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'Safe schools' task force mulls recommendations

Original post made on Jun 10, 2013

A new system for anonymous reporting of bullying is among the recommendations of a Palo Alto school district task force on "safe and welcoming schools."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 10, 2013, 12:56 PM

Comments (27)

Posted by How much longer?, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I cannot believe PAUSD officials; they are working at the speed of my turtle. I believe it has been over a year that the District was found guilty of charge by the OCR, and they still do not figure out that the "Steps to Respect Program" is not working. I believe that is the one they had at the schools where the violation of rights of students occurred, and they still have the same program. How many more OCR, investigations is going to take for Skelly to open his eyes and really say "we have a problem" and we need to really tackle it, not just pretend. As long as we have the same people who violated our students rights, things are not going to change, because we are not sending a message to the rest of the principals and staff. That is exactly why bully continues, when some of our innocent and not so innocent students bully others; we do nothing, but pretend to do it and the bullies or aggressor do not really get the message that this is wrong.Therefore, they do not get the help they need either. PAUSD I can see that again, you are ignoring.
Again PAUSD wants to pretend to be doing something, and wants to be public so the parents who do not know abut these programs, say " Wow, I am impressed and drop the ball. Then back to regular business.


Posted by Get the Skelly Out, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 10, 2013 at 2:13 pm

How much longer do we have to tolerate Mr Skelly and his ineptitude, to say nothing of his lassitude? he is to doing his job, and does not deserve a paycheck for work he does not do.


Posted by The Truth, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 10, 2013 at 4:59 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I can tell you that as a person who deals with Palo Alto Kids and Parents on a daily basis for a living: You all need to know the truth and that is about 95% of the parents in Palo Alto could care less about all these issues. They have payed millions to live in Palo Alto for the education and just want a great education for their kids and worry about grades, sports etc....Their own kids.

I have never once in my 16 years had a parent come up and complain that another child is being bullied etc... Parents worry about their own kids and when they are done with PA schools they disappear.

Some people in Palo Alto have way to much time on their hands!!! Getting kinda comical now. Education takes a village for sure but bottom line education starts with individual passion and effort. All these excuses for failure get old after awhile!


Posted by Fairmeadow Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Jun 10, 2013 at 5:05 pm

"While the proposed new district-wide committee on "safe and welcoming" schools will address concerns raised by the OCR, it is meant to go well beyond that, she said."

How will this committee address concerns raised by OCR? OCR's concerns will be addressed (one homes) before this committee is formed and holds its first meeting. Will the committee do staff training? WIll it provide a FAPE to the student in one of the current complaints? Will it adopt an appropriate Title IX policy? How will a committee like this follow FERPA and ensure student confidentialty? Why do we need a committee to do Charles Young's job? Charles Young is the district official who is in charge of compliance. It is his job to do every thing in the above list. If he cannot do that job, we don't need a multi-stakeholder committee to do it for him. We need someone who can get the job done. Perhaps he's not a good fit for this position as compliance officer -- we didn't marry him and it's not that hard to replace someone who isn't working out.

"Carrillo did not recommend a standardized anti-bullying curriculum across the district, saying schools are attached to the wide variety of curricula already in use. She provided a list of 17 different programs currently on Palo Alto campuses, including Steps to Respect, Second Step, Project Resilience, Six Seconds, Core Values, My Digital Tat2 and "talk it out."

Why has the district decided not to implement an appropriate standard evidence based anti-bullying and anti-harassment curriculum across sites? I cannot believe that the reason we are being left with this patchwork mishmosh of programs is because of site-based control ("schools are attached to the wide variety of curricula already in use"). This even after we will pay untold amounts out in legal fees, settlements, and the like in order to resolve the results of a problem that was caused by site-based control run amok. This has to be the bottom. We can't go any lower.

Heidi Emberling ran for school board on a platform of implementing a uniform evidenced based anti-bullying curriculum. In the strategic plan survey there was support for handling bullying at the disrict rather than the site level. Yet here we are again captive to site-based control. Heidi, it's up to you to do something about this.


