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Palo Alto board tours Illinois school with superintendent finalist

Original post made on May 22, 2014

The finalist for the job of Palo Alto school district superintendent, Glenn "Max" McGee, led the Palo Alto Board of Education on a tour Thursday of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, Illinois, where McGee was the president from 2007 to 2013.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 22, 2014, 9:55 AM

Comments (32)

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Posted by Sad state of affairs
a resident of Midtown
on May 22, 2014 at 11:15 am

"McGee is currently head of school at the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science, a small, private international boarding school in Princeton, New Jersey. The China-backed venture is much like a budding startup that McGee reportedly was given the opportunity to build from the ground up ..."

I have no idea bout McGee's ability to act as Superintendent of PAUSD. He might be amazing. But the fact that the U.S. is allowing foreign nations such as China to fund and run schools in the good ole USA is abhorrent on so many levels. We should be ashamed as a nation. And that fact that McGee supports this by heading up such a school is a black mark in my book, and tells me something about his values and level of patriotism. Why not take those skills to desperate US schools, in low income areas, with kids who need help, and boost up our US students instead of supporting a Chinese backed venture!!! Sigh . . .


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Posted by Good Luck Max!
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm

@Sad State:

It is clear that Chinese values (not being racist here mind you) are currently making more headway in our district so this could play into the decision to hire Mr. McGee.

I feel that selecting a Superintendent to run the district that is intensely focused on keeping the Ivy acceptances and test scores up is just plain wrong. We need to have someone at the helm who is interested in whole children and not just their abilities to gain admissions into a top university or perform well on tests.

Clearly we are failing our students as evidenced by rampant mental health problems, promiscuity, sexual assaults not to mention addiction problems (and the list could go on and on and on) in "Perfect Palo Alto".

I hope that Mr. McGee is willing to look at all the issues that go into raising happy, healthy and well-adjusted young people. In other words, please look at the whole child.

Clearly what we are currently doing, as illustrated by solid evidence, is not working that well.

Mr. McGee cannot be like Mr. McGoo. He will need to look at all of the strengths and weaknesses in our district with a fresh and unjaundiced eye. He will need all the support he can get and if he makes a good effort to turn this district around he will get my support. His style will demand complete transparency and honesty.

We have had too many years of lack of good direction from a superintendent who would not take direction from the Board (ie the tax-paying electorate). Failures such as occurred during the Office For Civil Rights investigations of our district much NEVER be allowed to happen again. Our children deserve the best and I hope that all the money that the district is spending to ask questions in Illinois is not all for naught.

Good luck Max!


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Wayne Martin posted this in the other thread; it is an interview with Dr. McGee and a student. I like the guy.

Web Link


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Posted by Parts omitted
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Nice on-site (in Aurora) reporting but here are a few things to add more context:

Reporting about his 3 years as State Superintendent:

Palo Alto Weekly: during that time "new Illinois Learning Standards, much like California's new Common Core, were implemented; a new state assessment program was put into place; ... 'Despite all the progress, despite all the accomplishments, more than 40 percent of Illinois students are not meeting the Learning Standards,' the state board wrote in an announcement regarding McGee's retirement. 'That is simply unacceptable .'"

Context: The "that" which is unacceptable is the low percent of IL students meeting standards which BTW has not budged in the 15 years since Mr. McGee left the job. Web Link.

State Board: "Those are formidable goals under any circumstances, but they are particularly so in the face of increasingly serious teacher shortages and vast differences in resources among districts. Meeting them will require the collective will of all Illinois citizens, close collaboration among state and local policymakers and increased sensitivity to the needs of local communities and their schools."

So this statement is NOT about the job Dr. McGee did in three years getting new standards and new assessments into schools throughout the state.

Parts of the IL State Board of Education report which the reporter did not share:

Under Dr. McGee "our progress...has been substantial"

"Three years later, he has clearly helped to move the state forward....has increasingly focused on teaching and learning, and it has provided support for local district efforts through innovations such as the ILSI website, the Illinois Snapshot of Early Literacy and the Illinois Virtual High School."

"On behalf of the citizens of Illinois, we are grateful to Dr. McGee for his energetic and passionate leadership for this phase of educational reform."

"We thank Max for all that he has contributed to improving education in Illinois and look forward to working with him in other roles in the years ahead."

On some of the changes he brought to IL students:

Customer Service - "established a Customer Service department and deployed staff to field positions to respond immediately to problems, needs and issues from school districts and constituents. Response time for problem solving has decreased from a few days to a few hours. In addition to this permanent customer service presence, nearly 750 ISBE employees spend a full day in school, learning how their work affects schools and to identify ways to improve service and products.

