Palo Alto students: 'Right now is the time to act' | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto students: 'Right now is the time to act'

Community's sympathy is fine, teens say, but students want to see change at their schools

The Palo Alto school board's student representatives, one from each high school, usually spend several minutes at the beginning of board meetings updating the community on student-goings on at each campus: football games, Sadie's dances, Spirit Week activities and more.

This Tuesday, though, the day after a Paly student died by suicide, student representative Carolyn Walworth dedicated her several minutes to a passionate call to action, telling the board: "Right now is the time to act." (Read Walworth's speech in full here.)

"My ultimate point is this: Let's actually get to work, both as a community and as a school district," Walworth said. "There's no disagreement as to what major issues simply just exist on personal, family, social, school and overall community levels. Let's stop trying to figure out what exactly is such a huge factor in these tragedies, but rather let's focus on how to make improvements in all of the different areas that we've acknowledged in the past few months.

"A lot of, arguably too much, lip service is paid to sympathizing with students and the community about the troubles that we all experience daily in our schools and town. And that's fine, sympathy is great, but now is the time to actually act upon it. At this point, our community discussions over what is wrong do no good. We will not make any improvements in our district nor improve the quality of life for our students unless we begin implementing changes. Right now is the time to act."

Two concrete changes, Walworth suggested, could be a committee created to monitor the homework loads at Gunn and Paly and an effort talk to students about what they need from school counselors or therapists.

In recent months, other students have made similar suggestions aimed at making students' academic and social-emotional lives better, including requiring all high school students to check-in with Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS), perhaps only once a year, to help reduce the stigma around seeking mental health services; creating a peer-mentoring program that would connect two students for their entire time at the school; having more teachers offer the option to re-take tests that students do poorly on; and at Gunn, switching to a so-called "block" schedule in which there are fewer periods per day, a change that the school is currently looking at and is expected to issue recommendations on in May.

The district and school administrations have taken actions to reduce student stress, including a homework-free February break; Superintendent Max McGee's requirement that all teachers follow the district's homework policy; encouraging more flexibility when it comes to rescheduling or retaking tests, offering extensions and completing late work without penalties; and requiring students at both Paly and Gunn to fill out a time management grid to map out their academic and outside-of-school schedules (including hours for extracurricular activities as well as sleep) when registering for classes.

On Tuesday night, Walworth's speech was followed by several other Paly students'.

"As a student at Palo Alto High School and a proud member of the Palo Alto family, I beg you all as teachers, parents and staff here in Palo Alto to work together, along with the students, to create an environment that each and every student can walk into feeling safe to explore and to learn," said Anmol Nagar, Paly's sophomore class vice president.

Senior Claire Liu, student body president, asked the community "to be wary, to be proactive and to keep an open mind when embarking on the very difficult journey that is trying to find an answer and solution to this problem."

She urged people to remember that Palo Alto is not the only school district with an academically rigorous culture and high expectations and hoped that any discussion of solutions will take on more than "furious critique of our difficult course loads and hefty homework calendars."

"Let us approach this obstacle without blame, without assumptions but with empathy, with research, with student voice and mental health experts," Liu added. "Instead of trying to dissolve stress at the high school level, let us strive to teach students resilience, recognition of individual boundaries and effective methods with which to address such obstacles. I know I speak for much of the Paly student body as well as the Gunn student body when I say that the kids in this community want to work with you, the board, educators and parents in making this city a more compassionate, healthy and safe place to grow up."

In the wake of the student death last week, the school district immediately increased its counseling support services. Paly also created an email address ( to which students can send referrals for service for friends or themselves or can simply write out their thoughts. Gunn implemented a similar, non-digital referral system with two boxes in the guidance department's office and another in the student activities center, where anyone can drop off an anonymous form referring a friend (or themselves) to see a counselor.

Another student, Sylvia Targ, urged the schools Tuesday night not to forget to support teachers and staff: "By taking care of themselves (they) will be able to better serve their students," she said.

Students news website Paly Voice reported that eight substitute teachers were made available on Monday and Tuesday to take over classes in case teachers needed a break. A school psychologist also attended the classes in which the student had been enrolled, according to the Paly Voice.

Numerous community events, forums and panels have been hosted in recent weeks and months to address student mental health and well-being. The City of Palo Alto is hosting a teen forum on Friday, March 27, at the Mitchell Park Community Center (3700 Middlefield Road) at 6 p.m.

The Oshman Family JCC is hosting a free parenting workshop, "How Depression Manifests in Children and Teens," on Thursday, March 26, 7 to 9 p.m. The event will feature Dr. Ayelet Hirshfeld, a licensed clinical psychologist in practice with children, adults, couples and families. For more information, go to

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture the numerous voices, opinions and our news coverage on teen well-being. This page will continue to be updated. To view it, go to

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72 people like this
Posted by coach
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 14, 2015 at 3:01 pm we just finish up a great game of little league base ball. Half the kids can't enjoy the after game play time with their friends as they are whisked off to their next activity. "What time does the game end? Little Johnny has to get to soccer and then piano lessons." Poor kid doesn't get time to chill. It starts early. Get those calendars scheduled and filled. Somewhere in their don't forget to schedule time for your kid time find some friends, some mischief, a passion and a future in between ticking off the items to win the rat race.

