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Private giving to public schools widens the gap between rich and poor.

Original post made by A parent concerned about social justice on Sep 5, 2013

This New York Times opinion piece is being widely read and shared by my Stanford colleagues this morning. As you consider giving to PiE, please read this article first and reconsider.

"Not Very Giving: By ROB REICH
Published: September 4, 2013
Web Link

Comments (137)

Posted by Good luck with that, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Not much substance. As for the proposal below, good luck with that Rob...

Finally, Congress should differentiate or eliminate charitable status for local education foundations. If a foundation raises money for a district with a high percentage of children eligible for free lunch, it could offer a double deduction; for a district below the average in per-pupil spending, the standard deduction; for a district with few poor children and higher than average per-pupil spending, no deduction. If private giving to public schools exacerbates inequalities, then at the very least we should stop subsidizing such behavior with tax dollars.


Posted by Chris Zaharias, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Definitely worth hearing viewpoints on this from those that have something to say.


Posted by Crescent park mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I agree with getting rid of the charitable tax deduction for contributions to PIE. We are really giving money to ourselves, and then getting a subsidy from those state and federal taxpayers who are almost certainly not as well off as we are. It is a backdoor way of getting additional state and federal funding for wealthy districts.


Posted by Reich 2014, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 5, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Finally someone says it. Kudos to Professor Reich. I hope he doesn't expect to be invited to very many BBQs though, because I suspect no one in PA is going to be super happy with him. I hope he runs for School Board. Wouldn't that be great?


Posted by different interpretation, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Concerned Parent (and Professor Reich's "colleague"),

Professor Reich is NOT telling Palo Alto parents to "reconsider . . . giving to PiE." To the contrary, he tells them to GIVE (Reich: "Should wealthy parents in well-to-do school districts stop giving to their own children's schools? That's not...my recommendation").

Reich's point, in essence, is that well-off donors should consider NOT claiming a tax deduction for those donations.

That same advice would apply to Stanford's donors too.


Posted by Basic Aid, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 5, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I agree that the begging letters sent by some school districts are annoying, obnoxious, and wrong.

However, wealthy public school districts are "basic aid" districts. That means the state, local, and federal governments give wealthy districts less money--only the bare basics, because it is ASSUMED that the wealthy districts and the parents who live in them can afford to contribute more cash. The poorer districts get much more government money.

Remember about 15 years ago, when El Carmelo Elementary had an auction that raised tens of thousands of dollars for that school?


Posted by Huh?, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 5, 2013 at 3:50 pm

So if we donate to PiE, then we are actually selfish elitists contributing to the gap between rich and poor? And if we don't give to PiE, then we are promoting social justice?

Wow, that's either really DUMB... or really brilliant.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 5, 2013 at 4:07 pm

It's really slick to donate appreciated stock shares, and then write off the full amount of money you never actually had.


Posted by Unfortunately, schools NEED donations!, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 5, 2013 at 4:19 pm

PiE funds important programs including art, music and science in the elementary schools, electives and counselors in the middle schools, college counseling and electives in the high schools. The problem isn't the fact that we donate to our schools, the problem is that education is severely underfunded.

Our District would be a very different place without our generous parents AND our generous community. PiE donors are not all "giving back to themselves" there are many non-parents that donate also.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm

After the fiasco of summer school and the fact that schools are now providing pe uniforms and various other school supplies that we used to have to pay for, I am a lot more wary as to what I donate to at schools. I would rather pay for my kids' supplies, uniforms and summer school because at least I know where it goes. I hope that teachers are not paying out of pocket for my kids' stuff which I could get them.

If there is now enough money to pay for this stuff which parents used to pay for, then where is it coming from? We are also hearing about the district hiring lawyers, pr people, survey companies, etc. etc. There is a big, black hole which money seems to be thrown into with very little accountability. On top of that, they can't find enough money to pay for playground supervisors, counselors and aids.

Until something is done to make PAUSD financially responsible with the money they get from my tax dollars, then I seriously question whether I should be donating anything to anyone. If any teacher is spending their own money on pens and paper for my kids, please let me know and I will reimburse you.

And as for technology in the classrooms, Paly Back to School night had classrooms that looked as if they were from the 50s. No smart boards, no language labs and nothing that looked as if it came out of the 21st century. Telling parents to use wifi to find our way around campus and our kids' schedule is one thing, using up to the minute teaching technology is sadly lacking.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 5, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Parent concerned about social justice: If you are a resident of Stanford then either you or your spouse is faculty there. Stanford is a very wealthy institution and still asks alumni and faculty for donations. I don't think they would like it very much if that stopped. Many of those donations are for scholarships which help those who are unable to afford Stanford. Is taking away their opportunity the answer?


Posted by Prop 13 for all, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Professor Reich isn't saying not to donate. He's saying that the government shouldn't subsidize your donation. As to Stanford where a donation has truly charitable aims or funds research that benefits all of society it is properly deductible. Building a fancy new law school office building or alumni center or the Clark center cafeteria? No. Stanford is a multi billion dollar corp and it also should not get a blanket deduction. If a private foundation for PAUSD raised money for closing the achievement gap or providing tutoring and SAT prep for the poor kids that's something that Prof Reich would support I think. How much do you think it would raise? 5 mil?

Everyone should have to live with prop 14 not just the poor. That's the only way there will be pressure to change it.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2013 at 5:59 pm

What nonsense by Reich. He should be demanding education vouchers for all kids, then allow their parent to make their own choices. Reich is the problem, not the solution. Sad.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I have met Bob Reich and have seen him speak several times. Nice man. Don't like his socialist and/or wealth re-distribution POV.

Reich and Paul Klugman (NYT) would make a lovely couple...not.


Posted by sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2013 at 8:11 pm

We stopped giving to PiE - but not for Reich's reasons - we stopped because Skelly, Young, and 25 Churchill use generous parents to stop-gap their poor, self-serving spending decisions. Get rid of the PR director and we will reconsider. In the meantime the money we earmarked for PiE is going to Second Harvest Food Bank.






Posted by PiE is a farce, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I'm with Sara, as long as it includes the board. I'm hoping things don't get worse in PAUSD. It seems that Skelly has added positions to the payroll so there is plenty of money. They don't need extra money.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 5, 2013 at 11:04 pm

For those who can comfortably give to PiE, but have stopped in protest, I hope you follow through on that and make sure that your children do not work with the aids in elementary, do not take part in Spectra Art, and do not take advantage of all that is offered in middle and high school in terms of extra electives, counseling etc. That should really get your point across. My sense is that people who stop giving to PiE are looking for any excuse to not participate and use the above rhetoric ( generous parents to stop-gap their poor, self-serving spending decisions) as an excuse.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 6, 2013 at 7:09 am

Here's the point.

When we see the district wasting money on new positions, lawsuits it shows that they have money to burn. When we see PIE funding things that should be funded by the district, we see the district depending on PIE as part of their funding. When they were able to waive summer school fees out of the general budget, it was obvious that there is money in the slushpot. When we hear teachers and administrators at school saying they are told to spend, spend, spend, at the end of the school year to use up designated funds before they get lost, we can see that there is enough money in the slushpot.

In our household, we have to budget. If we suddenly get an unexpected expense, we have to find the money from somewhere and it can hurt. I see no pain from our district in suddenly having to fund items heretofore funded by parents, summer school, pe uniforms, etc. and that proves my point.

It isn't PIE that should be funding aids, playground supervisors, art classes, counselors, etc. It should be the district that is funding these basic things. I don't for a minute think that these things would go away without PIE, I think the district would have to look at their money management and still fund them.

Our district is awash in money if it can spend it at the top. It is not showing signs of budgetary husbandry. PIE is just giving it the excuse not to do so.

And by the way, our elementary schools are growing at an alarming rate but the number of office staff appears to still be at the same level as when they were much smaller. I suspect if there is a bigger income for the school district from our ever increasing property taxes, then it should be going to increase the number of administrators at the elementary schools. An assistant principal at some of these larger elementaries would not go amiss.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2013 at 7:22 am

The funding of public education in the state of CA is messed up in a lot of ways. There is so much waste and bureaucracy, way too many school districts with duplicate administrative staffs, for an example.
It is SO complicated that it is very hard to understand and seems to suck up an incredible amount of statewide public expenditures.
Down at the micro level, one cannot object to parent donations funding the hiring of classroom aides EXCEPT it is an odd and unstable way to fund regularly needed personnel. So even that is questionable. I read about the hiring of a PAUSD pr "officer," and I object to tax money going toward that - so it's a shell game even though that is not PiE money.
I think people should have freedom to choose where to donate to, including education, so I disagree with the author about taking away the charitable tax deduction, which encourages this positive action. Still, it IS funny to think that Stanford, one of the very richest/highest endowment universities, does make very strong solicitations of alumni and we all know the building/institution namings there.
Public education is NOT run in a businesslike manner; if it were perhaps we wouldn't NEED to have all these educational foundations in the first place and there wouldn't have to be such a wealth gap between the districts.


Posted by Perspective, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 6, 2013 at 7:43 am

We're sending our charity dollars this year to the Foundation for a College Education, which helps kids in East Palo Alto escape poverty and go to college. I appreciate the spirit of PIE, but when I see hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent by the school board on a PR flack and money for lawyers to fight against civil rights, I don't want to pay for that. PAUSD can spend money on those things because PIE is picking up the tab for aides, etc. I would rather make sure my contributions go to benefit kids who need it.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2013 at 8:41 am

I think that people who give to PiE are generous people with good intentions, and are not primarily interested in the tax deduction, although it is a consideration. To say that PiE is an instrument for widening the gap between rich and poor is pretty far-fetched.

