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School Board Cancels Closed Meeting on OCR Investigation "On Advice of Counsel"

Original post made by Curious on Apr 28, 2013

At the beginning of the school board meeting on April 23, Board President Dana Tom announced that the board had cancelled discussion of an item on the school board's earlier closed session agenda "on advice of counsel". The item cancelled was entitled, "Discussion of individual needs of two students and the accommodations that the District may make to meet their educational needs." See the board agenda here: Web Link
The Brown Act includes specific exceptions to the requirement that all school board meetings be held in public. The Brown Act also requires that the public agenda for closed sessions make clear the exception that applies for each item. There is no Brown Act exception to discuss "accommodations" for individual students. Such issues are typically handled by staff in IEP or 504 meetings, not by the Board of Education.
When a member of the public suggested during the public meeting that the cancelled item was in fact a discussion of one or more of the four U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights investigations of PAUSD, Tom responded by simply reiterating that the closed session discussion was cancelled "on advice of counsel."
The Board of Education has held no public sessions on the facts surrounding the OCR investigations since their disclosure in January and heard no public updates on compliance with the settlement agreements.
The sole exception was a session in February where the district's lawyer, Laurie Reynolds, provided a presentation that that Weekly concluded was "incorrect, misled the board and the public and engaged in pure obfuscation." See Web Link.
The board has, however, discussed the OCR investigations in closed sessions on the Superintendent's performance and potential litigation, but has made no public comment on any actions taken or information gained in those closed sessions.
The board has also rejected calls from the press and the community for full public disclosure of the facts surrounding the district's failure to protect student civil rights in these cases.

Comments (50)

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2013 at 10:49 am

The board must authorize a public investigation. There is no way to restore public confidence without doing so. It would be far better for the board to control the investigation process than to continue to stonewall and find a way to meet privately for discussions thatat violate the Brown Act. To continue the current course invites public records act requests and litigation.


Posted by Data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 28, 2013 at 11:34 am

Mr Burke is correct. This amounts to an attempt by Tom and Skelly to illegally circumvent the Brown Act. What is Tom working so hard to hide?


Posted by No Skelly 4 Me, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Apr 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 28, 2013 at 2:08 pm

@Data please: The school board is "stonewalling" to use Burke's phrase, so it is hard to answer that question. Here are a few observations of mine:
- If parents in these cases contacted the school board to try to get them to intervene for their kids, that raises the question of whether board members responded appropriately, by telling them about the correct procedures. Edmund Burke has written that at least Dana Tom gave parents incorrect information about their rights. Perhaps school board members are protecting themselves?
- This school board does not seem to see secrecy from the public as a problem. Even when they are told information (such as the most recent two OCR investigations) they don't tell anyone or insist that the district communicate. It is left to the press to find out through leaks or parents.
- Over time, public officials often get "captured" by the agencies they are supposed to be overseeing. Dana Tom and Barb Mitchell (who along with Skelly are responsible for setting the agenda) have been on the school board for eight years each. Their urge to protect district staff and disregard public transparency makes more sense with that kind of tenure.
- Contrast the school board to the city council. Last week the council decided not to have a closed meeting about Cubberley, even though the Brown Act allowed it, and to have an open one instead. The school board had to be told by their lawyer not to have a closed meeting about the OCR investigations, and may never decide to have an open one. Perhaps term limits is the difference?


Posted by Correction, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online due to referencing a deleted post.] Keep in mind that he was the answer to Mary Frances Callan. She was too tough on the principals and they mutinied. Brave parents, including PiE's Executive Director, Kathy Schroeder, wrote a letter to the school board on October 3, 2006 to put pressure on them to "listen to" the principals with "full attention." Less than three months later, Callan announced her resignation. Obviously, the movers and shakers of Palo Alto flexed their power. They have not done that with Skelly.

The child whose civil rights were violated does not matter. It is that simple. PiE's mission is "educational excellence for every student." One of their values is equity. It also claims "partnership" with "the school district, PTAs, . . . principals, teachers, and students.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

We've seen a little bit of noise come out of PTAC, but that made it worse. What about the teacher's union? Well, I read then-president Triona Gogarty's quote from last when Skelly got his contract extension: "Congratulations Dr. Skelly! Thanks for the good work you have done." Why is she so silent now?