46 people like this
Posted by Not "Cassandra"
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 4:10 pm

To the School Board and Dr. Glenn (“Max”) McGee,

Thank you for thinking about deciding to act!

Wow, I can’t wait to take your new class on mindfulness. Will it be offered during F period? Because in G period I have lots of important things to do. Mostly with my friends, who I would introduce to you if they were here.

I read on Google, or maybe it was on Facebook, or Wikipedia, that “mindfulness” means, quote, “living in the moment and awakening to experience.” As a teenager, I am all about awakening to experience, and, as far as living in the moment, well, all I can say is it’s hard to limit myself to only one. I mean, which one?

That’s why I’m applying to Stanford, Harvard, Dartmouth and twelve other places I’ve heard about, including a backup at Iowa State Agricultural, and my friends are Tori, Julia, Ming-Jing, and a backup named Fred. Oops, excuse me, I have a text coming in and I want to practice my mindfulness already and read it... OMG, Fred has this idea for awakening to experience but maybe I’ll leave it as a backup.

So, again to the School Board and Dr. Glenn (“Max”) McGee, who I am pretty sure are living in the moment right now (so I’d better carpe diem): your new class on mindfulness, which I hope is for college credit and won’t be one of those classes where the teacher says, “Oh no! We don’t have enough desks!” and then it’s, like, she never learns all of our names, and ends up calling me Cassandra instead of Sandie, which sounds more like my mother when she’s all disapproving and dictatorial and oligarchical about my messy room, which, by the way, is her being the total opposite of mindful which means, as it says somewhere on the Internet, quote, “the intentional, accepting, and non-judgmental focusing of one’s attention,” unquote, and pray tell me how is it non-judgmental when you give your teenage daughter dirty looks that are like dead and smelly old fish?

But, most of all, your new course on mindfulness will be a good course for me because I probably won’t need to cheat, which is, like, part of all the other curriculums at school, but since mindfulness is the focus of a person’s attention on, quote, “the emotions, thoughts, and sensations occurring in the present moment” (instead of, like, the ones you’ll be having at graduation or later at Stanford), then when the teacher who calls me Cassandra says suddenly (because she’s, like, living in the moment) that we’re all having a pop quiz and it says “List five ways in which the six principles of mindfulness will help you incorporate the forty-one developmental assets into your eight application essays so that your parents will stop saying “Cassandra, your father and I don’t even care if you go to college, college is not our decision, or even our Early Decision, it’s yours, your life isn’t about college and college isn’t your life right now, there’s more to life than just college, college, college, college and your college grades won’t even matter once you’re out in the world”—well, when that sudden pop quiz says, “List five ways,” I’ll just accidentally on purpose press my pencil tip real hard, so that maybe even Fred hears it break and then I’ll raise my hand and call out my teacher’s name real nicely and she’ll look up from her laptop where’s she’s inputting all the latest grades and say, “Yes, Cassandra?” and I’ll just shake my head and she’ll say, “Yes, Cassie?” and I’ll just give her a look and she’ll say, “Yes?” and I’ll say, “It’s Sandie.”

And the last thing I will say to the Board and to Dr. Glenn (“Max”) McGee now is that, in that one moment, we will all be awakening to experience.

Very sincerely,

Your student

17 people like this
Posted by Time to blame
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2015 at 5:50 pm

I appreciate some of the comments from these few student representatives. I have also posted comments before not blaming anyone for the suicides in 2009 and 2014, and all the ones in between. But after watching the previous board spend so much time fighting any change of Gunn counseling, Paly rape culture, etc., and putting all their energy into fighting a faceless OCR, I have come to the conclusion that just as that previous board and Kevin Skely accomplished so little in his seven years, the new board and Max McGee need to be held accountable for their leadership and its effectiveness for our latest four children who have killed themselves. We elect the board for leadership and pay McGee a small fortune to lead our children and community out of this and so far they have failed. It's time to elect new board members. Ken Dauber has only been on board for months, but is there a poster out there who can defend Heidi Emberling's tenure or list an accomplishment? Vote these people out. If we truly cared as a community about our children, the recall would have already started. Recall four board members. Give McGee one more chance to put children first. His pension, his salary, and his million dollar loan and other perks is why we put major responsibility on a superintendent's shoulders. It's a difficult job to do and if he fails again this month, April, or May, do not think of granting him a contract extension, and in fact, set the wheels in motion to end his three-year term in the most economically way possible. McGee, I grew tired of Skelly's urging, nudging, and handwringing after three years of him, and I lost faith in yours after three months. However, this is your moment, this is why you were hired. Lead and be rewarded with another $300,000.

5 people like this
Posted by Time to heal
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm

I watched the board meeting and Ms Walworth comments we humbling.

This is a time to heal, and I'm not sure that the stuff that hits TS does justice to what the students said.