Posted by Fairmeadow Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Jun 10, 2013 at 7:57 pm

"truth" no one can understand you. Your sentences do not logically follow each other. If you are a teacher, as you suggest, that is worrisome and is another data point supporting the strategic plan survey data showing that only 38% of parents think that teacher quality is consistent across schools and courses. On the one hand you say that parents are only concerned about their child and have no sense of civic responsibility and on the other hand you excoriate those who are trying to make the system better for all children. So which is it? Are PA parents a bunch of self-interested narcissists who don't care about the community or are they a bunch of do-gooder busybodies with too much time on their hands. Make up your mind which unfair criticism you are going to hurl. Your inconsistency is hurting my brain.


Posted by Smokenmirrors, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Lay off truth, it is The Truth, lay off Skelly, no really, lay him off ASAP. Why did you ever vote for Heidi, could someone please list any tangible talent she has brought to the table?

And whatever you do, don't ask if PAUSD can go any lower. It's actually worse than the Weekly knows.


Posted by Unbelievable!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Fire Skelly and get a new board. They are all dysfunctional and I agree that Heidi has brought nothing tangible to the table except the need to go home and get her sleep! Stop saying, "I am new here" or something to that effect. The Board is supposed to be directing Skelly and holding him accountable for breaking the law. Instead they extended his contract at an exorbitantly high pay scale. He should have been fired as soon as it was discovered that he concealed the OCR findings against the district. Anyone in any other job would be fired.


Posted by Check the mirror?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 10, 2013 at 11:45 pm

"Fire Skelly and get a new board. They are all dysfunctional"

Since this would be the second "dysfunctional" super replaced since 2007 and almost no-one chooses to run for school board (2009 election cancelled for lack of candidates), what does this tell us about our community?


Posted by Unbelievable, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2013 at 12:02 am

There was one candidate running last time....that Ken guy and he was dumped on by the likes of people like Camille. She probably would not have run had not Ken jumped into the race. They are interested in maintaining the status quo. Actually, they are status seekers if you ask me. I have been so unimpressed with the whole bunch. They lack any gumption at all. Barbara Klausner (the only good one on the last board) left because she couldn't stand the dysfunction). Perhaps after all of these [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] take a walk there will be a roster of good people who are interested in obeying the law and helping the kids in a tangible way that want to run for board. It would be a welcome breath of fresh air after all the stink the Skelly Scandal has caused.


Posted by Unbelievable, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2013 at 12:06 am

By the way, does anyone know who all read the supe survey? will the results be published? I know many PAtans that spoke their minds on the survey comment section. Enquiring minds want to know. I am sure that Skelly would have deleted any negative comments that he wouldn't want anyone to see.

@Check the Mirror: It tells me that this whole dang community is dysfunctional or blind (or perhaps both!)


Posted by alienated, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2013 at 12:34 am

Having Brenda Carrillo involved in both making meeting notes for 504 meetings (wildly biased toward district) and being in charge of a task force for "safe and welcoming schools" makes my family at least feel extremely unwelcome.


Posted by nuts on the forums again, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2013 at 7:40 am

@ Unbelievable,
"[Camille] probably would not have run had not Ken jumped into the race."
Camille tipped her hat long before Ken decided to run. But continue with your conspiracy theories.
Heidi was a far superior candidate to Ken. As is always shown, the best candidates won.


Posted by Fairmeadow Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Jun 11, 2013 at 7:47 am

PAUSD should be judged not on how its students who have every advantage and gift are performing but on how students with challenges do -- disabled students, minority students, poor students. Let us empirically investigate the question of whether and to what extent our schools and teachers are "great." Perhaps our schools and teachers are merely receiving credit for the achievements of those who would achieve regardless of the school system and sweeping those with challenges under the rug.

In PAUSD how are disabled students doing? Currently we have had 4 OCR complaints alleging civil rights violations of disabled students. Over 100 parents came to an OCR "know your rights" presentation, suggesting that is the tip of the iceberg. Many parents with IEP and 504 plans feel unhappy with how their students are doing, the process for granting accommodations, the follow-through on giving those accommodations, and the treatment that their student receives from teachers and peers once identified as disabled. Many parents complain that since the departure of Carol Zepecki, the district has forced their children into new onsite "special day" and TSS classrooms where they do not necessarily receive an education that challenges them (i.e., are being tucked away in dummy rooms) rather than being educated in the least restrictive alternative. This is being done for cost-saving reasons. Another strategy is "full inclusion" which means sitting disabled students in a corner of a mainstream classroom where they can be ignored in public rather than in private. Both of these strategies violate the law if the student is not being educated to his or her potential and both set up the child for bullying.