At Schoolhouse Meetings around the state, Superintendent McGee brought information on education issues and initiatives straight to communities, and listened to their priorities, needs and concerns first-hand. "

Access to Educational Opportunities - "The Summer Bridges program provides students with summer classes that boost reading performance, while training teachers in better teaching methods they can use throughout the school year. In three years, Summer Bridges has grown from serving 5,000 to serving nearly 30,000 students.

"For high schoolers, the Illinois Virtual High School (IVHS) now provides on-line courses to supplement the offerings they take on their regular campus. "

Performance Management and E-government - "tied its annual report and budget request to performance goals and measures. ISBE continues to improve its management processes through applying internationally accepted business models and processes, converting to electronic data collection and reporting, and internal management accountability."

Advocacy - "Superintendent McGee has been, and continues to be, an impassioned advocate for educational improvement. He has raised the issue of achievement gaps among students to state prominence. He has shepherded Early Childhood Education to the forefront of state and national discussions. He has been diligent in his pursuit of state and federal funds for special education, reading and mathematics. He is well-known throughout Illinois for his ability to clearly illustrate and passionately convey important needs for children, educators and schools. "

On why he handed the job onto someone else: "new leadership will be required for success in the next, much more difficult stage of school reform. As a result of these discussions, State Superintendent McGee has informed the State Board that he will not seek renewal of his current contract."





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Posted by Wouldn't-It-Be-Nice
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 12:18 pm

> "Despite all the progress, despite all the accomplishments,
> more than 40 percent of Illinois students are not meeting
> the Learning Standards," the state board wrote in an
> announcement regarding McGee's retirement.

This is not all that different than most states. Education can not be painted on students sitting in desks in state-funded institutions. There is far more to it than that.

> "That is simply unacceptable in a world in which post-secondary
> education is becoming a requirement for all but the most menial
> of jobs.

One can only wonder if this is true? With over 6 billion people living in the world today—most of these billions are lucky to end up with a high school education, with the Western, industrialized, countries tend to be the exception. Countries like Mexico barely manage 30% of its population with a high school education, much less a college degree.

Most jobs in this world are designed for people without very much education. Got to wonder if Glenn McGee knows that, or if he is simply being a well-polished pitchman the industry that has treated him very, very, well. While there may be need for certain skills, such as computer literacy, this is not something that one needs to go to college to acquire.

> Equally unacceptable is the achievement gap among groups of students,
> a gap that finds many minority students and students from low-income
> families consistently achieving below their peers."

This is a well-known issue, and has, time and again, been traced back to the education of the parents. Education is more than a state-mandated, and provided, process. It is clearly cultural, and is a product of the society, and the family—in addition to, and possibly in spite of, government school.

Wouldn't it be nice if our educators always spoke the truth?


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Posted by great!
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 22, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Thanks to "parts omitted" for doing the job the weekly reporter didn't do.

I really hope the weekly focuses on balanced reporting of facts and not intertwining report and op-ed. Quite concerning to see how selective Elena Kadvany has pitched the story.

now I only hope that my commend "survives".


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Posted by Oh dear
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 12:30 pm



With the exception of our elected board members and school staff, what are the other tourists there for?

Like what will the PIE rep say that could make a difference in what looks more like a silly tradition than real due diligence.

Sad state,

I agree, pretty creepy that he was in the college churn business for the Chinese Government, a residential school no less. I wonder how many of those students are in the UC's.

Add to this the shout out to Dartmouth and oh well.


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Posted by Oh dear
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm



Due diligence question - will he retain an advisory or monetary connection to his current employer?

"Max" seems to leave one foot in a lot of places - thus the tour of this previous previous employer.

While he's working here, it would be good to know he is doing what he is hired for, and not preparing the next book or national speech.


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Posted by the other sunshine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Yes, sometimes when people are later in their careers, they're phoning it in and really unable to put together and evaluate an organization.

However, that doesn't sound like this guy. It sounds like he's still very much involved in the kind of work and experience we need.

While I'm disturbed to see Charles Young there in the picture (Wow, imagine his initials are CY), I think the story and the additional info about him are very promising. I have no idea if he's the kind of person who can clean house, though, which we desperately need!


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Posted by Oh dear
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 2:15 pm



Most professional organizations ask that employees disclose monetary or advisory ties to other organizations (like a foreign government), and if the board has not asked, the trip is pretty silly. Witnessing camaraderie is not due diligence.