However, I do think that PiE is not necessarily serving its goals. Giving to PiE is like giving to the panhandler at the stoplight. You feel bad about their situations, and you think this temporary donation should help them through the rough spot. However, the recipients of your generosity do not think of your money as a temporary donation to get them through a rough spot.

Charity is supposed to be a temporary stop-fix to get someone through the hard times. It is not supposed to be a "way of life." These donations are simply enabling and encouraging negative behaviors that would otherwise be corrected if you weren't subsidizing them.

Your constant flow of donations allows the money managers to avoid tackling the difficult issues... They say our money goes to pay aides...that's only because there is no money left in the budget because all the money we gave through taxes is going to pay for unfunded pensions, and other waste.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 6, 2013 at 9:04 am

In the article, Reich mentioned how much more other area schools request than Palo Alto. I wonder if these same types of conversations about how those schools are managing their budgets are occurring. I think probably not although they must be doing a worse job of managing money since they ask much more per child.


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 6, 2013 at 10:24 am

PiE is about enriching students education, it is not a stop gap, temporary solution through "rough spots". I agree that the District should be able to fund Spectra Art, supplementary science, a counselor for each grade level in the middle schools, a rich elective program in the middle and high schools, music specialists, classroom aides, etc. but guess what, they can't. And getting rid of the PR officer (which should really be considered a communications person) would only fund a couple of aides.

Education in California is extremely underfunded. We are lucky to have a generous community (lots of PiE donors are not parents) and parents that can enrich our schools.


Posted by Shut your Piehole, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 6, 2013 at 11:19 am

The problem with giving to PiE is that PAUSD is wasting money. Why do we have a PR officer at the cost of $150K per year? Why are we paying Fagen Friedman another nearly 200K per year? That's a lot of $800 donations. The School Board is profligate because they are backstopped by rich parents. Want a PR officer? Sure? Sue special ed parents? Sure? We're flush with cash and there's more on the way! That's why people don't want to give to PiE. It's backstopping poor management by an idiot board and a spendthrift administration that is awash in easy money. I say stop giving until we get some greater accountability. Start with firing the PR person. What a waste.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by I'm with Jerry, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Skellytons, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Look at all the waste caused by Kevin Skelly! Lawsuits, PR people we do not need, or wouldn't need were it not for him and his antics.

Save big bucks and send Kevin Skelly and his PR people packing!


Posted by Shnaningan Spotter, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm

@Shut your Piehole and Skellytons: I totally agree with both of you; in fact I couldn't have said it better myself!!

It seems like the parents in Palo Alto are sleeping through a nightmare although they think they are living in a dream district. The thing that really bothers me is that I talk to many parents on a daily basis and the ones that are aware of Skelly's Shenanigans are totally afraid to speak out because they fear retaliation from the district.

It is a disgrace that the Board is bunkered with Kevin and seems paralyzed. It is a cunning, baffling and powerful and persistent situation....one which requires that the truth come out in the light of day. This will require full transparency which I do not think will happen during Kevin's reign. [Portion removed.]

Please let's get some sanity going! What could possibly come next as a way to waste PIE money? [Portion removed.]


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by I'm still with Jerry, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 6, 2013 at 6:24 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2013 at 6:44 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by PiE is a farce, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm

PiE is a lie. It pays for aides to make copies and grade papers at the elementary grades. It pays for part-time science teachers when the highly-qualified classroom teacher should be doing this. It pays for reading intervention so teachers who have failed to teach challenging children how to read can simply ship them out of their class and have another teacher do the job, all while the child misses out on the regular instruction that is needed. PAUSD would not collapse if you took the couple of million from PiE out of the PAUSD budget, there would be very little effect, unless Skelly and PAEA attempted to manufacture one. PAUSD is simply bloated. Cut the PR, reduce legal fees, cut back on the number of recently hired administrators, and it will be fine. Effective teaching does not depend on SMART boards in every classroom, part-time specialists that take student out of their regular class, and extra administrators who have almost zero contact with students. Teri Baldwin of the PAEA should be leading the effort to reform this district with better fiscal management and her blessing to get rid of the lemons in the teaching ranks. PIE perpetuates a broken PAUSD system. Getting rid of it would apply a nudge that this community needs in order to nudge an inept board into action. Keep raising your money PiE and market your brand. My kid's artwork is neat, but your impact on his achievement is almost nil.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I wonder why the parents in the other school districts are not outraged by being asked to give money to their foundations. Is it that they are not as smart and all knowing as Palo Alto parents? @ Pie is a farce - you really want to pay a teacher to spend their time making copies? Grading papers is part of their job but they are only paid for 8 hours a day. Are you sure you wouldn't have a problem if an elementary teacher didn't get your child's papers back to them. Have you ever tried to teach a child how to read? I'm sure yours are brilliant but some children do need extra help. Would you rather the classroom teacher focus on those kids at the expense of others. That would really irritate the parents of all the gifted and talented kids in this district. I think this district clearly needs a PR person in order to deal with all the demands for information from the parent population. What recently hired administrators are you talking about? Have you asked for smart boards to be taken out of your child's classroom since they clearly are not important? And please take your child out of Spectra Art. Have him or her do it at home since they clearly do not need the PiE dollars.
[Portion removed.]


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm

@Parent from Paly - thanks! PiE allows us to have a rich education for our students.

@PiE is a farce - the 'highly qualified" elementary teachers are not taught to teach science, art, PE, music, etc. although elementary teachers end up doing that in other Districts. The well-organized schools have aides helping with small group learning and parents copying when needed.

And asking the teachers union to "get rid of the lemons" is NEVER going to happen until there are major changes in union rules and tenure.


Posted by They teach it all, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Teachers with a multiple subjects credential are indeed qualified to teach it all in a self-contained classroom. Do you think we teachers cannot teach P.E.? Art? Science?


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 7, 2013 at 9:38 am

@They teach it all - Do I think that elementary teachers are capable and qualified to teach art, PE, etc., yes. Do I think that an art or science or music or PE specialist would do a better job AND allow the classroom teacher to focus on the other subjects, and free up some of their time for planning, yes.


Posted by PiE is a farce, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm

The quality of these part-timers is not that good. A good teacher knows how to differentiate instruction to reach the most challenging students as well as students whose parents think they are gifted because they answered all 60-70 problems correctly on their elementary school CST. Too many PAUSD teachers are not capable of differentiation. As far as planning time, there are many teachers who use any extra time to take care of errands or get a coffee, they are not the majority, but they do drag down the collective quality. Your PiE dollars actually makes things worse.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm

@PiE is a farce:
"Too many PAUSD teachers are not capable of differentiation". And you know this how? Have you had experience with the majority of teachers in Palo Alto? Are you on site at all the schools, all the time, to know that teachers are using the time to get coffee or run errands. Or are you just making more sweeping generalizations?


Posted by back to basics, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 8, 2013 at 7:45 am

The real point is whether taxpayers who don't live in Palo Alto should be subsidizing our donations to our own schools? I think not. It's fine to give money to PiE but it shouldn't be tax deductible, any more than private school tuition is, or my trips to the grocery store to fill my own fridge for that matter.


Posted by PiE is a farce, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

The PiE website is now glossy, didn't used to be. The PiE board is full of white, female faces. The message should be clear. It's president and leader, Kathy Schroeder, has been silent over the past four years during failure after failure by Kevin Skelly, but was more than happy to be part of a public letter that resulted in Mary Frances Callan's departure. The message is that she is a big supporter of Skelly and everything he has done. The PiE affiliates are this newspaper, PAUSD, PTAC, two dental groups, and a whole bunch of real estate agents, in fact, a majority, sending the message that this is about real estate. [Portion removed.] It would be better to give this money to the teachers and let them teach art and science. It would be more effective. Would teachers like it? Most of us would.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

That is quite a stretch...non-PA taxpayers subsidizing our donations. Exactly how does that happen?

I make a tax deductible donation (to any charity or non-profit). I get credit on my taxes for the donation less my tax rate. No one gives me money, no subsidizes my donation or my tax credit.

I don't get your logic at all.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 8, 2013 at 10:12 am

When someone makes a deductable charitable donation the money that would otherwise go to the state or city in taxes does not get there, thus to get their operating budget that money is made up with other people's money. If everyone took the maximum in charitable tax deductions the system would not work. All things being equal this turns out to be essentially a kind of subsidy. That is as it is designed, but there are occasions where it can be a kind of subsidy for private purposes and work against the purposes to which government has decided it wants to support, such as school.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 8, 2013 at 10:12 am

@PIE is a farce-

I love it when people criticize volunteer organizations that are simply trying to do something good. To answer some of your comments:

PiE's mission is to fundraise for all the PAUSD students, period. It is not an advisory board for the superintendent or the BOE, it is a fundraising group. It is not all white nor is it all female, just all volunteers, except for three staff members.

Kathy Schroeder is not the "president and leader", she is the Executive Director and an employee. Terry Godfrey is the president - and a volunteer.

The PiE "affiliates" you mention are PiE supporters. And yes, a side benefit of our strong schools is solid housing prices, hence the support of Realtors.

We do "give the money to the teachers" to teach art and science, just not the regular classroom teachers.


Posted by Santa Clara Prof, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 8, 2013 at 10:42 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Question, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by They teach it all, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Doesn't sound like paly parent is ok with anyone bringing up some glaring issues with PiE. I went to their web page and it is, let's say, very representative of white females, and not so much of Latinos and African Americans. Doesn't mean anything is wrong with PiE, but it is surely not a sign that things are fine with it. The support of the realtors is hardly a side benefit, the two go hand in hand. As for teachers, if you are not a member of PAEA or an opt-out, then you are not a PAUSD teacher.


Posted by Donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm

PIE is for STAFF

PTA is for "stuff"

so the explanation goes.

There is ZERO parent say in how PIE money is spent, it is up to the district.