Let's fix this:

Kevin Skelly must be fired. He should have been fired in June, he should not have been given the one-year contract extension, but the board, even Barbara Klausner, unanimously voted to pay him and even gave him praise.

The board should be recalled, but at the least, none of the current members, especially Heidi Emberling, should be re-elected. They've made a bad situation worse. Why Emberling? Why not? post one good quality that she has brought to our board. I voted for her and I made an error, as did many of us. As for Dana Tom, when he has to rely on "counsel" you know that his brief leadership is already a fiasco.

How long before Charles Young is out? Obviously, he won't make it past year three. He was incompetent as the Compliance Officer and that is unforgivable in the professional sense, you know, he needs to be fired, like immediately. This is his second year and what has he accomplished? His body of work is worse than if PAUSD would have ever filled the position. I am sure that "counsel" about which Tom speaks is telling the board to not get sued for any more public money that has already gone out. What's the cost of the private placement of the second special ed child? $60K per year? What was the cost of the other OCR cases? How much do we have to set aside for next year and the year after that? This is why you hire experienced adminstrators. Charles Young was middle level. Kevin Skelly was a rookie superintendent.

Have we forgotten about about Holly Wade? She is the Special Ed administrator and has been for a couple of years now. She worked in Skelly's old district. Any issue with that? Probably should have been. Please post how well she has done in the past three years.

What about the middle school principal who bragged about the sophistication of her staff? The assistant principal's alleged evasiveness? How much housecleaning has to happen? Is this about bringing in $20 million donations? As long as that happens, everything is ok? We need to stop living this lie sold to us by Skelly. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I love the successes that we celebrate, but we need to acknowledge our areas in which we need to improve, which is a nice way of acknowledging the ugly parts of our district, things like our children attempting to kill themselves, your dismissiveness of our neddiest parents asking for help, and the low achievement of our Latino and Black students.

Kevin and Charles, please do the honorable thing and resign. Many of us will have more respect than ever for you two. You've given it your best shot, but there is too much evidence that it wasn't enough. Dana, Barbara, Camille, Melissa, and Heidi, just look at 2006-2013 and ask yourselves how you would grade yourselves. Should you stay on if your performance is anything less than an A? B? C? Don't we want the best leadership in PAUSD? Are our current leaders the best?


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I have heard that all the parent organizations have banded together to host a presentation from OCR in May. That is welcome news. At least we can get the straight story on what OCR is, how they investigate, stuff like that, without the district filter. I agree with a lot of what "Correction" and Mr. Burke said. But I would add that Laurie Reynolds and her firm must go. That performance she put on was just beyond belief. She's not honest and she's being paid my taxpayer and PIE dollars to lie to me.

Terry Godfrey, the president of the PIE board, could end this whole fiasco tomorrow. But none of those PIE board people care a fig about the poor and minority and disabled kids getting the shaft. They already figured out how to prevent their own kids from getting same shaft: be on PIE board. They got theirs. If you're getting teased and punched in the face handicapped kids, ask mommy why she's not on the PIE board.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 28, 2013 at 3:33 pm

@Correction,
Most of those "brave" parents who threw Callan overboard knew that they would be getting a lot of credit from the principals, who would still be around after Callan left. The principals are the ones who have power over their kids. Schroeder, Godfrey, and Pinsky are either silent on the civil rights issue or (in Sigrid Pinsky's case) actively downplaying it because no one in the district has an interest in a full public disclosure. At the level of PTAC president, PiE chair, etc., those are political positions that get their power from close connections to high-level district staff. If they speak out, it will be at the end when it's clear that a change is preordained.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Yes Gunn parent is right -- that's how we'll know that the change is coming because once it's happening they will want to be on the good side of whoever is coming into power and they will discard Skelly and Young like a size 4 pair of pants.


