Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Kevin Skelly told the school board on Friday that "we were not successful" in hiring a public relations officer at an annual salary of $150,000 for the school district. See Web Link.
Just two weeks ago, Skelly told the board that the PR posting had attracted several strong candidates. He indicated that two Board of Education trustees would be involved in the final round of interviews and selections. See Web Link.
Skelly said that the district might be able to find a communications director sometime in "the future." The existing notice for the position expires on May 31.
Skelly's statement followed by three days a closed session with the Board of Education to consider his performance. Skelly is scheduled to have another day-long, seven-hour performance review on June 19.
The school board voted to hire a PR officer in the immediate aftermath of the news in January that Superintendent Skelly failed to notify the school board that he had signed a settlement agreement with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. The agreement came after OCR found that the district violated the civil rights of a disabled child.
According to the posting, the PR officer was to "promote a community climate of support for the district" and "cultivate" stories in media that portray the district in a positive light."
The school board's decision to hire a PR officer was met with strong public criticism. Former Paly principal Sandra Pearson wrote in a public letter to the school board that she was "puzzled and dismayed" by the board's decision and invited board members to seek input from teachers on more appropriate uses of $150,000. See Web Link.
The Weekly reported that former school board candidate Ken Dauber told the school board that "The district doesn't have a PR problem, you have a reality problem," and suggested that the $150,000 be devoted to a wellness center at Gunn recommended by a teacher-parent committee. See Web Link.
The Weekly also editorialized against the PR officer, and many community members have criticized the board's decision in online postings and at school board meetings.