. I don't believe it would happen anyway. What do you visualize? White students in 9AM insulting the minority students for being beneath them? Really ? Does anyone believe that this would happen ? What decade is this? If that would really happen then it is the best argument yet for combining the kids because the majority kids apparently need inter group empathy.

I really want to encourage the Paly teachers. I'm sorry on behalf of the community for how you were treated by the board. Your efforts to help our under served students and to stop stigmatizing them are brave and I take my hat off to you.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 12:04 pm

[Post removed. We're not permitting any further comments on the issue of the girl and her speaking to the board.]


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Posted by I am Outraged and Ashamed!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 1:49 pm

@anon Parent: I agree that maybe Melissa could stay on but I don't think Heidi has what it takes to do the job. Perhaps if all of the others were replaced by people who had the best interests of the children and the district in mind she would flow with the tide. She seems to lack the ability to speak out when speaking out would seem to be the required action. I think her heart is in the right place but I don't think she is right for the Board with its current composition. She simply lacks any voice and just smiles her pretty smile and acquiesces to what ever is being promoted by the others.

I agree that Tom and Mitchell lack any reason for retention and do the district and the kids more harm than good.

Thanks for this opportunity to assess some possible choices for new Board members. It's time for some honesty and transparency. Enough is enough.

I hope that Ken Dauber will consider running again. He speaks so well at the meetings and by now anyone who watches him comport himself knows that he is not the ogre that the opposition made him out to be. On the other hand, it was such a dirty tricks race that I wouldn't be surprised if Ken decides to just continue serving the board by speaking so eloquently at meetings. Thank you Ken for your deep understanding of the issues and solid suggestions for solutions!


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Outraged,

"Thank you Ken for your deep understanding of the issues and solid suggestions for solutions!"

Ken Dauber didn't have "deep" understanding of the Paly English proposal to eliminate the regular 9th grade lane.

He charmed the teachers with support based on research on an aspect of the achievement gap (expectations), but had no idea about how this impacts middle kids (another under served PAUSD group). Surprisingly he found the 1 piece of data that the teachers provided as good enough for a pretty major change.

Actually, using the one piece of data the teachers would have made a better case for the plan by acknowledging that students are CHOOSING to not be in an advanced class.

At any rate 2 AM pass on this proposal would have been wrong to begin with. So, another rubber stamper for what is already a powerful force for PAUSD (staff) is hardly what is needed. We may as well eliminate meetings for that, and the board.

Ken is better if he questions and probes, not for the stick by your man kind of stuff.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Re: Anon Parent

Funny thing - those pesky voters didn't seem to agree with you (or the Weekly). The win for Melissa and Camille was major, and Heidi decisively trumped Ken. Democracy means sometimes your side loses. It also means that sometimes your preferred topics and issues are other peoples' topics or issues.

Just like sports, there is always next year. Campaigns are good for the district, and much more healthy than Town Square commentary.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Regarding potential candidates for the board positions that will be up for election in November 2014, a previous poster mentioned that Christina Schmidt looks good. I agree. She held on until the wee hours of the morning to comment on the bullying policy to the board. She was articulate, direct, and polite. She clearly has an interest in the children of the district who have special needs, (Web Link) I very much hope she will consider running for office.


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Posted by Facts
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Heidi Emberling had 24.03% of the vote and Ken Dauber had 22.07% of the vote.
The difference between them was 916 votes. Web Link

That doesn't really seem like "decisively" trumping someone to me. I would call it more of an edging out by a mere 1.96 %.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Regarding Christina Schmidt:

Sorry! My web link didn't work. Here it is again: Web Link


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 4:39 pm

@Paly Parent,
"Funny thing - those pesky voters didn't seem to agree with you (or the Weekly)."

That's a really strange take on democracy, to imagine that voting for someone means you then slavishly agree with everything they say or do, or ignore when they are doing a poor job and should probably move on. Term limits exist for a reason. If you must know, I have voted for all of the above myself, it doesn't have any bearing on this discussion.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 4, 2014 at 4:47 pm

@Eileen, that's a great idea. We can have a WCDBPA slate with Ken, Mary and Christina.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Longtime PA parent
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 4, 2014 at 4:51 pm

My take on the "nadir" question. Full disclosure: I voted for Caswell, Townsend, and Dauber. Emberling didn't impress me with her maturity or knowledge of the issues. I think I have been proved right on that one.

