School board to discuss broad goals tonight

Homework loads, 'supportive school environment' are on the list

Homework loads and school environment will be among the topics tonight as the Palo Alto Board of Education considers broad goals for the 2011-12 academic year.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly has recommended a long list of principles, or "focused goals," to guide the district, including "planning for fiscal uncertainty" and "planning for enrollment growth."

But the items that have generated the most heat revolve around academic stress and school environment, as leaders seek ways to support the emotional health and resiliency of students amid the high-achieving culture of the local community and schools.

Skelly's recommendations also draw heavily on a series of focus groups held with parents in May, in which parents expressed a desire for more consistency across the schools.

Among Skelly's recommendations are:

"Improve the consistency and quality of instructional practices to challenge and prepare every K-12 student.

"Develop a plan to have more students complete college preparatory coursework and more fully support those who do not.

"Implement additional ways to create a more supportive school environment and culture and the ability to learn and reduce unnecessary academic stress.

"Expand the examination of the purpose and volume of homework K-12 and a system that distributes test and project deadlines that will lead to a board policy.

And "examine the system of distributing test and project deadlines."

School board members will discuss the recommended goals tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 23), with a vote on the final list likely Sept. 13.

The public session of tonight's board meeting begins at 6:30 in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

Chris Kenrick

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2011 at 11:05 am

I would like to see discussion about the Cubberley site's future as part of the goals for the coming year.

The likelihood is that enrollment will be up again this year particularly in the elementary schools and since these numbers will translate to middle and high school in the coming year, this discussion needs to be done now, not later.

Putting the discussion off until there is a new board in the future is not doing them a favor. We need to be planning ahead now, not when the throngs reach secondary school and there is nowhere to put them.

Like this comment
Posted by Another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I agree with Resident. The City of Palo Alto has made it clear that they cannot afford to the short-and long-term maintenance of the aging Cubberley site on top of the current lease agreement without a clear strategic plan for the future. The district has said they will need the site. Okay. For what purpose? When? What does the community need to do to work toward that use? PAUSD should define that need and start working with the city toward a plan. The city could, and likely will, not continue the lease when it comes up for renewal in two years. PAUSD should plan for this now.

PAUSD, start working with the city now on a plan...or the partnership will fail and real opportunities will be lost. Status quo cannot continue, so what are you doing, PAUSD, to plan for that change?

PA Weekly... This is a huge story. PAUSD is failing to collaborate on long-term planning for one of our most valuable resources. Some good investigative reporting and a BIG spread is in order. It would help to review the original terms of the lease and the history of the UUT. Show the maintenance costs/lease costs. Help residents understand the issues around this critically important site. You are MISSING one of the most important Palo Alto stories of the decade. Please get on it!!!

Like this comment
Posted by PAUSD Parent and Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Don't forget about the results of the PAUSD selling off so many elementary school sites because they couldn't imagine a time when we would need them. Look at the results with portables and school sites over crowded. For people in PA to assume that we would never have a new crop of young ones in need of primary school sites was so short sighted. Let's not make any more mistakes!

Like this comment
Posted by we can do better
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I agree with all of above. Additionally, I think failing to re-examine the current construction at Gunn and Paly with Cubberley in the picture, before the construction begins, borders on negligent stewardship of our finances. The Measure A bond clearly includes language to allow the board to buy back the Cubberly 8 acres and make improvements there if they decide to based on enrollment numbers. Can they spend the same money and improve all three campuses, especially if less space is required at Gunn and Paly with Cubberly brought back on line? The construction at Gunn and Paly has been geared to making them much larger campuses and assuming Cubberley is not coming back online. Cubberly should be re-examined without the assumption, as has been stated in board meetings, that they can always come back to the community for more money.

Like this comment
Posted by Timing
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 24, 2011 at 9:29 am

We can't put everything at Gunn and Paly on hold while we sort out Cubberley. Working out a scheme for Cubberley - whether, when, what, who - will take years, and the discussion is just starting. We have construction projects that are getting built right now after 3+ years of planning. If we stop, the rising tide will be upon us well before the ground is broken on any new facility.

A new high school and middle school will absolutely require a new bond.

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