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Original post made
on Aug 9, 2013
PAUSD website fact-sheet says 625 teachers.
Just mentioned causally in passing in this story is that the board's "two-month recess was interrupted by brief special meetings Aug. 1 and Aug. 9." The meeting on August 1 was addressing a tort claim filed by a minor student against the district -- likely the claim by the Terman student regarding the OCR case. Or maybe by the Paly rape victim. Or maybe by one of the other bullying victims. Hard to tell, as the playing field is littered with flags at this point.
Yet the topic of that special meeting isn't even mentioned in this story -- just the unfortunate fact that it interrupted the board's otherwise relaxing summer vacation. Except for that meeting where they had to meet secretly to discuss being sued over the failure of district staff to follow the law.
How about asking the board to comment on the fact that they have been sued? How about asking when they plan (if ever) to hold their discussions about the events that led to the OCR cases in public instead of secretly?
The PAUSD board has litigation and the superintednent's evaluation scheduled for last week's special meeting, most of which, if not all, was conducted in secret in closed session. That means we don't need to worry.
One more thing: where is the puff piece for the beginning of school? Last year's included our stars, including Katherine Baker. You can't criticize the Palo Alto Weekly for being too tough on PAUSD, the stories were glowing little bits about how great our administration was. Now that a little more of the smoke and mirrors has given way to a better glimpse of how inept certain personnel operate, I'll be awaiting the August 16 issue of the Weekly. They will have time to take some obligatory photos of our schools and students, but I'll be curious to see what effect the extra $150,000 for the PR hack gets us.
@ once again,
How about understanding that nothing will be said while litigation is on-going?
"How about understanding that nothing will be said while litigation is on-going?"
Why would the Weekly say nothing while litigation is on-going?
@get real - I think "once again" has a point. Non litigation example - Web Link
Teachers and PAUSD administration,
Thank you for your hard work and dedication! It's not an easy disctict, with many challenges, but we appreciate your contribution. Our family is looking forward to another wonderful school year in PA.
Oh, and am I alone here?
YOu are not alone. Everyday I appreciate the hard work that goes into educating my three children. This is a great district!!
Yes, we have been extremely happy in PAUSD. [Portion removed.] People seem to forget this is a public school system, not a private school. For a public school, it's quite excellent.
This school district is awesome. Great teachers, and great parents/students. Imagine schools where more than a handful of kids are engaged and interested in learning! Hugely different from when I went to school. I am grateful my kids have this wonderful opportunity to take classes with so many smart and gifted kids.
[Portion removed.] I've witnessed greatness at several PAUSD schools, but every classroom is basically hit or miss, depending a lot on the ability of the teacher. Great, awesome districts with happy stakeholders do not have their children's civil rights violated, happy PAUSD parents do not file federal lawsuits, and great teachers ensure that all kids progress. That doesn't describe PAUSD.
My family loves PAUSD. In fact we stay here in Palo Alto just so our kids can finish up school here. [Portion removed.]
I will chime in too. I have been a parent in this district for 20+ years and also a volunteer who has logged in many hours, on a weekly basis, including most recently at one of our 2 high schools.
I mostly see great kids who love to learn, are engaged, like their teachers, get along well with each other across social groups, and look happy overall. Good kids who are polite and respectful too.
I see teachers who love what they do and make themselves available to their students, putting in way more hours than the official school hours. Teachers who care about the outcomes for all their students. Incredible teachers.
Have I seen bad teachers over the years? Yes, a few, but they are a tiny minority. Have I seen students who seem unhappy? Very, very few. Do problems exist? Of course, problems exist, like everywhere. However, we have a system that works very well for the overwhelming majority of students, thanks to dedicated teachers, students, and parents.
[Portion removed.]Most parents and students I know have been and are very happy with our schools, my family included.
Anybody know what the process is supposed to be for getting a wrong schedule corrected at Gunn? When are they supposed to do this? I can not for the life of me find anything about this on the website.