This is the least impressive school board I have seen in a long time. We don't have term limits, but I think now it would be a good thing. Barb Mitchell has obviously been on the board for too long. All of the secrecy of the last year has really bothered me. Same thing with Dana Tom. It works to get turnover on the City Council, we could use it on the school board.

Townsend has disappointed me since the election, I just feel that someone should be standing up for openness and I thought she had an independent streak but I don't see it.

It is obvious to me that Dauber would have that independence. I can't see him standing for secrecy and hiding agenda items in the late night. And allowing what happened the other night? I doubt it.

I don't know much about Schmidt. I'll go back and watch the video if I can find the spot where she talked.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bullying
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 5:58 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fun censorship
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2014 at 6:42 pm

"I actually was grateful for the moderator finally stepping in. [Portion removed.]"

Oh, the irony!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 7:07 pm

@ fun,
:-) I kind of knew they would delete that, but glad they left the rest. Interestingly, if you're feeling punchy and put in your own "expletive deleted"s, then they delete all of it!

I do not always agree with Ken for sure, but I strongly support his candidacy, as he is someone who is WILLING to disagree, change his mind if he's convinced by better arguments or data, and hash out the issues, because he really, really cares. He is a strong leader and would have changed the whole operation of the Council if he had won. While they probably wouldn't have liked it much, if Dauber had won, it would ultimately have been the best thing for Townsend, Mitchell and Tom to be forced out of the echo chamber.

I do think if he had gotten on the board along with Heidi, most of you would feel differently about Heidi. I know her - even though we're not really that friendly, I have no doubts about her strong integrity, and she's also very caring and hardworking. I never thought she would be good among the current crop. You have to look at how people work together and complement each other. A whole board full of Ken's wouldn't necessarily be the best thing, either (though we should be so lucky to have that problem!). I think Ken, Heidi, Melissa together would be a much better thing for our schools than Dana, Heidi, and Barb together.

People have different strengths. Heidi is a team player. Unfortunately, it's a stale, cynical, and self-serving team. Please don't write her off for that. Please give us someone like Ken next time who is intelligent and has the strength to stand up for principle as he does. (Even when I disagree with Ken, I respect his positions.)


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 7:10 pm

@Longtime PA parent,
I'm embarrassed to ask - we don't have term limits for the Board?

If not, how do we get them? Is it by local referendum or some other process?


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 4, 2014 at 7:16 pm

To put things simply, the people on the school board are those who volunteer to run - for a pretty thankless job that consumes tons of hours for very little positive feedback. I believe Ms. Townsend ran so the Mr. Dauber would not automatically get elected. We have had unopposed BOE elections in the past.

If you don't like what the Board is doing, run for the next election or convince a compelling candidate to run. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 7:49 pm

No term limits. Local custom (the last couple decades anyway) had trustees limiting themselves to two four year terms. Townsend went for a third term - various reasons given (Klausner did not run for re-election after one term; enough candidates to have an election). In the last two elections combined, there have been five available seats and six total candidates, though in the 2007 election there were six candidates (five "serious") for three seats.

Agree with the above poster - this is the toughest volunteer job in Palo Alto. Imagine volunteering 30 hours a week for years at a time and then reading this forum!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Being a board member is not the toughest volunteer job at all, that's just a myth. It is often a stepping stone to higher office or even an imagemaker. Keep spreading your myth, though, so I can feel bad for them. It's a nadir, probably not the nadir.


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Posted by Longtime PA parent
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Fred has it right about term limits. The school board could adopt term limits itself, but it hasn't (and I don't remember it ever being seriously proposed on the board).

