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School principals ask for Callan's immediate resignation

Original post made by Tyler Hanley on Apr 16, 2007

The organization representing principals and other managers within the school district (PAMA) has asked the Board of Education to rescind the appointment of Scott Laurence as an assistant superintendent and the immediate resignation of Superintendent Mary Frances Callan.

See the Palo Alto Online story here: Web Link

Here is the text of the letter PAMA sent to the school board:
Web Link

Here is the text of PAMA's letter to the editor of the Weekly:
Web Link

Comments (52)

Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2007 at 11:39 pm

A needless tragedy; a needless crisis.

Looking at this from 30,000 feet: this kind of thing happens regularly, all over America. Why? Because we have politicized education by creating a BOE structure that elects mostly non-educators into positions of power over the professionals who do the work. Add to this the musical chair structure of senior educational administrators who show up every five years, start a few initiatives, build a resume, and then move on to their next six-figure job. And we wonder why education in America is suffering.

At sea level: How on earth, after what the BOE and PAUSD (and the community) went through just a few months ago, did the BOE let this happen? Fiasco is too kind a word. MFC may have been involved, but the *BOE* is where the buck stops on this one (with Gail Price showing her usual wisdom, and voting against this fiasco).

I don't know how much clout the Management Team has with parents and voters (probably not much, because the BOE and senior administrators tend to get most of the public credit for PAUSD's successes). With this last series of events, an attempted recall of all or some BOE members who let this happen would not surprise.

I can't believe that Barb Mitchell let this happen - chalk it up to naivte? I still hold out hope for Ms. Mitchell.

Dana Tom? Wow! What a disappointment he's been, especially after making "better communications" a conrnerstone of his electoral push to the BOE. His decisions have - if anything - helped make the term "better communications" - as it applies to PAUSD - an oxymoron. Tom's recent actions again point up just how empty campaign slogans can really be.

Mandy Lowell? Another victim of getting too chummy with Senior Administrators. This is what happens when one spends week after week hearing about PAUSD concerns mostly from the perspective of 25 Churchill.

Camille Townsend. Gee, I voted for her during her first run, and have been bitterly disappointed by every one of her major stances. Many, many people that voted for her first time around are very sorry she's still on the board. The whispering about her actions this last year or so has been deafening. Many wonder what planet she is legislating from - there's a puzzling disconnect there; it's hard to fathom, and makes one wonder about simple, general competence.

The big concern here should be who we see as the next Superintendent. It's clear that this board is simply not capable of adapting to PAUSD's current dynamism, and changing times. With that as a so-far proven given, what are we to expect from the new chief? This is something to be concerned about, as this so-far blundering board will be the ones to make that decision. God help the teaching and site administrative staff!

One has to feel sorry for Scotty L. He's a competent administrator, and a good guy. That said, the last time a Paly principal made the transition to 25 Churchill, that person also had a good reputation, but as soon as she made the switch (into HR), seemingly every important (HR) value that most site administrators and teachers value in our district went out the window. Will SL follow this pattern? I hope not. For sure, if his position isn't rescinded, he will waste unnecessary months patching things up, and re-building trust. Tax dollars will be wasted in the process, and organizational cohesion will suffer. And yes, the board members who brought us the current fiasco will, after a while, be on their merry way to other political positions, or back home, safe from the mess they left behind.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2007 at 7:33 am

I hear there and here the word "recall". Does Palo Alto have the stomach? Had to do it about 30 years ago to shape up ( for a while) PA City Council politics...what will it take to get our School Board on track?

And I am not trying to start a dump thread. I think these guys are doing their best with good intentions, they are just naive or clueless or afraid of hurting Dr. Callan's feelings or whatever..but clearly not competent to run our school system.

We need people who understand what it is to plan for and set policy, and how to make decisions in process, staffing and programs that have the fewest unintended consequences, and promote the organizational and educational culture we want.

Posted by Caution, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 8:32 am

PAMA is flaunting its new found powers. The new superintident should step in and fire 2 principals. Let them know where the real power lies.
To a great extent it is the parents who are to be blamed.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 8:36 am

Caution -- Have you been following the threads on this issue for the past 9 months? This situation got out of hand a long time ago, and it is extraordinary for a group of administrators to reach the boiling point they got to last fall. That is the entire reason behind the Trust investigation. What is your reasoning about firing 2 principals? Did you have particular ones in mind? Should they be fired for speaking up? If not, what exactly would they be fired for?

Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 11:40 am

Why in the world would PAMA be insisting on the immediate resignation of Callan? What's the point. She is leaving at the end of the summer in any event. Her home is up for sale and she has her bags packed. What is their reason for not wanting Scott L. in the Assistant Superintendent position? He seems perfectly well qualified to step in and take over that position. He will most likely be leaving the district otherwise and he is qualified. Is it that they don't like him or they just don't like the process used to appoint him to that position? Do they really believe that another process should be used, like a search firm? Using a search firm, to find the "perfect" candidate did not work when it was used to locate our current superintendent. Callan has been a disappointment from the beginning. I think everyone should calm down and give Scott L. a chance.

Posted by Patience, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 17, 2007 at 11:47 am

Without trying to whitewash the issues of management "trust" etc., I think people should calm down a little. Mary Frances is on her way out and she'll be gone in a couple of months. To push her out now just puts more work on either Jerry Matranga--who should be cleaning up his affairs and setting things in order for his replacement--or an acting superintendent, if one can be found. Leaderless times are dead zones, and even if you don't like Mary Frances, there are a lot of things that she keeps going that the public never sees or thinks about. A planned handoff in mid-summer is by far preferable to sudden disappearance.

Mary Frances was hired with great emphasis on guiding us through a tough financial time, and that she did. She was the right person for that job. I was pretty suspicious of her initially--in fact, I thought she was not a good choice--but by her second year, I was beginning to see her virtues, and I think she deserves credit for that.

As for board members, I credit them all with integrity. They just have different views. I like Gail Price, but I don't confer sainthood on her; I think her eyeball-rolling and body language at board meetings where she doesn't like what she's hearing have reduced her stature in my eyes. For all you Camille-haters, she is as "guilty" of voting her convictions as the other 4 board members, and when she's the standalone vote, that takes courage. Even when I don't like a standalone vote, I admire the guts it takes to be out of step with the others. Dana overcommunicates and leaves us all baffled. Mandy sits on the fence and waits for others to vote before she makes up her mind--that can drive you crazy, but at least you know she's thinking right up to the moment of casting her vote. Barb gets nothing but praise from me. She listens to and respects opposing viewpoints. When she explains her reasoning--even when I don't agree--I admire the way she thinks, and I get the feeling she is thoughtful in a very trustee-like way, as a very good shepherd.

New board members spend their first couple of years just learning the ropes, but if we're lucky, they're still listening and learning from people on the street. By their second terms, board members tend to be know-it-alls, and unless they happen to agree with you, it's a waste of your time to talk to them. They've got opinions and answers to everything, and superiority complexes as well.

Posted by PA Dad, a resident of Escondido School
on Apr 17, 2007 at 12:09 pm

I think the argument for M. F. Callan leaving now is that there are a number of important decisions that the Board of Education will be making (and that the superintendent will be expected to advise upon and begin planning for) in the months remaining before MFC leaves -- with a possible new immersion program (again!), district boundaries and facilities planning being just three. Those are decisions will impact the district for years to come, are highly contentious and require the input of a trusted official, not someone who has lost the confidence of what seems like the vast majority of her senior subordinates.

Yes, there is uncontroversial work that the superintendent needs to do, and her leaving would be a burden for the district. But if her influence is so corrosive and her judgment so poor as the PAMA and many others have alleged, then allowing her to influence the future direction of a district in her remaining time (and the BOE seems very much under her influence) is arguably much worse – certainly not something that is in the district's best interests.

It's pretty awful that things have come to this, but I have a lot of sympathy for the PAMA. Maybe it would be for the best, then, if the BOE can separate itself from their lame duck superintendent early. Could we hope, even, that MFC might fall on her own sword and leave earlier than she had announced?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2007 at 12:20 pm

I think Ms. Price's eyeball rolling and body language has been remarkably sedated, since it is always in response to being publicly kicked by another Board member ( and always the same one). I am, frankly, amazed that Ms. Price hasn't thrown down her gloves publicly and called for a fistfight yet!

