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PAUSD quietly reverses decision on refunds of illegal summer fees, receives new complaint about 2012 fees

Original post made by Curious on Jun 18, 2013

All parents who paid summer school tuition to PAUSD for 2013 will automatically receive full refunds, according to a statement by superintendent Kevin Skelly and confirmed by a source close to the district. The move reverses an earlier decision to require that parents explicitly request a refund from the district. Under the earlier decision, unless parents contacted the district to receive a refund, the district would have treated their tuition charges as donations to PAUSD. The summer school fees are illegal under state law.

According to district sources, PAUSD officials also received yesterday a complaint about the summer school fees paid in 2012, along with a demand that those payments also be returned to parents. 2012 summer school tuition amounted to approximately $368,000.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to adopt at its July meeting regulations setting a one-year deadline for complaints of illegal pupil fees (see Web Link, at p. 6).

The unannounced change in district policy on the 2013 refunds follows a June 6 post to Palo Alto Online by Curious, a Palo Alto resident who posts occasional news stories to the online site (see Web Link). Curious' post was entitled "Palo Alto's plan to 'retain' illegal summer school tuition violates state law", and cited the statutory requirement that all illegal fees be returned by school districts.

The reversal on reimbursements follows the district's earlier decision to offer refunds of summer school tuition for 2013. District officials attributed that change to "recent legislation and court decisions," in particular an April 24 memo from the California Department of Education to district superintendents that mentioned a ban on fees for summer school (see Web Link). The decision followed by three days a post by Curious pointing out that summer school tuition is illegal.

However, the language in the April 24 memo cited by the district simply repeated similar statements in advisories to districts dating back to 1997, including earlier memos in 2011 and 2013 (the 2011 memo is at Web Link).

In fact, these statements are repeated in a PAUSD document dated 2011 on the district website. The document, entitled "Student Fees Guidelines," points out that "Students cannot be assessed a fee to enroll in a class, whether it be during the normal school year or during the summer" (see Web Link).

Comments (23)

Posted by The Spin Doctor is In, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Well, you certainly aren't shy about self-promotion ;-) I bet the district staff is hanging on your every post! I hope some time you find a constructive way to work with the school district, instead just carping from the sidelines.


Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Well, Curious seems to be better at getting PAUSD to comply with the law than its own lawyers are.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Curious curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Credit due, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Nothing against the Weeky, but Curious certainly has to be given credit for this change. Sadly for Skelly, it makes him look more dishonest than before. Tomorrow is his evaluation and it would almost be a crime if he was allowed to return July 1. So much money, time, and focus have been wasted because of his lack of leadership.


Posted by Curious fan, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Way to go Curious! You're doing a great job helping parents to understand what is really going on behind the curtain with the Great and Powerful Superintendent.


Posted by Skellyton Explorer, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jun 19, 2013 at 12:49 am

Dear Ms. Curious: I am so grateful that you are looking into things and keeping me. Skelly on the up and up (or should I say forcing him to do the legal thing!). I can't help but imagine how many more legal fees we taxpayers will have to pay to F, F and F for his legal services since I am sure that he had to seek legal counsel on this one.

School Bd.: can we afford to keep this man at the helm? Haven't you heard enough about his lack of honesty and downright ineptitude by now? And, I know that you will probably award him a raise again. When you gave him his raise last year you didn't know that he was concealing major stuff (ie being cited by the OCR and the list goes on) Now you know , and if you retain this man it is a very bad reflection on you. Do the right thing and give Mr. Skelly his walking papers pronto!


Posted by Not exactly, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2013 at 6:56 am

PAUSD was providing students one of the best summer school programs in the Bay area. A few of your superintendents supported this program, and the fees have been in place for years. Now that the loophole has been closed, 2014 summer school could end up looking like every other school district--remediation only and maybe not even that. What exactly was the goal? Exactly how does this help your children?


Posted by Curious Curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2013 at 7:06 am

@ Not exactly

Good question! I'd like to know that too.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2013 at 7:07 am

If the aim is to break our school district, well done. You have started the ball rolling and now at breakneck speed summer school is destroyed for our kids.

