Town Square

Palo Alto school administrator tapped to lead Belmont district

Original post made on Jun 8, 2013

Michael Milliken, director of secondary education for the Palo Alto school district and former principal of Jordan Middle School, has been named superintendent of the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 7, 2013, 10:17 PM


Posted by Perfect, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2013 at 8:42 am

Best move he ever made. Came to PAUSD with a few years at a mediocre East Bay school district, did a couple of years at Jordan and made a little splash by coming out against bullying, and then filled the vacuum created by the one and done administrator before him. This year, however, as the administrator in charge of the middle schools, which means OCR violation under his watch, the dirt and stink started to stick to him, which meant he would have to fight or flee. You decide which he is doing. I was at them board meeting a couple of months ago when Milliken had to address bullying. He was succinct, ruffled few feathers, and regurgitated PAUSD was perfect and did nothing to help kids.

It is very interesting that he did not want the promotion to Associate Superintendent, you know, the position that Charles Young holds. It is likely that Young has no where to go, and you can bet he is looking. PAUSD has not worked out for him and he has not worked out for PAUSD.

Also, either the PAUSD press release or the Weekly has opened the door to degrees, stating that Milliken has three from Stanford. Young has one from the University of La Verne. Kevin Skelly's Harvard degree carried a lot of weight in his hiring. In the future, less importance should be placed on where the degree came from.

What about Ryan Fletcher? He had been ignored by Kevin Skelly for too long. This is a perfect promotion, it's overdue, and it gets him out of the PAUSD stink before it sticks to him. For those of you who have lauded Skelly's hiring for the last six years, go back and make a list of those who were here in 2007, those who were hired by him, and those who have left by their choice or not. Make your opinion then.

Posted by Good luck Belmont , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 8, 2013 at 9:35 am

Milliken is extremely hostile to public participation. He shines on for a while but eventually his basic arrogance coupled with his only moderate ability gets him into trouble. Not as smart as he thinks he is, but deeply committed to the idea of his brilliance he is a real chore to deal with. He hates board oversight and ignores it when he thinks he can get away with it. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Good luck Belmont , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 8, 2013 at 9:38 am

Agree with perfect that young has nowhere to go. Thanks to his bungling of the OCR investigations when you google him you get a raft of search results detailing his incompetence and radioactivity. The Peter principle has gifted him to PAUSD forever.

Posted by About time, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2013 at 10:15 am

When will we hear the news that Skelly, Wade, Barnes, Huerta, will follow him? Michael did the right thing before he got fired. He failed to stop the rape culture. The others have failed to protect special ed. Kids. Time for them to go too.

Posted by Come on..., a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm

MM is getting a huge pay raise and huge increase in his title. He's going to lead a district where the Supt of all San Mateo schools worked just a short decade ago. He will do an amazing job there. Ditto for Mr. Fletcher -- he will shine at P.Middle as their principal.

Please know it is not uncommon for administrators to switch positions, schools, and/or districts every few years. The mass exodus from PAUSD from 3-5 years ago is still continuing. You can blame leadership, but I would encourage our PA community to take a long, hard look in the mirror and at these forums for some examples why talented administrators choose to leave.

Posted by About Time, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2013 at 11:41 pm

To Come On,
Or may be is just that Mr. Fletcher does not want to be part of what is taking place at this time in Palo Alto. I am glad he is leaving, he can go to another district that does not have a sick environment.

Posted by resident, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 9, 2013 at 3:16 am

Come on,

"hard look in the mirror and at these forums for some examples why talented administrators choose to leave"

A hard look at these forums begs the question why district administrators keep growing a disconnect with parts of the community.

If there would be a strong management team, their JOB is precisely to handle challenges of the leadership nature.

My two cents is why would anyone that is talented want to stick with Skelly.

Posted by Poison Ivy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2013 at 7:09 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Perhaps with new leadership in our district all of the kids that are neglected will have a chance at a better life in our schools.

The bullying incidents which led to it's consequent "Letter of Finding" should have been the last straw. When the Board became aware of Skelly's concealment of the citing by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and heard his excuse for not telling them, "I was too embarrassed" that should have been the signal to start looking for a new Superintendent. This came on the heels of Skelly's renewing his contract into 2016 to the tune of 278K (over 300K with perks). If I were his employer and he concealed that information from me I would have immediately fired him.

Let's start cleaning out our district of all of the people who are breaking the law without consequence (violation of middle school girl's civil rights).