A program like Spectra Art is a single program with the same teachers serving multiple schools, and in theory their cost is not going up by the same rate that PIE is rising money. When we started, the check to the district was 2 million and recently it was something like 5 million. Spectra art does not cost an additional 3 million to fund. Does it?

PIE money appears to be a luxury for the district which is not A game in leadership, particularly on issues like the achievement gap. Now bullying, and they spend more time convincing us that school does not cause stress, they can do very little to enforce teaching quality (can't fire bad teachers), they don't enforce homework policy, and many other policies, all the usual school stuff.

That PIE serves all schools int the district means not much when you can find millionaires in the schools which have less fundraising prowess. PIE seems to just sucks the air out of any expression from parents to put money into areas that matter to them, and at its worst, provides a de facto unconditional sign of approval to district leadership.

Donations to PTA seem to work differently. It's more school driven, where can we add more laptops, which teacher needs money for what materials, what scholarships can be provided to students. The money is spent, by-passing the district.

There's also boosters. Athletics, Theater, and so forth.

I have some issues with the focus on "enrichment" though, because it tends to mask lagging academic achievement for the non-high achieving students.

We can't teach you a normal Algebra class (it would hurt our "reputation" to lower our standards) but you should be happy that you can take glass blowing, and the home economics equipment in our school is fit for a cooking reality show. Let's celebrate other things about you, and the other things you can benefit from.

Some PIE money seems to be given with discretion for the Principal. But there again it is likely they are having to spend on things for which the district is failing to provide.

I still want to know how every year PIE money is going up by the millions and it's still for the same stuff they say was spent decades ago. Spectra Art is for Elementary School anyway.




Posted by Census, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Here's what I found on the PIE board website:

20 white women
2 white men
1 Asian woman
1 south Asian woman

3 of the 22 women are employed. Both men are employed.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm

WHAT PIE FUNDS:

Elementary Schools:

Classroom Support: Classroom aides, instructional assistants, reading/math specialists, and counselors

Science and Technology Enrichment: Instructors who help science and technology "come alive" for students through hands-on instruction

Creative Arts Instruction: Spectra Art, music, and other performing arts classes

Middle Schools:
Student Guidance and Support: Counselors for academic guidance, next grade transition programs, and social and emotional learning

Sciences and Arts Electives: Compelling courses to spark students' curiosity such as music, languages, creative writing, marine biology, arts, broadcast journalism, and biotechnology

Classroom Support: Enhanced writing, reading and technology applied to curriculum with the help of specialists and mentors

High Schools:

Student Guidance and Support: Counselors who provide academic and social/emotional guidance, foster adult/student connections, and build student resilience

Sciences and Arts Electives: Compelling courses to spark students' curiosity such as music, media, art, engineering, technology, sports nutrition, and hybrid online courses

College and Career Counseling: Advisors and resource programs that help all students plan wisely for the future

They teach it all - I'm fine with bringing up issues with PiE, but if the Board is mostly white, female and not-employed, that is because those are the people who have volunteered to spend enormous amounts of time for other people's kids. If you look at the Advisory Board and the list of volunteers, there is more diversity. I'm sure PiE would welcome more Latino, Asian, African American's and men.

Donate to your PTA instead - Parents absolutely get input into where PiE money will go - that is how the areas of focus are chosen. The District gets some choice in how PiE money is spent, but it has to fall into the categories that PiE fundraises for. PiE pays for a lot more than Spectra Art.


Posted by PIE donor, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Sep 8, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Dear paly parent,

Do you have any idea why there is apparently a glass ceiling for minorities in PIE? Do you think that having these funding decisions about "areas of focus" made by such a narrow segment of the community raises any issues? Why do you think that women tend to leave PIE after their children graduate if their purpose is to "help other people's kids? Looking forward to your thoughts ,

Donor


Posted by sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm

@paly parent - yes - all of what you said outlining where PiE dollars is true- but Skelly and Churchill redirects PAUSD money that SHOULD be going to all the things PiE funds and spending in on PR Directors, Lawyers, etc. They know they can get away with it because people in the community will pick up the slack. It's a shell game.

...and to those who make the snarky remarks about PiE donors making sure their children don't need aides... many PiE donors don't have kids in PAUSD....including me. We continued to give because we believe in trying to make the community better. After carefully watching Skelly and the Board, we have decided to redirect our money to the food bank.


Posted by PiE is a farce, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm

PiE started out with the best of intentions, but it's lost its focus to perpetuating an increase in donations and safeguarding its marketing message that this is about kids. Marketing and branding rarely succeed in teaching a struggling student how to read. Heart and dedication are actually a lot more important. Probably could have flown under the radar a few more years with a less flashy website.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Paly parent,

"Parents absolutely get input into where PiE money will go - that is how the areas of focus are chosen."

A giant check is handed to Skelly and the board. Does it have an attachment which says where the money should go?

How does getting parent input work? Who makes the final decision on where the money goes, the PIE board?


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 8, 2013 at 9:12 pm

donate - Yes, the giant check has an "attachment" for where the money should go. PiE fundraisers for specific categories and the principals spend the money in those areas. If you don't like what they are doing, please become a PiE volunteer.

It is true that "Marketing and branding rarely succeed in teaching a struggling student how to read" but the PiE funded reading specialists do.


Posted by PiE is a farce, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2013 at 9:52 pm

It's a loose secret that many students who see the part-time reading specialist do not demonstrate significant gains in reading achievement either in the DRA2 or the CST. If they did, you would have heard of it at the annual fall smoke-and-mirrors, dog-and-pony show. Some even end up at the reading specialist multiple years, bypassing the regular teacher's reading instruction altogether.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Not holding my breath, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm

According to Reich's schema, the wealthy (including himself) should not have their costs of owning an expensive home subsidized by the public in the form of mortgage interest deduction. And what about all those Stanford Profs who deduct a Prius when the poor can only afford public transit?

Also, Stanford University an elite, wealthy private institution should not be able to avoid paying taxes (a form of government subsidiy) simply because they have been granted non-profit status by the IRS. Stanford should pay income tax on all their income. This would generate funds for the state and federal government to support other less fortunate centers of higher education. Why remove the inequality only for k-12 education?

We as a society carry a burden to educate all children, but the problems are much more complex than taking away from the rich and giving to the poor. We need comprehensive income tax reform, health care reform, more investment in education, as well as a political finance reform.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Paly parent,

" PiE fundraisers for specific categories "

What specific categories? How many categories are there, fixed or change every year?

Again, what parent input is used for the spending the money? DO the donors decide?

It's not on the website, nothing explains how the money is spent among categories, or the process to select the categories you mention. If the categories are reading, writing, science, math and art, and counseling, that's not exactly "a say" from parents.


Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 8:46 am

I am interested in the answer to "Donor's" questions which I note that paly parent did not address. Here they are again:

Do you have any idea why there is apparently a glass ceiling for minorities in PIE? Do you think that having these funding decisions about "areas of focus" made by such a narrow segment of the community raises any issues? Why do you think that women tend to leave PIE after their children graduate if their purpose is to "help other people's kids?

In particular given paly parent's acknowledgement that the PIE board directs the spending of its gift through an "attachment" to the check, please address question 2 -- are there any concerns about having such a narrow segment of the community direct spending priorities for schools?

Here are the stats I calculated from the "Census" above: the PIE board is 92% female, 92% white, and 80% nonworking mothers. Those who are not represented on the PIE board and therefore have no voice in spending focus decisions are also those most likely to have different issues and priorities (basic skills deficits, free tutoring, special education, after school childcare, etc.) than those who are making the decisions. It is hard to know what working mothers, low-income, and under-represented minority parents would want to direct money to without them having any voice in the process.

Please do respond, paly parent we are all eager to hear what a strong PiE supporter such as yourself thinks about this.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 9:16 am

The principals at each site decide how to spend the money. Targets, such as additional counseling, Spectra art, etc., are decided by the principals in concert with PIE .
There is no glass ceiling. It is incredibly difficult to get parents to agree to be on any school board around here because it is a lot of work. That's probably why a lot of the board members on PiE and the PTAs are not working. They have the time. Your implication is that it is purposeful that there is not more diversity on the board. Nothing could be further from the truth. What decisions about spending have been made that you don't think they are focusing on all the students in the district? How can you call the board a narrow segment of the district? I would think they represent that majority given the demographics of this community.

And finally, Crescent Park mom, so I can feel better about your post, what do you do for your community? Do you volunteer for any organizations that are working towards improving the lives of all kids?


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:00 am

Paly parent,


"The principals at each site decide how to spend the money. Targets, such as additional counseling, Spectra art, etc., are decided by the principals in concert with PIE ."

You have not answered what "parent input" PIE or the Principals use to decide on how to spend the money.

It seems it is [portion removed] and the district are who decide, and there no formal parent-wide (donor) input. I don't think I need to volunteer at PIE to find out basic governance information that should be public.

How is the money spent, who decides, in great detail.

I have also looked at the website and there is no information, your repeating the generalities confirms that it's all very vague.





Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:15 am

paly parent -- you previously said that there was greater diversity among volunteers than on the board. My question is why is PIE unable to promote diverse individuals to its board. But then I checked on the volunteers and I don't see the diversity that you previously said was there. Perhaps there just isn't any diversity at any level in this organization.

You suggest that is because of a lack of ability on the part of diverse individuals to volunteer. Yet there are diverse individuals in leadership roles in the PASS organization and in CAC, so clearly there are diverse individuals able to take on leadership roles in groups where they feel welcome and included. I have to say that there is no corporation that would feel comfortable with having a board that looks like PIE's board in this day and age. PAUSD is 33% Asian, 11% Latino and 3% black. It is also 8% low income. None of these groups are fairly represented (or even represented in a token manner) on the PIE board. For a public school district to have a funding mechanism in which funding decisions and educational priorities are set by such an unrepresentative group raises potential concerns. You do not seem to recognize these concerns. That is a further concern.