The Board job is thankless, bloody and timeconsuming. As I said, I think they all have the best intentions. That said, MF needs to go NOW before she talks the 4 of them into yet another bad move. 4 of these Board members just can't see the consequences of the decisions this Super keeps selling them. It doesn't take Board experience to understand policy effects.

And, I would advise Mr. Laurence to simply step down, and ask that the process be followed properly, with an announcement of an new position, a job description, a deadline for filing an application, a professional interview process..and then a candidate is selected.

To answer the question about "What is wrong with Mr. Laurence"..absolutely nothing. It is the way in which he was selected, which slapped several excellent and dedicated people who have been patiently waiting for the openings to come back so they could apply. These are not people who kept shopping around at other districts for a better job, they are dedicated to our District and would have liked the opportunity to move into a higher position in our District.

Posted by conerned parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 17, 2007 at 12:23 pm

Does Susan Charles really believe that firing the superintendent immediately is a good thing for the entire district? Or would it just make her and a few of her principal friends happy? This district is made up of thousands of children and their parents as well as many hard working teachers and staff and to have such an abrupt change can hardly be considered in any of their interests. Susan Charles seems to wield an incredible amount of power through her intimidation tactics, but I'm not sure how many principals in Palo Alto actually agree with her and her demands. I think it's time for someone in the district -- either her management friends or the Board of Education -- to let her know her strong arm tactics are not appreciated. Bullying isn't accepted on our playgrounds, why should it be accepted in the principal's office.

Moreover, Susan should practice what she preaches. She complains about the heavy-handedness of the district and the board, but she has always ruled Oholone with an iron fist. Most parents at Oholone are completely intimidated by her and feel she doesn't want to hear what they have to say about any number of issues.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 1:04 pm

Hi Concerned Parent -- I am not convinced that Susan Charles speaks only for herself "and a few of her principal friends." I believe she is speaking for the Management Team, which appears to consist of the vast majority of senior management officials in the District (see PA Online Forum from last fall). What are you basing your assumption on?

On the other hand, not only the senior management have experienced Callan's bullying tactics (again, see last Fall's numerous posts on the subject). For the Management Team to have taken the action they did last fall, only to have the BoE continue the practice (which according to their allegations were rampant under the Super) of plugging people in without even opening up the job description so other candidates could apply for the position, well . . . it doesn't really look like a move in the right direction for reestablishing trust. Rather, it *looks* like more of the same.

And as for Gail's eye-rolling, if you have watched the most recent Board meeting, you will see Camille, the President, calling everyone by their first name in a friendly voice, and coldly referring to Gail as "Ms. Price." IMHO that is far more unprofessional and offensive than the huge amount of restraint I have seen Gail exercise in the face of this type of behavior. Yes, it's a hard job, but that is no excuse for cliquish behavior and rudeness.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Isn't it correct procedure to publicly announce major job position openings in PAUSD and solicit applications?

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Yes, actually it is. And additionally, there is some question as to whether the Board had even formulated a job description before appointing Mr. Lawrence to the position, and if they did that, I believe that is also improper if not illegal. Someone with an education law background could verify the propriety of that action. Of course, the problem is that we don't know exactly what happened except in broad terms.

Posted by Palomom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2007 at 4:01 pm

I'm a PAUSD parent who's just beginning to closely follow this debate. Can someone please clarify for me exactly who PAMA is? Tyler Hanley describes it as the organization "representing principals and other managers within the school district." Does that mean all 17 principals, including Scott Laurence? And which other managers, exactly? Can anyone clarify? Thanks.

Posted by RTM, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2007 at 4:45 pm

I don't think the California ed code says anything about the situation with Scott Laurence.

But I believe Scott's new role falls under PAUSD policy: "Transfers of administrators may be made by the Superintendent in order to provide opportunities for prefessional growth of staff and/or to meet the needs of a school or the district."

Posted by Info..., a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 17, 2007 at 5:28 pm

The PAMA is made up of all elementary school principals, all middle school principals, all middle school assistant principals, all high school principals, all high school assistant principals (and Dean?), and Directors located at 25 Churchill in charge of student services, special education, and such. Yes, Scotty is/was a part of this group.

