Town Square

Board cancels session on new school

Original post made on Apr 23, 2013

The Palo Alto Board of Education has canceled a "study session" that had been planned for today, Tuesday, April 23, to discuss location and programming for a new elementary school in Palo Alto.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, April 22, 2013, 4:54 PM


Posted by Erin, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Apr 23, 2013 at 8:21 am

Barb Mitchell sent an email last night saying that today's study session has been cancelled.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2013 at 10:35 am

The proposal to have it start as a small neighborhood school and expand from there sounds like a good idea, as well as using the San Antonio road site. Maybe the lack of complaints means other people agree!

Posted by Greendell Future, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2013 at 10:39 am

Since Mandarin immersion is growing, why not move that program to Greendell rather than Spanish immersion? Does it make sense to put all of Palo Alto's elementary school choice programs south of Oregon Expressway, east of Alma Street?

Posted by Competence, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2013 at 11:26 am

Is there anything this Superintendent and Board can do right any more?

Posted by Is It Any Wonder, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm

The US News National High School rankings/ratings were published today. Neither of Palo Alto's High Schools made the list. A number of California High Schools however did make the grade, with the best raking to a high school in Santa Cruz. Sounds like all the high paying home buyers in Palo Alto are not getting their money's worth when it comes to at least high school education. Sad, but true.

Posted by Not the best, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Watching the board meeting tonight: Dana Tom saying "on the advice of counsel," Charles Young showing a video in lieu or expressing original or talented thought, Kevin Skelly insulting us with flippant remarks or silence about what matters most, Heidi Emberling utterly failing with pseudo-positive words about nothing, etc. I need the apologists to come out from hiding and point out how PAUSD is all about kids and how we are providing the best for them and for our community.

Posted by Sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Re: US News & World Report -
Sad, and inexcusable, but not a surprise. If anything can dislodge Skelly, perhaps this can. The weekly should run a story about how the PAUSD isn't even ranked.

here the link:

Web Link

Posted by sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2013 at 10:57 pm

PS -

according to Wikipedia: U.S. News & World Report rated Gunn High School 66th in 2007, 74th in 2008, and 64th in 2010.[5] Newsweek rated Gunn High School the 81st best high school in America in 2008 and 42nd in 2011.[6]

Wikipedia doesn't say what Paly was - but I think the two usually aren't that far off -

SO - when is Skelly going to be shown the door?

Posted by Let's Digress, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

Paly and Gunn weren't ranked: Web Link

This is a good idea, as people should move to Palo Alto for more reasons than just the schools. Our students have enough stress that they don't need more insane competition to move into town.

Posted by Is It Any Wonder, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

To Let's Digress - I totally agree. It would be great for all these wannabe Palo Altan homebuyers to stop moving into the city, clogging up our streets, and not really contributing to the city's community system just to have their kids attend Palo Alto schools. Most of them just move when a certain amount of education has been achieved. However, the non-ranking of both high schools does make one wonder what is happening with the quality of a Palo Alto education - academically; emotionally; mentally; and in terms of providing a nurturing and supportive learning environment under Skelly's watch. Palo Alto parents who send their kids to these schools need to stop being passive, and get this train back on the right track!

Posted by Eileen Altman, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Regarding the U.S. News and World Reports rankings, as a 15 year resident of Santa Cruz (I just moved to EPA a few months ago), I can tell you that the ranking system itself has some biases that make it unreliable as a marker of educational quality. Pacific Collegiate School (PCS) in Santa Cruz is a charter school which requires ALL students to take AP courses. The U.S. News ranking system gives schools a higher score based on the percentage of students taking AP or IB courses, which automatically puts PCS near the top of its rankings each year.

I chose not to have my child apply to attend PCS for many reasons and believe that his education at one of the comprehensive public high schools in Santa Cruz was superior to what he would have received at PCS. This is because I value the educational opportunities that come with interacting with a more diverse learning community (economically, ethnically, and academic ability) and the greater extracurricular options he had available to him at the school from which he will soon graduate. PCS has been a source of great division within the Santa Cruz community. While it is a good educational choice for some, especially bright kids who have difficulty in the rough and tumble social environment of a comprehensive public high school, its ranking is not a source of pride for the whole community because of the resources it drains from the other schools.

The Palo Alto public high schools are excellent and should be a source of great pride for this community no matter what a flawed ranking system would suggest.

Posted by Let's Digress, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2013 at 2:26 pm

@Is It Any Wonder: No, PAUSD quality of schools has not fallen. Apparently we weren't ranked because the "underperformers" in the district brought us down so we didn't make the cut. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The high schools do, however, offer students who volunteer to tutor, plus Tutorial (free time to study or see teachers) each week. The middle schools have teachers who stay after school. So these "underperformers" have resources if they choose to use them.

Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm

@Let's Digress, U.S. News and World Report dropped PAUSD from its rankings because our schools do a worse job of educating poor and minority students than other districts in the state. We are below the state average. In other words, an Hispanic student has a better chance of getting a good education in most other districts in the state than in Palo Alto.

That says that we do indeed have a problem with underperformers, but it is our teachers and staff who are underperforming. They have more resources than almost every other district in the state (and more than any other large unified district) but are delivering worse results.

For why that is, I recommend as an instructive text the Paly math letter disparaging minority and poor children's ability to learn math. It also, incidentally, attacks students from more affluent families who don't do well in math as "slackers" -- reminiscent of your last line. In fact, I wonder...

Posted by Let's Digress, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2013 at 7:03 pm

@Reality Check: The math letter was simply stating that all students should not be required to complete higher level math. Affluent families who have children who don't do well in math can afford tutors.

At Jordan, math teachers are available after school. At Paly, there is almost always a math teacher in the math department area who is available to help at any time. In the Academic Resource Center at Paly, students are available to tutor students at lunch, during school, and after school. For both Jordan and Paly, whenever my children have needed help from teachers, they were easily available and willing to help. The majority of our teachers are doing a fantastic job and for you to point the finger at their failure is preposterous. You can't expect the teachers to stop and pay special attention to those who aren't understanding, thus holding back the entire class rather than moving on. If a student doesn't understand, it's their duty to see the teacher when possible. The conscientious students know to do this. These "underperforming students" are not seeking extra help due to having to take the bus home after middle school or they don't care about academics. There needs to be positive data that they are seeing their teachers after school and at Tutorial and at lunch, etc., and you can't prove they are doing this.

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 25, 2013 at 7:18 pm

@Let's Digress

No, that's not what the Paly math letter was saying. It was saying that requiring that all students take math through Algebra II isn't fair, because some students can't learn Algebra II. In the words of Radu Toma and the Paly math teachers, "Many of these are VTP students or underrepresented minorities," while others are Special Ed students.

I have uploaded the letter to Google documents so that everyone can remind themselves of the letter's content: Web Link

It is, frankly, a nasty piece of work. It certainly is in line with your post, which also blames students for the failure of their teachers. It founders, though, on the hard fact that many other teachers in many other districts are doing a better job teaching similar students. That's what US News and World Report noticed, and that 's why we are (correctly) not on the list of top high schools.

Given all of that, I'd suggest that when a teacher tells us that a group of students is unteachable, we find a teacher who thinks otherwise. Luckily, we have the highest teacher salaries of any large unified district in California to help us do that.

Posted by Let's Digress, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2013 at 7:59 pm

@Reality check: We are saying the same thing but you find the letter repulsive and I find it sympathetic. Do you really think these students have open minds and WANT to learn math? While I am not a Toma fan, I agree that the school should not force them to suffer through a class that they have no interest in learning. It's easy to blame the teachers, but try teaching to a student who doesn't give a hoot and the information goes in one ear and out the other. To spend an hour with someone and feel you completely wasted your time because there was no progress. If these students really cared, they would be seeing free tutors and teachers all the time and performing better in academics. The students who care about their education are dedicated; they don't expect a good grade to be handed to them on a silver platter.

Posted by Not the best, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2013 at 10:13 pm

That math letter wasn't Paly's or PAUSD's best moment, in a healthy district it would have resulted in changes in leadership, either at Paly or the district office. Throwing VTP and underrepresented minorities under the bus smacked of racism, it was arrogant, but it also seemed to reveal the insecurities of certain PAUSD teachers in demonstrating that they can teach children learn, and there needs to be objective evidence of that. Can Paly math teachers only teach children of middle and upper class children, the very children who do well academically at just about any school, or can they teach the handful of students who are not born with all the advantages that correlate with student success? We are going to need a new school, blaming VTP and underrepresented minorities won't change that, but it does say a lot about our community. With Skelly, Young, Brown Act violations, OCR violations, our board, I'm not sure how much lower our school district can go. We need a change.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2013 at 10:33 pm

@not the best - I totally agree. I think it is interesting to note that the math letter set in the dark for about half a year until it was made public. As far as I know - It was not made public by the board, to whom it was addressed, or by any other PAUSD instance.
I asked several times, then - Who should I thank for making this letter public? I do not know.
That letter created allot of "noise", then it was forgotten. Same as CF carrier kid who was moved, same as OCR investigation and more. These waves seem to come and go. Systemic issues.
I am listing, again, the link to a thread I started calling Ken Dauber to form a Shadow Board. I think that time passed clarifies that there is no sincere intention to look into the root cuases of those issues. I believe that a Shadow board may be a way to address these issues until a formal process may take place. There may be other ideas out there. Web Link

Posted by No retaliation!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 26, 2013 at 3:59 am

I think lets digress is staff. His post sounds very similar (nearly identical) to the math letter itself. Fool, only the Daubers had the courage to post the letter to the Internet and hand it off to the Weekly. Only Ken Dauber mentioned it during the election. Dauber is a true champion for our kids. He's not afraid of the retaliation that is very real and that keeps parents from speaking up in public. Ken thank you.