Whenever I hear the school board or City Council described as a "volunteer" position, my BS detector goes off. Being an elected official is a serious office, people fight for it, and they shouldn't be dodging criticism. If you don't want to be criticized, volunteer down at the hospital or tutor kids. Don't run for office making decisions about hundreds of millions of $'s and other people's kids.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:32 pm

@six years of Skelly: please name who has gone on to higher office other than one or two that have run for city council.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:38 pm

@pap,

Timeline: June 24, 2012
Web Link
[WCDBPA] member Wynn Hausser, who was narrowly defeated by incumbent Townsend when he sought election in 2007, has said he does not intend to run this year. We Can Do Better cofounder Ken Dauber, who in the past said he would consider running, answered a query this week with an email saying, "Election long ways off."

Timeline: Friday, August 3, 2012,
Web Link
"The parent group We Can Do Better Palo Alto, which has both developed impressive data in support of its positions and made many uncomfortable by its assertiveness and blunt criticisms of district administrators, has so far not put forward a candidate. We hope they will, since that is the only way to ensure a public discussion on these issues and for all candidates to clearly articulate their views so they can be held accountable."

Timeline: Tuesday, August 7
Web Link
"Ken Dauber enters Palo Alto school board race "

Then amongst Ken's excuses when he lost he claimed that he "started late".

So, Barb said she would run before Ken even considered running; Ken had to be goaded into running by the Weekly and Ken used the excuse of entering the race late late as the reason for losing the election.

From all this you get: "I believe Ms. Townsend ran so the Mr. Dauber would not automatically get elected.". If anything, Ken entered the race to make sure that Ms Townsend would not get automatically re-elected. We all saw how well that attempt turned out.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Joe Simitian, Liz Kniss


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Don't give away the answers, it's better if everyone does their own research.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Longtime,

"Being an elected official is a serious office, people fight for it, and they shouldn't be dodging criticism. If you don't want to be criticized, volunteer down at the hospital or tutor kids. Don't run for office making decisions about hundreds of millions of $'s and other people's kids."

I agree and voted the same way, Caswell, Townsend and Dauber. I found them all to be independent thinkers.

It's the team thing that bothers me. We're not voting them in to be friends. We need people who are not afraid to ask the tough questions, a lot of different questions. Klausner was good at that, and less good when she was over-championing Everyday Math.

The sites and staff are the ones who should be the source of change, but it's the Board's role to make them better by being tough, not act as rubber stamps, say no if necessary, or offer alternatives, and bring the public to help out.

For that, transparency is all we have, and that's why the 2 AM deliberations are terrible. The re-do is necessary.


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Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm

@yes, but,
When I say "team" I am not talking about the echo chamber we have, I'm talking about people with different skills that complement and contrast each other. I'd really like to get rid of all of these people who use the guise of civility to excuse a lot of bad and incompetent behavior. I'd rather see people on the board have at it if it means tempered steel on the other end of the heat, if you know what I mean.

Camille, Dana, and Barb are pretty useless at this point, sometimes worse than useless. I really don't think Heidi is, I think she has something to give, but it's not the strength and leadership we need right now, so people are disappointed in her performance because she's the new kid. I think if we had strength and leadership from Ken, which he clearly has in spades, someone like Heidi would actually make better contributions. Heck, I think all of them would do better with someone like Ken to keep them honest. I do think Ken would be best if there was at least 2 other people on the board with that kind of strong personality - to keep HIM on his toes (what's good for the goose) - but not all of them.

Does that make more sense? If everyone on a body is the same, you don't get as optimal an outcome as when people bring different strengths have enough fight in them to keep each other honest but not so much they cause gridlock.

I can think of lots of reasons people might like to be on the board, even if they don't want further office. They control hundreds of millions of dollars. I'm not saying there's any graft (though I hope we have adequate safeguards, when I look at our construction projects in the past in this town I'm a little worried), but it's got to be quite a head trip at the very least to have the ability to make those deals and form those relationships with those who will benefit from the expenditures, such as the construction bond. Didn't some of them get their terms extended without election just by some change of cycle (or was that City Council?)

And when you're on the school board, I'm sure you get approached eventually by everyone in town, including our most illustrious mucky mucks. There's a liaison with City Council. Power trips are very compelling to many people.

My read is that Heidi, Ken, Melissa -- doing it for the the kids. Dana, Camille, Barb -- began that way but hasn't been in a long time. We should have term limits. If they can be adopted by a board, then we should get a slate of candidates to run on certain promises, among them, term limits and granting parents more authority and power, the equivalent of referendum and initiative, but maybe even with a lower bar and less formal requirements, because the whole point of school boards as governmental bodies is to provide local control to families.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Big Picture - any examples less than 20 years old? Do you think Mr Dauber is planning a career in higher office as well?