Susan Charles, from my 20 years of knowing her, is one of the fairest, kindest souls you'll ever meet. The Directors located at 25 Churchill are sometimes invisible to the Palo Alto community, but they are absolutely essential to making PAUSD special. They are patient, wise people.

This is from my positive and not-so-positive experiences. Everyone will have a different perspective.

Posted by IYNOYNPA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2007 at 9:33 pm

Does nobody remember the "Tuesday night massacre" from July '05?

"Faced with a series of upcoming sabbaticals and one major resignation, the Palo Alto school district has solved its personnel
predicament by shuffling existing administrators around. Last week, it was announced that Associate Superintendent of Education Cynthia Pino resigned after six years of commuting from the Central Valley. Superintendent Mary Frances Callan promoted the district's current assistant superintendent, Marilyn Cook, into the post. Filling in Cook's shoes will be Fairmeadow Elementary School's principal, Scott Bowers. The school board is planning to make the call on an interim for Bower's position July 6. In round two, Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School's principal, Joe DiSalvo, is taking a one-year leave. Don Cox, former principal at Hoover Elementary School, is returning from his one-year absence to take over for DiSalvo. The precursor to all this was the shift at Terman Middle School announced last week: During Principal Larry Thomas's one-year leave, the school's current assistant chief, Carmen Giedt, will lead the school." PAWeekly 07/05.

If anybody still believes that Dr Pino and Mr DiSalvo "resigned" then you just won't ever understand why the PAMA group wants MFC to move on now. It's been 2+ years of this kind of behind closed door activities that are now, finally, coming to light. The appointment of an MFC acquaintance (at Fairmeadow), making two dedicated interim middle school principals fight for their jobs (JLS, Terman)while the High School principals just get promoted into their current jobs (yes, they were qualified and good apointments) only exposes the process for what it isn't. Opportunity for advancement appears to only apply to a few.

You cannot seriously believe that Susan Charles speaks only for herself, she's the president of PAMA. Frankly, I'm surprised that it took PAMA this long to get organized!

"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention"

Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 10:28 pm

Are you sure that all of the information in your post shows bad leadership? I don't think that PAMA needs to be telling the BOE how to perform their job. They were elected to their positions. Just because some within the district are promoted and some are not does not mean the sky is falling. Welcome to the real world. Favorites are routinely chosen over others with more experience and/or closer ties to the one doing the choosing. You can thank our current superintendent for alot of the problems you cited. However, I think you should stay on point with current issues. Scott L. is a qualified candidate for Assistant Superintendent. That's all that has happened recently. By the way, I didn't think that Dr. Pino was a good choice for her position, but that doesn't mean that a head should roll. Let the BOE appoint Scott L. and see how it goes.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2007 at 11:28 pm

Yes, people are promoted all the time over others. You are missing the point. Most people are promoted to positions after they are announced to be open, have a job description, and then apply and are interviewed and selected against whoever else applied.

This is a position created and filled in one night, with no chance for anyone else to apply. A tremendous slap of cronyism.

In private enterprise, not public money, this might fly without much comment. With public money, it is horrible management. I hope we don't lose any of the good people who have been slapped with this.

Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2007 at 12:37 am

PAMA's antics have damaged the school system. They should go back to doing their jobs.

Posted by T, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2007 at 6:26 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Actually..., a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2007 at 7:04 am

Speaking from experience, it's awful hard to do your "day job" as a school administrator when there's a lack of trust and leadership with the Supe and Associates.

If you really wanted PAMA to just go back to their day job and ignore the problems that exist in PAUSD, you're missing the whole point. They should be honored for speaking up. It was a risky move and they deserve our support.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 18, 2007 at 7:12 am

Howard, T and Kate, I would say that given your comments you have not personally experienced the technique the Superintendent uses, which is not nearly as benign as you paint it. I and many parents who have had personal contact with her have experienced it and I said exactly that to the Board last fall in open session. They have heard, and they know, which is what makes this latest round so disappointing. Joe DiSalvo has already explained what happened to him (after the gag order was removed) [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] There are *plenty* of people who do know exactly what has gone on, and the trust investigation will no doubt reveal it in startling clarity. I second Resident's comment that shoving someone in overnight without even having a job description in place, in the environment of completely broken down trust, was a slap in the face to the PAMA members and showed that while the Board have heard it all, they still aren't listening.