Posted by Let's repress, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 26, 2013 at 9:01 am

The fact that Radu Toma, who called our kids "slackers" and said that the poor and black and brown kids didn't have "supportive parents" who encouraged education. Reading that letter again just makes my blood boil all over again. Thanks to Ken Dauber, We Can Do Better, SEAN, PASS, Latoya Baldwin-Clark and other advocates who brought these facts to light. Last year, Ken Dauber did a lot of data analysis showing EXACTLY PRECISELY what US News just dinged PAUSD for. EXACTLY. He made about a jillion board appearances and read them off the names of districts around the state -- I think one was Visalia -- mostly poor and rural where minority students do better than in Palo Alto.

Some of this district's teachers DO NOT CARE about these students. They don't want to teach them. They consider it "diluting" rigor. Every teacher I know was ASHAMED of that letter and ashamed that fellow teachers would write such a thing (and that they would be dumb enough, even if they thought it, to WRITE IT DOWN AND SEND IT PUBLICLY. Wow, that's dumb.

So, hahaha PAUSD you lost prestige. LOL. You deserve it for how you treated our kids.

Posted by Let's repress, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 26, 2013 at 9:03 am

Oh yea, here it is:

Web Link

An oldie but a goodie:

"Palo Alto last year ranked 147th among California school districts when it came to black student proficiency in Algebra 2, a group of parents told the Board of Education Tuesday night.

In sometimes tense exchanges, the nine parents demanded a greater sense of urgency by the school district in fixing what they called Palo Alto's "bifurcated school system -- one for the wealthy and one for the economically disadvantaged."

"When Visalia is doing a better job (helping black students master Algebra 2), folks, you are at the bottom," parent Michele Dauber told the board.

The statistics came from a print-out by Dauber's husband, Ken Dauber, of results of the 2011 California Star Test (CST) in Algebra 2 for various student subgroups.

Seven percent of Palo Alto's black students who were tested showed "proficient or above" -- placing Palo Alto 147th statewide in the category. The best district in this regard -- Hawthorne in Los Angeles County -- had 75 percent of black students who were tested showing "proficient or above" in Algebra 2.

In both cases, the number of students tested was small -- 15 in Palo Alto and 12 in Hawthorne.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly did not quibble with the data, though he said he would "have someone look at it."

"I didn't get into education to have results like this, and we need to work to have them better," he said.

Palo Alto long has struggled with the achievement gap, publishing student data and agonizing over how to fix it.

The district has launched multiple early intervention efforts to nip problems in the bud; analyzed student profiles; trained teachers in culturally sensitive instruction methods and established a special "college bound" program at Barron Park Elementary School featuring a longer school day and longer school year.

Last year Skelly proposed boosting the district's graduation requirements to match the academic prerequisites for the University of California and California State University systems. The proposal is seen as a way to boost expectations -- and results -- for low-income and minority students who perpetually lag behind the district's high averages.

But the proposal was tabled after an outcry from parents of special-education students, who worried their children would suffer under the suggested requirements.

The recommendation also was opposed by the Palo Alto High School math department, which argued that some students cannot pass Algebra 2 (required for UC and CSU) without a watering down of the curriculum, which the department said it was not prepared to do.

The so-called "Paly math letter" has become a rallying point for minority parents as well as for the Daubers' group, We Can Do Better Palo Alto, which has lobbied for measures to reduce academic stress.

The groups have demanded that both high schools offer basic no-frills "lanes" in math and science that meet, but do not exceed, the UC/CSU entrance standards.

Parents of elementary students said they are fearful of a system that sees many black students placed into special education by the time they are in middle school. The district is currently under state sanctions for having a "disproportionate" number of underrepresented minority students in special ed."

Posted by In Support of Toma, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2013 at 10:40 am

I found nothing objectionable in the Toma letter. He is merely stating facts. All he is saying is that they would have to lower the current Paly standards for Algebra 2 in order to allow a certain set of kids to pass it. Under the WCDBPA proposal those kids would have to pass Algebra 2 to get a high-school diploma. I would rather have these kids pass high-school and then go on with their lives. There are plenty of late bloomers. Not everyone can be good at math. Not everyone needs algebra. Some people get better at math later in life. Toma has my unequivocal support.

