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Feds rebuke district over email to parents

Original post made on May 6, 2013

A letter sent to all Duveneck Elementary School parents on April 15 by the school's principal about a new investigation into bullying at the school brought a sharp and immediate rebuke by the federal Office for Civil Rights, according to documents obtained by the Palo Alto Weekly.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 6, 2013, 9:50 AM

Comments (84)

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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 10:39 am

This seems more of a tempest-in-a-teapot than a meaningful "rebuke".

However, the issue of how a school district should deal with informing the public about the existence of on-going OCR investigations is raised. In the case, since the principal of the school in question sent out the email that seems to have tweaked the nose of the OCR team leader, which identified the school, but not the student whose family requested help from OCR—what's the damage?

If the parents of the child (or children) don't release any information about the request for OCR help—then who is to know who the complainant is? Does the law require parents to keep this information secret? No one has made that suggestion—so presumably the parents are free to reveal the nature of their complaint to friends, and/or the local media.

We are left wondering if the OCR folks would have been as equally troubled if the PAUSD Superintendent were to have been the source of the information, via a more-or-less innocuous announcement to the Board of Education that another investigation was underway, and posting the announcement on the PAUSD web-site?

If OCR is going to be this prickly, maybe they should be required to provide a list of permissible ways that school districts can provide information about OCR probes/investigations to the public.

Complaining about the principal's pointing out that "bullying" seems to be a national problem might be a little disingenuous—but it's hardly the makings of a great scandal.


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Posted by the dog did it
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 6, 2013 at 10:52 am

re: "Complaining about the principal's pointing out that "bullying" seems to be a national problem might be a little disingenuous—but it's hardly the makings of a great scandal."
I would respectfully disagree. At its core is a district (as are many in the Facebook era) struggling with an issue that DOES have significant gray areas and that is very challenging for administrators. This is a SPECIFIC case that should not be addressed with generalities. In my opinion this is comparable to a student being investigated for cheating and explaining to their parents that "cheating is a national problem" so don't be too alarmed about this alleged incident. I smell plaintiffs attorneys circling with Grierson's statement.


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Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 6, 2013 at 11:01 am

This is not the only instance of retaliation. The board has not told the public the truth. The board and Skelly know that there are other undisclosed OCR agreements including for retaliation from last year. PAUSD under Skelly has a pattern or practice of discrimination against students with mental disabilities. The board knows about these other complaints and agreements but is not telling the public.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 11:03 am


> I smell lawyers

Everyone smells lawyers, sadly. However, it's really difficult to see how this email has violated anyone's "rights". There also does not seem to have been any "intimidation" of the child/family by the PAUSD at this point. However, given how small each of the neighborhoods are servicing the numerous elementary schools, it's hard to believe that the parents, or child, haven't somehow revealed their actions to someone .. opening the door to having their identities being common knowledge.

Unless OCR is effectively claiming that these probes/investigations should be kept secret—then sooner or later the details of these matters will become public knowledge.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 11:05 am

Let me recast the last line, as the first posting might be a little confusing—

Perhaps the principal's claiming that "bullying" seems to be a national problem might be a little disingenuous in light of announcing another OCR investigation—but it's hardly the makings of a great scandal.


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Posted by No Skelly for PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2013 at 11:18 am

@ Wondering

It is one thing for a family to reveal to friends that their child is having a problem that has caused the parent to reach out to the OCR for assistance. It is an entirely other thing for the School itself to reveal, either blatently or through inunendo, the identlty of the child. It is the identity of the child that the school has a legal obligation to protect - or at least not reveal. It may very well be that "sooner or later the details of these matters will become public knowledge," but these details should not be revealed by anyone who works for the PAUSD. That would be illegal. Principal Grierson's email may very well have left the district open to another law suit which the district will need to settle. This will cost us, the taxpayers, money and take away money from the education mission of the district. That is expensive - whether you personally believe in the right to privacy or not.
I agree with you, this is not a scandal per se, but the article never identified it as a scandal. Grierson's email does have the potential to cost us money though, because while his actions were not scandalous, they do seem to have been illegal.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 11:34 am

> Principal Grierson's email may very well have left
> the district open to another law suit

How? So far, no one is claiming that the family requesting OCR investigate their situation has been publically identified, intimidated, or humiliated. There doesn't seem to be any suggestion that the email was a precursor to PAUSD actions that would violate this family's "rights". Certainly if there were any such follow-on action by the PAUSD then that would be a different story.

> have to settle lawsuits .. costs the taxpayers

The District has insurance against these sorts of things. For the most part, the District only pays the premiums—not the amount of the settlements. Of course, when the District makes claims against its policy, premiums can be expected to go up in the future.

One last point—if the Board were aware of this email at the time it was sent (or shortly thereafter), and they did not object—then they must bear some of the responsibility for this situation. Anyone know what the Board's position on this email might be?


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Community Center
on May 6, 2013 at 11:39 am

Hmmm, let's review:

First, Skelly fails to sufficiently alert the district that an OCR investigation was occuring. He gets rebuked for not informing.

Next, an elementary school principal - after observing the Skelly error - goes out of his way to inform the community of an OCR investigation. He gets rebuked for the language he used while informing.