Posted by Correction, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Gunn parent (and paly parent),

Thank you for the part you have added. I have to admit that I've been wondering why our leaders of PiE, PTAC, PAUSD, and PAEA have not spoken out against Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, the school board for one debacle after another, but it makes sense to sit on the sidelines until a "winner" appears. The only problem with that is that each of the groups exist supposedly for children, yet they are saying nothing. Saying nothing means you agree. Please, lead. I know it is hard to do in this town, I've seen principals and administrators get chewed up and spit out, but there is more to life than preservation of your high salary or political status, for example the well-being of all our children. Sounds naive, does it not?

And what about the principals? So worried about their own skins with Callan that one in their group posted a damning letter about Callan on a bench in 2006. Many of them have been hired by Skelly, and after watching him throw some of their colleagues to the dogs, are likely unwilling to stick their necks out for a children, or maybe a couple at most.

Be a hero. Or at least a leader. It's why you are paid in money or status.


Posted by support, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm

i trust our school board and district office


Posted by Correction, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Support,

I used to trust them until around 2009, and now I don't trust them at all (by them I mean the senior leadership, Skelly and Young, especially. Could you reply back that you trust those two? I won't be snarky, but I am curious to see what kind of support is out there. When the Brown Act violations came up a year ago, critics of the board and Skelly were attacked. Around election time, any support for Ken Dauber was dismissed to being a member of WCDBPA, much like being called a communist decades ago. When Skelly finally got caught in January with the Civil Rights violation, outrage was now stronger, but there were still supporters posting and attacking critics, but then when the second complaint came forward, many in the community had enough and defenders of the board, Skelly, and Young faded away. The third and fourth complaints cemented much of public opinion that this was not the district that Skelly has been selling, quite the opposite. So please, if you are a supporter of Skelly and Young, or the board, this is your chance to say so. Post it, Support, that you support Skelly and Young.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm

@Edmund Burke - you wrote: "...It would be far better for the board to control the investigation process than to continue to stonewall..."
Yes - it will be better for the board to control the investigation. Seems to me that it is pretty clear that the board is not interested in such investigation. Time passed proves that.
May I ask if you would trust an investigation controlled by the board?


Posted by Eileen 1, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm

It's interesting that so many people post on the forums having to do with the school board and the district leadership, but very few people actually come to the school board meetings and express their opinion directly to the board. Since there will be no election for new school board members for at least a year, it seems to me that the only way change will come about is for people to come forward and demand change. Nothing is going to change as a result of a lot of people complaining anonymously on Palo Alto Online. It's pretty easy for the School Board to stonewall the three or four members of the public who speak at every board meeting. It might be considerably more difficult to iignore large groups of people showing up at the board meetings to express their concern with how the board is handlng their responsibilities.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Thank you, Curious, for noting this issue!!! You mentioned that the board does not make any accommodations - those are, as you mentioned, IEP/504 decisions. I am wondering if it was about a settlement.
As far as I understand - If settlements were agreed upon in the past- those would be confidential. The families would not share with the "public" any knowledge as to the systemic or personnel issues they encountered.
In any case, I am still curious to know if there is a way to know how much $$$ is being spent on legal issues. Legal being lawyer fees and settlements with families.

Eileen 1 - Thank you for taking the time to go to the board meetings, offering to organize emailing lists and more. Seems to me that there are several reasons. First and most - fear of retaliation. that was mentioned many times. Seems to me that a concerned parent, will not go to the meeting, thinking of a possible meeting with personnel who may impact their kids situation. also - The board was addressed many times. The info about the first OCR investigation had vigils, many talking to the board. Seems to me that those who believe that an objective investigation is called for (and long overdue) - do not think that asking, now, will make any difference.


Posted by Internet Echo Chamber, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 29, 2013 at 12:41 am

Interesting to read all this. I just stumbled in here. It seems obvious why the various folks (PIE, PTAC, principals, etc.) don't speak out - maybe they don't agree with the small number of vocal folks calling for wholesale change. As for replacing board members - seems like we can hardly get candidates, and the "change" candidate lost to a little known light-weight. And yes, I have been to a few board meetings - it seems like about 10 people there each time, aside from one-timers with their pet issues on the agenda.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Common sense, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 29, 2013 at 8:52 am

Who knows what most people think of this? Probably most people have no idea. For me the real question is what the school board is doing. Actions like these are disappointing and wrong no matter who is watching or what some PTAC members think. Character is what you do when no one is looking.