I challenge every adult to be as compassionate as these students.

6 people like this
Posted by Time to heal
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Ms Walworth comments were humbling.

And Editor,

What about the comments from the crossing guard?

Please consider printing them,

Two leaders here, thank you to both.

33 people like this
Posted by Ken Horowitz
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2015 at 7:15 pm

I have attended many of the forums on the current crisis and followed the comments on There have been lots of "experts" at these meetings and online who seem to have all the answers how to solve this crisis. No AP classes, eliminate zero period, go to block scheduling, re-route CalTrain etc etc..
There is a big difference in being intelligent versus having wisdom. Charles Gaithers the school crossing guard who spoke Tuesday evening said more in a few words " love your kids" than all the community members that preceded him. I know Charles because he was a custodian for many years at Foothill College where I am a professor. Now he volunteers as a crossing guard. If you want your kids to grow to be healthy and happy, Charles is someone you would want our kids to value because he is wise [portion removed.]
The simple definition of mental- ILLness? I.L.L stands for I Lack love!
Let's stop attacking each other. We are all in this together both in the problems and the solutions. Let's send love to PAUSD!

3 people like this
Posted by And you are an Instructor not a Professor
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Foothill "Instructor" I think you mean. Please check yourself.

1 person likes this
Posted by Ken Horowitz should be [portion removed]
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:01 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

4 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:53 am

Ken Horowitz teaches health at Foothill and he thinks that mental illness is the result of a lack of love? I'm confused. I liked at the site and he is a dental hygienist?

4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 10:17 am

Ms. Liu,
Thank you for your extraordinarily cogent and apt statement.

I just wanted to share a bit of wisdom from the political world. What you have said is extraordinarily valuable. You will have to keep saying it, in different ways sometimes, to make it stick. I hope you will. It will be worth it.

2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 10:21 am

Some food for thought here Web Link

I'm not suggesting we all homeschool. I'm suggesting taking the best of what works. We wouldn't be the first district to do so, but we would be leading.

Also food for thought
Web Link
Web Link

10 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2015 at 3:34 pm

I strongly believe this problem has less to do with school schedules, free time, reduce AP courses, etc and more to do with the lack of socio-economic diversity in Palo Alto. Where is the affordable housing in Palo Alto?

14 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2015 at 8:47 am

Lol. It's the parents trying to keep up [portion removed.] Plain and simple, diversity isn't about a spectrum of achieves. Diversity is a 'tick the box' fill the colors and push everyone to Stanford. Is Palo Alto high school teaching kids to be mechanics or bricklayers, plumbers or carpenters? Nope. Only thing that matters is the test score and college entrance. Makes the school seem impressive and the parents get to brag. PERFECT SHEEP.

17 people like this
Posted by more art
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 16, 2015 at 9:09 am

Let there be more time for art. These kids need more of an outlet. The arts are dying. There isn't a real artistic community in Palo Alto. (The arts and wine festival doesn't count, that's not real art.) Kids need to express themselves. And put a cap on how many AP's they're allowed to take.

12 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2015 at 9:18 am

One of the reason nothing gets done is that everytime something happens, a bunch of opportunists try to use it to try to jam down some sort of unrelated personal agenda (diversity, low-income housing, air quality). It sucks a lo of the air out of the room..

37 people like this
Posted by Gunn Father
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:13 am

"Out of the mouths of Babes..." well well well , what have we been saying ? Now fortunately some bright students are echoing the sentiments. ENOUGH STUDYING, START DOING !
1) Do implement ALL the homework suggestions from 2010 --- no more stalling or studying .
2) Do have the teachers get on board or ask them if there is another district they would like to work for
3) Do implement the new block schdl STARTING IN AUG, not ' Jan at the earliest ' ... again, teachers , get on board, or leave
4) Do listen to the overwhelming medical science and stop zero period, starting in Aug
5) Do get going ! These are all straws that can be removed from the suicidal camel's back
PAUSD Board, you have all the 'information and input' you need , ACT NOW !

13 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2015 at 11:09 am

Yep, lots of conversations and lots of talk, but the loudest comment has been from the quiet suffering children who are still not being listened to. getting change in the bubble is like pulling an elephant out of the mud with dental floss. Bubble people love to say how great they are and congratulate themselves and change makes it seem like there were mistakes. How many times and by how many different groups of people does this district have to be told to just follow its own standards before it changes.

Instruction needs to equal evaluation
a-g credit is a simple standard that needs to match up with the other schools in CA
teachers giving ap work for general classes should be let go
Kids should not be graded on curves
Palo alto is known less for academics than stress now so it is time to follow state standards in curriculum.. It is not fair that a B in palo alto is an A in cupertino.

again, of course this is not a cure all, but should not take years to fix.

These changes cost no money.

