New Palo Alto school chief vows 'open, frequent' communication

School board approves $295,000-a-year contract for Max McGee

Palo Alto's incoming school-district superintendent Tuesday made a commitment to communicate "frequently, openly and clearly" and to balance immediate priorities with a "clear, long-term vision" for education.

Max McGee's comments followed unanimous approval by the Board of Education of a $295,000-a-year contract naming him to lead the Palo Alto Unified School District through June 2018. His start date is Aug. 1.

McGee, a former Illinois state superintendent who for the past seven years has led science- and technology-focused high schools in Illinois and New Jersey, expressed "sincere and profound gratitude to the board for being selected to lead the schools in this wonderful community."

He said experiences working with inner-city youth during his college years led him to switch his career path from engineering to education and to the realization that "education is the key to making the enduring difference that can change the world."

The Palo Alto Unified School District has "these incredible human resources and collective vision that we can develop and nurture to empower students with the intellectual capacity, critical thinking, compassion and resilience to improve the quality of life in our community, our country and across the world," he said.

Referring to outgoing Superintendent Kevin Skelly's habit of bicycling around town and among the district's 18 campuses, McGee said he has "big shoes and a big helmet to fill."

"Thank you for your wise decisions, dynamic, student-centered leadership and incredible legacy," McGee said to Skelly.

School board members and community members thanked Skelly for his seven years of leadership, particularly crediting him with new policies to boost college readiness among traditionally underperforming students, a massive school building program executed under his watch and his optimism and genuine affection for students.

"Whenever you come into a room, if there are students there, you immediately go talk to them," board Vice President Melissa Baten Caswell said.

"Kids just surround you because of your height and warmth," board member Heidi Emberling said. "I remember you getting way down to their level and saying, 'My nickname is Shorty.'"

Skelly said he has no immediate plans other than to take six months to "reflect" -- which includes walking the 500-mile ancient Christian pilgrimage route Camino de Santiago de Compostela in France and Spain with his wife, Carrie.

Related content:

At a glance: Glenn 'Max' McGee

New Palo Alto superintendent comes with personality, long career

Palo Alto board tours Illinois school with superintendent finalist

Chris Kenrick

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Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:29 am

As long as the communication is two- rather than mostly one-way, as the board is more apt to do, things will go well. (Echoes don't count.)

Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:50 am

Any comments about the Board's decision regarding the Office of Civil Rights?

Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:48 am

Not sure whether to laugh or cry when I see Skelly and leadership in the same sentence. This same "leadership" caused him to cuckold the board on counseling, and conceal the OCR investigation from the board. Good riddance.

Like this comment
Posted by Hopeful
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I hope McGee can add honesty and transparency, and lose any hidden agendas that always accompanied Dr Skelly's communications. I also hope he can actually make eye contact and answer a direct question without looking like a deer in the headlights.

Good luck and best wishes, Max, you've got a tall order.

Like this comment
Posted by wow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I wish him the best of luck. He may find that with this community, there can only be a certain amount of open communication and transparency or nothing will be accomplished with the way outspoken Palo Altans argue about everything.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 6:58 pm

You really have it all wrong. If there is open communication and transparency, there will be a lot less to argue about.

Like this comment
Posted by Very tiny shoes
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hopeful
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 19, 2014 at 7:06 pm

[Post removed.]

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

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