News

Palo Alto High School principal resigns

After recent brush with 'life-threatening illness,' Winston seeks work-life balance

Palo Alto High School Principal Phil Winston Monday announced he has resigned from the job he's held for the past three years, saying he needs to guard his health.

A recent brush with a "life-threatening medical illness," which he did not name, had caused him to re-evaluate his priorities and seek greater work-life balance, the 36-year-old principal said.

School staff members said Winston had suffered from a severe, antibiotic-resistant infection.

Winston indicated he'd been considering the resignation over a period of months.

"Please know that this decision was not made lightly and was the product of a careful and thorough thought process over the past many months," he said in an email to the Paly community sent late Monday night.

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Marilyn Cook, a former principal of Paly, has agreed to step in as acting principal pending a search for Winston's replacement, which already has begun, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said today.

"We appreciate (Winston's) deep dedication and strong service to our community in this role," Skelly said.

Winston said the illness had caused him to reconsider his personal and professional goals.

"At this stage in my life, spending time with my family, protecting my physical health and having a better work-life balance are my top priorities," he wrote.

Winston said he has asked to be reassigned as a teacher.

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Skelly said Winston has "done a great job with kids and parents (at Paly).

"He's just worked really hard on the environment at the school. His smiling face on the campus, his approach to the work has been really positive."

Winston is known for his visibility around the Paly campus, and recently proposed to move the principal's office to the school library in a school remodel so as to be physically closer to the center of student activity.

The former special-education teacher and assistant principal at Gunn High School was named to the Paly job in 2010, at 33.

Winston taught special education for six years in Milpitas, where he grew up and now lives with his wife and two children, before joining the Palo Alto district as a special ed teacher at JLS Middle School.

"A piece of my heart" will always be in special ed, he once said.

Winston attended Mission College and earned a degree in psychology from California State University at Hayward (now Cal State East Bay). He earned a teaching credential at Santa Clara University.

A hallmark quote, which adorned his office wall at Gunn and Paly -- and which he read aloud three weeks ago at Paly's May 29 graduation ceremony -- is from 18th Century English Parliamentarian and abolitionist Thomas Foxwell Buxton: "With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable."

When he got the Paly job, Winston said his goal was to "understand the community (and) keep it student-centered."

"Student-centered" means "continuing to process decisions and how the school functions based on what is best for our students in all areas -- academics, student life, culture, social, emotional, guidance, support and extracurricular activities," he said at the time.

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Palo Alto High School principal resigns

After recent brush with 'life-threatening illness,' Winston seeks work-life balance

Uploaded: Tue, Jun 18, 2013, 8:55 am

Palo Alto High School Principal Phil Winston Monday announced he has resigned from the job he's held for the past three years, saying he needs to guard his health.

A recent brush with a "life-threatening medical illness," which he did not name, had caused him to re-evaluate his priorities and seek greater work-life balance, the 36-year-old principal said.

School staff members said Winston had suffered from a severe, antibiotic-resistant infection.

Winston indicated he'd been considering the resignation over a period of months.

"Please know that this decision was not made lightly and was the product of a careful and thorough thought process over the past many months," he said in an email to the Paly community sent late Monday night.

Marilyn Cook, a former principal of Paly, has agreed to step in as acting principal pending a search for Winston's replacement, which already has begun, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said today.

"We appreciate (Winston's) deep dedication and strong service to our community in this role," Skelly said.

Winston said the illness had caused him to reconsider his personal and professional goals.

"At this stage in my life, spending time with my family, protecting my physical health and having a better work-life balance are my top priorities," he wrote.

Winston said he has asked to be reassigned as a teacher.

Skelly said Winston has "done a great job with kids and parents (at Paly).

"He's just worked really hard on the environment at the school. His smiling face on the campus, his approach to the work has been really positive."

Winston is known for his visibility around the Paly campus, and recently proposed to move the principal's office to the school library in a school remodel so as to be physically closer to the center of student activity.

The former special-education teacher and assistant principal at Gunn High School was named to the Paly job in 2010, at 33.

Winston taught special education for six years in Milpitas, where he grew up and now lives with his wife and two children, before joining the Palo Alto district as a special ed teacher at JLS Middle School.

