Palo Alto superintendent names members of achievement gap task force

Twenty-two-member committee includes former school board member, parent advocates and student

Superintendent Max McGee announced Tuesday night the more than 20 faculty, parents, community members, alumni and administrators named to a committee charged with helping the Palo Alto Unified School District close its achievement gap.

McGee said there were more than 50 applicants for the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Advisory Committee. Its members include former school board member Barbara Klausner, who is the executive director of after-school tutoring nonprofit DreamCatchers; 2014 school board candidate Gina Dalma, co-chair of Parent Advocates for Student Success (PASS) Kim Bomar and one current Gunn High School student. McGee said three more students will be added, but it's challenging schedule-wise as the group will meet weekly in the evenings.

The committee will have its first meeting on Dec. 2 and has been given the task of diving deep into district data on minority student achievement; gathering input by talking directly to current students and recent graduates, their families, faculty and staff; and looking to other districts and experts in the field for best practices to bring to Palo Alto.

Their work is two-pronged, as the name of the committee suggests: looking at how the district can work to systematically address the achievement gap, and how schools can better support talent development for minority or socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

"Helping minority children excel in education has been a passion of mine since before I had children, largely because of the importance of education in my life and in my family's history," Bomar said in a district press release. "Education opens doors that otherwise can stay closed for generations. I'm really delighted to be able to contribute to the important work of the Advisory Committee and to help ensure minority students flourish as learners in this district."

The following have been named to the committee:

Faculty and staff

• Jeff Gielow, Jordan Middle School guidance counselor

• Maria Powell, Gunn High School biology and chemistry teacher

• Arcia Dorosti, Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) and former Barron Park English language specialist

• Sandra Cernobori, Palo Alto High School college advisor

• Julie Griffin, Juana Briones Elementary School librarian


• Kim Bomar

• Gina Dalma

• Adriana Flores Ragade

• Carmen Munoz

• April House


• Sharon Johnson, Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School principal

• Barbara Stroud

• Teceta Tormala, Palo Alto University professor


• Shannon Yang, Gunn High School sophomore

Community members

• Sheena Chin

• Ze'ev Wurman

• Avani Patel

• Barbara Klausner


• Katy Bimpson, Hoover Elementary School principal

• Pier Angeli La Place, Terman Middle School principal

• Kim Diorio, Palo Alto High School principal

• Judy Argumedo, Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA)

The committee is expected to identify key issues, potential policy changes and actionable, evidence-based recommendations in a final report, to be presented to the board in the spring of 2015. Each recommendation will include specific metrics for evaluating the extent to which each strategy was successful, suggest timelines for implementation, name an individual or role (current or future) to lead each strategy and estimate the cost of rolling out each recommendation, according to the district.

The committee will also host regular public meetings to hear from community members on the topic and get feedback about their work.

"Partnering together we can strengthen our already strong district in supporting all students as they reach for their dreams and realize yet untapped potential," McGee said in the press release. "This will be some of the most important work we do this year as we work collaboratively to identify important challenging areas, research successful practices in other districts, and craft a report that will guide us in the future."

Related content:

Superintendent to convene achievement gap advisory committee

'Broad action' encouraged to fix district's achievement gap

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4 people like this
Posted by HR
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 19, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Ah yes. A group is formed to find out why certain "minorities" are not doing so well in Palo Alto Schools. A challenge that society in general has never been able to solve yet Palo Alto Schools are going to give it a go. Good luck with that and lets not hear any stereotypes that could be counter productive.

5 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm

As a minority myself, I fully agree with HR's opinion. We are facing deeper issues at a cultural/societal level, but I guess some people at the PAUSD think they can uncover new insights by forming a task force to look into this. Good luck, and please share your findings w/ the UN because it's happening all over the world, and it's usually the same 'minority' groups that end up underperforming.

It's time to stop blaming the PAUSD and accept certain realities in life.

4 people like this
Posted by Wha?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 19, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Zeev Wurman? The math wars guy? Why is he on this committee? Isn't he the gadfly who is attacked Stanford professor Jo Boaler because she pioneered methods of closing the achievement gap?

You can read about it here: Web Link

Why is someone who attacks the preeminent scholar of closing the gap in math on our Achievement Gap Task Force? Fail, fail, fail.

4 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Given that this problem has been studied to death--how long does Max McGee expect to spend on this problem? And how does he expect to actually determine success?

Given the nature of the PAUSD, and the schools in general, they will end up proclaiming success, and themselves heroes, whether there is any appreciable gain in the students who are currently being "failed" by the PAUSD.

To make matters worse, with the imposition of this Common Core thing, the test scores from the past decade are predicted to go down, and there will not be a very good basis for comparison for several years.

All-in-all, it's hard to believe that ole Max won't be gone before anything comes out of his "commission".

4 people like this
Posted by Thanks for the laughs
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 19, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Ha, the first four postings had me in stitches, and that's the truth. I agree with all of them. Max has to at least address the problem to appease the liberals who constantly whine that life's unfair. Family influence is the answer to this one, no rocket scientist needed.

2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 20, 2014 at 12:45 am

The task force looks excellent.

Closing the achievement gap in Palo Alto will help everyone. We have many kids in the middle who could benefit from the same efforts.