Maybe the problem is simply the intrusive hand of the federal government in local schooling. Why, exactly, do we need federal officials scolding our elementary principals about letters they write to their community? Don't they have something better to do? If not, can't they be furloughed in place of air traffic controllers?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I second Anon analysis and conclusion!!


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Posted by What don't you get?
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm

@Anon and@ Wondering: We're talking about CIVIL RIGHTS here. You know, those things like ILLEGAL DISCRIMINATION against someone because of their race or gender or disability. It's a federal law. It gets enforced by the federal government. And you should be glad! Because if you we're black or Hispanic or female or disabled, or if your child was any of these, then you would expect the Office of Civil Rights to protect you, too!


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Community Center
on May 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

@ What don't you get?

Protect me, yes, but synthesize controversy and discord for no reason -- no thanks.

They're criticizing an elementary school principal for daring to write a letter to his community that the OCR doesn't like! Spare me that sort of federal government.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm

There are many problems with Dr. Skelly's and the board's approach to this matter.

First, Chris Grierson identified not just the elementary school but also the specific nature of the complaint -- disability bullying -- information he gave at the parent coffee to which the email invited the community. As only a handful of students are on IEPs at Duveneck, that reduced the available cell population of possible students to a very small number rendering the complainant individually identifiable by at least some staff and parents at the school.

Second, this behavior by the district and by the board president in sending this email and in leaking to the Daily Post other facts about both this case and the Jordan case of racial discrimination is intended to inform parents who are considering filing complaints that if they do so, an email will go out to their entire school community notifying the community similarly, and similarly rendering their child potentially individually identifiable or identified. It ups the ante.

Dr Skelly's contention to OCR that he was forced to do this by the press is nonsensical and shows him to be at sea. Public scrutiny on the district's mistakes is not the cause of the mistakes. It is the necessary condition for addressing them.

Finally, please note the following as it is a key piece of information. On the document linked by the Weekly, which is Dr. Skelly's email to OCR, the first email at the top is an "FYI" forward by Dr. Skelly of his email to OCR blaming the Weekly. See: Web Link

Please note that the "to" email is blacked out and the reason for the redaction is "6254c Private Contact Information". However, if you hover over the redacted "to" field you can see that this email was to "board@pausd.org." In other words, the district has redacted from its release the fact that Kevin Skelly shared with the board his email to OCR.

A reasonable question can be raised as to whether the Board is acting in bad faith. Is The Board attempting through redaction to hide the fact that it has been informed about Grierson's email, about Skelly's correspondence with OCR and other matters? What else does the board know about and when did it know it? What other board communication has Dr. Skelly made and then redacted or failed to release to the public?

How could any right thinking person conclude that the Superintendent's email to the board could be redacted to protect "private contact information"? That redaction itself violates the California Public Records Act as it is misleading to the public and not a legitimate basis for redaction.

The chain of misleading statements and misconduct must be halted. New leadership is required.





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Posted by cj
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm

If the student was caught stealing then there would be no civil rights case. If He or she was accused because of their race, then there is a problem. You can't have claserooms where if anything goes wrong the teacher or others just point the finger or start speculating that certain kids probably did it because of their race.


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Posted by Hello!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Duveneck is a cesspool of gossip. We all know who the family is based on this email Grierson sent. No one here is stupid. The family doesn't have to speak a word, they don't in fact. Kids see how others treat one another.


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Posted by Kathy Sharp
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 6, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I am not clear why the Lessons Learned presentation is part of a study session on Safe and Welcoming Schools being held at 10am instead of a regular agenda item at a Board Meeting. Study sessions do not have to be video-taped and many parents and members of the community are working and cannot attend a morning session.

Since the OCR report called for policy updates and mandatory trainings the Lessons Learned and the report on the district's work with OCR can include PAUSD budget updates and proposed policy changes. These are topics which warrant full community participation.

Please join me in requesting that the Lessons Learned session be rescheduled to a regular session of the Board.


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Posted by Book'em
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Makes me wonder what all OCR has to say about Kevin Skelly, his antics, and the board's protection of him.

I would not be at all surprised if the OCR recommends firing Kevin Skelly and replacing the school board prez.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm

> We're talking about CIVIL RIGHTS here.

Oh, silly me. And I thought we were talking about an email that referred to a recently initiated Dept. of Education, Office of Civil Rights investigation into an ALLEGED civil rights violation by the PAUSD. Not a PROVEN "civil rights" violation, but an ALLEGED violation. Was I wrong? Were we talking about that email, or was this posting some sort of code for another topic?

One of the underlying problems here, is that the whole idea of "civil rights" is incredibly poorly documented at virtually every point in our Republic. Before the 1960s, this idea was not all that well established, and after the 1960s—we've heard a lot about "civil rights", but never really developed a solid development of the concept. Far too much "civil rights" activity as been decided by "activist" courts that have pushed a lot of leftist theory down our thoughts.

So—what exactly is a "civil right"? Is there a list of these "rights" on any Federal web-site? Probably not. Yet, day after day, people keep popping up claiming new "civil rights". For instance, the following links point to situations where it would appear that "civil rights" have been manufactured out of whole cloth---

Parents/Activists Make School Closure A Civil Rights Issue:
Web Link

The state-run Newark Public Schools last year closed six facilities that were deemed underperforming and underenrolled. Some were then reopened or rented out to charters. More public schools are expected to be evaluated for the coming academic year.