The Skelly scandal has progresssed to the point that the house of cards is imploding on itself. It would help to have that open investigation that WCDBPA has called for ever since the OCR news broke. We need to know exactly where this all went wrong in every detail so that we may have some chance to fix the district.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by good luck, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2013 at 7:13 am

"growing a disconnect with parts of the community."
It's only a very small part of the community. A part that wants to dictate to the district. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Perhaps this "part of the community" would also like to work collaboratively with the district? If past performance is any indication, I won't be holding my breath.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 9, 2013 at 7:43 am

"good luck" illustrates exactly what is wrong with district staff (including Milliken, in my experience): an extreme defensiveness, combined with contempt for the public and a siege mentality. That's how we get a situation in which the Superintendent ignores parents who don't send him fawning letters. If Milliken behaves the same way in his new job, I imagine he will get the same response.
But I suspect that this attitude is being driven mostly by Skelly. Leadership comes from the top, and here's hoping that once Milliken is out from under he will show some.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2013 at 9:10 am

Wow, it's tiring to continually read the same postings about bullying. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] There is no public school of bliss, as some demand. PAUSD is as good as it gets for public schools.

According to my children, there is occasional bullying in elementary/middle school, but the schools do address it if possible. The schools can only do so much. If it's physical abuse, it's much easier to stop. Verbal abuse and negative facial expressions are not so easy for schools to limit. If anyone has some fabulous ideas on how to stop a student from rolling their eyes, looking at someone negatively or spewing viscious comments, post here. I think the ones complaining about bullying don't even have solutions.

My children were bullied at both Duveneck and Jordan and the bullying stopped immediately after we alerted administration. Michael Milliken did a fantastic job in ending bullying immediately.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 9, 2013 at 9:41 am


I agree with you. My personal limit is 3.5%. If something affects less than 3.5% of children, I just don't care. It's too tiring. And I don't want to risk squandering my dreams and having unfortunate circumstances in life and venting out of my fingers. That sounds awful.

I wish I did have a solution to the problem you point to of people "spewing viscious comments", but I don't. I really wish I did. [Portion removed.]

Posted by I agree..., a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2013 at 9:53 am

The problem with PAUSD isn't the administrators; it's the parents.

One of my good friends is an elementary principal in PAUSD and we talk regularly. The stories I'm told would blow your mind. PAUSD parents, as you can see on these forums, are out of control.

Posted by Perfect, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2013 at 10:07 am

And there is the Milliken did a good job with bullying defense. How long was he at Jordan? How long at 25 Churchill? Two years each? That's telling. Seems like stepping stones, not a multi-year commitment to a specific community of learners. I agree with Parent's opinion that the schools can only do so much, though I don't agree with the assumptions that Parent makes about angry parents and squandered dreams because that sounds like a personal problem with Parent. The issue is that PAUSD teachers and administrators are highly paid for a supposed set of skills, which includes an innovative, competent response to student and parent issues. Milliken's style offended very few, but that may have just meant that he was flying under the radar. When the time came this year to show leadership in the face of this multifaceted crisis of basic civil rights and transparency, he utterly failed. Watch the last three months of board meetings and make your judgment. Did Kevin Skelly hire the best for we, the parents and public? We are paying for the best, but are we getting them?

Crises are why we hire administrators. Each district has them, do a bit of research and you will see that Milliken's new district had some crises as well. Do you know what their board did, however? They notified the superintendent in the fall that she would not be returning in the next year and then they appointed a pair of interim superintendents to lead in the 12-13 school year. Boards all over the Bay Area have done this and are doing this. Our board simply doesn't know what to do. It's that simple. Yes, Skelly, Charles Young (is there anyone out there who is going to defend his set of skills?), and Holly Wade need to be dismissed, there is no question in that if we are running a system that has accountability, it is just a question of when. Milliken's brand (I hate using that term) had certainly taken a beating this year because he is the Director of Secondary Education, which means middle and high schools, you know, where we had the violation of civil rights and the revelation of a rape culture. It would have been refreshing for Milliken to take a stand against the rape culture using some straight talk like "rape is bad" or "I will make sure that no student is ever victimized at Paly as long as I am the Director of Secondary Education," statements like that, but we have seen no such boldness, no such basic leadership from Milliken in his two two-year positions. His last act was making a gushing statement for Skelly and the leadership team in Skelly's Weekly Communication on Friday, which followed Skelly's thanks to Milliken for his good work. Thanks for making a difference.

Posted by Perfect, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2013 at 10:13 am

To I agree, perhaps less than 3.5% of the parents are out of control, just like the logic of Gunn parent. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2013 at 11:35 am

Good leadership requires good followers, and that's lacking in at least a vocal minority of Palo Altans. Think about it - that last Super (Callan) was fired under a barrage of criticism; Skelly will eventually be hounded out. What kind of candidates do you expect will step up to take his place, seeing how their predecessors were treated?

Similarly for school board - it is almost a full-time volunteer job, for which the reward is being told what a terrible job you are doing. No surprise that one candidate did not stand for re-election after a single term, and in a recent election only the incumbents were willing to stand.