Awesome to see this as a stated priority. That already makes my day.

4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 8:44 am

A Large Task Force is designed to satisfy political constituents, not to get anything done. We will get the usual platitudes from this Task Force.

To date, the most effective strategy to improve minority performance is smaller schools, i.e. less than 600 students per school.

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 8:58 am

My own opinion on how best to achieve better results for lower performing students is better parent education and better parent involvement.

Getting the parents of underperforming students involved is the hard part though. When a student doesn't see the parents interested in how they are doing at school it is often hard to get the student themselves to see that they should up their game. When the parents or the lifestyle of the home makes it hard for a student to stay late after school, find time or space to do homework, or belittles a student for wanting to study, then all the task forces in the world are never going to make a difference.

6 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 20, 2014 at 9:08 am

Good luck on this noble task. There are no simple answers. The truth of the matter is rather simple and yet complex. Fight racial prejudice which foster damaging stereotypes is not an easy task. It is going to take some honest talk to tackle this issue. But other districts have made the effort with fair to great success. Thank you, Max for making the effort. Here are some suggestions for the task force:

a) sensitize teachers and administrators to their covert bigotry
b) make staff painfully aware of their ignorance or lack of skills in dealing with students different from themselves
c) offer outreach support to parents
d) encourage self-esteem among students by encouraging and supporting groups like BSU, Latino Club
e) recruit a more racially diverse staff and support that staff
f) set goals which are obtainable & practical
g) support with adequate funding and qualified staffing to realize the task force's goals

Wishing you all the best and much success. Be brave. Be bold. Don't just think outside the box, destroy the box

9 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

And will this distinguished group look into whether and to what extent parents foster a learning environment, one in which learning is respected and prioritized in the home?

It is BEYOND RIDICULOUS to assume that teachers, no matter what they do in the classroom, can overcome, make up for, or compensate for...

-- a lack of support for reading at home,
-- a lack of support for reasoned conversation at home, and
-- too much consumption of TV at home
-- too much consumption of junk food at home
-- too much use of social media at home
-- etc.

If all kids came to school ready to learn (both physically and psychologically) then it would be reasonable to hold teachers accountable for student achievement.

But when so many students do not come to school ready to learn or even close to being ready to learn, it is outrageous to hold teachers accountable if all students do not learn to standard.

1 person likes this
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 11:43 am

These posters are so quick to blame parents. I would say the main problem is a lack of explicit teaching of basics and lack of accountability on the part of the schools. Teachers are not racist, just bureaucratic. Do the work during the school day, then home is out of the equation.

1 person likes this
Posted by Thanks for the laughs
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Parents-Are-Everything
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm

> These posters are so quick to blame parents.

And who is supposed to be responsible for a child's wellbeing, his nurture, his early-year’s education, and ultimately the values that he/she will take into his/her adult life?

There is only one answer—the PARENTS!

[Portion removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by Thanks for the laughs
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Yes, "Parents-Are-Everything", your posting spot-on. There is a complete lack of nurturing in America today. Our children never went through Terrible 2's or teen rebellion because their needs were met through love, affection, and respect. Children are a product of their parents and respect is sorely missing in parenting. People think that once their children can take care of themselves physically, their parenting job is complete. Children, even as adults, crave respect and approval from their parents. Parents can f*ck up a lot, but if the child feels their parents love and respect them and have their back, they will be satisfied and happy and will be aligned with the parents. Tip: spend time with your children and let them make most of their own decisions, but still have boundaries. So many parents are quick to argue with their children for the sake of arguing (because they are parents and think they are supposed to correct children and be wiser).

1 person likes this
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm

So parents should teach arithmetic, reading and writing and elementary school is for socialization only? I think that is what created the achievement gap in the first place.

Like this comment
Posted by Racist Alto
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2014 at 2:26 pm

This thread, together with the thread on the vehicle dwellers (renamed "campers" to make it sound less medieval to ban them, after all they're just "camping" not struggling to find a way to stay alive in the winter living in a car) are the most accurate depiction of Palo Alto attitudes I have yet seen. If Mark Twain were alive and reading this I am sure he would have something pithy to say, but I'll just say it's outright racist and disgusting. I feel like I need a shower after reading this spew.

[Portion removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Demosthenes
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 20, 2014 at 2:40 pm

I do hope the editor leaves up the virulent racism. It will be useful for the committee to see the stereotypes that some of our neighbors are holding on to. I just hope future generations don't use Town Square as a source for what we were like.

Like this comment
Posted by Parents-Are-Everything
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm

[Portion removed.]

Parents of all ethnicities can be wonderful nurturers to their children. Likewise, all ethnicities can be so involved in their own lives that they can't be as involved in their children's lives whether they want to or not. Not every family has two parents who spend most evenings at home, ready to help with homework, feeding a nourishing meal and are available to talk things through. Latch key kids have been around for a long time, some manage despite it, others not so well. Only trouble with today's education system is that parents are encouraged, nay expected, to be on top of everything a child does in school. How parents without computer skills, English as a first language (and that doesn't just mean Spanish) or without a high school diploma themselves manage to support a PAUSD student at home must be very challenging.

3 people like this
Posted by Thanks for the laughs
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 21, 2014 at 2:19 am

[Post removed.]

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

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