Kevin Skelly used this same strategy at Poway, and was sued repeatedly by parents there who did not want their student placed in a stigmatizing and less intellectually challenging environment. His remark about that was that 25 lawsuits from unhappy parents wasn't all that many. But our Board is fine with this, and soon will hold its day-long "retreat" with Skelly that includes his performance evaluation and will make public comments praising him for his stellar performance. "Only 4 OCR complants!" "You only concealed the first one, the rest we heard about!" Great work staff.

On minority students, the picture is grimmer, if less dramatic. PAUSD does a poor job relative to many other districts in the state of California, on the education of poor and minority students. This failure is concentrated and worse in math and science where for some subjects such as Algebra II and Biology for African American students PAUSD scores near the bottom of all schools in the state. The school board does not understand these statistics, so it can't really engage with the problem. And the number of minority voters is vanishingly small. But if you want to know whether PAUSD is truly a great district or not you should examine its results for poor white and minority students.

What these statistics show is that if PAUSD like other high schools in the area was 30 or 50% minority or low income, then PAUSD would rank at the middle or the bottom of the pack even among schools with similar populations.

The level of what a recent Gunn grad called the "unjustified self-satisfaction" of Gunn administrators is equally applicable to the entire city's view of its schools. We have coasted along on the coattails of our high-achieving students. That does not mean our schools are great. On the contrary, our high-achieving kids are probably less high-achieving than they would be if they attended better schools. Our schools are probably a drag on them. That is why their parents send them to so much private enrichment for a fee.

That's the dirty secret of PAUSD. Our slogan should be "PAUSD: If Your Child Is Already Brilliant, We Probably Won't Do Any Harm.*"

*Does not apply to disabled, minority, or poor students.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2013 at 7:51 am

I think Camille ran again just so that we would have an election. If she had chosen against running, there would have been no choice!

I agree, we have so few people standing for BoE elections (and City council) and that is worrying in itself.

We are asking ourselves why we do not have a good BoE when really we should be asking why we don't have the people we need putting themselves forward as candidates.

I thank those who run for a place on both the BoE and City council because it takes time and effort as well as local scrutiny to do so. I may not agree with some of their policies or views, but I acknowledge that they are doing something that few want to do and they need to be appreciated for their time and effort regardless.

I have no idea what will happen next time round, but if we want some quality candidates to give us some choice, then we need to treat them with a little more respect for what they are doing.


And the last BoE election, got real nasty. Don't want that again.


Posted by Fairmeadow Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Jun 11, 2013 at 8:11 am

Camille ran again because she wanted to be on the board again. Period. When Barbara Klausner decided not to run again, Camille decided she would like to keep her seat. All her blather about how she was doing it at the urging of others was just blather. She wanted to keep her seat. Look at the Council -- they want to keep their seats. Look at Liz Kniss. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Camille likes feeling "important." Does she understand anything about school governance? Data? Math? How to run a large 200M organization with a rogue chief executive? Because she was a 2-term incumbent, she was assured of victory. The lack of term limits for school board means I hope you like this current board because those who have no future prospects doing anything else (i.e., Camille) are now with you forever. Dana Tom 2032!

Ken Dauber was a great candidate and without him there would have been no election. He performed very well in debates but no one really attended those. But he got in late, didn't go door to door, didn't meet enough voters, didn't raise enough money fast enough, and [probably most importantly] was the victim of a dirty tricks and whispering campaign. That was because he has been at times critical of Dr. Skelly for his lack of transparency. That of course turned out to be more true than Dauber even knew with the post-election revelations of OCR findings against the district that were concealed from the public by [wait for it] then board-president Townsend and Skelly. So I don't think he was a weak candidate but he didn't know what he was doing at all and just wanted to make a difference for kids. He was an
"issue" candidate not a career politician candidate. He also wasn't going to get rolled and pushed around by Skelly like Heidi apparently is.