That was the gist of the complaint filed by a Newark mother and student to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights last July, part of what is becoming a well-organized and funded nationwide effort pushing back against the closures.
-----

Since this case is relatively new, we'll have to wait a bit to see how OCR rules. It seems that whatever the ruling, someone is going to be unhappy, and OCR will have pushed its nose in where it might not have any role.

This just in the past week, or so, Barak Obama's #1 man over at the DoJ has "found" a "civil right" that allows hundreds of millions of people living all over the world to illegally enter the country, and then claim a "right to a path to citizenship". Wonder how Mr. Holder will justify that one?

Since the details of this particular complaint are supposed to be confidential—it's a little hard to talk about the matter. The best we can do is focus on the process by which the current "leadership" handles the situation.

And then there is the question about exactly what the "civil rights" of mentally/physically challenged students might be? Is there any end to what the parents of such children might come to expect from a "rich" school district? Just saying that "they have a right to an 'education'" and then filing "civil rights" complaints whenever the parents are not happy with the results seems like a recipe for disaster.


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I am completely disgusted by Kevin Skelly's tactics, rank dishonesty and lack of integrity.

This individual does not belong anywhere near an educational institution.


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Posted by Walter Scott
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 6, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceivee!


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm

And only in Palo Alto, would we sit in judgment of the Feds when the problem behavior is with our school district officials. No wonder things are so screwed up here.


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Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Given the immature, bullying behavioral examples of right-wing politicians and media hate mongers and across-the-board obstructionism substituted for governance, is it any wonder that it is pretty difficult to teach children how to behave given such daily examples to the contrary? We have people in leadership positions acting like spoiled two-year-olds and surly adolescents. Where were THEIR parents and teachers, one wonders!


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Posted by the dog did it
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Re: the letter

A letter explaining the fact that an investigation is underway, while protecting identity is a good thing. "Grierson had called the new investigation a response to a "national rally cry on bullying." is an opinion, possibly with the intent to deflect attention from specific alleged improper acts. Just as if you are being sued, an attorney will tell you to make no comments except for maybe indisputed facts. I think offering an opinion on just what the investigation is a "response" to is risky.


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Posted by Retaliation or Low IQ
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2013 at 4:12 pm

There must be something wrong with our school officials, why do they do things without thinking first. They just blow it out all the details from someone to figure out who were the students who did the complains. I love that the weekly kept us from knowing the name of the school that the student attended in the first OCR investigation, but this time, no, they were so dumb to give the name of the schools, and details about why the complains were done. It did not took too long for me to know who the students were. Specially the Daily Post's article. They completely gave it away. I think it was done in purpose as a form of retaliation, or they were just plain dumb. But wait a minute our superintended was accepted to and graduated from Harvard? Wow! I am wonder which one was, retaliation or low IQ.


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Posted by Reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm

The district's privacy concerns are about protecting staff members rather than students. No one was allowed to utter the name "Terman" in regard to the first case, because the OCR investigation found that the Terman principal, Kathy Baker, completely failed to do her job, and that one of the assistant principals actually gave the investigator false information. Of course, that was all after Skelly tried to conceal the whole thing from the public, but that's a different but related story.

In the Duveneck case, OCR hasn't concluded its investigation, and so there are no staff members at risk. Actually, if PAUSD has learned anything it is that they should settle these cases early, so probably no finding will ever be issued by OCR. So it's fine to provide a detailed account, and hopefully have a chilling effect.

It's long past time for Skelly to go. The community deserves better than this, and we can have it. Who believes that he is the best we can do for $300k?


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Posted by Goodnight nurse
a resident of College Terrace
on May 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm

When you're hip deep in alligators it's time to drain the swamp. Fire Skelly and Young.
Our real problem though is our school board. Either naive to the point of idiocy or just plain corrupt (I'm looking at you, Dana and Barb). Lying lawyers? No problem. Concealed federal investigations? Not to worry. Bullied disabled children? Not my problem. Sheesh.


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Posted by DuvMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm

@ Hello! Somehow I missed the "gossip". Too bad that I missed the gossip being that I am at school every day for pickup and drop off. Do share YOUR Cespool of Gossip. But please, it is your Cespool - not mine or any of the fine families of Duveneck that I know. Maybe you need to make new friends so that your children have a proper example to follow.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Predictable attacks on Skelly, but really, we should just out the names of the parents of the bullies. Maybe they could be shamed into actually doing some parenting? If your kids are bullying disabled peers, you are the problem, not the school.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by At a glance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I am so tired of sensationalism everywhere, in the news, in people's reactions. It seems like people have nothing better to do or worry about, seems like it is a bunch of bored rich stay-at-home moms that make a big deal out of nothing so that there is something for them to discuss. People, really, let's not blow things out of proportion and give more job to lawyer. Get real, go volunteer if you are bored.


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Posted by DuvMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm

@ Mr. Recycle. What are you talking about? No names have been given. I have not heard any gossiping. All that I have heard is shock and surprise. I have been unlucky enough to experience 4 principals while my children have been at Duv. Many are concerned and protective of Mr. Grierson. A good principal is hard to come by...we know.


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Posted by DuvMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm

@mr. Recycle... Of coarse bullying of disabled children (or any child) is unacceptable. That isn't what this article is about. It is about a "small" group of the PA community that has a bone to pick with Mr. Skully. Fed up with the drama!