23 people like this
Posted by Paly Junior mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2015 at 11:21 am

To add to the list for schools: grade deflation! We all know which teachers say I only give 5 A's a semester or they say it's hard to get an A in my class, but don't worry colleges know Palo Alto schools are hard. Only in Palo the students get a 5 on their AP tests and C's for the class grade. Companies check in and evaluate their employees yearly, why can't this happen with teachers? Doesn't everyone start to question hearing that the first year of college is so much easier than high school? Just because there are so many smart tridents doesn't mean they have to make it more competitive and stessful.

12 people like this
Posted by The Time To Act is NOW
a resident of Ohlone School
on Mar 16, 2015 at 11:25 am

Thank you Ken Dauber for being the ONLY strong voice on the Board for the changes we need.

If this "contagion" (as candidate Foster referred to when campaigning) were due to anything other than mental health issues, the CDC would be here helping us get a handle on this mysterious disease that is killing our children.

Max McGee, and the rest of the board (excluding Dauber) it is on you if there are clear changes that we can invest in implementing ASAP and you resist or put off those changes. Zero period is one of the easiest to get going on and it won't even be coming up as an "action itme" at the next board meeting. It will only be an "information item." The information is out already and the TIME TO ACT IS NOW.........OUR STUDENTS DESERVE IT!

Thanks to Ken Dauber for continuing to advocate for the much needed changes. Max, check your conscience out. Can you handle one more tragedy at either of our schools that could have been preventable with the help of the needed changes? Prove your worth please. I thought that Skelly was bad but...........

61 people like this
Posted by Paly Student
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2015 at 11:35 am

I had the flu this semester and missed one week of school. My math teacher requires you to make up the test after school on your first day back. I was too exhausted to prepare for the test, let alone stay at school until 5:00 taking the test. But I couldn't miss anymore school because of the stress of accumulating makeup work, so I did the best I could. My teacher made it clear on the first week of school that not many students would receive an A in her class. I got a B first semester. This semester I'm averaging a 94%. But I got a D on my makeup test. I do not have a chance to pull my grade up again. Would Paly/Gunn consider letting students take a make up test under these circumstances? Or allow students to drop the lowest score? We have a quiz or test every week, in most classes. Can't we have an off week where we may need a break or pass? That would really help our stress. thank you for listening.

8 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2015 at 12:20 pm

I encourage ALL students in BOTH high schools to go on "strike" and NOT to turn in any homework until the teachers put in place a real solution. Go on Twitter or Facebook and MAKE IT HAPPEN.
It may well be that homework isn't the big factor, but it's an easy and valid place to start. I know all don't think reducing the homework load would make a difference, but I believe differently. When many think of no homework, they think about what you aren't learning instead of what one could be doing. When there's lots of homework, there's NO time for counseling, NO time for friends, NO time for family and NO time to discover their passion in life. Our family priorities become, "homework first", it happens in our classes as well.
Even though numerous studies have showed a lack of correlation of homework completed and achievement. And yet, homework is a part of their grade and when not done, students are marked down-increasing stress. If we REALLY want to be a "student orientated district" and make families a priority, homework should become a distant memory.

3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm

"One of the reason nothing gets done is that everytime something happens, a bunch of opportunists try to use it to try to jam down some sort of unrelated personal agenda (diversity, low-income housing, air quality)."

@ Mr. Recycle,
Whoa there. It sounds to me like you may have your own agenda that you would lump something as critical to the health and wellbeing of children and directly relevant to their physical and mental health like air quality problems at school with things like housing policies.

Air quality directly affects attention, illness-related absences (for everyone, not just those with allergies and asthma), sleep quality (even among children without allergies), physical and mental health, and student performance. The EPA has an entire page of research showing how student performance is directly impacted by indoor air quality. (When students do poorly despite working hard because of environmental factors they don't understand, or they miss school due to illness as the above student points out beautifully, that also leads to stress.)

Asthma is a leading reason for school absenteeism and correlates with increased levels of depression. Air quality in school can not only cause asthma symptoms, but can be directly responsible for the development of the disease. Some of the medications commonly given regularly for asthma in kids are known to cause suicide ideation.

Let me be very blunt that given the problems with air quality I have seen in this district, I was already fearing problems like these tragedies years ago before these clusters happened. As a parent who has taken real body blows over the years trying to improve things when everyone else didn't want to bother, and who has felt the urgency of this matter on an ongoing basis and particularly after every tragedy, you tell me when is a better time to deal with this than now, and when at least some people are willing to finally act and look at *all* contributors to the depression problem?

Air quality is entirely relevant, and the impacts measurable if our district were interested. Right now, they don't even collect the asthma data for the California Healthy Kids Survey even though we have double-digit asthma rates. If we enacted an indoor air quality management plan - starting with a walkthrough that identifies and fixes problems - we could also track inhaler usage (as EPA recommends) along with depression rates over time. We should be trying to solve this problem, especially in relevant ways we have already funded ourselves to achieve but haven't acted on.

Air quality problems can mean significantly greater depression rates. It is eminently possible, especially given all the many positive steps that were taken to no available the last time we had a cluster, that this one factor is key, especially since it continues to go so unrecognized, and people know so little about it. The broad consensus about air quality in schools and most of the tools developed by agencies like the EPA, have mostly come about within the last 10 years, so even people who think they know a thing or two should go back to the experts.