Very good luck to you. Your child should make big lines every day at the counseling office. If he is lucky, he will see the counselor the first week, if he or she is not, by the time the change is approved by the IS, the classes your child wants to take will be already full. It has happened to my children year many times year Gunn. Do not know about Paly, perhaps a Paly Parent can comment on it. I do agree with some parents that PAUSD is supposed to be the best district in this area, and that many parents move here because of the schools, but I also agree with Skelly Is Transparent, there are very inept staff like teachers and principals, special education director, superintendent, and assistant superintendents, who learn the hard way with our children. It is like they do love their profession but not our children, otherwise they would not put our children through so much pain and humiliation. Same thing about treating some special education and Latino Parents. I am not sure how African American parents and students are treated, but perhaps some one can give his two cents. Definitely: we can have better schools and teachers four our students. By the way, I am wonder why the principal at Paly went back to being just a teacher. [Portion removed.] I really hope that Katherine Baker does a better job at her new position, and like she did as a principal. I think the move was good for Terman students.
Paly students can correct errors today and tomorrow ( missing classes, wrong levels, etc.). they can correct other things later. The paly principal went back to teachng for health and personal reasons, Being a principal is truly a 24/7 job around here.
We do not like a Thursday start to the school year.
I wonder how much absenteeism there will be on Thursday and Friday.
Re comment from "Resident": We love that school begins on a Thursday. Because aren't the kids going to bed way too late? They get up early for two days, then can recover during the weekend and get it right the next week.
Best wishes for a fantastic school year! We support and appreciate your efforts!
[Portion removed.] The headline reads Palo Alto teachers, students return to school this week, but are they returning to a school district that is functioning at the level it should be, and is our leadership doing their job to ensure that our kids are being provided the best? [Portion removed.]
Admin @ PAHS is more dysfunctional than most parents & residents can imagine. Bringing in a retired admin to advise & support Ms Diorio is one of the few smart things happening. Ms Diorio may find the 24/7 overly demanding, as she also has the demands of 2 small children at home & has never been a classroom teacher. This thread continues to delete my posts so I recommend interested parties get the scoop on reasons for personnel changes from staff & faculty @ PAHS.
There are many internal admin problems which have not yet been made public, including one which will seriously impact AP students. When it blows, know that it solely the responsibility of another sr admin who "forgot" toperform a crucial step.
Can you tell us which AP class or classes will be impacted? Any cancellations?
Your hints are reminiscent of what happened with several Honors classes in recent years. Not again! I hope I am misreading or you are wrong.
wow what the hell is going on with the censor on this forum? Someone got a new red pen for Christmas.
@ Midtowner - all AP students 2012-2013 are impacted. No class cancellations. An administrator "forgot" to register Paly's AP classes with the national AP Board. Paly is afraid to fire 2 admins in the same year, so they eliminated the greater threat.
@ Commentariat: "Shhh" is slandering Palo Alto High School staff and it's unacceptable because it's mean-spirited and questionable information.
I really doubt that this is the calamity you are suggesting however because the issue is the test not the course. If the student took and passed the AP test, then that is all that matters and that shows on their transcript and their College Board record anyway. Is it UC that they failed to get the classes approved by?
Thanks for your resposne. Does this mean that UCs won't weight those classes then? Awful.
I hope it won't be repeated this year.
What's wrong with Paly admin that they mess up so often with Honors and AP Classes?
I might be that having a principal with a Special Ed background was not the best thing for the general student population. Hopefully, Ms Diorio will do a better job with all this.
oh, Mom, it's not slander when it's true. Teacher morale should improve this year after 3 years of constant duress. If you're not an employee at PAHS, you may be wearing blinders.
Well, it will depend on the college or university & whether or not they check to see if the AP classes were in fact approved as such. Recertification is supposed to take place every year.
There is an astonishing lack of competence & organization at the administrative level. It might be funny if it weren't so frustrating for those who teach there. There's been a lot of attrition in the last couple of years. Ms Diorio appears to be very efficient so lets hope that bringing back a retiree to support her can get things headed back in the right direction. [Portion removed.]