Posted by Nice try, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2013 at 9:02 am

Nice try Echo! It is amazing that you "stumbled in" to this thread. I had to go look for it in the forums because there was no direct link. Perhaps you stumbled into the information from November's election that showed the "change" candidate, as you called him, garnered 22.2% of the vote to the PiE board candidate's 23.9%, practically a landslide! And that was before the PAWeekly caught Skelly with his pants down, figuratively speaking. Gosh,I wonder if my fellow community members would have liked to know about everything that has been revealed in the last three months way back six months ago? Only 10 people at the board meetings? How many attendees have spoken in favor of our great board or Kevin Skelly in 2013? Well, I don't want to rock the boat with wholesale change. We only had four or five (depends on how you count) suicides in 2009-10 and four OCR complaints in 2013, but I'm sure it's not the responsibility of our leaders.


Posted by L'Enfer, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2013 at 9:43 am

The school board should never have hired Kevin Skelly without seeing him in person. Nor should they keep protecting him. The board is only making itself look more and more guilty.


Posted by A. Lias, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm

@internet echo chamber

Fear of retribution is a huge obstacle that keeps people from speaking out publicly about the issues of governance in our school district. Even Barbara Klausner was marginalized when she went public with her frustration about a system that did not allow her to carry out her elected duties to set and monitor district policies. Sadly it is far more than 10 people who are dissatisfied with the status quo. People are not looking for wholesale change, just proper governance and district management according to the laws that govern public schools.

I'd like to see a district that is proactive when it receives an advisory letter from the OCR or the California Department of Education (CDE). Why do we have to wait until violations are disclosed in the news? When is the district going to comply to institute a sexual harassment policy per the OCR letter dated April 4, 2011? Web Link When will the district comply with CDE Fiscal Management Advisory dated March 20, 2013 regarding the right to a free education? Web Link Why did the Mercury news single out PAUSD as the only local district who had not heard the news about free education? Web Link


Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Apr 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm

How does one start a recall process for the members of the School Board?


Posted by Oldtimer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Getting a recall election takes about 6,000 signatures, if i remember right (someone can correct me if I'm wrong). Not impossible, but it takes an effort. Much easier to wait until the next election next year. 2 Seats will be up (Tom and Mitchell). Don't know if they are going to run one more time but all this isn't going to help them. Voters don't like politicians, and trying to hold secret meetings is about as politician as you can get, especially when you tie that to defending a superintendent that is making more people wonder what is going on. Covering up that first investigation was a big mistake. Not running from that as a school board member is not a great move. Now they own the problem. If I was a reform candidate, I think I would just wait for all this to get worse, and then be there to help clean it up.


Posted by Gunn booster, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 29, 2013 at 10:44 pm

A. Lias is right about the free education issue. That's another case of willful noncompliance with the law that is going to bring external scrutiny to the district, from the state rather than the feds this time.

I don't see much mystery about what is going on with the school board. Skelly kept the OCR finding out of the newspaper to make sure it didn't affect the election. He was probably right about that: it was close. He has some grateful board members who now owe him one.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 30, 2013 at 1:39 am