Children are more impacted than adults, some children more than others. We have been promised the schools would improve air quality in the bond measure, but that has not happened. Give how directly consequential the issue is to the physical and mental health of our students, the issue, frankly, should be a a greater priority in these discussions.

4 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 16, 2015 at 12:26 pm

My two cents -

If we're trying to really 'de-pressurize' this process, I recommend two steps.

First, we look at moving our HIGH SCHOOLS onto a "Quarter" system calendar and keep the schools open year round. Students will have limits on the maximum units taken each quarter to ensure a full 4 years. They will also have minimums credits per quarter as well. They will be required to take one quarter off each academic year but allowed to choose which quarter they wish to take off for their 'break' based upon available classes. (In addition to my other idea of allowing students to attend either High School for classes).

This gives greater flexibility to the kids and parents. This can and should reduce stress because the quarter system focuses on 3-4 classes per day versus the 6-7 classes in a semester system.

Number Two -- The 'piece de resistance'? Parents should be required to participate in annual programs (1-2 days) that deal with teen stress, teen health, building family communications between themselves and their kids, and the idea that college success is more than just a piece of paper. It's funny that just because the kids are in high school, we as parents suddenly think we can go on auto-pilot. We can't and shouldn't.

I can hear the parents sighing now. I hear the excuse that Parent's don't have the time. Funny - that's what the kids are saying now when they're being pushed so hard. Don't you think parents tend to show up if it was the coach of the soccer team, or football team that called the meeting?

So let's address this issue of stress for the kids. It'll take a lot of work to do this. And cooperation from all the vested parties.

Yes, we want them successful. But we also want them to live as well.

2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 16, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Paly Junior mom,

You are so right. What are grades for, what is the purpose of education? Are the grades to constantly hold up a score card about how well our children comply with doing what they are told, or should it be to help them improve and learn more? Maybe kids should get grades from the teachers along the way as a way to help them, grades that don't go on the record. Then at the end, through discussion and evaluation of the scope of learning and efforts, children should be graded. I think most kids in our district would probably deserve A's.

If our district is doing a good job teaching them, shouldn't that be the measure of how good our schools are doing their job?

12 people like this
Posted by teacher lose homework
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2015 at 12:40 pm

How common is it for a high school grade to be affected due to a teacher losing a homework assignment?

We have seen this in middle school. Child has 90s and above for in-class work, projects, participation, quizzes. Teacher misplaces a couple of assignments that responsible child is certain were turned in and - whoops - grade becomes a B-.

How often does this happen once grades actually do have an impact on a kids options?

8 people like this
Posted by Truthseeker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Truthseeker is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

(1) I know just as many white tiger moms - or would it be grizzly bear moms - in Palo Alto. To say otherwise is insulting to those high-achievers who make up the majority population in this highly-educated town.

(2) I also know a whole bunch of Asian moms and dads in pain and wishing their children had easier lives. Maybe most of them are 1st and 2nd generation, not people who immigrated as adults from a different culture.

(3) It's not just East and South Asian cultures that produce the competitive mentality; check out people who move here from Russia. Many other countries have fewer educational and professional opportunities for larger populations. We have it pretty good in the USA, but we take it for granted.

(4) Do you know what it's like to be a new immigrant who speaks English with an accent and is an ethnic/racial minority in the US? You face backlash and jealousy from people like you. People who get angry with you call you derogatory names to your face, or, in this age of social media, say worse things anonymously online. You get the impression that your child has to be ten times better than the average "true American" white kid to impress your teachers and professors, and succeed in life. You want them to have it easier than you. So you push them hard.

It's always the Asians, the Mexicans, and anyone else we can scapegoat and blame for our problems. Look in the mirror and ask yourself what you have or have not done, what you can and cannot control, and fix what is possible to fix. We are responsible for raising our children. Protect them. Love them. Nurture them. Look out for their needs. And fight and change the system when it fails us - like a tiger. As for building a better community, we need strong leadership to do that.

Do we have that leadership?

7 people like this
Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Now that we are getting the same outcomes at both schools, can we stop looking at the structure of Gunn as a cause and get to the real issues.

Not enough space at UC's, too much elitism and a perfect storm of teachers not exercising enough empathy and students not exercising enough integrity, all of which creates a toxic atmosphere.

12 people like this
Posted by Paly dad
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Teacher loses homework:
Our daughter had her homework the same issue with a couple of teachers at JLS. We were so looking forward to high school thinking this issue would improve. Her homework hasn't been lost, but much larger issues have come up. Just read the above article and comments. Our daughter isn't taking any honors classes and she is working SO much harder at Paly than middle school for much lower grades. Then to hear of how hard it is to get into a state college (forget the UC's). We wish we would have moved after 5th grade. It's just not worth it!

21 people like this
Posted by Gunn Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Paly Student -
That is unconscionable. I run a large organization in a Silicon Valley high tech company and if someone is out sick for a week, I would never have them to a critical presentation on their first day back. What that teacher is did is part of a wider "illusion of rigor" in which teachers feel like mountains of work mark a good teacher rather than a long history of students who understand a subject and are still interested in learning more. Schools need to set policy about make-up work and hold all teachers to it.