Posted by Let's Digress, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2013 at 11:16 am

Haha, no I am not a teacher. I have children who care about their schoolwork, however, so I know the opportunities available for them if they need help. Emailing, InClass, Schoology, TEAM, Tutorial, student tutors, teachers. . . it's all there for the students who care.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I do think our schools can be too rigorous and initially was supportive but have lost interest in the radical dogmatism. It's a recurring theme of "let's fight for the helpless who don't help themselves nor do their families help." It's an uphill battle baby. I say go ahead, do what you feel is right. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 26, 2013 at 11:49 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Third Generation, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Seems like some people have yet to realize that life isn't fair.

I love America because it's the land of opportunity. Those who work hard can be successful. Some people choose to stay complacent. If they don't take advantage of opportunities, we can't force them. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by No retaliation!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Hold onto your bootstraps boys and girls! I wonder how it happened that the feds keep finding that PAUSD has so many civil rights violations? We are clearly all about respect for diversity and equality. All you have to do is read paloaltoonline.

Posted by No retaliation!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Editor, can you please delete this sentence from the post from "Third generation": "The "underpriviledged" in our schools should appreciate that they even have the opportunity to be in our schools." Well hey Mayflower descendent that is mighty nice of you to let those underprivileged people into "your" schools. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by So much for titles..., a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2013 at 10:21 am

The key fact is that we are below the state average for educating minority children. BELOW THE STATE AVERAGE. That is a lot of districts doing better than PAUSD. That tells me that it is not about the moral fiber of our students or parents. Those other districts are doing things that we are not doing. I hope the Paly math letter was an anomaly but I doubt it, given the numbers.

A school district that does great with kids who have every advantage, from Ph.D. parents to high paid tutors, but poorly with kids who don't, is a school district that is low performing.

Born on third, thought they hit a triple indeed.

Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Back to the actual topic of the thread.

Greendell Future,

Mandarin Immersion *isn't* growing. That's one of its problems. Doesn't mean it shouldn't be moved to Greendell, given the waitlist at Ohlone, but SI is and will probably continue to be the larger program.

Note on the US News WR--PAUSD chose not to participate in that idiotic ranking this year. You really think our schools dropped from spots in the top 200 and out of the top 4,000? This was covered in another thread.

Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Oops, take back the part about the US News Ranking. Well, not about their being idiotic, but why the schools aren't on it. I think it's funny that the editors there are in a huff about our achievement gap when they continue to give high rankings to magnet schools that screen out underperforming students.

Which isn't to say that our district handles the achievement gap well--it doesn't. But rankings like USNWR are part of the problem, not the solution. It encourages gaming the system.

Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Opar, PAUSD isn't below the state average because other districts are gaming the system, it's because other districts are taking the task of educating all students seriously. You can dispute with USNWR about whether that's an important goal for a school district. I happen to agree with them.

I watched some of the school board meetings last year when Ken Dauber talked about this issue. I admired the effort but I thought he was being pretty naive. Fixing this problem is going to mean accepting that we don't have perfect schools, and we don't have perfect teachers. No way is this school board stepping into that minefield. Even Skelly who is pretty good on this issue spent months arguing that the data was wrong before having to admit that Dauber was right.

Posted by Palo Alto Native, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Colleges receive the school profile along with applications so they know the academic excellence of our schools. The school profiles are on the school's websites under General Information. Why do people feel the need for bragging rights by being ranked in thje magazine? Palo Alto has always been modest; let's keep it that way. By participating in the rankings, we attract more status-conscious parents and increase the academic competition. We don't need more publicity and people moving here solely for the schools.

Posted by No retaliation!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm

"Palo Alto has always been modest; let's keep it that way."

This might be my favorite paonline post of all time. As a piece of writing it is wonderful. It's use of plain, unadorned language and emphatic descriptors ("always," "keep" suggests candor, while engaging in the exact opposite within the sentence itself. This is a little soundbite that packs a wallop.

Our new PR head could learn a lot from you, PA Native.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm

@No retaliation! - thank you for your comment about Palo alto modesty! I really could not figure out if it was real, or irony.
@Palo Alto Native - in no way I mean to be personally nasty or rude. May I suggest to try and ask around? Seems to me that the Palo Alto communal self image of modesty and other virtues is not disconnected from the achievement gap, math letter, OCR findings and other systemic issues not being identified, not to mention addressed.

Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I am amazed at how many nice, polite parents I meet at my children's sports events to find out later (by Googling, heh) that they are highly, highly successful financially, intellectually, and/or in their careers but I never found out by chatting with them. They already have confidence in themselves so they don't need designer duds, designer cars, or the need to brag. Yes, we have many modest residents in Palo Alto. How sweet it is.

Posted by How true!, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I have to agree! I am so appreciative of neighbors like Mandy Lowell Munger, who never mentions that she and her husband Charlie gave $30 million to oppose Prop 30. Talk about not blowing your own horn!