You attribute all of the reason for the lack of inclusion to the choice of the excluded groups. That is weak tea and I think that PIE ought to be capable of greater self-examination (and better PR given all the former marketing professionals on the board) than that.

You are correct that these are the parents with the most time to volunteer. But that does not make them representative of the desires of all parents. Rather, all parents could be surveyed by PIE -- whether they donate or not -- to discover what funding priorities should be for the district. There is no reason to allow those with the most time to volunteer to have a larger say in funding priorities for the district than those without such time (and in fact the reverse is probably true).

In terms of what funding decisions are being made that might not reflect the interests or desires of the excluded groups, it is very difficult to know what those who are not represented would like. They aren't there to speak for themselves and that is the problem. One can speculate that students who are not meeting basic educational objectives in math and science might not benefit from the many advanced computer science electives that PIE funds at Gunn, for example. One wonders whether students who cannot afford lunch might benefit more from before and after school childcare or an improved nutrition program at the elementary schools than from enhanced science and junior museum field trips. It is hard to know exactly what people who are excluded would want. That's the problem with excluding them.

I am a very involved volunteer at the national and local level in a number of public organizations. I am choosing not to be too specific here to preserve my anonymity.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

Last time I'm biting:
PiE does do surveys. Most do not fill them out.
Again, the principals make the decisions as to how to spend the money. They know what is needed at the sites better than the parents. That's why they are the principal. I did not suggest it was lack of ability, but lack of time. For those that have time, perhaps they think serving on the other boards is more important. I do know that prominent member of CAC was on the PiE board for two years. Also, the parents leave not after their kids are out of the district but after a two year term, Some of the parents do not have kids in the district but still serve in the interest of all children, including yours. PiE pays for staff, not food, etc. Glad to hear you are involved. Are all your boards representative of the diversity in the community? If so, let us know how they do it.


Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

paly parent you previously said:

"Yes, the giant check has an "attachment" for where the money should go. PiE fundraisers for specific categories and the principals spend the money in those areas."

Now you say that the principal decides when confronted with the problematic aspects of having a board that is so unrepresentative make decisions about funding for public schools.

On the topic of lunch I am suggesting that poor children might benefit more from having a full-time cook/chef/nutrition director than advanced science teachers.

On the topic of racial gaps, I am suggesting that children who are not "proficient" in basic skills probably would benefit more from basic algebra instructors than from high-level computer science electives.

But I don't want to speak for the people who aren't there. They should be recruited and should be there to speak for themselves. It is well-understood how boards and management can be diversified. It appears that PIE is one of the last places to fail to understand or enact that imperative and it is having consequences for the finding priorities for a public school district.

It is unreasonable to have a public school district's funding priorities being set by a private board that is so unrepresentative of the community.


Posted by terry godfrey, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:30 am

Good morning
This is Terry Godfrey. I'm Board President of PiE and am happy to answer questions or give context. However, I find this on-line format less than optimal so I'll give a little input and then if anyone has more questions please feel free to call me directly and I'll be happy to chat. You can reach me at 650.387.3210. There are two things on which I'd like to comment.

With respect to setting guidelines for spending the funds, the areas in which the fund may be spent (or targets as we call them) are determined based on what principals tell PiE they need and what we can determine aligns with what PiE donors would like to fund. The targets don't change materially from year to year as you can imagine, and we use a process of surveying donors and non-donors to determine if parents are aware of the existing targets and to gather their input on any potential changes. The last survey was done in 2012; we solicited input via email, eNews and Facebook and had 800+ respondents.

With respect to diversity of the Board, I appreciate the answer above regarding the challenge of finding volunteers for this work. The assumption about race and working or not working drawn from reading the Board bio page on the website tells a limited story. For example I work part-time but didn't bother listing it in my bio; so our bios are a snapshots not resumes. More importantly we have 100+ volunteers so looking at the board page is missing the vast majority of the organization. Our definition of diversity includes gender, working/not-working, ethnicity (self-reported since we are unwilling to guess by just looking at folks) and zip code. We recognize that we don't fully represent the student body at the moment and have as a focus area in our plans to improve that. Changing the make-up of a 100+ person organization takes some time.

Anyway, feel free to call me. I'm proud of the work done by PiE and happy to be part of a community that supports our students.
Best-
Terry


Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:43 am

Terry thank you for taking the time to respond. Since these are questions in which the public is interested, I wonder if you would answer some questions publicly rather than in private phone conversations. It would probably benefit both the public and the organization to do so. Many web-chat formats are very useful. Here are a couple more questions I would ask you to indulge.

1. You say that there is more diversity at the volunteer level, yet when I looked over the volunteers I did not see that. Would you please give the community statistics such as those produced for the board above for all your volunteers? (demographics of race, gender, and employment if known).

2. What role does your board play in setting funding priorities for the district? What is the process for doing so? Do the volunteers have any role in that or is that a board function? Is that process private or public? What transparency is there for that process?

3. Who determines what your donors are interested in funding? What is the process for making that determination and what transparency is there around that process?

4. Can you make the results of your 800 person survey public on the web along with the minutes of the board meetings at which it was discussed and the decisions taken on the basis of the survey?

5. What actions are being taken to diversify your board and organization? How are you identifying individuals and how are they being recruited? Why do you think you have been unsuccessful in the past and do you think you should hire a diversity professional to ensure success this time?

6. In the interim period as PIE works to reduce its lack of inclusion what measures are being taken to ensure that funding priorities reflect the whole community rather than just those of the Board members?

I think judging from the comments here, the public would be interested in knowing your answers and would benefit from seeing them here.

Thanks!


Posted by Please don't assume, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:45 am

I'm third generation Chinese (grandparents came from China) and have found racism to have increased these last 10 years due to the influx of Asian immigrants. We attended a few club lacrosse parties and none of the WASPs cared to speak with us. When we tried, we got yes-no answers. I asked who someone's son was and she pointed and said, "He's over there." What a shame that they can't even be cordial at a party. I'm sorry they have bad impressions of immigrant Asians, but they should know I was born an American by the way I speak and appear. My husband is successful in his career. This could be why PiE can't find diversity.


Posted by Volunteer, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:58 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 11:22 am

CPM - I am parent not paly parent.


Posted by Sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Hi Terry,

I know you and your group work hard and I appreciate that everyone has their heart in the right place - but - why should I continue to give to PiE while Skelly + Board spend money on PR directors and lawyers to bail themselves out of poor decisions?

It's a shell game. I'm sure when you signed on, you didn't intend for this to be the case, but there it is. It's very sad.

I know there are children who are not getting help and I know there are principals who are completely overwhelmed, working themselves to exhaustion, with no end in sight. - one example - three elementary schools - Ohlone, Escondido and Walter Hays all have over 500+ students and no assistant principal. That's a 500+:1 ratio compared to all the other schools in PAUSD - k-high school - where the ration is 300:1. There is no way for these huge elementary schools to serve their student body. PiE raises enormous amounts of money, and still no assistant principals...just Skelly and his entourage.

So, I give to the food bank. I would split my contribution and give to both - but why should I? At least I know the food bank is feeding people, PiE seems only to feed Skelly's mismanagement.

looking forward to your thoughts


Posted by Escondido parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I share Sara's feelings, particularly about staffing at the schools. I know that Escondido could use some help and I feel upset when I hear about more district staff. A PR person? Seriously?
CPM's questions I think are good ones and to me super important. I believe in charity but have a limited amount I can give so I want to make sure it helps students who need it, not just those who are the most visible to a pretty small segment of the community. Having more diversity at PiE and more openness in the process would go a long way.


Posted by Elementary school parent, a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Thanks PIE.

I can't afford to give the amount suggested per student; but if I could, I would.

Given all that my children have been given by their teachers, I consider supporting in any way I can, money well spent.


Posted by Reality check, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 5:14 pm

It's not really fair to criticize PiE for not directing its funds to address the achievement gap, etc. The appeal of PiE is that it provides enrichment for all children, particularly the children of donors and people like them. There are other ways to focus help on disadvantaged students.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 5:26 pm

The point is still that PIE is still enabling the school district to use them as a crutch.

Playground supervision, aides, elementary art, counseling and guidance would have to be provided by the district if PIE did not supply them. PAUSD could find money out the slush fund to reimburse summer school. They are not complaining at how much that fiasco cost. They are able to get a new PR person without wondering where the money comes from. They are able to pay for lawyers, without having to tell us where the money is coming from.

All this points to the fact that PAUSD is awash with money. They are not screaming how expensive various items are when they suddenly appear as, for example, a fixed income family does when an unexpected expense suddenly arises.

All this donating to PIE is enabling the District to have poor money management. Their budgeting is appalling, and PIE providing them with funds for basics such as playground supervision and high school counselors. I just don't believe PIE is necessary.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 5:33 pm

No one claims that PiE is necessary. It provides about 3 percent of the PAUSD operating budget. This is all making a mountain out of a pretty tiny molehill, if you ask me.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]















Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Reality check,

The problem is that PIE is the single group that gets to collect money on behalf of everyone for PAUSD. My suggestion is donate to PTA , it seems more transparent.

The original post speaks to the issue of the purpose of these foundations, and the big picture problem of the education divide between rich and poor. The debate can rage on that there is no achievement gap problem in Palo Alto, but if the PIE board appears to always be on the same side of the debate, not exactly healthy.