The kids are losing out and PAUSD is spending money that would educate our kids on legal fees and reimbursements. Not fair, not equitable, helps no one and I hope you are proud of yourself.

I have no idea who you are, but this is one whistle blower who hasn't the guts to be open enough to be seen. Hiding and making these anonymous posts hasn't done anybody any good. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by exactly, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 19, 2013 at 7:26 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Credit due, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2013 at 7:55 am

You need to ask for the data on the effectiveness of summer school before asserting that it was the best program. It served a very small percentage of Palo Altans, and I know some of you have a fetish for small percentages. Frankly, offering an effective summer school for a variety of students is not that difficult, but it does take an effective board to hire an experienced superintendent who can attract and retain administrators with th ability to implement programs like summer school. The latest principal to ask for reassignment is yet another sign of PAUSD's freefall, or worse, correction. I really thought it could not get worse. The timing of this reassignment is not good because of current troubles that include the rape culture exposť. Returning to the teaching ranks is not exactly a trip to paradise, so it is bizarre. How about some good news, PA Weekly? Isn't there another multimillion donation out there to cheer me up and forget about all this?


Posted by Curious fan, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:03 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Thanks Curious for reminding Palo Alto that the law applies to its residents too. This isn't Disneyland or Club Med. You can't make up your own rules and act screwed over that you got caught breaking a state law. [Portion removed.] All state education laws, including those requiring equal treatment of minorities, the handicapped, and low income families apply to PAUSD. Just because you would like to continue to break the law and fly under the radar doesn't make that the right choice or the lawful one. It is hard to believe but in this day and age there are people (only anonymously but still) who are expressing outrage that their local schools should have to obey state and federal civil rights laws like this one.

Let's try an experiment. I will redo your post but instead of summer school tuition I will sub in another state education law:

"If the aim is to break our school district, well done. You have started the ball rolling and now at breakneck speed segregated schools are destroyed for our kids.

The kids are losing out and PAUSD is spending money that would educate our kids on legal fees and reimbursements. Not fair, not equitable, helps no one and I hope you are proud of yourself.

I have no idea who you are, but this is one whistle blower who hasn't the guts to be open enough to be seen. Hiding and making these anonymous posts hasn't done anybody any good. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]"

See?


Posted by unfortunate, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:04 am

It's a shame the district will now be cancelling their summer programs. How can anyone think this is a good thing?


Posted by Not exactly, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:25 am

"You can't make up your own rules and act screwed over that you got caught breaking a state law." This was a collaboration with the city to provide enrichment to the community's children. Ever find a law that needs to be dragged into the 21st Century? Although it is much easier to sink into mediocrity than to seek change.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:30 am

Credit due - The principal of Paly asked for reassignment for purely health reasons, reduced stress and the ability to spend more time with his family. Being an administrator in PAUSD is at least a 7 am to 11 pm (or in Mr. Winston's case, 3 am on grad night).

The rape culture article was not really a statement just about Paly, it is a statement about high school in general, Paly is probably way better than other schools where sports, especially football, rule the town.

About the Summer Program, although we are now required to follow state laws regarding "free education" what this will mean is that the middle school "summer classes" will disappear or become part of the PA Rec department (they are really more camps than classes anyway) and the high school classes will be remedial only. No getting ahead, lightening your load for next year,only for students that need to make up credits. Sequoia high school district limits their summer program to kids that need to make up credits and limits access by grade. So if you are a sophomore, you need to wait for all the juniors and seniors to sign up, then if there is room, you can join them.

Although I think the state law has good intentions, when it comes to summer school, I think it will merely widen the gap between the haves and the have nots. Parent's with money will send their kids to St. Francis, SIL or Lydian for summer classes to get ahead. Parent's with money will get their kids help studying for the SAT or writing their college essays. Parent's with money will send their kids for Math prep so they can jump a math lane the following year. The access to the more affordable versions of these classes that were held at PAUSD will go away.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:33 am

This is not about segregation.

This is about providing affordable summer programs for Palo Alto families. Now the only summer programs will be private programs which are much more expensive.