"A piece of my heart" will always be in special ed, he once said.

Winston attended Mission College and earned a degree in psychology from California State University at Hayward (now Cal State East Bay). He earned a teaching credential at Santa Clara University.

A hallmark quote, which adorned his office wall at Gunn and Paly -- and which he read aloud three weeks ago at Paly's May 29 graduation ceremony -- is from 18th Century English Parliamentarian and abolitionist Thomas Foxwell Buxton: "With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable."

When he got the Paly job, Winston said his goal was to "understand the community (and) keep it student-centered."

"Student-centered" means "continuing to process decisions and how the school functions based on what is best for our students in all areas -- academics, student life, culture, social, emotional, guidance, support and extracurricular activities," he said at the time.

Chris Kenrick

Comments

Paly Parent
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:07 am
Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:07 am

Very sad news indeed. Best wishes to Phil, but it is a shame to see such a young man with great potential for our kids no longer at the helm.

It is a good decision for Phil and his family, but he has spent so much time (extra hours, I mean) and energy at Paly that I can understand his decision.

He will be an asset to any classroom in which he teaches - hope he does remain in the district.


Another Paly Parent
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:32 am
Another Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

A great loss for Paly. Phil is a one-of-a-kind administrator, respected, appreciated and genuinely well-liked by parents and students. His decisions always put the students' well being first. We had such great confidence in him, and that was a gift to the entire Paly community.
I wish nothing but the best for Phil and his family going forward, and also hope that he is able to continue to share his considerable talents with PAUSD.






JA3
Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:33 am
JA3 , Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:33 am

Phil's just a great guy; thank you, Phil, so much for your hard work over the past 3 years!


Jeanie Smith
Greene Middle School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:41 am
Jeanie Smith, Greene Middle School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:41 am

Sad news for Paly, but I applaud Phil's decision to keep his priorities straight and put career second to health and family. What a great role model for students, as always!

Phil has always garnered respect and admiration from his colleagues, myself included-- I do hope he's able to stay in the District in any capacity-- we need great educators like him.


Tony Putulin
Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:43 am
Tony Putulin, Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:43 am

The Paly community has just lost an iconic figure on campus. It's a sad day for the entire Palo Alto School District. Phil, you are the best at what you do. I have seen you in action. I must say I am truly amazed. Paly will never be the same without you. You certainly have touched my daughter's life more than you will ever know. I apologize for oftentimes teasing you about you're always wearing a green tie. But you know, that says a lot about you. I fully support your decision. I admire you for setting your priorities straight. Enjoy your much needed vacation with your family. I will see you in the Fall.


Unfair
Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:53 am
Unfair, Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

Not the good ones, how come the bad guys get to stay? life is unfair. Villalobos, Skelly, Holly Wade, Huertas, Gallagher and young are the ones who should leave not. I have faith that one of these times well get the news that they too are leaving after a long time of denying students the appropriate services they need to succeeede academically and emotionally.


DESKS???
Charleston Meadows
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:54 am
DESKS???, Charleston Meadows
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:54 am


Palo Alto High School Updating its Buildings for MORE Administrative Offices?


Penny
Greenmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:55 am
Penny, Greenmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:55 am

I have been fortunate to work as a volunteer with Phil at Gunn and Paly. He is a talented and student-centered admnistrator. I hope he will stay with PAUSD as a teacher. His presence enriches us.

Phil, I wish you improved health and all the very best.


Paula Sandas
another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:57 am
Paula Sandas, another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

We greatly appreciated Phil Winston's leadership, his dynamic impact and his true commitment to students. Our recent Paly grad both respected and liked Mr. Winston, which was a reflection of Phil's values. He is a 21st Century leader whose influence will continue to be felt as he takes on a new teaching role in PAUSD.
Here's to Mr. Winston's continued good health!


Big Loss
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:10 am
Big Loss, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

Sad to see Phil go. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Dennis Harvey
another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:11 am
Dennis Harvey, another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:11 am

Our two boys attended and graduated from Paly, and our youngest son graduated in the class of 2013 under Phil's leadership. And we all noted big improvements at Paly that must be a reflection of Phil's genuine concern, balanced approach, and focus on the education, happiness, and welfare of our students. Thank you for all of your service to our children. We are delighted to hear that he is staying on the Paly faculty!