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Posted by Evanston native
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 22, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Wilmette is the capital of white flight in this area. Everyone from the northside of Chicago understands exactly who lives in Wilmette and why. There are no minority students to speak of in Wilmette. And no one who wants to go go school with minority students, either. This is a guy who is very focused on high-end elite education that is all about test scores. He has spent his career catering to that population. Chicago is a very polarized place and Wilmette is for liberals the heart of darkness. You would live in Chicago and send your kids to Whitney Young or even Frances Parker, or you would move to Evanston, before ever living in Wilmette. Period. So it is no wonder that the Illinois board thought it was time for him to seek his fortunes elsewhere. He didn't do enough to close the gap. And why would anyone think that he would? He was from WIlmette. There are plenty of qualified individuals available to hold that position who have a demonstrated record of achievement on minority advancement.

Here's another fun fact about Wilmette. It is not K-12. It is K-8. That's right. This guy has never been a superintendent of a K-12 district. But the kids from Wilmette all feed into New Trier. He went from being a superintendent of a K-8 to a headmaster of an essentially private boarding school, and then again to another prviate boarding environment.

I'm not saying he won't be good. He's clearly head and shoulders above Skelly but let's be honest the bar is so low. How could he be worse?

[Portion removed.]

But he's never run a K-12 district, knows nothing about California school finance, and has no experience with diversity. Other than that, seems terrific.

He is from the one place on earth that is more Palo Alto than Palo Alto. Congratulations ridiculously conservative board in pulling him out of your hat.


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Posted by Starfall
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Why go to IL? Didn't the article state the guy started a school in NJ? Why not go there for the tour instead? If they "want a feel for the real deal" go talk to folk where he currently resides and check what improved policies he's implemented given a free hand. Given how comfortable our school officials like to get on tax-payer money, their brains just fall short of doing anything that makes sense.


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Posted by NJ School
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 22, 2014 at 8:15 pm

As a parent of McGee's current school in NJ, Starfall, I can tell you why he didn't bring them here. Because it didn't work. And so, while he promised us three years, he is, instead, choosing to abandon ship while our children are left to drown. A critical year in my child's education has been wasted. Thanks, Max!


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Posted by Awesome!
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 22, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Thanks "Evanston native" for: "He is from the one place on earth that is more Palo Alto than Palo Alto."

good one ;)


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Posted by Oh dear
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 8:53 pm

NJ School,

"As a parent of McGee's current school in NJ, Starfall, I can tell you why he didn't bring them here. Because it didn't work. And so, while he promised us three years, he is, instead, choosing to abandon ship while our children are left to drown. A critical year in my child's education has been wasted. Thanks, Max!

Just wondering how you are from NY and Old Palo Alto.

Eavenston native,

I can't imagine why your comments wouldn't be true, but how scary is the steep learning curve for this guy? I can almost see Skelly belly ache laughing about this.

They could have found somebody in Finland, since actual experience with a K-12 diverse community is not relevant. The board must have added up working with China for three years and K-8, and thought we have a deal.


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Posted by Oh dear
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Eaveston Native,

"This is a guy who is very focused on high-end elite education that is all about test scores."

I guess this is what the search firm was looking for, how did they arrive at that conclusion?!


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Posted by Sheesh!
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 22, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I wonder what you all think the applicant pool looks like? People run down the current Superintendent, and the one before him was run out of town on a rail. Now this prospective new hire is already found sorely lacking - and the board is at fault? Do you seriously think there are innovative, brilliant, accomplished candidates, out looking for new jobs of course, from places at least as elite and "diverse" as Palo Alto, that the board passes over willy-nilly to pick these? And of course, who wouldn't relish the "challenge" of dealing the constructive feedback of the PAUSD community? Sheesh!


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Yikes. That PRISMS place -- Web Link -- looks intimidating.


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Posted by the other sunshine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm

@ Sheesh,
You're just funny. The sky is falling the sky is falling!

I bet I could find two people to do a better job for less than they pay one of them. We're paying more than many small college presidents. And if you think life is so tough here, try being a college president in one of those places!


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Posted by Oh dear
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm

musical,

"Yikes. That PRISMS place -- Web Link -- looks intimidating."

Looks fine. Who can argue with goals of solving our "current and future global problems."

But I agree very intense, and he should be informed about the social emotional issues we have in our big schools. No harm in giving him a heads up about "balance" and that term - "competing priorities."


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Posted by Sheesh!
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 22, 2014 at 10:33 pm

"I bet I could find two people to do a better job for less than they pay one of them."

@the other sunshine - yes, it's so easy! Finding good people is a snap! How come the board makes it look so difficult? What nincompoops!

I look forward to your candidacy in the next election, so you can show us how it's done. Thanks for stepping up and leading by example. The great ones make it look so easy ;-)


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Great Expectations.


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Posted by oh dear
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Sheesh!

Granted, observations from the sofa are a dime a dozen, but no need to silence observations that are unappealing to you either.