I won't post again. Those who choose to drink the kool-aid & believe Skelly's press releases will continue to do so. Other parents who have concerns about truth, transparency & accountability are advised to do their own investigations and demand answers from the Board.
I work at another school and it's not a big deal to miss an AP deadline. They just make you resubmit the information. It is a non-issue and it happens MORE than you think at every high school across the state.
The new principal sounds great and has been very responsive to my questions. I think the change was a great one for Paly.
Shhhh - it's a secret -
I also wonder why your posts about PAHS were edited fast. Thank you, and "Skelly is transparent" for trying, repeatedly, to get the word out.
Here is the reality most parents figure out by high school: it's hit or miss. PAUSD is an unmanaged group of teachers. There is no oversight, no coordination, no expectations, no management and no processes which would MANAGE toward a goal of consistently high quality teaching.
What you see as a student view of the school is a random collection of teachers with a wide range of skills: from atrociously bad to pretty good. Some students get lucky in this lottery, some are unlucky. The range we have seen tends to land somewhere around just-barely competent, with an uncaring attitude. Many are truly harmful and should not teach; however because nothing is done to manage the end-to-end process, or the skills of teachers, your student accumulates gaps in knowledge and loss of motivation. Some more than others. Because it is hit or miss, many people see a random sequence of good teachers. They will post a follow-up telling you how great their experience was. There might be three of them.
The real question is why the district has a deficit of process, best practice, clear expectations, and other sImple management tools that could improve the mediocre and remove the worst?
I suspect there are a few reasons - leadership weak on process and entrenched staff who are antagonistic to the idea of managing toward a quality student experience.
This district has money, facilities, enthusiastic students, and some capabilities. It has an opportunity to be a great school, but is not achieving anywhere near it's potential.
For many students it is a truly horrible experience. Hit or Miss.
For some few this is a great
Hit or miss,
You nailed it.
There are usually more hits in Elementary and more misses in Middle School and High School in terms of teachers.
You ask "why the district has a deficit of process, best practice, clear expectations, and other sImple management tools that could improve the mediocre and remove the worst?"
I always think
2. Site control
With union control, the simple management tool of being fired cannot be used, a teacher is kept forever (forever!). In real life, the threat of being fired is alone is sufficient to get you to comply with "process, best practice, clear expectations." The community in general adjusts to bad teachers no matter how toxic it gets, unfortunately some kids can actually get hurt by the really bad apples.
Combine teacher unions with site based control, and hire Principals without providing them adequate support, you have recklessness.
Well-written post, Hit or Miss, also a very dangerous post. Teachers are not unmanaged, though, just managed to the point that the teachers union PAEA will allow. In fact, ask PAEA president Teri Baldwin if there are any mediocre or even awful teachers in PAUSD. To suggest so is near blasphemy. Ask former PAEA president the same question. Any parent who pays just a little attention will wonder where is the leadership, where is the educational system that is evident. It's not there. The most important person at my child's school is the teacher. My child has had tenured teachers who should have been fired. It's that simple, a simple truth in our family's experience. But if you go to the principal, you will find out that he or she is near powerless to change classrooms or remove the teacher. If you go to Charles Young, the second in command, same story. Most of the people who have filed OCR complaints or have sued have gone this route. I don't like Phil Winston, but I don't like teachers bashing him. Extrapolate from the lack of control the math teachers showed in writing that letter a couple of years ago because they did not think all children could be taught math and you will have a taste of what he had to confront. And of course, health was but one reason why he has been reassigned.
Parents, this is the district you deserve. Keep accepting how awesome and great this district is despite the obvious facts of a recent cluster of suicides of our kids, a current cluster of OCR complaints and a violation, and Kevin Skelly's lack of leadership that is rewarded with hundreds of thousands of our dollars.