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Posted by Nixon parent
a resident of Nixon School
on May 6, 2013 at 8:28 pm

@glance, you think that parents of disabled and minority children have "nothing better to do" than file federal civil rights complaints? I think the problem is that our district officials are clearly incompetent and dishonest. Seems obvious. Skelly and Young have to go and there is no way that Laurie Reynolds' contract should be renewed -- that is an affront to the taxpayers. That 140K plus the 150K for the PR flack is over a quarter of a million dollars. No way.


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Get rid of Skelly NOW! Or face CRIMINAL LAW CHARGES BECAUSE A FEDERAL CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED AND AID AND ABET LAW CHARGES COULD BE FILED AS WELL!!!

That is the REALITY, folks! I had already made public what OTHER BAY AREA DISTRICTS have done in similar cases and they satisfied OCR requests! Following that advice would have defused this volatile issue and set the PAUSD Administration and the Board on the right path.
That advice has been ignored, so reap what you have sown.

Once the CRIMINAL case is complete, the CIVIL cases begin. And " you ain't seen nothin' yet " applies.
The REAL gotcha: the District Insurance DOES NOT PAY FOR CRIMINAL ACTIONS of a School District ewmployee!
The lack of using the available County Consul means that Due Diligence was NOT followed.
Firing Skell and most of the Special Education Staff woulde show that the PAUSD Administration is now working in good faith. That action might " reset the clock " for OCR findings because of that good faith effort.
I repeat: Fire Skelly NOW! Or start expect to shell out big bucks in the future....for a LONG time...


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Posted by sara
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 10:22 pm

@ the_punisher

Do you promise? It sounds more like wishful thinking.

While I'd love to believe that Skelly will reap what he's sewn, this new revelation just seems like same crap, different day. The guy is Teflon. He's like Al Capone. Someone's going to have to get him on a charge like tax evasion, because being incompetent and tanking the entire school district doesn't seem to be enough.

I thought maybe he'd suffer a mortal blow when neither Paly nor Gunn were listed int he US News and World Report best high schools listing - but no - not even the crazy tiger parents seem to realize that he's compromising the District.

Maybe if the real estate prices start to tumble? But right now the market it hotter than ever. I can't understand why anyone with school aged children would buy a house in PAUSD right now.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2013 at 10:49 pm

I actually think Skelly isn't the problem so much as the way some of the underlings have behaved. Perhaps on Skelly's direction, but he can't make everyone do some of the things these people have done. I sometimes wonder if Young is undermining him to get his job. If I had to choose between them, I'd much rather have Skelly stay and Young go.

Barring that, if only we could send them back to school to learn one lesson: Don't treat parents like the enemy, and they won't be your enemies.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Dear School Board,

After your evaluation of Skelly, you need to tell the public in a town hall type of session, who you represent why you decided to either keep Skelly on for however long you decide, or why you decided not to keep him in the job.

Then you need to go through the next level of the management chain and do an evaluation and tell the public what your evaluation is, and why or why not they should be kept in their job.

You should feel strongly enough about Skelly & each of his reports that you would do a town hall session with the public. If you don't feel you can do this, then you haven't put enough thought and analysis into your evaluation of the Skelly & his direct reports.


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Posted by Answers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2013 at 1:50 am

Kevin Skelly AND Charles Young both must go. It is possible that Skelly would throw Young to the dogs because that would fit an established pattern of never taking responsibility, letting his underlings take blame under the myth of "site control." There is no such thing as "site control," you simply have a superintendent who is all about getting paid, he doesn't want to handle any issue he doesn't have to. He is not a hero in any sense. He'll show up for a candlelight vigil for a victim of bullying, but he'll not stick out a sliver of his career to do the very thing he is paid for: the care of our children. He's not Teflon, his time as superintendent will soon be over. It looks pretty clear that more and more parents are both tired of looking like clowns while our students continued to be attacked for having the audacity to complain. After all the discord of the last 12-24 months, especially the bombshells of the last four months, and Skelly approves a letter from Chris Grierson that arrogantly mocks the student, his or her parents, the OCR, and any other reasonable mind? Folks, I know this is going to be hard: Harvard doesn't equal competency as a superintendent.

When we look back on this sinking ship of Skelly, Young, Wade, and now Kathy Baker and Grierson, we will be asking the board why it took so long to take basic action. I finally see why the principals haven't stepped up to the plate. How can they? Some of them are part of the problem and the ones who are not do not want to betray their colleagues. Loyalty to the team is admirable. Being there for our kids is more important. What I still don't understand is how our parent leaders have sat by. Not all of them have, the Daubers have angered many in the community with their criticism, but they have participated as community members. But where is that lady from PTAC? Has someone handled her, told her to be quiet so she can get something later. What about the teachers? They took the time to go to the board meetings to ask for money because they can't afford to live next to Mark Zuckerberg, but they have no time to drop by the board meeting later today? They can get a sub so they can attend the board study session during the day, which I can't attend because of work, nor can I watch parts of it live during my breaks. What about all those wonderful folks who bravely wrote a letter against Callan six years ago? Search for it and check out the names. Why haven't they written a letter to the board now? Is the only letter out there going to be Grierson's dig at the student who complained and the OCR?