And T, well, if you think that PAMA aren't doing their day job every single day while struggling uphill in this toxic environment, then I don't know if anyone can convince you to the contrary.

Posted by aaa, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 18, 2007 at 8:36 am

To say that the board "still isn't listening" means they don't think/act the way YOU want them to think and act. We don't know what other private information the board knows. Our board is made up of honorable citizens who are weighing and judging based on input from multiple sources. We have to trust them, when it comes to confidential matters, to pursue the course they believe is right.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 18, 2007 at 8:52 am

aaa, lots of people felt that the Bush administration must have some secretly valid reason for going to war, and then we found out that no, as the naysayers predicted, the original premise was a trumped-up sham. Healthy skepticism is part of democracy. And no, it's not that they think differently from me, it's that they don't seem to take into account the promise they made to the Management Team this fall when things exploded. But don't take *my* word for it. Look at the Management Team's letter(s), and look around and count how many other districts natiowide have come to this point with their administration members. Do you have some reason to think that the Management Team, Joe DiSalvo, the middle school teacher who wrote from Afghanistan to say that she felt safer in the war zone in some ways than she did in PAUSD under this superintendent, and the others who have come forward to talk about the problems with this superintendent were all lying?

Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2007 at 11:15 am

What teacher wrote from Afghanistan to say she felt safer in the war zone than she did in PAUSD under Callan? Are the Management Team letters available to the public and where exactly are they located? What promises were made to the Management Team this fall that have been broken? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 18, 2007 at 11:36 am

Kate --

The middle school teacher's comments are in one of the threads about the trust issue that proliferated last fall. I don't remember exactly where, but it has to be in the Online archives. It was very poignant because she was one of the few who spoke up under her own name. I don't remember her name.

The letters were the Management Team letter published last fall by the Weekly (again, in the online archives), and the letter published by the Weekly in the last 10 days and the letter to the editor also published by the Weekly in the last 10 days (links to which are at the top of this thread). The Board promised in several Board meetings last Fall to work through the trust issue and the allegations/atmosphere of cronyism, retaliation, etc. Those allegations included the charge that the Super's subordinate tried physical and verbal intimidation in a meeting called after the first letter was made public. Again, article on this is in the Weekly archives.

It took the Board until December to appoint a team (Gail and Dana) to move forward with a trust investigation, which Camille promptly and publicly stated was not a trust investigation or an investigation at all (see Board minutes from around December or January). [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Google Joe Di Salvo and do Weekly searches and you will find the articles that explain all this. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Given all of the above, the Board owed an obligation to the Management Team to be particularly careful and aboveboard in making new appointments. They do not make such appointments in a vaccum -- they act on recommendations from the Super. That being the case, the Super must logically have recommended Scotty Lawrence's precipitous appointment -- which was made in *exactly* the same style as the others mentioned in earlier posts on this thread. At a minimum, the Board's rubber stamp indicated a disregard for the Management Team's concerns about cronyism that the BoE promised to take seriously and take steps to address.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 18, 2007 at 12:22 pm

Kate, I found a link to an article from the Weekly re: Beth Stein, the teacher who wrote in to Palo Alto online about the trust issues. Web Link

I also found a link to a story about Joe DiSalvo's breaking his silence.

There are other articles, including one about a parent meeting in which the parents expressed anger that Joe DiSalvo was removed (resigned under pressure). You can do Weekly searches and you'll see them. These are people who were in the thick of the problems, who are stating publicly what was going on.

Oh, my comment above about 25 Churchill not investigating his allegations is, as I reread the article on Joe DiSalvo, not entirely accurate. Apparently after Joe requested assistance from 25 Churchill, Marilyn Cook claimed that a witness had said one thing, the witness told Joe that Marilyn Cook had never contacted her, and sent an e-mail to 25 Churchill about what she actually saw. Following this, despite having given Joe a rave verbal review right around that same time, 25 Churchill then launched an investigation and forced him to resign on the grounds that he had bad management style that alienated most of his staff. This is all in the article I put the link for above.