Mom
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:11 am
Mom, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:11 am

We received the message last night around 11PM and I am still in shock. Being the principal of such a high profile school with outspoken parents is no easy feat. Mr. Winston was the best principal we could ask for. He respects and believes in everyone. He was approachable, visible, hard-working, professional, open-minded, productive, answered EVERY email within 24 hours, popular with students and parents, and kept Paly "student-centered", as was his goal. He improved the school tremendously. Amazingly, he would follow-up on emails: "How is (insert name) doing? Did it all work out?" Phil Winston is basically irreplaceable.


anon
Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:15 am
anon, Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:15 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Well-wisher
Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:27 am
Well-wisher, Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:27 am

Best wishes to Mr Winston who is such a tremendous human being. He is so dedicated to students and earned their respect rather than expected it due to his position. He helped my son get thru tough times in high school. He was missed when he left Gunn and went to Paly but glad he will stay in Palo Alto. To your health, Mr Winston!


Eric Van Susteren
Registered user
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:36 am
Eric Van Susteren, digital editor of Palo Alto Online
Registered user
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:36 am

The following comment was moved from a duplicate post:

This is a real loss. Phil was a terrific principal. I hope the search committee spends time finding someone equally good.
by Paly Parent Jun 18, 2013 at 9:06 am


Marie
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:40 am
Marie, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:40 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Crescent Park Dad
Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:05 am
Crescent Park Dad, Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

This makes me sad. Paly will miss Phil. What a breath of fresh air compared to the previous principal.

@ DESKS?: they are remodeling/updating the Tower Building...which is in desperate need of repair (as the same for Haymarket)...part of the planned bond program. No expansion.

@ Big Loss: um, Skelly hired Phil for Paly...

@ Marie: really? Given Phil's record at Paly, one would have to ask if it wasn't the other way around.


PAUSD teacher
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:06 am
PAUSD teacher, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:06 am

Glad to see him go. Sorry about his health if that is true.


paly alum
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:07 am
paly alum, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:07 am

Superintendent Skelly just sent us a newsletter but there is no mention of Winston's resignation. More incompetence from our figurehead.


Winning
Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:12 am
Winning, Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:12 am

PALO ALTO STUDENTS: This man has just given you a prime life lesson through example.

Your health and family are ALWAYS more important than any sort of achievement or job you may think is important.
Remember, the happy people win in the end, not the one's with the most toys or biggest paychecks, as erroneously thought in the old days.


Kelly
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:12 am
Kelly, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:12 am

I wish the Palo Alto Online staff would stop deleting the accurate comments, leaving only positive comments to glorify this man. He may have fooled the Palo Alto community with his charming facade, but there are plenty of underprivileged students and who will benefit greatly from his departure.


Frances Davies
Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:18 am
Frances Davies, Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:18 am

I only personally talked with Phil once at 3:30 in the morning after prom when he alone made sure that my kids were picked up safely after their bus had broken down. Probably not good for his work-life-health balance sheet but it showed me how deeply he cared for the students. I hope his replacement carries on the tradition.


Concerned
Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:48 am
Concerned, Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:48 am


The post from a PAUSD teacher saying "glad to see him go" confirms my felling that
a "student centered" admin does not make teachers happy. I'm sure good teachers liked him, but the bad ones are happy to see him go.

Whoever the new Principal is will have big shoes to fill, and student centeredness should be a criteria.

My concern is that Skelly will hire a yes person for Paly, type that only knows to play defense, like he and the board do, bad teachers will be happy about that.



Olivier
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm
Olivier, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Graduating Student
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm
Graduating Student, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Anybody who says that Winston is student oriented clearly was not a student. He is only concerned with the high achieving students; all other students did not matter to him. Talking to him was impossible; he was very strange and hard to understand. He was very concerned with him own image, and you could feel his ego coming at you from a mile away. The other administrators at least can sympathize with students, and can help them get through tough times in their lives. Paly is a great school; my years there were the best of my life. I hope that the new principal is more laid back in his attitude and allows students to find their own way in life.