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Posted by Crossbones
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2013 at 6:58 am

Some of us what love to know the OCR's recommendations in regards to Kevin Skelly's future in education. Especially since this is not the first scandal he has been embroiled in.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 7, 2013 at 7:01 am

This district is in total disarray due to Skelly's hubris, incompetence and dishonesty. The fact he still has a job is utterly absurd. This is now on the level of 'You are doing a heck of a job Brownie.'


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Skelly has got to go! This is just another of his blunders in a series of blunders.


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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm

My kids went through the PAUSD, at Green Gables, now Duveneck, Jordan, and Paly. It was a fine--but not perfect--district then. It's a fine--but still not perfect--district now. There was some bullying then, and, amazingly, there's some now. What's different is that we didn't try to crucify the leadership of the District, even when we didn't agree with all of their decisions. And we didn't have an "Office of Civil Rights" out to create a big empire out of magnifying some minor mistakes and making them into federal crimes.

What we're seeing now is the power of a small minority, who failed to elect their representative to the Board of Education, to hamstring the district, in conjunction with the publisher of the Weekly, who magnifies every minor peccadillo into a major crime, and the aforementioned OCR and its excesses.

The PAUSD will be paying for these excesses for years to come.

I fully expect that the Weekly redactors will gut this post, as they do most efforts to support the district and its leadership.


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Posted by Another resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2013 at 8:37 pm

@Retired Teacher - so many good points you make.

Isn't it ironic that the real bullying in the Palo Alto community is occurring in these forum pages by those out to get our school leaders. Here's the first definition of bullying I pulled from google:

Bullying may be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally.


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Posted by Answers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Thank you Retired Teacher for your perspective, but you may want to get some Omega-3's because I've lived in Palo Alto since the 80's and I don't remember anytime between then and now that our community did not hold our leaders accountable. Also, you blame a "small minority" for all of the recent issues. Are you in the silent majority? You sound like Richard Nixon. I voted for Heidi Emberling. She won, but I regret the vote. She has added nothing to our district. I still want the board to fire Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, and demote a few others. That doesn't make them martyrs to be "crucified" as you like to say. That makes them accountable for their performance. Also, are you calling the violation of the civil rights of a child a "peccadillo?" Really? And don't forget there is no "Office of Civil Rights." Skelly and Young's lawyer smirkd when she corrected us at one of the recent board meetings. Don't you remember that? It's Office for Civil Rights.


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Posted by Adult
a resident of Community Center
on May 7, 2013 at 10:13 pm

I always find the practice of calling adults holding public officials accountable "bullies" alternately irritating and hilarious. The fact that it feels bad to screw up and have people notice doesn't make it "bullying". The point of this discussion is to improve the ability of our school district to follow federal and state law. Last time I looked this isn't "Kevin Skelly Unified School District". If this ends up with Skelly feeling bad, that's both OK and not the point.


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Posted by Another resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 8, 2013 at 12:31 am

@Adult,

Of course it's bullying what's happening on these forums. It's one thing to hold public officials accountable. It's another to repeatedly look for any opening to call for his resignation and to drag our other school employees through the mud.

Skelly is a public official and is appointed by our democratically elected school board. If you're so critical of the school board, I suggest you put up another school board candidate at the next election. As I recall, the one school board candidate supporting many of your views and calling for the resignation of Skelly got whooped in the last election. As they say in Washington, "Elections have consequences".


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Posted by Adult
a resident of Community Center
on May 8, 2013 at 5:49 am

Hi Another Resident, you have it backwards. Parents in Palo Alto want and have a right to a school district administration that obeys federal law, protects disabled kids from discrimination, and tells the truth even before it shows up in the paper.
If we have a district administration that doesn't do that, then we want and deserve a different one. No one is "looking for an opening" to call for Skelly's resignation. On the contrary, Skelly and his lieutenants keep making decisions that are bad for our district.
Accountability happens between elections, not just at them. I think "whooped" is a little strong for the margin in the last election, but in any case, telling parents to sit down, shut up, and wait a year and half for the next one is not one of the consequences. But feel free to voice the opposite opinion. That's what great about this democracy!
Oh, and the idea that criticizing public officials is bullying is just silly, by the way. It also shows that you don't have a child who has been subjected to real bullying. Believe me, you're lucky.


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Posted by Paying Attention
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 8, 2013 at 11:05 am

Adult, How can you say that no one is looking for an opening to call for Skelly's resignation? With the endless campaign to do just that, you and your group have made it impossible for the genuine adults in this community to evaluate with any sense of reality, what kind of job Skelly is doing. When an individual in any job is under such a siege, they have to waste all of their time fending off childish attacks from petulant people with agendas that do not in fact support the best for those involved. In this case it would be our students, who have to struggle along as their district becomes increasingly dysfunctional. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by the public is not the problem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2013 at 11:17 am

When you shoot the messenger you don't fix the problem. There are many many people in PA who are deeply unhappy with Kevin Skelly. The election was very close. It was not a "whooping." Ken Dauber received over 16,000 votes. He was not a marginal candidate. He lost by less than 2% to Heidi Emberling. He was not, like Tim Grey in the City Council, someone who received very few votes. He nearly won despite the fact that he was quite critical of the district administration, which is an unheard of situation in the history of PAUSD. His vote total demonstrates a high degree of unhappiness with the way the district is being run. His point was made by his vote total. Board members and district officials who take comfort from that narrow victory should not. It signals a sea change in parent feelings about PAUSD.