Heidi, do something about bullying and OCR. Isn't that what you ran for? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by nuts on the forums again, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

"PAUSD should be judged not on how its students who have every advantage and gift are performing but on how students with challenges do -- disabled students, minority students, poor students. "

Why? This is why Ken lost. He was a single issue candidate who ignored the vast majority of the students in the district.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2013 at 8:35 am

I won't comment on why Ken Dauber lost.

I will say that with the choice in the last election, it was a choice not of who was wanted on the BoE, but who wasn't wanted. Every vote for either Camille or Heidi, was a vote against Ken. With such a small pool and no real winners, just an obvious loser, we were in a poor situation. For every strong supporter for Ken, there was a strong oppose. He was either liked or disliked. Those who disliked him didn't necessarily care about the other candidates, just not getting him elected. Is this the way to make a decision?

Personally, I was pleased there was an election. I would not have liked a situation where Camille didn't run and then it was a shoe in for the other candidates.

I don't agree with all this BoE has done, but unless we have some more candidates, then we are going to be stuck with Hobson's Choice.


Posted by parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 11, 2013 at 11:11 am

Safe and welcoming schools is first and foremost the responsibility of the staff (counselors and dean of students and administrators). Students need to be mentored. They will thrive in an environment where they are encouraged not to go astray. Sometimes the environment seems like a "guilty till proven innocent" one. Turning that culture around would be a big step. If staff is just waiting for some of the students to mess up, the vulnerable students may just do what is expected of them.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm

It is amusing that the posters in these forums continually assert that not following their preferred solution is somehow an indication of doing nothing, being incompetent, or some such term of derision.

No, quite simply it is merely evidence that your position is not being adopted (aka you lost).

What isn't amusing is the lack of civility and decorum. So brave behind the cloak of anonymity.... or perhaps that is your true personality.

Quit calling people names and start working on effective (and democratically chosen) solutions.


Posted by Another Parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:27 pm

This is a shame. How many different programs? And how could anyone hope to track their success, solve problems, or enforce the guidelines?

Students with special needs are in a unique situation here. They are being mainstreamed, but their disabilities are kept secret to protect their privacy. This earns them equal treatment by their peers, who spend a lot of energy teaching one another how to behave in social situations. When they turn a disapproving eye toward a peer with special needs, who has broken one of the many and complex rules of the culture, it is called bullying by the OCR, and the students who did it are labelled bullies. The peer corrections I've witnessed among middle and high school students, which are meted out equally to all transgressors, include such things as: ostracism for bullying, shaming for being anti gay, disdain for being cruel in a dating situation, disdain for not doing one's share of a group project, for staring, being a gossip, following someone around, and on and on. Many of the lessons are meted out with no regard to sexual orientation, race, religion, or a disability whether it be apparent or not. Some of it is for the right reasons, some not. Teenagers teach one another all day long. When your child has a disability and is mainstreamed, and the disability is a secret and causes the student to be disruptive, or is a secret and causes your student to not turn in work as part of a group, the other students will let them have it. This is equal treatment. They are not making special exceptions for your child. In order for a better outcome to take place, the way this mainstreaming is handled has to be different. It can be best handled by trained staff, who stay with the mainstreamed students at all times, and work with the students around them. This is very expensive. The district does not have the money for it. I wish they did. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The mainstream is the mainstream. If you put your child in it, that is where they will be. My children do not have disabilities, but they have been on the receiving end of schooling by their peers. They have also handed out their share. They are not bullies.

I had such hope for WCDBPA, but instead of stepping up to help, they continue to [portion removed] carp from the sidelines, calling for heads on pikes. The result is this halfhearted attempt on the part of a flailing community rather than a strong partnership that has any hope of improving the lot of all these students. If you wanted to do better, you would have pitched in to help instead. No, the district can't tackle this while under attack. You have demoralized everybody.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2013 at 5:12 pm

First, I agree with "Resident" on why Mr. Dauber did not win a seat on the board. But what gets brushed aside is what was behind the why.

This isn't personal, it's plainly an observation. Mr. Dauber did not win a seat on the BoE because Mr. and Mrs. Dauber didn't always play nice with others. And that rubbed many people the wrong way...which was the genesis of the "whisper" anti-campaign. So despite their best intentions (and no one can really fault their concerns), the Dauber's end game was short circuited by their somewhat abrasive style of pursuit to gain attention and a reaction by the BoE or Skelly.