Palo Alto Weekly: it is public record that Teri Baldwin is the current president of PAEA, that Triona Gogarty was the former president, that Charles Young is the second in command at PAUSD, and that Kevin Skelly is the leader and is paid almost $300k per year. I know the pressure you are under, but I've done my research with current and former teachers, parents, and principals.
Hit or Miss,
Do you have any data to back your claim that a few have a pleasant learning experience but most do not?
I ask because the strategic plan survey, answered by almost 2,500 parents and 1,000 high school students, shows the opposite.
Survey Summary: "Quality of education overall continues to be among highest-rated topics, as does strength of curriculum."
Survey response: Satisfaction with education students
received this year: 92% students, 90% parents.
I can't understand the criticisms of PAUSD. My kid's friends are all super-bright kids from families with well-educated parents. That's all he really needs to succeed no matter who his teachers are. His peers provide a high standard to emulate. The teachers, as long as they are not grossly inadequate, are perfectly fine. And thus far I would say my kid has had really good teachers too.
I agree with Hit or Miss that the teachers often get worse as you leave elementary school. Many of the middle school teachers and admins are truly awful (that's not unique to PAUSD -- middle school is often an academic doldrums, which is why so many PAUSD parents choose to try to exit for private school during those years). That's why so many bullying and harassment complaints are emanating from the middle schools -- the teachers and admins there are terrible and Hit or Miss is right that they are virtually unmanaged due to site based control.
Some of these posts are very astute. Site based control is harming our kids, and costing us unnecessary dollars that could be spent in the classroom. It depends on the myth of excellent teachers and schools. It depends for its sustenance on the idea that our teachers are all excellent so all we have to do is support them. But that is just not true. There is a range and there is a need for even distribution of skills and resources. Gunn counseling is one example of teacher control and site based control operating to the real detriment of kids. Another Gunn student (2013 grad) just attempted suicide [portion removed.] Can we really say that we don't need improved counseling? Evidently to even suggest that better counseling would be a benefit to our students is an attack on our fine teachers.
WE NEED IMPROVED COUNSELING AT GUNN.
Site based control is harming our students and it is giving our public employees far too much control over what services and benefits our students receive, the quality of the teaching, the implementation (or not) of best practices, etc.
PAUSD parents, who are so desirous of getting the best for your kids -- here's some news. Your public employees who are of mixed caliber are deciding what you will get and not get. If your child gets a good teacher and a good principal (woot Ohlone!) then you are lucky. If you get a bad teacher (Toma) or a bad/weak principal (Villalobos)then you might as well just send your child to tutoring like everyone else and thank goodness you can afford it. And if you can't afford it? Well why do you live in Palo Alto? Move with the homeless somewhere else.
Look if your child is not performing well at school you need to crack the whip at home and get them to study. Turn off the TV, ipads, etc. Don't blame the teachers and schools, take responsibility as parents.
@ Site based BS
Mr Toma is a great teacher. He is brilliant at teaching math and he is a caring human being. Many people who comment on him here don't even seem to actually know him. Mr Toma is the epitome of a great teacher (and TA since you mention the issue of counseling systems).
Radu Toma's letter stating that some students (including those who are VTP or from lower socioeconomic status) cannot learn Algebra 2 is absolutely disqualifying. He should not be a public school teacher. Teachers have to believe in the ability of all children to learn, and he doesn't. His beliefs are also contradicted by reams of research on how to teach higher math to kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, much of it conducted at Stanford. He might be a good teacher for those who are basically self-taught. But the test of a teacher is not whether he can teach those who are easy to teach. It's whether he can teach every comer. He can't, and he has no place teaching in PAUSD. That letter should have been a basis for discipline and our school board is worthless for not pursuing it.
There were NO consequences for the teachers who wrote that horrible letter.
Toma [portion removed] prefers the genius students. So what if in his heart, he is caring, as someone states. [Portion removed.] He should teach adults who can handle his attitude, not teenagers trying to find their way.