6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 16, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Paly Dad,
Join our group - we are looking for ways to help kids exactly like your daughter who might benefit from a very different approach. By next year. Right now we're just brainstorming together, etc.

PAUSD-FAN (Palo Alto Family Advocacy Network - join on Googlegroups, you will have to introduce who you are and why you want to join, but it's still a new group and it's not much email) The goal of the group is:
Healthy schools
Healthy school-home boundaries
Innovative educational paths
Student wellbeing

7 people like this
Posted by Another opinion
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Thanks for your post, Truthseeker. So many threads on this board and in the Palo Alto-related Facebook groups seem to inevitably descend into complaining about Asians. Asians driving up housing prices, they are ruthlessly competitive, they have mental health problems due to Asian culture, they are rude, they're pushing out decent American families (as if Asians can't be American) and so on. I don't know how many posts I've read where long-time Palo Altans talk about how their beloved town has been "ruined" and how things were so much better when they were growing up, which seems to be code for "when there were much more people who looked like us living here".

On one of the Facebook groups this weekend, a woman complained about how a "greedy Asian landlord" had raised the rent, forcing her friend to move out. As if the fact that the landlord was Asian somehow made the offense that much more infuriating.

Some of the things said here sound more like "yellow peril" hysteria from the 19th century rather than the words of the well-educated, kind people who supposedly are our town's greatest asset. And please don't try to demonize an entire ethnic group and justify it by claiming that you're some sort of victim.

7 people like this
Posted by Green mom (Silvia)
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Well said Gunn Father, and those with positive ideas!
Lets get to work. Lets channel our fear/angry energy in a positive direction and begin constructive work! I have a list of suggestions that I have tried to share with various people in the directive positions, some my own, ans some borrowed from proposals I have heard (save the 2008, for instance). I want to share them here, knowing that this is only my preliminary work to be developed, criticized, perfected. I would like the students to comment on these ideas,because they are the ones in the front.
We have three areas of concern: the schools, the parents , the college system. But I will concentrate in the schools for now:
1. Implement an ongoing Cooperative Hour in the schools, so the students help each other catch up. Be cooperative to brake the competition. Make a culture out of this. For a cooperative campus and a cooperative society.
2. Teach ongoing life skills classes, the same way they do in Elementary. Guide students in learning life skills, how to be good citizens, positive forces, it will target sources of stress and suffering like bullying, gossiping, segregation, etc, and build resilience, self confidence, search and follow your passion, all antidotes of depression.
3. Eliminate APs and different tracks: All students should receive good high quality math, science, English, etc, all reached Hight school and are capable of learning to grade level. Just offer extra work for those who want extra work. And if students are interested in forming a math club, science club, etc. let's do it, for the sheer fun, not for credit.(the model works well for middle school). The AP courses in Hight school make no sense to me. It just rushes the kids. High school is High school, and college is college. No rush. This practice just brings "status" problems and unhealthy competition among peers, as students strive to be accepted in the "best group" and feel less than, ifthey dont make it. This sorting of teenagers constitues an insult to the forming identities of our children. It does not help learning and creates tension among them.
4. In rightsizing the classes, mix the students including all ranges of sckill. Each student will still progress at their personal rythm, but in the process, if we allow them to cooperate with each other, we will encourage the sprouting of natural leaders and the cooperative culture that ultimately is the one that advances societies.
5. Last, at the risk of being ushed out of the forum, teach religion, an open minded approach. Include all religions, include atheism, be inclusive, teach compassion and understanding, draw commonalities among religions, the idea of a Higher Power. Science and religious believes are not antonyms. We all need compasses to guide our lives, especially during hard times.
These are my ideas regarding the schools so far, I continue to work on them. I appreciate feedback, or most important, to be heard by those who can make decisions.

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 16, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Time for the tiger moms & dads to put on the brakes. There are OTHER colleges than Stanford & MIT. Ease up on your unreal expectations and let the kids be kids. Teachers - your homework assignment is NOT the only work assigned to each student. (Math & Sci teachers - in particular - your subjects are NO more than the other "lowly" subjects.) Everyone take a deep breath and back off.

Wishing you all better times.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


Was the petition regarding student safety/wellbeing and Internal Air Quality that was announced on TS in August under the headline "Palo Alto school board to discuss revised goals in first meeting of the year" delivered to the superintendent? If so, how was it received? If not, why not?

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Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 16, 2015 at 3:07 pm

How about we give our kids a chance to play outside until the street lights come on?

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Posted by Former PA Teacher
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2015 at 3:16 pm

The smart teachers in PA give all the [students] and their entitled parents "A"s on their report cards. It makes for job security for the teachers. Give even the undeserving kids "A"s, and no parent tries to get you fired. I was given this advice by a longtime PA teacher when I was a young, new, inexperienced teacher. It worked like a charm. No uppity parents ever tried to get me in trouble or fired. Sad but true.