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Posted by Adult
a resident of Community Center
on May 8, 2013 at 12:05 pm

@Paying Attention,
You said "you and your group". I'm not in a group. Your theory is that Skelly has "wasted all his time fending off childish attacks." I think he is actually quite unwilling to hear and incorporate any feedback, except maybe for praise. More listening, and less fending and ignoring, would have served him very well.
I am not going to give up my right as an adult member of this community to participate in political discussion in the hopes that Skelly will do his job better. That's just silly.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm

What 'retired teacher' and others are advocating is essentially a ban on criticizing Skelly and his subordinates, regardless of how incompetent and wrong they are, because criticism of them is tantamount to bullying. Beside the Stalinist nature of such a state of mind:can't criticize a public official even when there is evidence he/she are incompetent and even after being reprimanded by a federal agency they keep messing up as if nothing happens, think of the irony. His defenders scream bullying when Skelly's arguably worst blunder involves gross inaction, hubris and incompetence in dealing with the bullying of disabled students.

















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Posted by the public is not the problem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I agree with boscoli and I will go one step further than my previous post. I think if the election was run today, and if what is now known about these OCR findings had been known in November, that it is pretty clear that Ken Dauber would win. I think if he runs again (though no one would blame him if he didn't want to go through that mudslinging again) he would win. A lot of people around PA did not throw out their Ken Dauber signs, including me. They are in my garage waiting for 2014. So, the heck with those of you who say that criticizing the district is wrong. Sometimes you have to accept criticism to learn and grow. The disturbing part of this whole civil rights story is the way that the district does not learn from its mistakes. It appears from another thread that the same mistake made in the Terman case is now being made at Paly, then we haven't learned a thing. That's sad and also dangerous to the public revenues.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Skelly's Evaluation
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Does any one knows how Skelly's evaluation went, is he staying or leaving, we should know. It last night, he was not at the board meeting, I am wonder why?


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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I like it that anyone who tries to lend perspective to this witch hunt is instead accused of treating Kevin Skelly like the Pope. There's fair criticism, and then there's vituperation. These attacks on Skelly and the district are vicious, plain and simple. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online due to removal of referenced post.]

As for the election results, please note that Ken Dauber was endorsed by the Weekly, and still lost. Could it be that he lost because the majority of voters didn't think the Weekly's stance was fair or justified?

Nevertheless, the efforts to harass, intimidate, and hamstring the district administration didn't stop. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by let's test your theory
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 8, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Retired wrote "The bullying in these comments is far worse than the bullying in the PAUSD schools."

In the PAUSD case, the child was punched in the face so hard she had to go to the doctor and the police were called. Let's test your theory out and see if you still think so.


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Posted by Mom of 3rd grader
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Ordinarily I would probably agree that we should discount critics. At this point though I have lost faith and patience. It's time for a change.


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Posted by Neutral 3rd Party
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Retired Teacher-

Would you select some examples of unwarranted criticism that leans toward adult bullying of our superintendent?


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Posted by Mom of 3rd grader
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 8, 2013 at 6:38 pm

My daughter gets picked on because she has a speech impediment (a little lisp). Comparing her to an adult man who is being criticized for his job performance is ridiculous.


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Posted by and still more
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2013 at 10:03 pm

In the last week I have learned

1. A child has been moved from Addison to Hays because of bullying - I have no idea if this kid is the bullier or the bullee - but apparently no one at Addison could handle the situation and with 3 weeks to go the kid is moved

2. A Jordan family has pulled their child because of severe bullying - which apparently several teachers "observed" but chose not to intervene. The child is being home schooled until the family can find a school where the child will be safe.

...and on and on... every week.... what the heck.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm

@and still more - I do hope you are wrong. However - generally, as far as I know a teacher ignoring bullying is a reason for OCR to investigate. As far as I know it is illegal to by-stand a child being bullied. I may be wrong. Even if I'm wrong, legally, it just makes sense that a teacher would intervene. Procedures are called for now, needed, to explain that by standing is not OK. By standing can be related to atmosphere. I am pasting, below, a comment I posted today on another thread.
Seems to me that it all goes back to the very urgent need for an impartial investigation of the past. All that enabled any and all occurrences discussed lately, and above. Seems to me that they are all connected to the atmosphere created by many past events/incidents that taught most - survival skills.
Fear of retaliation was mentioned over and over - atmosphere where parents know what is expected for their own kids well being. etc.
Seems to me that kids see, and learn how their parents try to protect them. Kids also see how different segment are treated. Kids learn, know who can be approached (or not) etc.
That was the reason that had me address Ken Dauber asking to form a Shadow Board. I did that way prior to the latest, not too long ago.
I thought that immediate response is called for, a safe place to share information, until, hopefully, some formal impartial committee will be formed. Seems to me that at this point such committee must be totally objective, outside audit type. I doubt information will be trusted otherwise.
Quite possibly there are other ways. Link to my Open Address:Web Link


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Posted by Paying Attention
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 8, 2013 at 10:40 pm

No Bosco, The election was held and you can't have a redo now in support of your position. All of this distortion and character assassination is not productive. It is distracting our community from any chance of facing and resolving issues at hand, such as bullying of students. I believe the bullying is occurring, and that we have some things in place in our district that are allowing it to flourish. I believe the cause is complex and has evolved over time and can not be blamed on any one individual or one set of bad parents. As long as the WCDBPA folks keep harping about one man, they are preventing the problems they say they care about from being resolved. If you actually care about the students, you will roll up your sleeves and work for solutions instead of continuing with this destructive squabbling. You will have to drop your vendettas in order to do that.


