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Editorial: Our unsolicited PR advice for school district, city

Original post made on Jul 12, 2013

There are two ways of looking at almost simultaneous decisions by Palo Alto City Manager Jim Keene and school district Superintendent Kevin Skelly to hire senior-level help with communications and public outreach.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 12, 2013, 9:23 AM

Comments (22)

Posted by That would be nice, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 9:38 am

I hope no one criticizes the Weekly for suggesting that PAUSD be more candid. Kevin Skelly is all about cheerleading and always tries to minimize incidents by comparing them to the thousands of incidents that did not occur. I agree that PAUSD should be more honest and open. The new PR director will take $150,000 of our money to manipulate us into staying on message, whichever message, excuse, or apology that the board or Skelly is sending out.


Posted by anon, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:52 am

another great editorial by the weekly!!!! keep up the good work and great reporting
by journalists like Sheyner and Dremann; it is a true service to the community!


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The laudable standard set by Bob Byers will never be met by any public agency until and unless its elected officials commit themselves to honesty and transparency.


Posted by School_Bored, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm

The endless shenanigans by Skelly and the Board are reprehensible and arrogant. Do they realize how bad they look with all these attempts at covering up utterly stupid actions?


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I have no idea about the facts of the matter, but our School Board and Superintendent are not required to get on their knees, and get their teeth kicked in by the Feds...just to play the PR/PC game. They should be expected to push back, if they feel the Feds are wrong. It's the American way.


Posted by Skelly's Way, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Skelly's way of minimalizing and trivializing bullying, fighting, and harassment is NOT the proper or legal way to handle these situations. It neither resolves them nor makes them go away, but allows them to continue and worsen, unchecked. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by wikileaks, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Yes, how dare Skelly be considerate and deal with these cases on an individual basis and in private. Any complaints about bullying to the district must be made public immediately with full names, addresses and details of what happened. That is all that will sate the irrational appetite for gossip that has besieged the district. Well done Weekly, you've scored.


Posted by ML, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm

@Peter Carpenter

How interesting! As I read this Editorial, and before I came accross your comment, I was remembering my friend Bob Beyers (who was director of Stanford News Service for more than 25 years.

When in the face of controversial issues, his strategy was to call for a press conference to inform the media about it. "Because when you try to cover up" his logic went, "you will end up with two problems: the original problem; and the problem you created by the attempt to conceal information that eventually will come up."

His wise technique always worked.
Maybe there is still time for PAUSD Board to correct the course, and stop creating more problems for themselves and the district.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 12, 2013 at 4:05 pm

The title f this editorial n the print edition is
" our unsolicited PR advice"
Why change the title? Pressure? Just curious


Posted by Not An issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 12, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Well they changed the title here again, but, it is still different than the print edition. Why?
If they canot get the title straight..


Posted by VoxPop, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm

@Not: What difference does it make?


Posted by Skelly's Way, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Yeah, it really IS not an issue!


Posted by That would be nice, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Yes, this is all the Weekly's fault.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:43 pm

VoxPop and skellys way-- it has to do with journalistic integrity and getting the facts right.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 13, 2013 at 7:39 am

What is "transparency"? Here's a "bare-bones" idea of what "transparency" is from the point-of-view of information that a school district might possess:

Framework For Creating Information "Transparency"
-----------------------------------------------------------------

All (Non-Confidential) Data/Information On-line
--(Inventory of all Information/Data Needed)
---All Financials On-line
--+--Contracts
--+--Audits
--+--Receipts
--+--Published Budget Documents
--+--Published Comprehensive Financial Reports
--+--Salaries
--All Physical Assets Identified/Mapped
--Org Charts On-line, Current and Archived.
--All Datasets Submitted to County/State
--All Academic Performance Data
--+--STAR
--+--API
--+--SAT/ACT
--+--Other
--+--Student Grades
--All Books/Texts/Readers, etc.
--All Public Requests For Information
--+--Requests Posted For Public Review
--+--Responses Posted For Public Review

Supporting access to this data—

--All Data/Info Fully Indexed
--Table-of-Contents Available
--+--Contact Names/Email Addrs For Various Departments
--+--Links to FAQs Available
--On-line Help
--VideoChat/IM Contact (during business hours)
--Email Addrs of Key Staff
--Printable FAQs
--VideoFAQs
--Data/Information Retention Schedule Required
--All Incoming Email Traffic to BoT (redacted where necessary) Posted.
----

If all of this information, at a minimum, were on-line, in a timely fashion, then the public would have access to much of what it needs to evaluate/monitor agency activities. The amount of time the District would have to spend responding to individual requests would be much smaller—offset somewhat by an increased amount of work by the agency's IT department to get/keep this information on-line.

Right now, it's hard to believe that either of the two highly paid PIOs will be working to define "transparency" for their individual agencies, or will have the skills to begin to construct such a framework, suggested above, to provide the public access to their agencies information/data.

Telling the truth is one thing—but doing what needs to be done is another.


Posted by Paly parent,, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 13, 2013 at 8:23 am

Very constructive suggestion Wayne. Question: Are there any other school districts or cities in California who are already practicing this type of online transparency (which makes a lot of sense in this digital age)? If so, our community might want to take a look at how they do it, and find out how well that kind of system works. It could really save everyone a lot of time, and help with accountability and trust issues. Thanks for bringing it up. If anyone out there has ideas about possible models other districts or cities are using, please mention them in this thread, as a way to start exploring system improvements.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 13, 2013 at 8:44 am

> Are there any other school districts or cities in California

A fair question. Given that there are about 1100 school districts in CA--it's hard to keep track of very many of them. So, I don't know. From reviewing the web-sites of various city governments, there has been an effort to define "e-government" by some, but each agency seems things from a local point-of-view, and so few have actually moved very far in establishing service delivery models that can be effectively reviewed for fundamentals, such as "transparency", or access to information content.

To be fair, this is really a new field for governments, since the vast store of information in the past made any effective "transparency" not really very possible. However, with the revelations of the spying on the people's of the world by our National Security establishment, it's clear that some levels of government have an idea how to use the current IT technology effectively.

It's my belief that local school districts should merge their IT functions, so that the work, and cost, of shifting to this service delivery model can be reduced. It really is a fairly "hefty" task to expect every school district (or City government) to attempt this shift on its own.


Posted by umm.., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 9:00 am

All great ideas, Wayne. Unfortunately Skelly is more likely to install shredders than web servers.


Posted by Paco, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Keene's hiring of 40+ new senior and middle management positions for each and every micro-management task only attempts to shield his inabilities and lack of leadership skills. Keene's incompetent management skills are now costing city residents triple digit management salary and benefits costs that are unsustainable. Keene's multi-million dollar experiment in management micro-management is almost laughable, if it were not for the incredible ballooning and skyrocketing costs to city residents. Keene's shadow organization of management yes men is a disgrace and a slap in the face to city taxpayers! What a pity!


Posted by Paul Seaver, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I very much appreciated the comments about Bob Beyers. Those of us old enough to remember his reporting at Stanford during the troubled '60s and '70s can vouch for his ability to present the unvarnished truth about what was going on and to do it without ever expressing his own opinion. Even his expression never gave him away. A remarkable man!


Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm

A city our size needs TWO "Communications Specialists"? Something is very wrong with this picture.


Posted by Sad Sak, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:48 am

Get rid of Skelly. Clear out the school board- no more incumbents. The district is WASTING money because they are unable to perform as professionals. Disgraceful, dishonest and bumbling.


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