Lower income families will no longer have affordable programs. I suspect there will be more kids left alone at home. I suspect there will be more bored kids during the summer. I suspect these bored, unsupervised kids will get up to various mischief during the summer.


Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:37 am

It seems as if the law needs to be changed. This is likely an unintended consequence of a poorly worded law. It would have been much better if Curious and WCDBPA spent time and energy on getting lawmakers to rewrite the law. I would have had much more respect if that had been the approach they had taken.

It seems like this will now be a lose/lose situation. The well to do will find enrichment programs for their kids (it may cost more but the private sector will fill the gap). The students who used to get a scholarship for summer school will not be given that option in the private sector and will instead may not have a summer school option.

I don't feel that PAUSD should offer any summer school. Why should they only offer remedial or credit recovery? If a student did not work during the school year why should more of our district budget go to holding a summer school for the low performing group (who ever they are)? The money should be spent during the school year to lower class size for all etc.


Posted by We're number 1!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 19, 2013 at 9:01 am

@paly parent said: "Paly is probably way better than other schools". Only only only in Palo Alto would someone say that about a high school in which a female student was raped and then harassed so severely by peers that she was run off campus. Only only only in Palo Alto would you get a parent posting that despite that, it is for sure certain that we are still the best school infected with sexual harassment. We are also probably the best school among those in which disabled girls are punched in the face and admins don't respond.

Indeed, I believe that we are about to receive an award from OCR for being the very best civil rights violator of them all.

Palo Alto -- Google maps places it at the corner of arrogance and ignorance.


Posted by Nothing is ever B&W, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

Nothing in the law is ever black and white so don't let Curious' rhetoric fool you.

Most likely:

#1. The law is not clear on whether the district can charge for summer enrichment classes.

There was a lengthy thread on this that said that only classes that are an "integral fundamental" part of a student's education (i.e. not cooking, not SAT prep) need to be free.

Web Link

(Curious, I know, you disagree. But unless you post your license showing your expertise in California education law why would people defer to your "one and only" interpretation?)

#2. The district is simply overwhelmed by the noise (and legal fees) [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

#3. A business decision has to be made: either devote more taxpayer time, resources and dollars to get the ruling that shows that the "no fees" rule is not about enrichment classes OR cut summer school.

The board will likely opt to do the second so resources can go to students not lawyers.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Skellyton Explorer, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jun 19, 2013 at 10:27 am

Doctor Skelly must go and must go now! He has been responsible for harming our students by sheer neglect and ineptitude. No positive performance review please and if you do, PAUSD School Board, you will be partially to blame for future adverse consequences of Skelly's neglect and downright lack of skill in doing his job. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Curious Curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2013 at 12:04 pm

To echo Skellyton above, I'll say:

ENOUGH IS MORE THAN PLENTY......CURIOUS MUST GO!!!


Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I wonder why Curious Curious thinks that "Curious must go"? She (or he) seems to be filling a useful information niche. If you are not interested, there are plenty of either things to read. This is quite buried, actually.

This seems very clear to me. State law says the school district cannot charge for summer school classes. The district charged regardless of that, for some reason we may never be privy to. Curious reported on that, which is undoubtedly news. The district changed its policy. The curious bit is why the district charged when it surely knew it wasn't proper.

I hope the school district keeps offering summer school. The amount of money is low, and the benefits seem high. Giving those benefits to children who may not have money is a particularly good idea.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2013 at 6:44 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@Peggy Duncan - Thank you. I second. Curious Curious is practicing a form a of - killing the messenger. I'll go a step further - "blaming" Curious is another form of - blaming the victim (skirt was too short). I am pretty sure that Curious would have remained "anonymous" forever after if best practices were the local law. Curious can not be blamed in the interest in the info being provided, I think that Curious stepped into a vacuum created by the lack of reliable info. As you mentioned - these threads are pretty remote. Why didnt the district openly admit the mistake and call for donations? Universities address donors and ask for $ to enable the Need Blind policy. It seems to me that the longer it will take for independent investigation, the first step of reestablishing trust, the probablity of babies being thrown with the bath water will increase. When there is no accountability, no transparency, no trust - anything is possible.


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