The thanksless nature of the job helps explain why few seek it. One reason that some do is pursuit of higher office. My guess is that many who serve are cured of that ambition.


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Posted by Longtime PA parent
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 5, 2014 at 10:39 am

The "team" idea that Anon parent talks about is a part of what is going on here. School board members didn't used to think of themselves as on a management "team" with the superintendent. It works for the superintendent and his allies on the board, but not for oversight. It has gotten worse since Callan. Add in longtimers, and you have a recipe for way too much coziness.

Just contrast the City Council with the school board. Skelly sits with the board members on the dais, and acts like a super-school board member. Keene sits with the staff, not with the Council. City Council members get accused of a lot of things, but being in the city manager's pocket is not one of them.

The weakness of the school board is partly coming from the people on the board, and partly from the "team" idea and everything wrapped in it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm

@Longtime PA parent

Your comment is very interesting and makes a lot of sense. Does anyone know how long it has been the custom for the superintendent to sit on the dais with the board members, rather than to the side with upper level staff?
I wonder what the public could do to insist that this be changed. Would you be willing to come to the next board meeting on Tuesday, February 11th at 6:30pm, and make this observation, and request that the superintendent be seated with staff? This seems like a perfect comment to make in the "Open Forum" section of the meeting.

This idea that the board operates as a team rather than a group of individuals elected to represent the public is very important to look at and discuss. It would be interesting to do a time management study of the board meetings and determine what percentage of the meeting time is spent on the board members thanking/congratulating each other and staff. Sometimes it appears that it is more important to them to show appreciation to each other than it is to actually do the work. Constructive disagreement with one another is not seen in open meetings nearly as often as are remarks of recognition and gratitude.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I'm with Anon and Longtime

Term limits, for their health and ours. The allegiances are less likely to form, or to be so tight, and the veils would be harder to put up. Any term limits for Superintendent?

The Editorial misses the mark on the issue that almost all "public" input on the topic came not from people who attended the meeting and spoke publicly to the board but through emails or phone calls directly to board members."

Isn't that what parents are supposed to do? Call, write, show up, that's all we have. That is how a Board works for us, by receiving and deciphering our collective input.


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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 5, 2014 at 3:09 pm

The question as to whether the superintendent should be seated with the board or with the staff has come up a number of times over the years. At one point, I believe under Jim Brown's tenure and perhaps after him, the superintendent moved to the staff table. I could be mistaken, but I think Mary Frances Callan brought herself back to the dais. IMHO, it is a mistake and sends the wrong message to have the sup up there with the board members.

@yes but,

The editorial hit the nail on the head. Clearly the point wasn't that it was a bad thing that some people emailed their views to the board, but that best practices among public agencies is for those emails to be shared with the public prior to the open-meeting discussion so that everyone is operating with the same information. This practice of confidential communications with the board members is part of what has gotten this board into such trouble.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Big,

"best practices among public agencies is for those emails to be shared with the public prior to the open-meeting discussion so that everyone is operating with the same information. "

Currently, the deliberations with the union are not public, or those between staff, within the union, etc. Is it really best practices to not have direct access to a board member? If the issue is that we do not trust a board member to be impartial and honest, and cater only to one or two parents, that's different.

Again, this should not be a matter of opinion. If there are better practices, the Weekly should do a thorough news story.


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Posted by rules exist to be followed
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 5, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I like how the city makes all emails public but I'm not sure it will work for the school district.
Even with PRR's to the district, sensitive information is redacted. Where children are involved, there is understandably another level of concern on privacy.

From the warning on the city web site regarding email: Web Link
"When you email the City Council, your email becomes a public record. You should not include any private information (such as your phone number, home address, or minor children's names) in your correspondence to Council."

Making all emails to the district automatically public would likely lead to, if not a backlash, definitely a drop in communication.

