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Gunn Counseling: The Inside Story

Original post made by Ken Dauber on Jun 11, 2012

On March 27, the school board instructed Gunn to return tomorrow (June 12), with a plan to bring Gunn students guidance services comparable to those received by students at Paly, and to strongly consider teacher advisory to do so.
As reported in the Weekly (Web Link) on April 26, Camille Townsend, president of the PAUSD Board of Education, wrote to Superintendent Kevin Skelly about Gunn's response to teacher advisory that "It feels like stubbornness coming through and not much more. Yes, folks need time to move in a direction ... but the conversation is starting to feel more obstructionist then not. I personally have put forth the counseling issue for years now .... comes up at every dinner we have with the high school students at Gunn. It's really time to feel some movement on this .... While patience may be a virtue and thoughtful planning, yes, that too, but this has gone far beyond that time frame."
Understanding how Townsend came to this conclusion is crucial to understanding the right next steps on counseling at Gunn, as Gunn's own proposal to the school board essentially leaves the current failed process in place and leaves Gunn students without a clear path to more effective and equitable services. It also leaves Gunn teachers who want to learn about and explore advisory in an atmosphere free of obstructionism without support.
We have prepared a chronology of events at Gunn and the district, using information gleaned from public records requests, to reconstruct how we came to the end that Townsend complains of. It can be seen here: Web Link.
Highlights include:
+ Gunn Principal Katya Villalobos, following Superintendent Kevin Skelly's lead, repeatedly voiced her opposition in email communications to the entire Gunn staff to bringing teacher advisory to Gunn before any guidance review process had even begun at Gunn.
+ The "Guidance Review Committee" (GRC), formed to respond to the school board's directive, didn't consider teacher advisory and didn't compare the Gunn and Paly's survey results before deciding to oppose teacher advisory at Gunn. + There is no evidence that the GRC has ever, at any time up to the present date, considered implementing TA at Gunn.
+ PAUSD Superintendent Skelly and Principal Villalobos apparently privately told teachers that they were opposed to TA at Gunn and that TA would not be implemented at Gunn, leading a few teachers to press them to make their opposition public. "Why won't Kevin [Skelly] say what he's been saying to us? Why won't Katya [Villalobos] say what she's been saying to us?" Another told Villalobos, "Teachers feel empowered to fight this and work on it because we have heard from you and Kevin that it is not going to happen."
+ Principal Villalobos and the Guidance Review Committee discussed extensively how to lobby the school board against TA, including mobilizing parents, pressuring Kevin Skelly to take a public position against TA, bringing teachers down to speak at multiple board meetings against TA, and organizing a petition drive against TA to the board.
+ The Guidance Review Committee rewrote a letter sent to the entire Gunn parent community on May 5 to make TA seem as if it would undermine college counseling and curriculum in order to dissuade "the average parent" who might learn about TA from the PA Weekly or the We Can Do Better parent education event.
+ Camille Townsend repeatedly pushed Skelly to ensure that Gunn would consider teacher advisory, but to no avail. Skelly did not even reply to her repeated emails.
For more information about this issue, and for a link to email the school board your views, see Web Link.

Comments (15)

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2012 at 9:33 am

In the latest Newsweek study of the Best American High Schools

Gunn is 71st---with ave SAT 1961 and a Newsweek score of 1.11

Paly is 178th with ave SAT 1922 and a Newsweek score of 0.79

Web Link

So what Gunn is doing is clearly working better than the system at Paly which is 107 places behind Gunn on national objective performance measures.

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 11:00 am

You are making an inductive leap.

Just because Gunn is ranked better than Paly, doesn't mean that Gunn's counseling is working better than Paly's.

You may as well say that because Gunn is ranked higher than Paly (pick one):
a) Gunn has smarter students
b) Gunn has better teachers
c) Paly's environment has less oxygen than Gunn's
d) Your idea here

You seem to suggest that because Gunn was ahead of Paly in one ranking, that everything at Gunn is superior to Paly. That is logically flawed and suggests that you want that to be the case, even though there is no data to support that conclusion.


Posted by It's about the kids, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I am not able to follow your logic. You seem to argue that because Gunn students are scoring higher on SAT/ACT and taking more AP courses then it follows that Gunn students need less guidance services then Paly students. The courageous story told by a Gunn graduate at baccalaureate informs me otherwise. Web Link

I hope our community can come together to provide better support for our students at Gunn. It's time to get on board with our School Board and support our students!