Toma's letter just said that some students who are unprepared and unmotivated cannot pass Algebra 2. How can you find fault with that statement? He is not saying they can never pass it. At some later point in their lives they could have sufficient preparation and motivation. All students are ultimately self-taught. It's not like the teacher can wire into the students brain and download the information without active participation by the student.
"He should teach adults who can handle his attitude, not teenagers trying to find their way."
This should be at the top of the job description for high school teachers. Don't emotionally mess with teenagers!
Toma ir more than rude, he should be fired for the outbursts. School climate? Guess only ok if the students are perfect, teachers do no wrong and no harm?
I stopped taking surveys seriously because the questions are leading, and some border on insane.
Do you like finals before winter break? Yes or No
District conclusion, everyone wants to start school in early August.
Somebody needs to audit the surveys, they are misleading and avoid the real issues, by design of course.
Weren't the Strategic Plan survey questions developed by McKinsey, an international consulting firm which has an education arm? They probably know what they are doing.
Here were the survey questions people were asked to give satisfaction ratings to:
"The overall education children receive in PAUSD"
"The overall education children receive at your school"
"The breadth and depth of curricular offerings at your school"
All are pretty straight forward and none are misleading or "insane."
Why would McKinsey develop the survey questions?
Are they the ones developing the questions?
Maybe that is the problem.
We need a PR person to supervise the Superintendent and a consulting firm to seek feedback on important issues that in theory the district is supposed to understand in a deeper and more practical way.
I would be very interested in learning who comes up with the questions.
The calendar survey was written by a parent-teacher-student advisory committee: Web Link
The committee was named last November by Assistant Superintendent Scott Bowers, who said there were 49 applicants.
Members named at that time were elementary parents Amy Kacher, Stuart Friedman, Lance Martin and Kathy Jordan; middle-school and/or high-school parents Susan Usman, Howard Lee, Mukund Sreenivasan and Tekla Nee; Gunn teacher Laurie Pennington; Walter Hays teachers Abby Bradski and Michelle Ketcham; Palo Alto High School teacher Debbie Whitson; Gunn Assistant Principal Trinity Klein; Jordan Middle School Principal Greg Barnes; Gunn students Justice Tention, Sarah Dukes-Schlossberg and Paly student Jessica Feinberg. Gunn student Neel Guha was chosen as an alternate.
As for the strategic plan survey, "not true" is correct. McKinsey (pro bono) helped draft the questions, which were also reviewed and discussed by the Board of Education.
Thank you Chris,
Then the Calendar committee failed to allow for input from people who like finals before winter break but would rather school start in September.
There were some serious proposals for having our cake and eating it too, but I recall a block of teachers could not align the curriculum to make that happen.
So, the survey was designed to seek approval for what already is.
This being said, I think many teachers and admins are doing great things for our kids, and these same great ones are the ones focusing on the problems instead of focusing on denial.
While it is nice to have finals before Winter Break, there was never a "start in late August" and "finals before Break" option. August is summer.
Mr Toma has "outbursts"? Hard to believe for someone who knows students that had him for a whole year. Those students confirm that Mr Toma never had an "outburst" the whole year in class. He is a busy person and can be in a rush, but ultimately, he will always make time for you and help you as much as possible. Also, he speaks honestly which obviously ruffles the feathers of some people who don't like to hear the truth. The thing is, if you think there are no slackers in our schools, you are in denial.
"he speaks honestly which obviously ruffles the feathers of some people who don't like to hear the truth. "
There are ways and ways to speak with teenagers. In the real world, we could do better, have a good teacher and one who can appropriately communicate with all students.
He not only deals with kids in his classroom (which likely he has a better demeanor with, and surely he helps Olympians prosper), but as an Instructional Supervisor, many mortals go by him, and more often what I hear about him is that rude and inappropriate.
His Paly Math letter is the best sample of what you get with him.
I disagree. I know many students who deal with him in class and outside and can't say enough good things about him.
As to the letter you mention, again if people can't admit there will always be some slackers among students, they are in denial.