PIE may be doing great things about the achievement gap specifically, but we would never know if they don't report it.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Please realize there are two posters using Parent Palo High School Community. The one that posted above doesn't think that the community needs PiE. I think they do. I think he/she needs to attend a board meeting or sit down with budget person before they make a sweeping statement that PAUSD is awash in funds. It's so easy to make stuff up based on what you think is happening with the budget. I guess every school district in the country that has an education foundation is awash in money but poorly managed. The district needs a PR person to deal with the small percentage of parents in this community who have attacked the district because the district didn't say "how high" when they said jump.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2013 at 6:16 pm


Terry,

My post was erased for using multiple names. but I only have this one. I think it was flagged for something else.

I basically suggested that PIE respond to Crescent Park Mom and Sara in a public way, here or the PIE website, not through private phone calls.

PIE needs to step up on transparency, and have an annual report on how the decisions are made on the spending of the PIE collection, and exactly which dollars are going where.




Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I am the Parent who posted #10 and the first poster to use Parent of Paly.

I have been to so many board meetings, sat on many boards and have ended up getting so fed up with being plagued by PIE and PTA for money or saying Yes to the library, that my patience has completely worn out.

I do know that PIE money is divided up and I genuinely believe the individuals are convinced they are doing a good job.

What I don't like is the fact that we have a BoE who are using PIE funds as a given each year and budgeting around it. I believe they are looking at PIE donations as part of their annual income and not acknowledging that it is coming from families, some of whom find it hard to donate, because they think that their kids will somehow suffer if they don't.

I am not convinced that is the case. I have seen Churchill waste so much money, particularly in the past twelve months, that I can't see any wisdom to having PIE any longer.

Summer school is one thing that has done this. I have no idea how many families asked for their money back. I would like to know. I have no idea where the money to return these fees came from, but it had to come from somewhere and I didn't hear any comment of how they would have to cut money from elsewhere to reimburse the fees.

In the past I have had to write checks for PE uniforms, work books, special science notebooks, binders, binder reminders, etc. This school year there was no such request and the kids came home with these. These items had to be paid for. I haven't heard any request for donations for supplies. I haven't heard any comment about how much this is costing the district.

To me it looks as if these costs have just come out of the general fund. If they can be paid for without a whimper, then there must be money somewhere to cover them.

We also have a new PR person and we know about professional surveys and lawyers that have been paid for.

I am suggesting that PIE no longer needs to fund things that the district can obviously pay for. Unless I hear about the money management approving at Churchill, then I am saying that PIE should no longer fund basics that Churchill should be paying for.

Am I the only one who can see lack of financial responsibility in all of this?


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 9, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Parent - I'm curious why you think that "Playground supervision, aides, elementary art, counseling and guidance would have to be provided by the district if PIE did not supply them." None of those things are part of the required CA curriculum and most other Districts in California don't provide them.

Donating to the PTA is great, but PiE actually came about because of that attitude. Before PiE, some PTA's in PAUSD schools could raise a lot of $$ and some could not. PiE distributes their donations on a per student basis which had made supplemental staffing at our schools much more equitable.


Posted by sheesj, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Yeah, it's been really strange hearing all these arguments against the board, supposedly in support of low-income/minorities, for transparency and then attacking PiE of all things. An organization aimed at re-distributing funds to level the playing field in the district. If these groups want to get rid of PiE by stopping donations, send in a candidate and run on that platform. Best of luck to ya!


Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm

I really hope that PiE decides to come forward and answer questions about diversity and transparency in how funding decisions are made. For example, I noticed that a lot of the funding at the high school level goes for high level computer science courses, including advanced Java and advanced mobil apps, as well as Bio technology. Given the district's publicized issues with attaining basic math and science proficiency for African American and Latino students it is hard to see how such courses meet the PiE description of serving all students. "All'" students are surely not in those classes if they can't master Algebra 2 or Biology.

Because these are public schools perhaps it should be asked whether the funds should go to the district where they are placed into the general fund. It seems odd, does it not, to have an unrepresentative and unaccountable group exercising behind the scenes influence on the funding priorities for a public school system.

Now we have other good points being raised about whether giving millions of hard-earned parent dollars to the district is merely encouraging excess such as spending for a PR manager. I think Parent's point about summer school is very well-taken and I frankly had not thought of it myself. If they can just give back nearly a million dollars in summer school fees without discussion, it seems that the PiE money might be supporting a spendthrift culture. Another good question for Ms. Godfrey.

This is an important community conversation and I hope that our PiE director Terry Godfrey comes back to these questions in a transparent and public way.


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Tomorrow night the PAUSD Board approves the focus goals for the year. These goals do NOT include any reference to implementing the homework policy, the counseling improvement recommendations, improved lunches,a response to the Dept of Ed findings about Special Education, or a plan for Cubberley.

PIE funding is the bulk of discretionary funding for the District and yet there is no oversight or accountability. For the funds which the Board has control over, they chose not to exercise the appropriate level of oversight. The goals are devoid of targets or metrics so there is no possibility to determine if any progress is being made on the key issues they and the community had listed as priorities. Lawsuits, PR staff, raises for the Administrative staff - not a surprise that people on this thread are asking for accountability and transparency. It is long overdue.


Posted by Oldtimer, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 9, 2013 at 8:31 pm

As "sheesj" says, PiE was started to deal with the huge disparities in PTA funding between schools. Those disparities still exist, by the way. Interesting fact: Barb Mitchell, the libertarian school board member, was a big proponent of allowing differences in fundraising between schools and a big opponent of PiE at the time.
PiE has since grown into a quasi-official arm of the school district. It has office space at 25 Churchill and solicits funds on school property and in school communications.
I do think PiE is better than what came before, but it has gotten to the point where it is fair to ask some questions and get some transparency. The lack of diversity combined with the lack of transparency is a bit embarrassing. Given its close ties to the district, it can't really claim to be a private organization. Probably just directly funding the school budget would be better, since then the spending decisions are made by an elected accountable body (the school board).
I hope that Terry responds fully and forthrightly. More information is always better.


Posted by Highschoolmom, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Sep 9, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I do not monetarily support PIE but I do strongly support our schools. My beef is that if the time and money spent on marketing PIE was instead allocated to redefining Prop 13 the necessity of PIE would be moot. We are new homeowners in Palo Alto so are already contributing an inequitable amount of taxes. I know that Prop 13 is a sacred cow and benefits many of the main PIE proponents. Perhaps the theme of PIE should be "if you have owned your home over 5 years assess the market value of your home, then determine what your current market tax would be and contribute the difference to PIE". Pay your share!


Posted by Not a fan of PiE, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 9:08 pm

There are some things I don't like about PiE.

1. Every time there is a "really important school function that every parent must attend," it turns out to be an infomercial for PiE. We take time off in evenings or during the workday, hoping to find out some important information about our kids' school, and instead we get these glossy powerpoints about how they would like our money.

2. Palo Alto residents are assumed to be rich, and are assumed to be able to afford to donate to any organization that asks them for money. When they don't donate, for whatever reason, they are accused of being "freeloaders." Remember guys, this is a DONATION. Not donating does not make you a bad person.

3. The people who seem to be involved with PiE are out of touch, mostly stay-at-home Caucasian woman who don't work. They could not possibly relate to the non-Aryans, or the extremely busy two-income families. We are busy trying to pay off our inordinately expensive mortgages, or remodel our disappointingly dilapidated 1-million dollar-plus houses. Yet, somehow we are expected to pay donations every year, on top of the buttload of property taxes that ought to be paying for the school needs as it is.

Stop trying to make us feel guilty if we don't want to throw good money after bad. We are not freeloaders. When we pull our kids out of PAUSD and send them to private school, will you refund us the property taxes that you so wastefully spent?


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm

1. What important events are you talking about that are just related to PiE asking for money. Like any other non-profit, they might ask for some time to talk about their mission, but I haven't heard about a single event that is just about PiE.

2. I've never seen PiE identify their participation amounts. I think it is clearly understood that not all parents can contribute which is why they base the amounts they give to the schools on a per child level.

Personally, however, I feel that those parents who can contribute, but say they won't contribute to PiE, because their board is all white woman, etc, should pull their kids out of the programs that PiE provides for. Otherwise, they are hypocrites.

3. I'm sorry that you feel bad that you can't contribute to PiE. Fortunately, it is not an expectation but a request to do what you feel is right. If you don't feel it is right, than don't contribute. Just don't complain about the good stuff that PiE dollars bring to the kids of Palo Alto. As for your high mortgages, why did you choose to move here to a crappy house for a lot of money? Was it for the schools?


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm

parent,

"Why did you choose to move here to a crappy house for a lot of money? Was it for the schools?"

Maybe he or she moved to Palo Alto for a job?

But even rich people move into crappy houses for a lot of money. Many send their kids to private schools, record applications this year. Think of all the rich donors PIE loses when families choose private school?

"I've never seen PiE identify their participation amounts"

The annual report honors the largest donors, so if you are not on the list, you are not contributing or you are a poor donor. or richer donor.

I'm surprised the largest donors don't ask any questions. Some of them are PIE board members, so maybe that's why.










Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 9:50 pm

I don't buy that people buy in Palo Alto because their job is here. There are many more affordable communities within easy driving distance if their job is in Palo Alto. It is because of the reputation of the schools. It is well understood that not everyone can contribute to PiE. Keep in mind, however, that Palo Alto has one of, if not the lowest, asks around.

Many families who send their kids to private schools still support PiE because they are interested in the welfare of all children.

My questions weren't directed to you, they were directed to Not a Fan of PiE.


Posted by Sam Yeager, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 9, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Hypocrites if you send your kid to public school without paying the PIE tax on top of property tax? Wow.


Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm

@parent said "Personally, however, I feel that those parents who can contribute, but say they won't contribute to PiE, because their board is all white woman, etc, should pull their kids out of the programs that PiE provides for."