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Posted by Total fail
a resident of Barron Park
on May 8, 2013 at 11:06 pm

You wanted a committee that was a completely objective outside audit type and then asked Jen Dauber to lead it? Seriously? No, asking him to lead it just gets you your predetermined result.


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Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of Duveneck School
on May 9, 2013 at 12:30 am

Two children with a prior history of bully/victim were put in the same classroom even though it was requested that they be separated. The school is too extreme in not allowing classroom changes.


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Posted by Answers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2013 at 1:07 am

I've never met Ken Dauber, I'm not a member of WCDBPA, and I don't want to assassinate anyone's character, I also believe, like some other posters, that bullying is a problem we've had in the past and one that we will have in the future. The people we paid to handle and manage bullying repeatedly failed and then made it irreversibly worse by concealing public information. For that, I urge the school board to buyout or fire Kevin Skellly, demote or fire Charles Young, and then demote Holly Wade and possibly one of the middle school principals. Skelly and Young, though have no real future in this district. Any trust or faith in them has turned to disgust and disdain for damage done to students, the taxpayers, and the Palo Alto brand. Kevin Skelly was good to quiet the principals for a few years, but the last four years have been marked by suicides, secrecy, and now a flood of OCR complaints. I cannot think of another Bay Area district that would allow a Kevin Skelly to remain in his position or a board to continue to behave as if they don't know what to do.


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Posted by the public is not the problem
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 8:39 am

In all of the various reports on the OCR complaints and inquiries the two people who have NOT called for Dr. Skelly or Dr. Young or anyone else to be fired are the Daubers. Ken Dauber has called consistently for a full transparent public inquiry into what went wrong and how to fix it. Michele Dauber, a professor of law at Stanford and someone with expertise and experience with Title IX and federal civil rights in the educational context, asked the board to consider Dr. Skelly's management of Dr. Young and of the district counsel, Laurie Reynolds, as an aspect of his performance evaluation. She did NOT ask the board to terminate his contract or discipline him. All of the members of We Can Do Better have called for the same thing. Wynn Hausser and Amy Balsom did write a letter to the editor calling for Kevin to be replaced due to the fact that he failed to inform the board about the OCR settlements. That seems reasonable. But it was not the Daubers who said it.

So let's get the facts right: Ken Dauber has been a model of public citizenship on this issue. He has not called for anyone's precipitous firing but for a full inquiry followed by appropriate corrective action. He has also worked collaboratively with both OCR and numerous other parent and community groups including CAC, PASS and SEAN to bring to PAUSD a parent education event with OCR attorneys informing parents about the OCR process, and their rights under the law.

I am looking forward to this event because I would like to hear from OCR lawyers what my actual rights are as a parent in the district regarding bullying and harassment based on race or disability or sexual orientation. I also am concerned about the Paly situation with "rape culture." I would like to know how it is that Paly can be on the news for having a "rape culture" and yet our school board has not had a single meeting devoted to the issue. What is going on over at Paly? Phil Winston needs to come and tell the school board what is going on over there. The school board has shown no interest in this subject at all. Sad, sad, sad, and don't blame Ken Dauber for it.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 9, 2013 at 9:27 am

This all started with this: Web Link


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Posted by history
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 9:38 am

Wow, Ken & Michelle have been calling for Skelly's head for the last 2 years.


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Posted by the public is not the problem
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 9:51 am

Really, you think the reason that the district has a problem with OCR started with a couple of people in the community stating that the response to the suicide cluster was inadequate? I won't even ask you to describe the theory of causation that links these things to each other. If some people (thousands of people, not just 2) think that Dr. Skelly didn't do enough about academic stress or social-emotional health in the aftermath of the suicides, nearly 3 years ago, and said so, how is that in any way related to the fact that the district leadership is not doing enough about bullying now according to the feds (other than that the feds have come to a similar conclusion).


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Posted by Historian
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 9, 2013 at 10:02 am

Actually Ken Dauber said said over 2 years ago now that Skelly and the school board were not responding strongly enough to the student suicides, and that dealing with student social emotional wellbeing is a critical part of his job that he should be held accountable for. Many people agreed, including me. PAUSD started to take this more seriously, in large part because of Dauber's persistence (for example, pushing for and serving on the district homework committee that gave us time limits for the first time). During the campaign he praised Skelly on the A-G changes in the high schools. So it's not true that he has "been calling for Skelly's head for 2 years".
Full disclosure: I think Skelly should go and I think it would be beneficial at this point for community leaders like Dauber to say so. It might well shorten this process.


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Posted by the public is not the problem
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 10:03 am

And by the way, rereading that Op-Ed just makes them look prescient. So please, keep posting it. Here's a few quotes:

"We would be making more progress if our district leadership were less impressed with the difficulty of the problem and more willing to make fundamental changes to solve it."