5 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 16, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Jerry Underdal,

Thanks for bringing up the issue. No, the petition has not been delivered. I have about 400 signatures, but would really like to collect more, especially focusing on physicians, I just simply haven't had time. I collected the signatures mostly just carrying the forms with me to a few events. People do not seem to like signing up online, and signature gathering in person is time consuming, though parents seem very willing to sign if you take the time. There is nothing controversial about it, and it would help our kids.

The "petition" is really just a friendly signature drive, and there have been some positive developments, for example, the PTA adopted the resolution below. I also didn't realize until more recently that our bond measure made specific promises regarding indoor air quality and the quality of renovations. We are gathering information around that to include with the statement to the board, but please don't wait on that if you would like to help.

If you would like to support our district adopting an indoor air quality management plan specifically geared to flexibly help schools improve indoor air quality, please follow the link below. Sorry, it's, but you can always choose not to get email from them. There are many good plans to choose from, the most widely used is the EPA's Tools for Schools. My favorite is the framework from the American Association of School Administrators, which not only uses the EPA's toolkit, they also connect our administrators with other administrators who have successfully implemented a plan to help with ongoing advice. We could literally drop the inhaler usage in half in a very short period of time. It would be very helpful for our future understanding of this issue if we also tracked depression rates at the same time.

Here's the link and below it is the PTA resolution. There are no laws related to this, but it will help our administration to know families (and other Palo Alto residents) care about healthy schools. We have already been promised such work in our bond measure;

Web Link

These prominent community members have already signed their support:
Ken Dauber
Terry Godfrey
Catherine Crystal Foster
Gina Dalma
Jay Cabrera
Gail Price (City Council and former School Board)
Amado Padilla (former School Board)
Enid Pearson (former Vice Mayor) signed by phone
also signed:
Karen Holman - Mayor of Palo Alto
Tom DuBois
Eric Filseth
Lydia Kou
Cory Wolbach
Janet Dafoe
Wynn Hauser
Fred Balin
Tim Gray
Bob Moss
Simon Firth
Cheryl Lilienstein

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in PAUSD Schools Palo Alto PTA Council
Resolution Passed at January 21, 2015 PTAC General Meeting

WHEREAS, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problems may affect the health of student and staff and contribute to poor academic performance, absenteeism and learning difficulties; and

WHEREAS, There are multiple solutions for improving and maintaining good IAQ, and resources are available to implement solutions in school construction, renovation, and maintenance;

now therefore be it RESOLVED, that the Palo Alto Council of PTAs supports the PAUSD School Board and School District in implementing policies and practices that promote healthy IAQ, including but not limited to the use of IAQ management plans, proper maintenance techniques such as adherence to heating, ventilation and air conditioning system standards, protocols to reduce pesticide use, and the use of low‐toxic classroom materials and cleaning supplies; and including regular communication with the community on IAQ policies and implementation.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 16, 2015 at 4:44 pm

A secondary issue related to the above is that responding to this issue will also help kids pay attention to what their bodies are trying to tell them, and be confident the adults around them take it seriously.

An important aspect of improving IAQ is setting up a framework of rapid communication with the public in order to respond to complaints. Look at this science fair project from some students at Terman -- they did this after experiencing headaches and other problems in certain rooms at the school. If the district had a good framework for IAQ management, complaints are dealt with in a more proactive and positive fashion.

That's actually really important for young people to feel confident that their observations and experiences are valid, and they are heard if they report them. This increases trust, too, and reduce stigma. Kids too often override what they are experiencing because adults minimize or negate it. If kids learn to trust what their bodies are telling them, and that they can trust the adults they report to to take things seriously (and follow an effective protocol to address problems), it will at least give some of them "practice" if things get worse for them.

Anyway, this is a serious issue but I don't want to dominate this thread with it. I think we should pay attention to what Ms. Liu has written so cogently. (Anyone who wants to respond on this, please start a new thread or contact through the petition.)

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Posted by Another dad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2015 at 6:04 pm

@GunnFather hit the nail on the head.

Teachers and admins have been waffling and delaying tactics for years now. They want to keep "slamming" kids with abusive homework and expectations. I'm not sure why and I don't really care why.

Time to stop it in it's tracks.

As a start, let's get the parents to demand the firing of a few teachers. Maybe that will get people's attention.

Long past time to "play nice." [Portion removed.] No more negotiation, no more nonsense.

3 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2015 at 8:34 pm

@ Ken Horowitz:

Well put. I hurt when I see these sort of debates over what should or should not be done with children. As a former teacher in an "at-risk" district, the old adage is true: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

I went out of my way to stress the importance of education to students who often just didn't care. My standards were high and I never compromised on what "A" level work entailed. However, I also knew that a general lack of understanding was a failure on my part.

If 30-35% of the students couldn't earn a B or higher on a test, then it probably meant that I wasn't "getting through" with the information. I gave quizzes to measure the level of understanding. I stressed the importance of letting me know if there was something unclear -- and that the wisest and most intelligent men and women were those who recognized what they did NOT know (borrowing from a Socrates narrative). If quizzes indicated that too many students weren't quite grasping something, I would postpone a test until I felt confident that they were confidently grasping the concepts.