Much as in the US as a whole, we generally get the leaders we deserve, and create the public atmosphere they must operate in. I'm sure our current leaders have shortcomings and have made mistakes, but the culture of blame and acrimony only erodes the ability of anyone to lead us.

Posted by Goodbye empty suit, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2013 at 11:49 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm

@Goodbye empty suit - you raise an interesting question, again. I am very curious to know if there are any statistics as to the schools' and district officials background? Your comment adds to 'Perfect's note of seemingly stepping stones.

Posted by Perfect, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Fred's post is a good example of the culture of blame and acrimony that he wrote about. However, he should not confuse the Callan superintendency with the Skelly superintendency. Callan was forced out by the principals. That was a case of the leadership team staging a public mutiny against their leader. Perhaps they weren't good followers. Skelly is being forced out by parents. He can in no way do anything to turn any of the principal leadership team or PAEA leadership if he expects to ride out this crisis, as he intends to do so he can pull in his $300K per year. This is not about kids, this is not about honor, this is about his money. Skelly is a compromised leader and has been for over a year. He is not the person who can lead or negotiate with the leadershhip team or PAEA. Keep blaming parents, or small conspiracy groups, it won't help kids, but it will help Skelly. Ironically, Skelly the boss would never keep Skelly the employee. As for Milliken, he is no devil, he is just not much of anything. You can't blame parents for his lack of courage or conviction, but it is reasonable to understand that he can make more money, he can progress on his career ladder, and he can leave behind the current crises, but it's just when kids need him most with things like counseling (disclosure: I'm not with WCDBPA!), rape culture, low achievement for our Latinos, that he leaves. This is a good move for him, but he had a chance to be a hero.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2013 at 12:25 pm

@Perfect - would you kindly remind the background of the principals mutiny against the leader, Callan?

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm

@Perfect, thanks for the good example of harping both against Skelly (greedy) and the departing Milliken ("not to hero"), as well as me. I'm sure you are right - none a perfect, or maybe not even pretty good. Oh well - there we have the human condition. Have you done anything lately to improve things, aside from point out the dreadful deficiencies of others? What surprises me is that so many talented and intelligent people think acrimonious complaining will improve the situation - I've never really seen that work. Have you?

Posted by Perfect, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Search the Weekly's own archives. Should take around 30 seconds. You'll find a year's worth of principals versus Callan material. The principals had around 50 parents signing a letter asking that the Board listen to the principals, meaning fire Callan. It was a dirty time, much like now. Curiously, almost all of those parents have been silent. It may be that they could complain once about a superintendent but not twice because that would make them look like complainers. Can you imagine if Callan was superintendent, say in 2005, and PAUSD was found to have violated the civil rights of a child? It would have been such a quicker operation of dismissing the superintendent.

As for the background of the principals, yes, there is a lot of white male or white female hiring, but advocacy for our Latino, black, or impoverished youth doesn't sell in PAUSD. Skelly is looking hard to hire employees of color, but he won't stick his neck out for anyone, that is for sure.

Posted by Perfect, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Fred, your acrimonious post has not helped so we are in agreement. Regarding your question, the answer is yes, pretty much on a daily basis.

Posted by Perfect, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Village fool, try terms Callan letter principals. You should be able to find the PAMA letter, the secret letter left on a public bench, and the letter from the parents to the board. Pretty much tip of the iceberg stuff.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2013 at 1:06 pm

village fool is a registered user.

This thread became restricted to those who are logged in when I tried to post the following -
@Perfect - Thank you. I was actually trying to figure out a 2005 complaint about civil rights. I am not really sure what have changed. I am pretty sure that the civil rights situation was not better in 2005. Possibly, hopefully - the access to information about civil rights and agencies that can help, free, is within better reach these days. As far as I recall the principals mutiny was not around issues even close to civil rights, students' well being, etc. As you mentioned, there is allot of information - it can be challenging to figure out the essence.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@Perfect - I am sorry, I missed when posting my recent comment your most recent post above addressing me mentioning the tip of the iceberg. I agree. I have mentioned, above, that as far as I recall the mutiny had nothing to do with the kids' well being. I can not be sure, now. It seems to me, though, that the mutiny had everything to do with the culture and atmosphere that is closely related to to the recent occurrences.
The iceberg, systemic issues, had me address Ken Dauber, calling to form a Shadow Board, and suggest investigation into the past decade occurrences. Link to my open address - Web Link
Please feel free to email me -

Posted by isez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 10, 2013 at 8:25 am

isez is a registered user.

I worked with Milliken when I was on Jordan PTA. While he did not answer all emails, his decisions were well thought out, he spoke well, had a good sense of humor, was present on campus, friendly to all, improved the school, devised a zero tolerance for bullying procedure, and we all enjoyed him. It was clear he would be a superintendent someday. Just hoped he would be ours. Belmont is fortunate to have him.