Creating a system specifically designed for input only on agenda items has merit. If they make it easy to do any drop-off may be offset. To prevent the bane of these boards - sock puppets/trolling, it will require registration, login, display email addresses, limit the number of words from each email address and only be open for comment for a specific period before the meeting.


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Posted by yes, but
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Remember, staff has daily and direct contact with the Board, and the Superintendent is an additional direct staff voice. Board members mill around in the same building as district staff, and board members have sites assigned to them as well, not sure.

Parents should be encouraged to write to the board. The broader and more diverse the input, the better it is. Not discouraged!

Maybe the board could also invite random groups of parents to talk about different issues.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by O. Contraire
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm

[Post removed; no more comments on the incident relating to the middle school student are being permitted.]


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Over 300 comments and 10,000 views, this PAUSD nadir topic is certainly being digested by Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, the board, and Tabitha Hurley. They cannot deny what has been swirling around for at least three years, but more like five, since the year of the suicides. The board is meeting in secret tomorrow, it's called closed session, and they will be discussing Skelly's evaluation tomorrow and do a retreat, beginning at 8:30am. The result will be a 5-0 vote to continue the status quo. Rene Townsend will be facilitating the meeting. Rene is a partner with Leadership Associates, the group of former administrators who get thousands of dollars from districts like PAUSD to find superintendents. Rene worked as a superintendent in San Diego County, and Skelly would later work in the county as well, in Poway, with former PAUSD superintendent Don Phillips. Skelly and the gang will win this and all battles, but they lost the war a long time ago. It will be years before the board will be able to focus on kids, and even longer before these folks can shake the stink of the behavior.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2014 at 7:32 pm

@ Six Years of Skelly - did a quick search of the comments and found that one commenter alone had 40 comments, the next highest had 31, then 25, then 16,...... It would be interesting for the weekly to state how many individual commenters there were. Each of those people probably had at least 100 views.... so fewer people than you think are even following this topic because they don't see it as an issue. Weekly, can you post unique views?????? Your current system is somewhat misleading.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 5, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Board will hold a retreat on January 28, 2014 at 8.30 AM the the Garden Court Hotel.
The agenda DOES provide for public comment as follows:

"Community members wishing to address the Board are allotted THREE minutes per speaker. Please note the speaking time cannot be delegated to another person. Should more than 20 people wish to address any one topic, the Board may elect to allot TWO minutes per speaker. Without taking action, Board members or district staff members may briefly respond to statements made or to questions posed by the public about items not appearing on the agenda."

Here is the public's opportunity to address your concerns about the manner in which the Board seeks and permits public input. It will be interesting to see if anyone has the time or courage to speak.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2014 at 8:48 pm

@ Peter Carpenter - I agree it will be interesting to see if anyone shows up. My inclination is that very few, if any other than Ken Dauber and the usual suspects will. It's so easy to be an armchair quarterback and to ask others to do the work for you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 5, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The highest office in the land is that of Citizen - sadly few citizens fulfill their responsibility to hold their elected REPRESENTATIVES accountable.


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Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2014 at 9:35 pm

The three minutes of public speaking is a sham. I've been there. Much, much more has been accomplished with the written word, this Town Square specifically. Almost everyone who will be in that hotel tomorrow morning will have read this comment.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by wordsmith
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 5, 2014 at 10:04 pm

@parent, your comment made me wonder. A quick script showed:
#posts/approx. #words/poster
11/1700/posted by eileen 1, a resident of midtown
12/800/posted by parent, a resident of another palo alto neighborhood
12/1300/posted by peter carpenter, a resident of atherton
15/1700/posted by six years of skelly, a resident of another palo alto neighborhood
16/5400/posted by edmund burke, a resident of another palo alto neighborhood
25/2700/posted by rules exist to be followed, a resident of adobe-meadows
25/4600/posted by anon parent, a resident of another palo alto neighborhood
31/4800/posted by yes, but, a resident of another palo alto neighborhood


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Six years of Skelly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2014 at 10:51 pm

No one should be allowed to post more than 16 times.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2014 at 12:09 am

@wordsmith,
Wow, was it that much? Subtract out the long tedious conversation I had with "rules exist". I wish I could.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Joel is a registered user.

The NFL National Football League is a "for Non-Profit Organization". Believe it or not. Just correcting the records.


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