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm

It is about performance.

Local surveys about Gun and Paly are subjective and flawed.

In contrast-

Newsweek uses objective performance measures to rank 1000 American High Schools in terms of their educational excellence and performance.

Gunn is 71st Paly is 178th-- a huge performance gap.

Gunn is clearly doing something right.

We rank Law Schools, Medical Schools etc -based upon objective measures of performance-

-Newsweek does the same with High Schools.

Gunn and Paly have students from equivalent socioeconomic background, education level of parents- etc

Why the large performance gap between the two high school in the same town?

Posted by It's about the kids, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I am still confused. You seem to be overly concerned with Gunn vs Paly ratings. I'm not sure what SAT/ACT test scores and numbers of students taking AP tests that are used to rate high schools by Newsweek has to do with this thread.
I think we will just have to agree to disagree. I find that Gunn is a pressure cooker and because of this I would like my kids to have more support from adults on campus.
The Newsweek ratings focus on sending kids to college. I am not willing to sacrifice my child's health and happiness in order to get into a top flite school. That is not my family's definition of success.
Are you against teacher advisory or just against Paly? I would like to see a teacher advisory model at Gunn. I don't see how adding more adults to the mix can be bad for students or guidance counselors. I have heard that Titan 101(TA lite) was over subscribed. Why not give it a chance?

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Your reasoning is distinctly fallacious.
Consider schools like Lynbrook and Cupertino High. Lynbtook is ranked considerably higher than Cupertino High, also with similar demographics. Are you saying that we can therefore conclude that Lynbrook has the superior counseling model?

This about as far-fetched a conclusion you can jump to. It's called induction.
The problem is induction doesn't prove anything. It's purely guessing.

Similarly, if house A is more expensive than house B, it does not necessarily follow that
house A has the better kitchen.

But somehow your mind seems made up. So if Gunn has the better paint job, it must be due to superior counseling too?

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Newsweek uses objective measures to evaluate high schools educational excellence.

By that objective and scientific method Gunn does a very good job and it should stick with its success template -- including it current students guidance services --

Gunn does not need "a teacher advisory model "

The push for such " a teacher advisory model " comes from flawed subjective surveys and misguided thinking by those who still believe in the discredited theories of " self esteem" and other educational psychobabble.

Gunn should vigorously resist such psychobabble activists.

Again the Gunn system excels-

-Paly should look into adopting some of Gunns best practices in education.

Posted by Back to work Sharon, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I would feel better about my tax dollars if PAUSD bureaucrats would stop posting here in the middle of the day.

Posted by Statistical Manipulations, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm

"Gunn is 71st Paly is 178th-- a huge performance gap."

That's actually a very minor performance gap.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm

If you are claiming " Statistical Manipulations" by Newsweek-you are alleging fraud by Newsweek--a very serious allegation

Back it up --where is your evidence of fraud by Newsweek?

In fact Newsweek uses valid, reliable scientific methods in ranking US high schools.

Newsweek ranks 1000 high schools-

Paly is 107 points behind Gunn

That is a 10%+ performance gap-that is significant to any rational scientist

Posted by It's about the kids, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I thought you were a parent but maybe the above poster is right. Perhaps you are from the district. If so please know that as a Gunn parent I am concerned about my child's self esteem and do want to see better supports put in place. You make it sound like high school is a strange science experiment. My child is not a rat in a maze to be used for scientific experimentation.
I went to Newsweek to look for objective measures on guidance and found none. I did see that you forgot to post that Paly has a higher college bound rate than Gunn. Perhaps we should take a look at teacher advisory.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Statistical Manipulations, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm

"Newsweek ranks 1000 high schools-

Paly is 107 points behind Gunn

That is a 10%+ performance gap-that is significant to any rational scientist"

You're kidding, right? There are over 26,000 public high schools in the US. So according to Newsweek, both Gunn and Paly are in the top 1% of public high schools in the US. Do you really think that there is a significant difference between the schools?

As for messing with statistics, I'm not accusing Newsweek, I'm accusing you. How about this: just say that Newsweek only listed the top 200 schools. Then, according to your analysis, Paly is over 50% worse than Gunn!

Posted by Newsweek Study, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

It's true that Newsweek is objective in that it is neither associated with Gunn nor Paly.

Other than that, why does it matter at all in the context of counseling?

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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