Are you saying that well-off minority parents have no right to have their children in PIE funded programs, which include such things as science class and counseling, if they don't donate because they don't like the fact that the board is nearly all white?


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:05 pm

CPM - yes, because if they wanted to be on the board, and put their name forth when they are requesting volunteers, they certainly could be on the board.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm

parent,

"I don't buy that people buy in Palo Alto because their job is here. There are many more affordable communities within easy driving distance if their job is in Palo Alto. It is because of the reputation of the schools."

Their job could be in Mountain View or Menlo Park.

Pretend that people move to Palo Alto only because of the schools, why then are so many of my neighbors (most of my neighbors) sending their kids to private school? Elementary through High School. Definitely more after Elementary though.






Posted by Sam Yeager, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Seems like "parent" is letting slip how some insiders see the rest of us who aren't in the club. Freeloaders and hypocrites, apparently. A good reason why if the school district is going to give this group a fundraising franchise, it should get some transparency going. It's still a public school that is supposed to serve all children equally, after all.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I can't answer why parents in PA send their kids to private school except for to advertise to the world that they can afford private school. Are their admissions to colleges any better tha Paly's or Gunn's? Probabky not. Are private schools better than Palo alto public schools? In some respects yes because they can choose the kids that they have in their schools. They can also choose the parents to have in their schools. Public schools can't choose. I know plenty of people who work in Palo Alto who don't live here but wish they could because of the schools. They just can't afford it. I don't understand your statement "Their job could be in Menlo Park or Mountain View". MV is more affordable than Palo Alto. Some of my child's friends' parents have chosen to live in apartments rather than buying elsewhere because of the schools.
Please note that you are off topic.


Posted by Nonsense, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:20 pm

This is an absolutely absurd and potentially harmful article.

The author is essentially arguing against giving a charitable deduction to charities who primarily serve the donor base.

Educational foundations are a small drop in the bucket compared to churches, which while having a small true charitable aim, mostly are about providing church services.

This is a great topic of conversation, but really not the important point.

Parents are in Palo Alto are not donating to PIE for the tax donation. They are doing it because tax revenues, even in an affluent community like Palo Alto, still aren't enough for some services that are taken for granted in other parts of the country.

PIE already does what the author said is important - it splits up money among schools. The same amount of money per kid goes to Hayes as it does to Barron Park. This was the right thing to do and certain people took a lot of grief.

The author's complaints are that it widens the gap. Maybe - but as long as it is not widening the gap by lowering the poor schools, why make everyone suffer

This is particularly insulting as Palo Altans overwhelmingly supported prop 30, which was a large increase in income tax which essentially does not benefit Palo Alto at all because we are basic aid (a strange phrase that means not funded through state $$) unlike Palo Alto.

There were people like the author espousing dangerous views 40 years ago. Indeed, they brought a lawsuit to equalize spending among districts. Spending was equalized - by bring all spending down. Angry citizens then passed Prop 13, which is what has created today's mess.

He suggests that if we didn't have PIE, we would have repealed Prop 13 by now.

That is hilarious. Prop 13 is so incidious because it is now impossible to repeal, and a direct legacy of the Serrano case which was the result of naive "do gooders" who thought they would help by the poor by hurting the rich. It turns out there is a world of difference between redistributing money and just hurting the rich.

PS I have serious issues with Skelly, the school board etc. This actually motivates me more to give to PIE, which guarantees cash for the priorities that parents have endorsed. It is ringfenced.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:30 pm



Nonsense,

PIE funds "...guarantees cash for the priorities that parents have endorsed."

NO transparency on how the priorities are set by parents, or how they are endorsed.

As someone said, embarrassing.


Posted by new PA parent, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 10, 2013 at 12:02 am

Believe me, all of us with kids in PAUSD benefit from PIE. Parents' generosity is why we can have art, music, and PE in ES; amazing electives and extra counselors in MS; college counseling, a huge array of electives, etc in HS. Since school sites set their own priorities for how to spend PIE funds, those of you who are unhappy with the priorities at your schools would do better to run for site council and/or attend PTA meetings than to denigrate PIE and withhold donations IMO.


Posted by PiE is a farce, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 6:19 am

Elementary school teachers can teach art, music, science, and P.E. because almost all in PAUSD have been designated highly qualified by the state. Most of the PiE instructors are not highly qualified.


Posted by Sooooo, a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2013 at 9:14 am

Mr. Reich has benefitted from either taxpayer dollars or education foundations for many years.

While it may be possible to point to areas it is perceived the district wastes funds, eliminating one job, for example, will not cover what PiE or PTA provide for students. Additionally, don't all these generous donors save taxpayers money or help to provide things you might not otherwise be able to afford as a community? It seems to me Palo Alto has much to appreciate.


Posted by consider this, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 10:49 am

For those contemplating switching donations from PiE to your local PTAs, four things to note:

1. Board policy limits spending PTA donations to "stuff."

So if you want more Smart Boards or pencils at your school ("stuff"), that would be an OK move. But if you want engineering electives in the high school, Spectra Arts in the elementaries and - hot issues on this forum - more money generated or freed up for high school guidance counselors and smaller class sizes, better services, and more staff to help students in the achievement gap, PiE donations are the only real way to get them.

2. Some perspective.

PiE has no say in how the board votes, what the district does or does not do, or, for that matter, how students treat each other.

Even if it withheld its check until X changed - something it would never be able to get consensus on since every 2 people in town seem to have 3 different opinions - in the big scheme of things the 3% value PiE adds does not buy political clout. More men, working parents, and minority representation on PiE does not change that it raises just 3% of the budget. That's not nothing but it is not enough to be persuasive.

Rather than hold our kids hostage by not donating and so reducing the programs and services they get, take your issues where they belong - to the school board. If you can't make traction there, you may not have all the information or your take just may not be supported by those the majority elected.

3. As someone pointed out above, shifting your donation from PiE to your school will increase the very inequities Reich is so upset about because some schools in town have wealthier donor bases than others. That is the opposite of what Reich says you should do.

4. And on the topic of Professor Reich, to Sara who said she stopped giving to PiE completely, I crib from the post sharing Reich's answer to the question of whether, despite the issues, folks should continue to support their children's schools. His answer: Yes ("That's ...my recommendation").


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 11:15 am

consider this,

"engineering electives in the high school, Spectra Arts in the elementariness"

Engineering electives for those who qualify. Major issues of achievement gap on this one.

Please, we are talking about millions, and no reporting on where incremental money each year is going.

It's wrong.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 11:31 am


new PA parent,

Since you are new, you may not have observed that schools basically have the same programs from years ago (Spectra art, science alive, counseling does not seem materially changed - Gunn is resisting change, even electives don't change that much) but PIE has tripled the amount of money it collects in just a few years.

Either these programs have tripled in cost, or new ones cost a fortune.

"those of you who are unhappy with the priorities at your schools would do better to run for site council and/or attend PTA meetings than to denigrate PIE and withhold donations..'

Where do you get your information that site council (very few parents) decide?










Posted by mom, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 10, 2013 at 11:34 am

Site council has no power and decides nothing, I was on it.


Posted by Nixon mom of 3, a resident of Nixon School
on Sep 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I believe in supporting our local school and have done that with PiE donations and other ways of helping out where I can, given that I still have one preschooler to keep track of. I am troubled by the lack of diversity on the PiE board combined with a lack of transparency into decision making. If the priorities seem to favor the children of big donors (like advanced computer classes, rather than more support for struggling students) that is a problem for me.
I wonder if PiE should stick to raising money, and give the district a check for operating expenses to use as it sees fit? Then there is no problem of transparency, at least not for PiE.
I don't agree that PiE is separate from the school district now. It is basically the official fundraising arm of PAUSD. I'm not advocating that anyone stop giving to PiE, instead I'm saying that it should have the same diversity requirements and information disclosure and transparency that we expect from public organizations. Does that seem like a good solution?


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Not sure what the concern is here. That PIE wastes money? That the allocations are not "fair" in some way? Looks like a thoughtful approach to me, and a fair amount of detail about what is funded at each school:

From the PIE website (www.papie.org):

PiE is committed to an equitable distribution of funds across district schools on a per-pupil basis per school level, so that all students benefit. In the spring PiE sets its focus areas for the following year, together with each school principal, parents (through research), and with input from the district. Once these general concentration areas are set, principals work with their school communities to allocate dollars appropriately for local campuses

For individual school programs, here's the link: Web Link


Posted by Paul Chen, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Fred, the biggest concern I have is that the PiE board doesn't reflect the community, with over 80% non-working white women, but it is directing the expenditure of millions of dollars in funds in the schools. It may only be 3% of the budget, but it is all discretionary, so it has a big impact on what gets taught and who benefits.
I like the idea of splitting fundraising from deciding where the money is spent. Let PiE raise funds, and the school board and the regular budgeting process decide where it is spent. Some of the spending can be "allocated" to PiE funds if it is important to be able to trace dollars for fundraising marketing purposes.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm

I have no problem with PIE itself. It functions well within its parameters.

I do have a problem with PAUSD and how it spends it money. PIE is in effect allowing PAUSD to make suspect spending choices. It is not PIE that is spending poorly, but PAUSD.

How can we stop PAUSD from spending our money as if it has a bottomless source of funds? How can we make PAUSD more accountable to the money it receives from our property taxes?

I know that my property tax bill increases every year.

I know that house prices are going up, up, up and that there are always lots of houses changing hands.

I know that there are new homes being built all the time.

I know that the amount of money the school district gets from our property taxes goes up each year because of these reasons. They are getting more and more money and they are not being accountable for it.

They must stop spending our money on new PR staff, lawyers, expensive surveys and reimbursing summer school without telling us where that money is coming from? If they have to cut something to pay for summer school reimbursement then where has it come from?

The answer has to be that they have so much money that they don't know what to do with it.