"[T]he district hasn't enforced those policies we already have . . the district is jeopardizing its new . . . initiatives by letting individual schools decide what to implement rather than establishing consistent programs than can more effectively be evaluated."

"We shouldn't have to struggle with the school district to acknowledge basic facts of life about our schools and our children."

Sounds pretty applicable to the problems we are facing now. Perhaps things haven't changed much. But in any event, as a result of that editorial and WCDB's work on these issues we have the following accomplishments:

1. Pre-break finals;
2. Data on counseling at Gunn demonstrating it is not as good at as at Paly;
3. Task force on Homework;
4. New district policy on homework that includes limits for the first time;
5. Task force on counseling at Gunn;
6. Board commitment to bring Gunn counseling up to the level of Paly;
7. New district wide commitment to transparent communications between Superintendent and Board and end to "confidential Weekly" memos;
8. Extensive data showing that minority students are not succeeding in certain classes in high school compared with same classes and students in other districts (Dauber's warning about what this data showed was not taken seriously by the district and was disparaged by Dr. Skelly, but the problem it revealed was the basis for dropping our high schools from the USNews ranking this year so Dauber was right to be concerned)

Scrutiny from watchdog organizations is healthy and in this case produced real change. Stop blaming the public for the district's lack of accountability. The public is not the problem. That op-ed was not the problem. As just demonstrated, it was a big part of the solution.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 9, 2013 at 10:12 am

Does anyone know the history causing PA Online & the Weekly to carry on this vendetta against the PAUSD? Obviously there is an agenda well beyond interest in making the school district better. I have heard things, but I would like to know the truth. As I read this stuff it sounds the same a Fox News in its treatment of the Obama administration - totally biased

I imagine they will censor this message - again very much like Fox.


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Posted by Tin Foil Hat
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 10:17 am

Yeah, or maybe it's the media. Maybe it's the Weekly. [Portion removed.] It's definitely not that our leadership and board have to respond in accordance with the law and when they don't the parents of bullied children will go to the law to protect their kids. That is not what is happening. It is a conspiracy. Thanks Alphonso for pointing it out. I think it's linked to Benghazi. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Uhh?
a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2013 at 10:23 am

Alphonso, what do you mean by "vendetta"? When I think of Fox I think of distortion. What part of the Weekly's reporting has been false? It's hard to turn truthful reporting of facts into a vendetta. Reminds me of Truman's response to some telling him to give the Republicans hell: "I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell."


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Posted by history
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 10:35 am

Yeah, Alphonso, this is less about a "vendetta" and more that the Weekly just does what it needs to do to raise advertising revenues.
The better example is the recent library debate. If you read the forums you'd think that everyone wanted to reduce the libraries down to two branches and the bond was bound to fail. If you spoke to people in the streets, they loved the libraries.
This is identical. As with the library bond passing with 70%, the man in the street was right. Please don't take these forums too seriously. Attend a few board meetings, there really is no loss of public confidence and no vitriol apart from the usual suspects. But it does raise the hit count and advertising revenue.


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Posted by Tin Foil Hat
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 10:41 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Uhh?
a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2013 at 10:58 am

Strange project that Alphonso and history are in. How to explain news coverage without referring to the news.
Federal civil rights investigations of our local schools. Superintendent concealing settlement agreement with feds from the board. District lawyer lying to the public, and maybe to the board. Feds rebuking district for Duveneck letter, warning of citation for retaliation and violating student privacy.
If the Weekly is reporting all of that just to increase its revenue, it definitely owes a big vote of thanks to Dr. Skelly and the school board. You can't just go down to the corner store and buy that kind of material.


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Posted by history
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Uhh? You are being very naive.


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Posted by Uhh?
a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Thank you. I admire someone for whom Faith is strong enough to triumph over Reason. I find myself though still a slave of Facts.


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Posted by history
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm

"still a slave of Facts."
Then sort by the topics by number of posts.
There are several themes that the Weekly knows will drive views. These are: Libraries, Schools & Unions/City Budget.
Though I've already pointed out that #posts != public opinion. The library debate is a great example of real vs. "virtual" opinion. Just ask Eileen how many people joined her at the board meeting.


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Posted by Uhh?
a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I see, thank you. There is much public interest in Schools, so the Weekly writes articles about them. I guess it is fortunate then that there is so much interesting news about Schools. But I think you are saying that the Weekly is driven not by News but by Eyeballs.

There is a simple test of your theory. We just need to find stories about Schools that are not really News. Here is my list from earlier today: Federal civil rights investigations of our local schools. Superintendent concealing settlement agreement with feds from the board. District lawyer lying to the public, and maybe to the board. Feds rebuking district for Duveneck letter, warning of citation for retaliation and violating student privacy.

Please point out those items that are not really News.

Does #people_at_a_board_meeting == #people_who_care_about_an_issue? I am sure you have a confident opinion on that topic as well.


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Posted by history
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Does #people_at_a_board_meeting == #people_who_care_about_an_issue?
Yeah, it pretty much does. Check out the mobile-home story. If you can't get bums on seats, people don't care.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Object
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 9, 2013 at 4:38 pm

The people of BuenaVista are not "bums". Of course the resolution is a feel good do nothing. How about waiving the residency requirement for them? Crickets.


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