Bottom line: Too much broken glass.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Crescent Park Dad - I agree with you. The Dauber's have great intentions and brought (and continue to bring) important issues to the table. I think there were concerns that they would be hard to work with as part of the Board. And also, there were concerns that it was a "they" not just Ken. People would be "electing" both Daubers.


Posted by Bravo!, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm

What a breath of fresh air! "Another Parent", a few posts above, has said it best!

"When your child has a disability and is mainstreamed, and the disability is a secret and causes the student to be disruptive, or is not a secret and causes your student to not turn in work as part of a group, the other students will let them have it. This is equal treatment. They are not making special exceptions for your child. . . The mainstream is the mainstream. If you put your child in it, that is where they will be."

"I had such hope for WCDBPA, but instead of stepping up to help, they continue to [portion removed] carp from the sidelines, calling for heads on pikes."

And "The Truth" makes good points too: "the truth and that is about 95% of the parents in Palo Alto could care less about all these issues. . . Parents worry about their own kids and when they are done with PA schools they disappear. "

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

My children HAVE been bullied in their younger years, but administration squelched it immediately after I complained. People, don't get the wrong impression from the few on these forums who complain about bullying.


Posted by Campaign Insider, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Glad to see that we are talking about the campaign. Actually the genesis of the whisper campaign was just another example of Munger money in local politics. The Mungers sunk a progressive pro-union candidate for the El Camino Hospital Board and anti-charter school candidate for the County Board of Ed. Here in Palo Alto, the Dauber reform platform was a target since any challenge to the status quo was seen as a threat by Munger to the schools which prop up the property values. Of course we narrowly avoided the biggest Munger threat to education with their campaign against Prop 30. Palo Alto's Democratic voters need to be aware of the extent to which extreme right wing money is a factor in local elections. It's not just in Washington people - it's here in our own backyard.


Posted by Jeff Sanchez, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2013 at 10:59 pm

I don't feel demoralized by WCDB. I feel demoralized by 4 OCR complaints in the last 12 months and no transparency. Please people stop shooting g the messenger.


Posted by Bravo!, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Yeah, everyone gets jealous when they hear about the money the Mungers have.

Re Jeff Sanchez's posting about 4 OCR complaints, it's because Palo Altans have way too much to say. Easily, in other districts, there could be 4 or more OCR complaints if there were parents who so desired to take that route. Most parents just put up with it. Think about Richmond, Oakland, Redwood City, San Jose. . . People ought to look at the big picture. There are how many thousands of students in PAUSD? And 4 OCR complaints? Get real, that's less than 1%.


Posted by Campaign Insider, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 12, 2013 at 8:06 am

Bravo! Interesting. I am not sure that jealous is the correct characterization of the response people have when they understand that billionaires, who inherited their wealth, are foisting a right wing agenda on a largely Democratic voting population. Most Palo Alto voters register surprise, some outrage, when they understand that right wing extremists are investing in busting unions, supporting charter schools, and undermining reforms aimed at strengthening the performance of our local public schools right here in Santa Clara County. Palo Alto voters came out strong for Prop 30 showing how we value our public schools. Too bad they didn't know that School Board candidates were taking donations from the very people set out to undermine this investment. The "Experience Matters" campaign funded and endorsed by Mandy Lowell Munger supported Ms. Townsend and Ms. Emberling. The resulting year of OCR complaints shows the result of the Munger investment. US News and World report no longer ranks Gunn and Paly in the top 100 schools nationwide - a direct hit to our reputation based largely on PAUSD's lack of equitable outcomes for low income and minority youth. Ms. Munger continued her assault on public education with her leadership of the Cubberley Committee. Years and years of deferred maintenance and political wrangling have left this public asset lying fallow while our schools become more and more crowded. No, I am not jealous. I am wary of where the Munger supported stewardship of our public assets are leading this community. Of course a decline in the quality of our public schools opens the way for increased privatization. Just drive down El Camino to note the proliferation of private tutoring centers and private grade schools. Or ask your neighbors in Mountain View how that Bullis Charter school is working out for them. If you value public education in Palo Alto,in the next School Board and Council elections, follow the money.


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