School board to discuss parents' ratings

Next year's budget, Paly and Duveneck renovation projects, also on agenda tonight

How do average Palo Alto parents rate their kids' schools?

In a quest to find out, the Palo Alto school district invited 81 randomly selected parents to share their thoughts on what's "going well" with the schools and what needs fixing.

Results of the brainstorming sessions, held last month, will be discussed tonight by the Board of Education.

Many parents expressed "concerns about ineffective teachers, middle school program quality, homework issues," registration and teacher evaluation procedures, communication and the quality of school lunches.

In a dot-vote tally, parents said their top "needs to improve" categories were: feedback on student performance; cost of special education (mentioned by elementary school parents); shortage of passionate, engaging teachers (mentioned by secondary school parents); and problems with bus transportation and kids being labeled (identified by parents in the Tinsley Voluntary Transfer Program).

In a separate brainstorming session, a group of 21 invited "parent leaders" said their top priorities were homework issues and staff development for teachers.

Parents in general also said they value the school district's "rich and varied resources," sense of community, strong teachers and staff who treat students as individuals and many existing forms of communication between schools and homes.

In other business tonight, the board will hold public hearings on a proposed $161.7 million operating budget for 2011-12.

The budget includes a boost in projected revenue from property taxes, the school parcel tax, leases of district property and donations from Palo Alto Partners in Education.

It also includes revenue cuts in state funds, federal stimulus and other funds directed to special education and federal funds not directed to special education.

Also tonight, the board will vote on a tree policy for the district, and will hear a presentation on the district's special education program as well as a report on efforts to promote "student connectedness" on the 17 campuses.

Board members will discuss seating capacity and design options for a proposed new performing arts center at Palo Alto High School as well as schematic designs for $11 million in proposed renovations to Duveneck School.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

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Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm

It's troubling that the group of parents was hand-selected by the administration for this survey.
Not even mentioned in the above article is one of the most important issues in our district: the high rates of outside tutoring as a symptom of the abysmal state of the math curriculum in the elementary schools.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm

What is it about randomly selected that you interpret as hand selected? Over 700 invitations were sent from a bank of about 19,000. One group was invited (PTA, School Site Councils and PiE). Of the 700 sent, a total of 102 participated.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Maybe Mom meant self-selected. No I guess not. Anyway 102 self-selected of 700 randomly selected of 19000 total isn't a fully random sample. And I'd assume the 21 "parent leaders" are even more self-selected", but hey, the world is run by those whose priorities are to get involved.

What is this "most important issue" high rate of outside tutoring? 3 percent of students? Half hour a week? In one subject or two? Or just prep sessions for contests, SATs, or AP exams? Is it those falling behind or those trying to get ahead? Openly done or a difficult-to-quantify stealth practice? At all effective?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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