Hope this helps you understand the complexity of the problem, and why this latest appointment might be seen as a slap in the face in combination with everything else that has gone on.

Posted by JLS Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2007 at 1:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by another JLS parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 18, 2007 at 2:17 pm

Joe DiSalvo was an outstanding principal, the best I've ever seen in PAUSD. It is a shame that he was forced out, an event that deeply dismayed the JLS parent and student community at the time.

Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2007 at 4:44 pm

There's a pretty well-balanced editorial in the Weekly about this.

Web Link

With the fiasco-like nature of recent events, many, many people will be scrutinizing their last round choices for a new Superintendent. Given these last actions, it's unnerving to consider what motivations the BOE might enter into consideration for the new Superintendent's job.

Posted by Um..., a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2007 at 6:43 pm

While I never had any problems with Joe DiSalvo personally, I can vouch that many members (as in MOST members) of his staff did have significant concerns about his style of leadership.

It is common knowledge that Joe was great with the JLS Parents. With a different staff, he would be a wonderful principal. Just a bad fit.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 18, 2007 at 9:36 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

As to the editorial, which I read and largely agreed with: I disagree that Scott Laurence should be appointed interim ANYTHING in a position that has been vacant AND unfunded for 5 years. Is there some new, emergency need to fill this particular position? Is there another position he could be appointed to provisionally? If so, that might be a reasonable compromise IF it were understood that other candidates would be welcome to apply for the position and the position he were appointed to had an actual job description prior to his appointment. The appearance of impropriety comes from the haste, the circumvention of a pretty standard process, and the spontaneous funding of this position without any real explanation of the need to fill *it* specifically at a time when the district cries poor constantly as it holds out its hand to parents and the community for more donations and bond measures.

I admire the hard work and long hours that the Board members put in. I think they are well intentioned. That being said, I also think the Board really does need to stop being so naive, and to think and act more independently from the Superintendent -- who has clearly lostthe Management Team's trust [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Yes, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2007 at 10:38 pm

Well said, Natasha.

Posted by IYNOYNPA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Kate - To your post: Ccronies being appointed to leadership positions, no public processes and mis-truths - yes, I think those all show bad ledership.

SOMEBODY should tell the board how to perform their job, or even what their job is and, more importantly, isn't.

I *do* live in the real world, and have seen the *people* falling...I don't care about the sky.

Staying on point with the current issues is a splendid idea, but we learn from the past, too.

You say that Scott L is a qualified candidate for Asst Supe. What does that mean? There isn't even a complete job description (or funding) for this position! He's qualifed more than anybody else? Really? How did you know that?

PAMA was formed after years of really bad decisions made by The Supe and most of the Board. They are frustrated and since there are no rules about who gets appointed, who gets canned and what truths leak out, perhaps they needed a safe way to get their points across. Scotty is a good man, now caught up in a tangle he probably never intended to happen (I'm guessing). That's unfortunate, and there will ultimately be no winners here. It was a huge mistake by this board to take the action they did considering the current climate.

To Um: Was the entire JLS staff polled to verify your post that MOST of them didn't like Mr Di Salvo? Unless you can provide proof, please refrain from making these kind of accusations.

Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2007 at 12:07 pm

PAUSD will survive, but whether it survives without further significant rancor is now entirely up to the BOE.

Givenn recent events, it would be a *very* wise thing to immediately structure the "decision committee" for the new Superintendant's position to include SIGNIFICANT input from PAMA, and teaching staff. In fact, any serious disapproval of one or another candidate by eiether of the latter groups should be grounds for passing that candidate over.

MFC was chosen to accomplish a very specific task that the last BOE didn't have an appetite for - i.e. getting personnel costs under control. MFC did not accomplish anything viable in that arena; instead she badly alienated PAUSD's teaching core (with tacit approval of the last BOE).