There is a lot of wisdom in this thread, which is unusual. It's obvious by now that Skelly and Camille (who was board president during the election decided not to reveal the situation with disability bullying. Dauber would have won. He only lost by around 1%. Camille ran on a slogan "experience matters." Her campaign chair Mandy Lowell set up a local superpac by the same name and using what appears to be the measure A mailing list sent a scurrilous attack on Dauber to around 10k voters 2 weeks before the election. Not subject to FEPC rules since it didn't "technically" come from Camille. The theme "experience matters" of Camille's 3d term election was predicated on her saying that everything is going great nothing to see here! If you attended any forums (which PTAC cancelled and different groups had to sponsor Camille talked about how there were no problems in the district it's all going swimmingly. That theme would have been impossible if it was know that Skelly, Camille, Dana and Charles young had knowledge about a finding against PAUSD by the Feds. If you are a thinking person you have to wonder why this was not released during the election so that the leadership of Skelly and his lack of forthrightness would have become a campaign issue. This is particularly true because Skelly and the board fear Dauber's intelligence and clarity. To them Heidi is the perfect board member. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Since being narrowly elected she had said countless times as the board considered the civil rights issues that she's just a "beginner". Lightweight is a generous description. But since we didn't know in Nov that there were multiple scandals being covered up, many people thought we didn't need Dauber. Now you can see where that got us. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] It's pretty obvious that if the news of the OCR finding was public in April when it was made that more people would have realized we needed a strong hand on the steering wheel. Those of you who sat on your hands during the election should be ashamed and when this issue of Civil rights violations continues to develop please blame yourselves and you know who you are. [Portion removed.]


Posted by results matter, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 30, 2013 at 7:56 am

Camille only came second because of the strong negative campaign against her. She would easily have come first if not for that.
The reason Dauber lost is that the other candidates were just better. Everything else is just conspiracy theory.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 30, 2013 at 8:49 am

Paly parent makes a good case. We know that Skelly concealed this. Townsend was board president. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] She has consistently argued against any public investigation of the civil rights issue. What is she worried about seeing the light of day?
Elections do matter. That's why some politicians play dirty to win them.


Posted by results matter, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 30, 2013 at 8:58 am

@Not so fast,
Really? Camille through her hat into the ring before Dauber even considered running.
From "Not so fast"'s comments you can see the continuing negative campaign against here. Lots of made up stuff with no factual backing. Unfortunately the Weekly's censorship is only one-way.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 30, 2013 at 9:05 am

Watch the video. Townsend said she intended to step down but agreed to run to block Dauber at the request of 'community leaders'. When pressed she mentioned only Gary Fazzino, who was already dead so no one could ask him.
I do agree that the Weeklys endorsement of Emberling over Townsend made no sense, except for the third term issue.


Posted by Fact check, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2013 at 9:46 am

Surprisingly, that is essentially true. The video is online on YouTube, at Web Link. At around 12 minutes Camille is talking about why she ran. She says she ran because community leaders asked her to (the one she mentions is Gary), and because she wanted to defend Skelly against unfair critics. She didn't mention Dauber specifically but that's obviously who she was talking about.
It's interesting that Camille ran to defend Skelly. That makes sense of why she is not interested in digging into this any further.


Posted by results matter, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 30, 2013 at 10:19 am

Wow, community leaders asked her to run gets turned into "she ran in order to keep Dauber off the board". And you don't believe Camille ran into a strong negative campaign?
No one else was running! Camille steps up and look at how Dauber supporters try to spin it. Definitely a case of "no good deed goes unpunished".
You seem to forget the Weekly had to brow-beat someone from WCDBPA to run. It was a bit embarrassing when none of them volunteered to step up until the Weekly challenged them to put their money where their mouth is. Wynn flatly dismissed running again after falling to Camille last time.


Posted by Fact check, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2013 at 10:40 am

Full disclosure: I voted for Camille over Heidi, because Heidi seemed too much of a mystery to me, but I don't have any illusions either. The video of Camille's endorsement interview makes it pretty clear to me that she ran because she wanted to keep critics of Skelly off the board. Camille is right that Dauber had not announced, but who else was she thinking of? I posed the link so that everyone can make up their own mind, you don't have to believe my take on it.
Anyways, the election is over, so the important question is what happens next. The whole board including Camille seems much more worried about defending Skelly than providing some transparency in the district. That is what really worries me.


Posted by results matter, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Again, you're putting words into her mouth. There was no one else running at this time. She didn't run to keep critics off the board, as she stated, she ran as she was considered a strong member of the board. A fact that was born out in the election results even under the strong personal attacks and general negative campaign against her.