In that case, PIE should not be making families feel obliged to contribute. PIE has always made families feel obliged to contribute. This is wrong at so many levels. It is even more wrong if there is enough money to burn at Churchill.


Posted by Money, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 1:27 pm

PAUSD gets the money to reimburse people who paid for summer school from the money the people paid for summer school. Zero sum game. Is that so hard to understand?


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Fred,

Not exactly straightforward, not in one report, but there are numbers, thanks for the link. Wouldn't it be easier to just add it all up and provide some pie charts, sorry for dumb joke, as they are provided for the money collection.

My general observation, the distribution is not equal among schools. For example, Jordan and JLS receive more money than Terman, Escondido receives more than Barron Park.

Very few programs are district wide programs like Spectra, further aggravating what many in the community have voiced issues with, the focus on site based control. PIE money takes this a notch further.

The top line number for each school is specific but the rest are vague. Cannot measure if the expense of a program was useful for a broad range of students or just a few.

Presenting broad numbers with no analysis offers no opportunity to even contemplate if they are fair, or the best they could be.




Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I hope that anyone reading this thread understands that most posters do no have a clue as to what they are talking about. Once again, the PiE Board does not decide where the money goes. The principals do. That is why all three middle schools do different things with the money. They have different needs.
Escondido gets more than Barron Park because Escondido has more kids. The schools receive the same amount of money per child. So, if every child gets $100.00 and there are more kids at one school than another, that school gets more money.
As for site based control, I liken this to home based control. I don't feed my family what my neighbor does. We have different likes and needs. What works for us may not work for them. I would hate to have someone impose their nutrition on me and vice versa.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Money

That was the case in the past. This year the school district charged for summer school illegally and had to reimburse all attendees. In the past the elective summer school programs funded those who needed make up summer school which were always free. The electives should have been free also. Therefore they had to be reimbursed. That is the money that came from nowhere, apparently over $1m.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm



parent,

I learn more by the minute. PIE money is distributed equally among schools based on enrollment, and the Principals decide where PIE money goes.

Why does the PIE board president talk about targets, and surveys, and parent input? That is misleading on PIE's part, if you are correct.

"As for site based control, I liken this to home based control. I don't feed my family what my neighbor does. We have different likes and needs. What works for us may not work for them. I would hate to have someone impose their nutrition on me and vice versa."

Maybe your household has different needs, but there are broad programs which can be very efficient and powerful. Look at Spectra art, or the Music program. The achievement gap students at Jordan are not different than the ones at JLS. Why not have a program that can help all schools?

At least with the PIE money, you would think there is an effort to have broader programs which are not the equivalent of gourmet nutrition for each and every school.


Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm

@donate: "Why does the PIE board president talk about targets, and surveys, and parent input? That is misleading on PIE's part, if you are correct."

Don't you think it is more likely that Terry Godfrey, as the PIE board chair, knows more about how PIE's funding decisions about what to pay for and where to direct PIE funds than some random poster on paloaltoonline?

It seems very unlikely that Godfrey is wrong and "parent" is right. I would think that Terry knows what she does when she meets with donors and principals, when she conducts surveys, and when the board makes decisions. Clearly parent is incorrect. Since she can read Terry's statement as well as the next person, it is likely that she is trying to intentionally mislead readers in order to deflect criticism based on the lack of diversity.

This is the same "parent" who said that minorities who are unhappy that the board is nearly all white should not have their kids in PIE funded classes, a statement I do not agree with.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I really do not understand at all the argument that PIE is not transparent or is run by all white women. Or that it doesn't fund equally. PIE doesn't decide where the money is spent. It just allocates to the schools based on a $ per student basis - the white women sitting around the table at PIE have no ability to make spending happen more in one place, or on one program or on one interest group. EAch school gets their check and directs their funding allocation according to the individual school's needs. If you don't like the way your school's PIE funds are spent - go see your principal about that... The funding absolutely is equal on a per pupil basis.

What - you'd expect 700 student Terman to get equal funding to 1200 student JLS? (or whatever the numbers are - the student populations differ - the funding is distributed on a per pupil basis.

Having said all that - I don't donate to PIE. I am very angry with the school district for its poor decision making with the tax dollars they do have. They chose to move forward with MI - a premium elementary language program for a few lucky lottery winners - while the rest of the elementary students gets zero language. And that program sucks unlevel and unnecessary resources from the district, while the school board pats themselves on the backs for their inventive cutting edge programming, and looks the other way at the results of that program. And I am TOTALLy disgusted with their lavish bond/capital improvement spending spree - which they will say 'but that's not out of operating funds'. Well guess what - its out of MY Operating funds. So that was your priority PAUSD- and you sucked up my funds with that bond tax. (Plus the principal and interest repayment IS annual expense that can't be used now for other necessities.) So as far as I'm concerned they chose their priorities with my funding - they can now live within their means (my means). They get my regular property taxes, they get my supplemental assessment, they're just going to have to live with that. I spend my money now directly on the programs my kid participates in at their school.


Posted by Reality check, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Parent, PiE does direct funds by setting spending areas. Principals make decisions inside those. That's fine with me. "Disadvantaged" students seem to have plenty of advocates in front of the school board for the regular money.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 10, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I think when you look at where the money goes in PAUSD (PR and lawyers aside) the District is funding things they have to fund, core classes, achievement gap programs, things that required by the State of California. PiE is funding the things that many parents feel are essential or important - classroom aides, art, etc. that aren't paid for out of our regular funding.

Principals do not have control of how they spend their PiE $$, but it falls within the parameters set up by PiE. For example, PiE supports middle school electives but the principals can decide which ones receive funding which in the case of middle school electives is actually somewhat chosen by the students. For example, if one school has a higher interest in Drama, the principal may choose to fund additional sections of that elective vs. another one.

That said, I do wish there was more measurement of the success of a particular program (whether PiE funded or not) and that successful were more widely shared.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm


paly parent,

"Principals do not have control of how they spend their PiE $$, but it falls within the parameters set up by PiE."

I hope you meant Principals DO have control, or all you Paly parents are messing with my brain. They do, they don't, they do they don't.

I see your logic, achievement gap is the district's business, PIE is for the fun stuff.

I would not consider that being very serious about raising money. Seems like PIE has avoided rich people getting in trouble for funding themselves over the plight of others but has found other ways to keep the money in the family.



Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 4:49 pm



suggestion to PIE - add a target or category, "Achievement gap" and let principals decide how to spend that money. Measure progress on the programs, see if other schools can benefit, report progress, raise more money.


Posted by Mom of gifted student, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 10, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I think more than enough is done to take care of the learning of so-called disadvantaged and minority kids. But we're the majority and if we want to use our own money for our own kids that's fine. We let them come here from EPA and now they want our extra donations too? What makes PA exceptional is our excellent schools not our remedial programs for struggling students. Why shouldn't the board be the majority?


Posted by Money, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm

@gifted mom: That's a pretty nasty statement. If you bothered to check, there are many "so-called disadvantaged and minority kids" who live in Palo Alto. They are not "so-called," they are actually disadvantaged (by virtue of genetics or abuse or other factors besides poverty) and are actually minority kids.

As far as letting kids come from EPA, that's part of a court ordered settlement, not any altruism or charity.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 8:38 pm


The following is a post from the thread "School district, PTA to hold 'student services fair'"

Posted by Mom, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, 3 hours ago

Another Opportunity for the district to showcase what it is doing with it laundry list of differing and uncoordinated programs. There shouldn't be different resources and programs at all these schools. You don't need a confusing fair if you have one set of evidence based programs that implement best practices everywhere.

I found this to be relevant to the discussion about the spending of PIE funds.


Posted by PiE is a farce, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 9:16 pm

PiE used to be untouchable. It had an inappropriate seat at the table, an office right across Kevin Skelly's. Unfortunately, Kevin Skelly has brought so much slickness to PAUSD that PiE is now caught up in it. Kathy Schroeder and Terry Godfrey had their chance to use their political power to do what's right, but they blew it and hunkered down, hoping to stay on message of enrichment for students. This thread has damaged their brand. It has exposed a disconcerting racial disconnect between PiE and the families. PiE cannot have it both ways. Either they donate the funds without any strings (please don't be naive, conversations take place between administrators and PiE and understandings are reached) or they reveal themselves and own up to what they have become.


Posted by mom of gifted student, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 10, 2013 at 10:13 pm

I appreciate the editor deleting the Post calling me a racist, in recognition of the fact that it is of course not racist to acknowledge that minority children who don't live in Palo Alto already receive many benefits from our district. In recognition of the fact that our taxes are spent to help these children due to deficits of home life, PIE allows native Palo Altans to put our own money toward our own children's enrichment. I just find it ironic that now that we are raising our own money for the electives and enrichment our children deserve, people think we should sacrifice that for minorities also. I hate to say it but charity only goes so far. I'm also glad that it is people like me who run PIE because that ensures that our concerns for enrichment are preserved.


Posted by They teach it all, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 10:35 pm

What does the mom of the supposedly gifted child (I don't think the poster understands what true giftedness is) mean by minorities? Would that include the minority subgroup of Asians? What about Indian minority? Does it mean African Americans? How about Latinos or the largest subgroup of Latinos, Mexicans? Would minority also include gays and lesbians? I truly want to understand because I have donated to PiE thinking that I was helping students. I have come to realize that my donations have simply helped Kevin Skelly waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on his salary, PR people, lawyers, and promotions of administrators who would have been let go in any other field, all without really helping kids. Also, what deficits do "these children" have in their home life that are seen as deficits? Did we go poll them and document these deficits? Finally, I have lived in Palo Alto for decades, but I was not born in this town, so how is native Palo Altan mean? Who would be the natives?


Posted by consider this, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 7:54 am

[Portion removed.]