MFC _did_ manage to _help_ with the financial crisis brought on by the state. That said, she is given too much credit for the end result. The latter was a group effort made possible by statewide district education efforts, Callan's among them. Overall, Callan deserves a "C+" for her time at PAUSD. Although a competent person otherwise, she has not been the leader that this district needs; the last BOE that brought her in shares in this grade.

Back to the current issue; it was no surprise reading (in the Weekly) that ex-BOE member Kathy Kroynman was in agreement with Camille Townsend on Townsend's overt dismissal of PAMA concerns about the way this recent senior appointment was handled. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Kroynman's actions during her term on the BOE, and the results that those actions had on personnel morale, is but one more example of how dysfunction has been visited on teaching professionals by those don't teach. Kroynman is not an educator, nor is Townsend. Yet they continue to act as if they "know what's best". In short, they are perfect examples of what's wrong with current BOE structure, in that it does not include even a minority representation by those professionals that it is supposed to manage. Again, something is very wrong when na professional body is managed by those who are _not_ current or past members of that same professional body. What other profession - other than public school teachers and site staff - have to endure the gross inefficiencies and insensiitivities caused by actors in a political theatre that get to go home after their performance? Absurd is too kind a word for the way we manage our schools, and the people that do most of the work in those schools.

Yes, citizens who payt taxes shuold be involved in _helping_ to manage education, but we'd better find a way to balance the current management body with teacher and staff inputs, or we're going to see many repeats of the kinds of mis-management and personnel fiascos that we've endured these last years (including prior to MFC's arrival).

Posted by teresag, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 19, 2007 at 2:24 pm

Now I realize this may be a stupid question and I ask it sincerely, but why aren't more teachers on the BOE or the PTA. I'm always surprised that they're not when they'd bring so much to the table.

Posted by Mom 3x, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2007 at 4:01 pm

Teachers don't have time.

The BOE takes at LEAST 10 hours/week, and I think at busy times it turns into a full-time job.

PTA--some schools have a token teacher rep attend some of the meetings, but it's a common problem that there's not much T in PTA. I've spent many hours in PTA meetings, and while it's a been a bit of a social activity for me, PTA meetings spend way too much time on money matters--how's the budget, how much do we have in the bank, how much as the direct appeal brought in, what's the next event to raise money, who will take care of this or that, how much did we make from the last event, etc. Why would a teacher want to participate?

Posted by UM, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 19, 2007 at 4:54 pm


re: "To Um: Was the entire JLS staff polled to verify your post that MOST of them didn't like Mr Di Salvo? Unless you can provide proof, please refrain from making these kind of accusations."

I personally spoke to nearly every staff member (teacher, office staff, etc) on this issue at one time or another in a confidential, private setting. I did not make an "accusation" as much as I merely offered up the results from my own personal conversations and experiences. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
As I previously said, Mr. DiSalvo put the parents first. He's a great principal, just not a good fit for JLS.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2007 at 4:56 pm

Not to discourage anyone who might be thinking of running. But the BoE takes a minimum of 20 hours per week. In a good year. More, this year.

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2007 at 5:07 pm

Irv Rollins was an exceptional asset to the Palo Alto School District and did so many things beyond his job description. I think that the Board was smart to wait to find the perfect person to fill his shoes and I am glad they acted quickly to keep Scott Laurence from leaving the District. I had heard nothing but rave reviews from the time he was Principal at Gunn and was impressed with the significant changes at Paly when he took the position there. I love the fact that he has experience at the high school level and is so successful balancing the needs of all of the students no matter what school or home environment they come from. With so many parents wanting special treatment for their own children, often to the detriment of others, I think that he will be an advocate for all of our students and I am glad the School Board found a way to continue to benefit from his exceptional talents.

Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2007 at 5:25 pm

Teachers/administrators who take on official BOE duties would receive reduced workload/stipend for their participation. BOE participation for teachers/administrators would happen via peer approval/vote.

Posted by IYNOYNPA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2007 at 5:44 pm

I think many of us agree that Scotty is/was a good High School principal, coach, teacher, etc. But, let's also remember that half of PAUSD students are elementary kids. It would have been nice to find someone with BOTH kinds of experience, since so much that affects how our kids do in High School gets learned/taught/experienced at lower grade levels. I have no doubt that he will do the Irv job well, but he has a huge uphill start overcoming the manner in which he got the job. That's unfotunate.