"Anyways, the election is over"
Hear, hear! So why so much conspiracy theory and attempts to re-write history in this thread?


Posted by Nice try, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Results matter, I was there in June when Camille publicly voiced her support for Kevin Skelly and then granted him an extension to his contract. I question now what Camille knew in June and October, and whether or not she willfully kept information from the public. Skelly clearly knew, but his angle is to wait this out and hope the board can weather the storm, and then pick up another million dollars over the next three years. A proficient board would be able to make the difficult decision of having Skelly out on June 30. It is very sleazy and sets the tone for what our district has become.

To the public, keep posting, make your truth be known.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Everyone knew that Ken Dauber was going to run. Camille ran to try to keep him FROM running in the first place, because beating an incumbent, even batty old aunt Camille is impossible. The Weekly should have known that even though they don't like her, because the election lined up with the presidential there would be 30K totally uninformed voters out there, which heavily favors an incumbent, even one who seems confused 99% of the time. Next to her name under occupation she listed "board president." To the great mass of people who don't follow school politics that was unbeatable. The race was between Heidi and Ken and the Weekly totally unhelpfully endorsed both of them, even though only one of them could win. That was dumb.

Ken Dauber ran a great, issue-focused campaign. No critic of the school district has ever come as close to winning. It was thought to be impossible to win without praising the schools to the sky and he proved that you can get very close. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Now it comes to light that Skelly and Camille knew in April 2012 that the district was found to be in violation of federal civil rights law by OCR, an entity that Dauber consulted to on data analysis and collection. Anyone who believes that the decision not to disclose was accidental is naive. Yes this is politics, but it is emblematic of the lack of transparency that has come to characterize this district. Can any thinking person possibly conclude otherwise? Camille ran by saying that everything was great, not that the feds had declared PAUSD to be broken and near receivership. So, good politics by Skelly and Townsend (and Baten-Caswell too, who also knew about the OCR finding in April 2012). Bad leadership, bad management, bad government, but good politics.

We need strong leadership. The PAUSD boat is sinking and we need a captain not a bunch of tea sandwiches and punch. Where will that real leader come from? Not from any reformers in PAUSD after what happened to Dauber. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Also, just for the record, Wynn Hausser did not "fall" to Camille. He got pneumonia and was unable to campaign for the last 2 weeks leading up to the election. And even with pneumonia and being bed-ridden and unable to campaign, he only "fell" by less than 200 votes out of around 5000 cast. So that's a load of it too.

In this case, the fact that Camille Townsend, Melissa Caswell, and Kevin Skelly decided to hold the information that OCR had found that the district was violating student civil rights; that we had no appropriate anti-disability discrimination policy; that we have failed to implement the state-mandated Uniform Complaint Procedure; that the principal at Terman failed to protect the child and that the assistant principal was not honest with investigators; and that Charles Young was abjectly failing in his duty as a Compliance Officer (why does he still work here? I know that they have a relationship with Skelly that is starting to look like Stockholm Syndrome but why isn't Young already gone? That's a no-brainer. If you cause the district to get sued multiple times, you should be on your way.).

Voters can't fairly exercise the franchise if they are lied to or facts are kept from them. It may not be election fraud in the legal sense but it is in the moral sense.

Camille Townsend as the board president had an obligation to inform the public about this and she sat on it until after the election. Caswell's no better. Neither of them did so. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Duveneck dad, a resident of Duveneck School
on Apr 30, 2013 at 5:44 pm

The school board needs to get back on track. When people can talk about coverups credibly that's a problem.

The first rule in any serious situation (federal investigations of civil rights violations qualify) is to GET THE FACTS OUT EARLY and LOOK TRANSPARENT. Come on, this just isn't that hard. The coverup is almost always worse than whatever the secret is. It may make Skelly unhappy, but the board doesn't work for him. Right?


Posted by Curious, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 1, 2013 at 8:10 am

Based on the evident interest in this issue (nearly 1000 page views over 3 days), I posted another thread with an update on the OCR compliance status based on the latest Superintendent's Weekly memo. See Web Link
This is based on a few minutes looking at the PAUSD web site, though. I am sure that our local media will be filling in many more details.