So far, nothing terrible seems to have surfaced about "Max" and can you blame people for paying more attention this time?

Good luck Max! puts it nicely. "We need to have someone at the helm who is interested in whole children and not just their abilities to gain admissions into a top university or perform well on tests." I would add OR to solve current and future global problems.

Thing is, every kid is different - some need higher expectations, some need less, some are saturated. By "diversity" what we have in Palo Alto is a broad range of value systems (not all Asians are the same, not all Hispanics are the same, not all whites are the same etc.), and Max is going to hit a wall if he thinks diversity is just ethnicity or that somehow what we all share is STEM or a silicon valley stereotype. Our schools do not fit any stereotype, including the all white characterization from some poster, and that is the good part.

As long as Max heeds to Good luck Max!'s post, I look forward to seeing him at football games, or wherever it is Superintendents hang out.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2014 at 11:05 pm

For what it is worth, IMSA is a more diverse than Paly or Gunn. Out of 650 students, 299 are white, 296 are Asian, 71 are Latino and 62 are black.


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Posted by oh dear
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Mr. Recycle,

"For what it is worth, IMSA is a more diverse than Paly or Gunn. Out of 650 students, 299 are white, 296 are Asian, 71 are Latino and 62 are black."

small detail: Admissions appears to be by invitation, selecting gifted and talented Math and Science students from the entire state of Illinois.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Depends on your definition of diverse. Looks like all IMSA students are on the same page.


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Posted by The other sunshine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 12:31 am

"I look forward to your candidacy in the next election, so you can show us how it's done. Thanks for stepping up and leading by example. The great ones make it look so easy ;-)"

You could go to the OCR for free for someone to show you how it's done for Charles Young's job. But they turned away that free help, even though they couldn't seem to do what virtually every other district in the country has shown themselves capable of doing. You don't need me to show you how it's done, you need to be open to doing it when you are shown. Repeatedly.

You just claimed that some of the lightest weight criticism you ever get anywhere means no one will want to come here and make more in compensation than the governor, I said I could find two for less, and instead of inviting me to participate in a citizens search panel next time and do it, you switched gears and demanded I run for board. You're criticizing the criticsm and offering nothing but half-baked criticism.

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Especially this particuarly nice, easy, highly paid one with cakewalk parents and easy kids.




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Posted by Three more years
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 7:08 am

You shouldn't criticize Charles Young's performance. The board voted unanimously to give him $600,000 for three years, validation that his work has been excellent.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 9:37 am

IMSA is a top school and New Trier is not all-white (I have met excellent Asian students who graduated from New Trier). I'm not sure what the purpose was of the rant by "Evanston native," who hates Wilmette.
These are not the bases on which to judge the superintendent candidate.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 23, 2014 at 10:29 am

One thing is clear, we have way too many opinions about way too many things.
Why don't we let the "experts" do their job.
Micro management is just counter productive.
Everyone's opinion is valid but please lets not crucify people.


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Posted by IMSAite
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

IMSA's acceptance rate is 40%. That's one of of every 2 kids who applies. It's a good public school, that's all.

McGee was practically fired by the IL state board. His track record of school hopping says his motivations are purely financial. Expect nothing but lip service from this guy.


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Posted by Parts omitted
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 23, 2014 at 11:52 am

Evanston Native,

I also am perplexed by your ill-informed public comments.

Wilmette's demographics are pretty darn close to ours so how in the world could you conclude that Dr. McGee has "no experience with diversity?":

Wilmette:

89% White and Asian
5% Hispanic or Latino
.4% African American

12% with disabilities
3% low income

Web Link

Palo Alto:

80% White and Asian
10% Hispanic or Latino
2% African American

11% with disabilities
9% low income


And how in the heck did you conclude that he focused on the high end to the exclusion of all others? His boss says this (as posted above): "[Dr. McGee] has raised the issue of achievement gaps among students to state prominence [and] has been diligent in his pursuit of state and federal funds for special education, reading and mathematics."

Dr. McGee,

Thank you for considering stepping in. Palo Alto is a great community and parents and students consistently give it high marks -- 80 & 90%s mostly - in satisfaction surveys year after year. 90% of our graduates go to college.

Those who aren't happy - Evanston native appears to be one of them - just means that there is room for improvement and an opportunity to make a great school district better.

Evanston native,

Before making public accusations like "Illinois board thought it was time for him to seek his fortunes elsewhere " and "he didn't do enough to close the gap" it would behoove you to read exactly what it wrote about him which I posted above. They said nothing like this. The State Board deeply appreciated the great visionary work he did before he stepped aside to let someone else take on the implementation phase for the foundational work he did while State Superintendent.


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