Um: Apologies, I didn't mean to accuse you. I also talked with many (not every one) JLS staff who believed that Mr Di Salvo was on the right track for true Middle School thinking (I think PAUSD is still stuck in a Junior High mindset and Middle School isn't Jr High). [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Experience Mumbo Jumbo, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2007 at 6:29 pm

I also agree that Scotty L. lacked experience - in that he had no experience at working in a pre-school and a day care center.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Blabber in Blabber Out, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2007 at 6:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Um..., a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 19, 2007 at 9:44 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2007 at 8:34 am

IYNOYNPA - We have had a job description for the position of "Assistant Superintendent" for many years. This is not a novel position. We also know Scott L. through his many years of service to our school district. He is a true professional and qualified for the job that he was recently appointed. Also, just because someone is known within the district does not mean that he or she was appointed to a position based solely on that knowledge base. You misunderstood my post or perhaps it wasn't as clear as I intended. Facing reality forces us to make decisions based on the best information at hand. Let's remember that Callan was chosen after the process you are insisting on was used.

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 20, 2007 at 9:11 am

I'm curious, Kate, why it was that the Board funded and filled overnight a position that had been not only vacant BUT unfunded (this suggests they were not actively looking to fill it) for several years. And in the various reports, the Board had NOT in fact decided on a job description when they appointed him. Do you know for sure that is not the case, and if so, what is your source?

Oh, and now the Board wants to initiate another Bond measure to fund the facilities 20-year renovation plan or whatever it is called. So, they have $$ to spare to put someone into a position that didn't seem particularly important with funds they seemingly can ill afford, they have continued to alienate the entire Management Team, funds are not being stewarded properly, and now they want MORE money? Wow.

Posted by TownSquare Forum (Postings listed from most recent to oldest) View in an RSS Reader Choose c, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2007 at 3:57 pm

Hi Kate - Ms Callan was brought to PAUSD by a search firm. I absolutely did NOT suggest such a waste of valuable $$$ for the Irv job. What was the reality the Bd faced? If they really wanted to fill it vs finding a way to keep a good guy, then why not list it years ago? Did we suddenly NEED it? Irv's job was chopped up into little bits and assigned to other personnel. Some people took on some of those responsibilities in addition to what they were already doing and didn't even get the chance to apply for the job.

I agree with you that just because someone is known doesn't mean they qualify for an appointed position. But somebody who *IS* qualified should be given the opportunity to apply, don't you think?

I still think the Bd of Ed made a hasty decision without looking at the whole picture.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2007 at 6:31 pm

This is just conjecture on my part, but perhaps they are grooming Scott L. for the superintendent position a year down the road. Let me just ssy up front that I have had personal experience with Mary Francis Callan and I am not a fan. Likewise, I have had experience with Scott L. and I thought he was responsive and professional. I trust Scott L. I cannot say the same about MFC.

Natasha - I agree that it would have been better for the board to review applications from all qualified interested parties. However, I think Scott L. is qualified and therefore we should move forward at this point. I think we disagree on how to proceed now that Scott L. has been appointed to the Assistant Superintendent position. I also think the board did make a procedural mistake....just not a fatal mistake.

Posted by Um..., a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 20, 2007 at 7:44 pm


What one teacher would say to a parent is different than what they'd say to a co-worker. I would never tell a parent anything negative about my boss/employer, even if I felt otherwise. Who knows.

Posted by Dee, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 20, 2007 at 9:22 pm

It seems to me that everyone is losing focus. The time spent on all of this drama is time spend away from focusing on children.

--Are PAUSD children safe, especially after the incident at VT?
--Are PAUSD children receiving the best education possible? Are they receiving all of the services they need in order to educate the whole child?
--Are PAUSD educators and administrators accessible and child centered and looking at the students' best interests? Or are they wasting hours and hours of their days and weeks on this administrative soap opera?

Palo Alto parents should really be concerned about the above issues and should advocate for school administrators who work to hold childrens' needs as paramount.

Posted by curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Anyone know what has happened in the last 10 days on this? Things have been strangely not just quiet but silent.

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