Posted by results matter, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 1, 2013 at 10:43 am

@Paly Parent
"Everyone knew that Ken Dauber was going to run."
Even Ken didn't know he was going to run until two months after others had declared. He even gave that late start as one of the reason that he didn't get in. Go back and read the report.

"Camille ran to try to keep him FROM running in the first place"
Even the fact he didn't declare for 2 months and only declared after the Weekly pushed WCDBPA into having someone run doesn't persuade you that you're wrong?

"because beating an incumbent, even batty old aunt Camille is impossible."
You seem to forget that Heidi also beat Ken. Ken didn't come fourth, he came last failing to beat any other candidate incumbent or not. If there was another candidate, they would probably have beaten Ken as well.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Hays mom, a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Townsend's campaign chair, Mandy Lowell, funded a negative email blast to 10,000 voters using a list that likely came from Townsend's campaign or Prop A. Nobody knows how much Lowell spent or where the list came from because Townsend and Lowell aren't saying. Either if them could come forward with that information, which would shed some light on Townsend's odd claim to be an innocent party.
Townsend was board president all last year, and ran to defend Skelly against 'unfair criticism.' She chose not to tell anybody about the OCR investigations and settlement agreements and is still stonewalling.
How about some answers from Ms. Townsend? I expect continued silence on that score.


Posted by Nice try, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Is it true the Mandy Lowell was Camille's chair? I didn't know that. And is it also true that Lowell has millions of dollars at her disposal? I ask because I've worked with Camille before and in the last year her support of Kevin Skelly has been odd. I know I'm a slow learner, but I'm beginning to see at least the appearance of a slimy way of doing business.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on May 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm

@results matter - I absolutely agree - results do matter, and are very important.
The current bottom line seems to me to be that not only the OCR found violations of student's civil rights, violations which are most likely reflecting broader systemic issues, also - it is not clear which best practice was not used in terms of relaying this info - to the board? to the public? etc.
I am not sure I understand - do the results that matter to you have you support those elected, no matter what? If this is the case - why have open board meetings? The public have spoken, "giving the key" of the board vehicle to the elected ones. Or does it means that you are OK with the new info? I am just curious to understand.


Posted by Dirty Tricks Matter, a resident of Professorville
on May 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm

In the case of the election results, one only has to look at the disgusting emails that came out at the eleventh hour from the "Anti-Dauber Camp" to realize that there were many evil shenanigans occurring around that time in order to assure that Heidi would be the newcomer on the Board. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Dtm, a resident of Community Center
on May 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by determinant, a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2013 at 7:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Dtm, a resident of Community Center
on May 1, 2013 at 7:49 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by determinant, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by determinant, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Dtm, I am not sure what you mean by "going after" Camille. Dauber didn't go after anyone that I recall. It was Camille's supporters who went after him. Can you be more specific since you have made the accusation?

His foresight seems to be functioning normally (particularly when contrasted with the total lack of foresight by Kevin Skelly and the board about what would happen when these federal investigations finally did leak out and the poo hit the fan). Dauber predicted with pinpoint accuracy the consequences likely to occur if the governance failures that Barbara Klausner identified were not addressed. But Camille and Melissa didn't disclose that we were already having that crisis by the time of the election. So as Dauber was seated 5 feet away from them predicting bad results if we didn't reform transparency and governance and promising to put all district communications (including those about the OCR cases, of course) on the web and that he would share with the entire public everything he found out as a board member unless it was protected by law -- while he was saying that PAUSD was headed for a crisis if governance flaws were not addressed, Camille and Melissa just sat there and didn't tell anyone that the crisis was well underway, just that only they knew about it. That's astonishing. It's a legitimate basis for a recall. So you can hardly blame his voters for being upset at the mess you have made.


Posted by spectator at large, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 2, 2013 at 10:48 am

spectator at large is a registered user.

Curious: I am curious about all of these revelations as well and in particular your statement,

"The board has, however, discussed the OCR investigations in closed sessions on the Superintendent's performance and potential litigation, but has made no public comment on any actions taken or information gained in those closed sessions.