Mr Toma is a great teacher and a good person.
We moved to Palo Alto from SF a few years ago and feel that the difference between SFUSD and PAUSD is like light and day. Parents whose kids have spent all their school years in PAUSD may not realize how fortunate they are. In SFUSD, PE, art, music (before Gr4), and even reading recovery are considered "extras" and present only in schools where the PTA can raise the necessary funds. Since most of the ESs are designated "Title 1" due to the large number of low-income students, the number of parent able to fundraise (not to mention volunteer) is limited, so schools must choose whether which of these "extras" they can continue to offer. MS classes are huge (36 students), the emphasis is on rote memorization, and teachers almost never respond to email messages from parents.
We have found PAUSD a breath of fresh air. Yes, some teachers were better than others. However, overall I've been impressed with the smaller class sizes, the more engaging classroom projects, and the high level of communication between teachers, support staff, and us as parents. Our older son has severe ADHD, and I can't say enough good things about the folks at Jordan MS who suggested he get an IEP, guided us through the IEP process, and worked with the teachers to provide appropriate accommodations for our son.
Way to throw SFUSD under the bus, you sure don't sound so happy. The comments about Mr. Toma in the classroom seem a bit unfair. His letter, made public, was a horrid representation of the Paly, the math department, and the district in general. It made it seem that teachers were unwilling to teach underrepresented and at-risk children challenging math. It was akin to suggesting that girls would not be interested in math or competitive athletics. What was surprising to me was not that there was a controversy, but that the controversy was so small. We heard very little to almost nothing from our stakeholder groups such as PAMA (principals), PAEA (teachers), PiE (our ed. foundation), or PTAC. It was like saying that the letter was okay and we agree with it. Cynics would argue that our community's collective belief is that children of color, specifically our Latino and African-American children, can not achieve at the same level as White and Asian children. I applaud the positive comments supporting the district and various teachers. I agree we've got a bunch of good ones, easily a majority. I feel the same with the principals. But I appreciate the posters who can state the obvious that we have some duds, duds that do a lot of harm, emotionally and academically. There is so little accountability for teachers and PAEA. In no way is this a great district. Not by any objective measurement. We are a regular district, even a mediocre district when compared to the amount of money we are spending. As we begin school tomorrow, I think that more revelations need to happen to push a reform agenda for this school district. I don't see the current board doing that and I don't see the Skelly-Young combo doing that, despite throwing in some insider promotions and some part-time help at the two biggest elementary schools. It feels like we are being bamboozled again on why Phil Winston is being reassigned because it would be more likely for a nice guy like Phil to resign earlier to allow for a broader search of candidates (unless it was a done deal long before). I've seen this written on the forums before and I've written it: can this get any worse?
@PAUSD is Great condescends: " if your child is not doing well in school, you need to crack the whip...don't blame the schools or teachers, take responsibility as a parent."
Where to begin:
- the TV is off, the iPod unplugged
- the homework extends until late in the night
I am not blaming the schools or teachers in a general, unsubstantiated, vacuous manner. No, my son was bullied openly by one teacher. Another took a sadistic interest in destroying his motivation after he was recovering from illness. My daughter had a math teacher who cannot do math; she had a science teacher who went out of her way to intimidate her daily. She had an English teacher who would not write down the assignment or due dates. She had three teachers who did not understand how a planner works.
Yes, she had a few very good teachers also- about half of them. Hit or Miss.
So who do I blame? Well by your comment, [portion removed] I should take blame myself. However, I feel that even a casual examination of the actual facts shows a serious deficiency among many of the teachers.
Now I am well aware of other kids who had different experiences with different teachers. So have we - we have had some good ones; not as many as most kids perhaps. That is why it is Hit or Miss.
PAUSD is one huge unmanaged missed opportunity. Should I accept blame for the schools poor performers and mismanagement - No. I have done my part, and more as a responsible parent.
Now let's see the school stand up and do their part.
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