Truedy
Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm
Truedy, Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Phil Winston is a great principal. I've had children at Paly since 2005, and since Mr. Winston has become principal, the environment has become much more student-friendly (Sorry, Graduating Student, but this is true!). I'm very sorry to see him leave the position.

I hope the "PAUSD Teacher" is not a real teacher at Paly, what a horrible thing to say.


Paly Parent
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm
Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Sad to hear that Phil Winston will leave Paly, but fully understand his decision and I truly wish him well. During his tenure as principal, Phil touched many in the community.

It pains me to read comments from those who seem to latch onto any chance to say something negative. [Portion removed.]


Paly Parent
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm
Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Still sad and hope his replacement comes from within PAUSD rather than an outsider as outsiders have not done well here. Perhaps Chuck Merritt can be persuaded to leave El Carmelo and return to Paly to take on the role. His experience as a vice principal and his knowledge of the school would make him an ideal candidate.


Chris Gaither
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm
Chris Gaither, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Have to take care of yourself, as no one else will. Unfortunate reason to have to make this decision, but good choice to make time to enjoy your time here on this earth with the people you enjoy and love. It's good to have time to recognize the value of time, and each day we are given.

Good luck, and long life to you Phil!


Linda Allen
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm
Linda Allen, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I hate to see this. Phil is an amazing person,Principal and role model. Please, Please take care of yourself.

You are the best!
Linda, Stephanie and Larry


Umm
Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 4:44 pm
Umm, Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 4:44 pm

"My concern is that Skelly will hire a yes person for Paly, type that only knows to play defense, like he and the board do, bad teachers will be happy about that."

Umm, didn't Dr. Skelly appoint Mr. Winston?


Crescent Park Dad
Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm
Crescent Park Dad, Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm

This is who you want...

Web Link


Gunn mom
Greenmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm
Gunn mom, Greenmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm

I absolutely think that Katya Villalobos should be the next Paly principal. She can bring Gunn's wonderful counseling system to Paly, dismantle TA, and you can live our dream. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


James Lynn
College Terrace
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm
James Lynn, College Terrace
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Annie
Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm
Annie, Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm

I'm so sorry to hear Phil is leaving. He had such a positive impact at Paly. Loved by parents and students alike. I can understand why some teachers might have resented him. But I was very happy to see some long-overdue retirements while Phil was principal. He really put the kids first.

Good luck to you, Phil, and please take care of yourself.


Big Loss
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm
Big Loss, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Gunn parent
Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm
Gunn parent, Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


former Gunn parent
Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm
former Gunn parent, Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Phil did a great job at Gunn and it's no surprise the Paly community appreciated his talents too. But being a secondary principal in PAUSD is a FULL time job.

@Unfair - Sometimes the good ones leave because our district wears them out! Maybe the ones who stay are trying to have a work-life balance, and can't satisfy others all the time. Maybe we should give them a break.


Thank you, Mr. Winston
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm
Thank you, Mr. Winston, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm

It's a difficult position to be a Palo Alto high school principal. Intellectual snipers on forums awaiting every move. Winston served us well and we were fortunate to have a principal who cared about our students. His door was always open to parents and students. There was no arrogance or passive-aggressiveness with him. Our entire family is grateful for his stay and wish him well.


Mimits
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2013 at 5:03 pm
Mimits, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jun 19, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I was very sad to hear that Phil Winston has resigned. I had the privilege of working closely with him for a couple of years when I co-led the parent education programs at Paly. He was the epitome of a leader to me - a fantastic principal who cared deeply about our kids and the community, and the teachers. I was amazed at how good he was, and how much he cared. He always looked deeply at issues and challenges, he was incredibly supportive and involved in making sure we were doing the right thing for students, their families, the school and the community, and not just for the short term... he was in it for the long term results. He had very high standards, and inspired others to excel as well. I'm just so sad for Paly; this is a great loss.

Phil, I wish you the very best. We were so lucky to have you during the time we did, and you will be missed. I just hope you stay in the Palo Alto district as a teacher, and that you are healthy and happy. Be well.

Maureen Simons


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