The problems minorities have in the US are bad enough that they don't need to be embellished. Bringing every Weekly article back to claims of persistent blatant and latent racism is just not credible to those who have spent time in Palo Alto schools - even to my friends with children in the gap - and tarnishes much of the good work others in this field do too.

Look at Harvard's Achievement Gap Initiative, Education is Freedom, our local Silicon Valley Education Foundation and other gap advocacy groups. They do difficult work, make measured improvements, draw attention to the issue [portion removed.]

Web Link
Web Link
www.svefoundation.org

One really irksome repeated example of how this group shades things is that they define "achievement gap" in a way that expands the size of the gap tenfold. Despite the US government, CA legislators and experts common definition of "gap students" as low-income and minority students who are not "proficient" aka on the wrong side of a standardized test score goal, this group defines gap in Palo Alto as basically anyone whose scores fall under those of students in the top 5-10% US.

Only they and Ed Trust West, a very vocal advocacy group in Oakland which aims to draw attention to the needs of minorities by generating sensational headline news with its annual survey results, define the achievement gap that way. [Portion removed.]


Posted by consider this, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 8:52 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 9:27 am

consider this,

I happen to read your post before it was removed.

We won't really know if mom of gifted child is an impostor or not. During the Everyday Math threads, before there even was the group you accuse of being the impostor, you will find a raging debate about what is gifted in Palo Alto, and I assure you there were many similar comments from mom of gifted.

I do not think that race has anything to do with anything.

Bringing in external statistics about achievement gap, I also do not find useful because just like there is a debate about what is gifted in Palo Alto, there should actually be an honest debate about what is the achievement gap in Palo Alto.

Let's be honest Palo Alto.

Academic Excellence in Palo Alto is not necessarily learning. It is working the kids to the bone, to get into college by perceived standards that do not even reflect reality of what is necessary. That old line that everyone finds college SO much easier than PAUSD. 1/3 maybe get into name schools, there rest do not. But the angst to get the 1/3 into name schools drives everything. That and bragging rights.

The achievement gap is a competition gap, and it involves all races, but the big issue is that it's not minorities who are hurting. It is the majority of kids who are going through the system with some harsh and unnecessary situations.

You bring up other threads. Have you seen PAUSD rigor worth it?" or
"Why is foreign language in the PAUSD taught at such a frenetic pace?"

Frenetic is a good word for much of what goes on in the name of raising the bar to no end. And in some cases, because of the varied quality and focus of some teachers or departments, and the district, it can be unfair.

My issue with PIE is transparency, is it just an arm of PAUSD? say so. Not tracking and analyzing the impact of the programs it funds is unacceptable. To not question how these programs are helping kids with challenges in the schools, cold.






Posted by Citizen, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

Talking about accusations of racism is a red herring. No one is accusing anyone of racism. I doubt if anyone would deny the existence of an achievement gap in Palo Alto, least of all teachers and staff, so that seems to be a red herring too.
If I can boil it down, the legitimate questions that I would like to see Terry Godfrey address (here or in an editorial or wherever) are:
How does PiE decide what areas to fund, and what not to fund? Has PiE made a decision not to put money into closing the achievement gap, or has that issue just not come up?
How does PiE ensure that funding decisions represent the views of the community, given the fact that its board represents such a small segment of the community?
Why is PiE's board so dominated by white non-working women, and does PiE see that as an issue to address?
Is there a reason why PiE cannot just raise funds for the schools, and let the democratically elected school board allocate them along with the rest of the budget?
Let me make clear that I am a big supporter of PiE and appreciate the work of the PiE volunteers. Having an education foundation to supplement tax revenues is a great thing. I have been donating to PiE since it started up. But as it has become intertwined with PAUSD and now takes in circa $5million annually, it does need to be more accountable to the community as a whole.


Posted by consider this, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm

DTYPI,

" there should actually be an honest debate about what is the achievement gap in Palo Alto." OK. But if honesty is the goal it should be noted that there are two "gap" definitions and the one these posters think PAUSD should aim for is the one that will bring minorities beyond the federal goal of proficient (top 50% in the state?) to the top 5-10% students in the entire US.

On this: "Let's be honest Palo Alto. Academic Excellence in Palo Alto is not necessarily learning.It is working the kids to the bone,..[and] everyone finds college SO much easier than PAUSD." That does not reflect my experience so it is an opinion and perhaps some unknown number of students' experience.

Without a survey of all parents, there is no way to know whether the other threads you mentioned reflect the opinions of more than the few who posted, so you can't honestly extrapolate anything objective from that either.


Posted by donate to your PTA instead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Consider this,

Good point, more information is needed and PIE should be on top of gathering this type of input. Maybe they don't because it would conflict with district issues, but in theory they could.

At the end of the school year, PIE could survey students. Ask, where students are going after PAUSD. Not a wall off shame of who is going where, the results are only to find out what percentage are bound to highly competitive colleges who needed the extreme rigor. Truth is, people going to highly competitive schools attend mostly regular High Schools across the country, and don't do a fraction of the work that is demanded in PAUSD. You don't even need to publish this information, just have it to know.

If surveys are missing, it's certainly not up to these threads to do them.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Donate to your PTA - The info on where students are going after high school is gathered annually by the high schools and is available on Naviance on their website. Otherwise, it is not clear what info you think PiE should be gathering.


Posted by Umm, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 11, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Above poster asked:

"Why is PiE's board so dominated by white non-working women, and does PiE see that as an issue to address?"

You could have the PTA's answer that question too - if it weren't so obvious. Because that's who does most of the school volunteering in this town. PIE's board, like PTA Exec Boards, is a working entity - they are expected to help with fundraising and serve on committees. That's how you keep the expense ratio low.

"Is there a reason why PiE cannot just raise funds for the schools, and let the democratically elected school board allocate them along with the rest of the budget?"

Of course they could, but why would they? I don't know of any fundraising organization that forgoes ability to at least steer the funds. I guess if the school board doesn't agree, they don't have to take the money, as with any donation. Besides, the school board doesn't really allocate funds - the staff does that, and the school board ratifies.


Posted by Citizen, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Thank you, Umm. Is it really the case that 80% of school volunteers are non-working mothers, and 92% are white? Some of the posters above seem to be suggesting otherwise, but I don't know.
As to why PiE might raise money for the schools, and leave the allocation of funds to the school board, budgeting process, etc. -- 2 reasons. One is that PiE has a quasi-official status as the official fundraising arm of the district, but doesn't provide transparency into how funding decisions are made. Second is that the district staff/school board are in a position to know what the needs are, and are accountable to the public for how funds are spent.
Third I guess is that an organization that is as skewed demographically as the PiE board (maybe for the best of reasons) isn't necessarily in a position to appreciate the full set of needs in the schools. I'll leave it at that.


Posted by Umm, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 11, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I'm not sure of the demo's of all the PTA boards, but in my experience serving on elem, middle, and high school boards, YES, they are primarily non-working white women. Usually there are one or two men involved (treasurer, webmaster). Some of the women might work, but since volunteering at the school and even attending PTA meetings requires daytime flexibility, the vast majority do not or have part-time or work-at-home gigs.

It seems like every criticism being leveled at PIE could also be leveled at the PTA. In fact PIE is much more transparent and well-governed in my opinion. Allocation of PTA budgets, in my experience, is done by 2-3 people sitting around a kitchen table, then tweaked by a hand-full at a multipurpose room or staff lounge, and then rubber-stamped by barely a quorum at the first general meeting. And PTA leadership is driven by nominating committees that every year need to beg people to serve/lead - representativeness is the least of their worries, they just need warm bodies who will do some work. And yes, the PTAs spend the money they raise ($100-200K at the high schools, proportionately less at the others) on the programs that they like and sound good to them, without a thought for "democratic accountability" or anything like that.

And there is nothing wrong with any of that, in my view, since 1) the results are fine, and 2) the vast majority of PAUSD families would rather write a check than spend meaningful personal time in leading these groups. I think rather than criticizing, we should thank all these folks hardily, PTA and PIE folks alike. They are doing the heavy-lifting volunteer work that benefits all our kids.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 11, 2013 at 7:19 pm

If our volunteer organizations are filled with mostly white, non-working mothers, it is because they have the time and desire to devote to volunteer.

As a long time PAUSD parent, former PTA officer and former PiE volunteer, former Sports Booster, etc, these organizations require a LOT of time (I'm not talking about working in your kid's class or driving for a field trip, but a quasi-leadership role). If you ask anyone who is a volunteer at the high school level, over the years you see the same pretty small group of dedicated volunteers who can be counted on to take on the roles for ALL the different groups that have a part in making our District what it is. And yes, the majority of these "leadership" roles are filled by white, currently non-working women, many who were hugely successful in the business world. I know the school PTA's made a huge effort to involve asian, latino and african-american parents as volunteers and had only minimal success.

PiE's job as an organization is to fundraise for our kid's schools. It is not a political group and it is not an arm of the school district. Non-profit organizations raise funds for what their donors consider important (kind of a duh, or the donors wouldn't donate). As far as transparency, 6.65 of the PiE budget went toward expenses, the rest is for PAUSD school. That's pretty transparent to me.


Posted by Sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Why has so much of this conversation shifted to who is white, who works, etc. Isn't the crux of the matter that Skelly + Board spend money on PR Directors, Lawyers, and whatever else knowing that PiE will cover him? Why does PiE money end up being allocated to many of the things that Skelly is SUPPOSED to be funding? It's a SHELL GAME. PiE donors are paying for Skelly's poor leadership and bad financial management.

Shouldn't more of this conversation be about ways to force Skelly + Board to be more responsible so that PiE funds can go further? Until that basic part of the equation is resolved, the rest is white noise (pun intended).






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