The board has also rejected calls from the press and the community for full public disclosure of the facts surrounding the district's failure to protect student civil rights in these cases."

It would appear that there is an attempt by the Board and PAUSD administrators to cover up missteps. Might I be so bold as to call this Churchill Gate? Yikes, I can't believe what is happening in Palo Alto. It rises to the level of truth being stranger than fiction. What the H? I think the PAUSD Board and admins are curious as well. I think they are Curious Yellow. In other words, they must be afraid to step out of their self imposed box and come out with the truth about all of these allegations. Namely, who knew what and when did they know it. It really fries me that certain board members may have known (Camille perhaps?) and awarded Skelly his contract extention until 2016 without taking into consideration that he was doing a woefully poor job at taking care of all of our kids (including the bullied disabled girl). And for this we the taxpayers are paying Skelly almost 300K a year? And we are going to foot the bill to hire a PR person to spin the district's missteps into something they think that will go unnoticed by PA citizens? How stupid do they think we are anyway? Hello Palo Alto....Anyone home? Get out to the board meetings and speak your mind if you have had enough. This is beyond crazy........


Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on May 2, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I gave a lot of volunteer time to the League of Women Voters over the years because it is so important that we have integrity in our public officials and in our government. That means being upfront and honest. Those of us citizens who are not elected officials need to know all of the relevant information to make informed decisions. That is why the League sponsors candidate forums and the like.
It disturbs me greatly that the school board trustees are bottling up information about this civil rights issue. It does not seem like Palo Alto to me.
It is even more disturbing to think that elected officials and staff members of a public agency may have withheld information from the public, in order to influence an election. That is very corrosive to democracy. I would like to believe that our school board members, who are also our neighbors, will tell the truth and the whole truth.


Posted by Eileen 1, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Eileen 1 is a registered user.

Speaking of "corrosive to democracy," I've given a lot of thought as to why people who feel so strongly about this issue do not come to the board meetings to speak their piece. One reason that has not been mentioned in any of these threads is how difficult and unrewarding the board has made it to speak. The "Open Forum" period of the board meeting is "scheduled" to happen by 8:30 pm, but frequently the meetings run later and Open Forum does not happen until closer to 9:30 - 10 pm Of course there is no way of knowing when exactly Open Forum will start so you must get to the meeting by 8 pm to make sure you don't miss it and you may need to stay until 11 pm or later to speak your piece.
Once you do have the opportunity to speak you are only given 3 minutes. I have observed that Dana Tom does not strictly enforce the 3 minute limit. It appears that if he is comfortable with the speaker he will let that person exceed the 3 minute time limit without interruption, but if the speaker's remarks are critical of the board he enforces the time limit promptly.
Although it is perfectly legal for the board to ask questions or comment on what a speaker has said, they appear to have decided never to comment on anything. Thus, there is no point in asking a question during your 3 minutes, as, after you speak, they just move on to the next 3 minute speaker without even acknowledging that you have spoken. All in all the entire process is incredibly frustrating and unrewarding. Not to mention it doesn't really give the public hope that they are having any impact when they make the effort to come and comment.
I have come to believe that this is simply another way in which the Board and Superintendent Skelly conspire to keep the public out of their way. This seems especially true when you consider that Open Forum section of the meeting usually takes less than 15 minutes.
I am proposing that the Board schedule Open Forum at 7:30 pm. No matter what the Board is doing at 7:30 pm they would break for Open Forum. That way community members would know exactly what time they needed to be at the meeting in order to speak, and it is possible that parents of children currently in the district would more easily be able to attend meetings because they would be guaranteed to be finished at a reasonable hour.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on May 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@spectator at large, Peggy Duncan, Eileen 1 - Thank you. Those were reasons that had me address Ken Dauber, asking to form a shadow board. Such Board is not contradicting any other formal procedure that may present itself in the future. I could not see any other way to address the issues you mentioned, fear of retaliation etc.
My open address to Ken Dauber to form a shadow Board: Web Link


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