As you stated so eloquently, there is a difference between intelligence and wisdom. I always tried to express this in my classes at the start of the year (and reinforce it later). I explained that a seven year old can be very intelligent even though he/she might be ignorant of a particular subject. That doesn't make them stupid. "A stupid person," I explained, "is someone who doesn't make the most of the opportunity that they have to learn, expand their mind or empathize with those around them."

I typically explained to my students that I come from a highly intelligent family (I always asked that the students would not allow my accent to deceive them). My siblings and I test from high to superior intelligence. My parents demanded success because they knew that we were capable. Ironically, my parents' education was limited in that they never continued beyond the fifth grade from our country of origin. Yet, my parents were able to work and encourage us to the point that all of my siblings and I graduated from college with at least a bachelor's degree; moreover, six of us -- thus far -- have earned post-graduate degrees.

My point?

I believe that teachers should make sure that they have one-on-one time with every student in their care at the beginning of each year. They should get to know that student (writing notes if necessary) in order to find a way to begin a process of perpetual encouragement. In addition, school counselors should spend at least 15-20 minutes with each student twice per year to meet and provide a listening ear and words of encouragement to every child in the school.

This is one thing that is missing from many districts and schools as they have often removed that personal touch. I knew teachers in some of my own classes (from junior high school to high school to college and graduate school) who would have never learned my name if I hadn't made the effort. That is a shame (especially since my name is somewhat unique). There are some students who may have parents who don't encourage the students as we might want; so, it would be great if they had that encouragement and guidance at the school. We think this way when it comes to sex education yet not in terms of encouragement, guidance, a moral compass, etc...

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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:27 pm

"I explained that a seven year old can be very intelligent even though he/she might be ignorant of a particular subject. That doesn't make them stupid. "A stupid person," I explained, "is someone who doesn't make the most of the opportunity that they have to learn, expand their mind or empathize with those around them."

Beautifully said.

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Posted by Time to blame
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:50 pm

Another Dad write "no more negotiation." That's cute! Unless you have a union behind you, you don't stand a chance. The majority of PAUSD teachers are very good at what they do, a number of them are excellent. For all the mediocre ones, there is the PAEA to protect them and the CTA to negotiate for them, and they will proudly tell you that they don't negotiate for kids, they negotiate for unit members. Unless you continue to call out past president Triona Gogarty, and current president Teri Baldwin, they will continue to hide in the hallways. They should be leading the change instead of listening to Marc Vicenti addressing the suicide crisis by telling the board we need happy teachers. Watch the March 10 board meeting on YouTube, listen to the Paly student representative, she gets it. The Max McGee cheerleading made me ill, as did Melissa Baten-Caswell condescending words after the student's speech. Kind of puts all that time and money Barb Mitchell and the board put into fighting the OCR into perspective. Shame.

9 people like this
Posted by Corrie - A devastated parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2015 at 11:24 pm

To All Students of the Palo Alto School District,

I am sorry. I am sorry that you have been thrown into crisis. You are our most precious resources and the reason we live in this amazing place. It is our responsibility as parents to protect you, love you and guide you in a way that ensures you are happy and healthy. They say it takes a village and I would agree. Our entire village made this mess, we did this with our desire for you to be the best and brightest. Our intentions were good, but our strategies for achievement and success are antiquated and full of anxiety.

It will take a village, our village, to fix this mess. Every one of us has to look at how we value your lives. We cannot just be smart, we must be wise. We must look back at our own childhoods and remember what was great about it. It was not all about the almighty A! There were other critical lessons we gained from school experiences. Some were probably pretty amazing and some were probably humiliating, all of which gave us tons of knowledge and experience that helped shape who you are today.

This is what we need to pass along to to live life, how to gain and retain knowledge, how to apply wisdom. We can change the strategies, we have the loudest voice. There is not a single person in this town who wants more of this. That is what unites our village, No More Suicides. A strategy is forming by parents in this is coming. We will fix this, I promise.

XXOO to all of you!

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Posted by Time to blame
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Ok, let's get past that Name hidden business, it clogs up the thread. Here are all the words from PAEA President Teri Baldwin during Open Forum on March 10, not including the mumbling at the beginning or the CSEA representative's word after:

"We're not really going to take much time, everyone said that really needs to be said, we're just here to offer our condolences, and offer any support that both PAEA and CSEA can offer during this time."

8 people like this
Posted by Selina
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:51 am

The question I am now being answered by my friends in Berkeley, or SF or Marin is "why do you stay in Palo Alto?" Being a parent here is considered tantamount to child abuse. Keeping your kids in this depressing environment.

We are locked into our mortgage or I would leave. There is no "status" living here, there is only despair.

5 people like this
Posted by Nurturing Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 1:12 am

I actually agree with Ken Horowitz's posting. Children who feel truly loved have no teenage rebellion and want to please their parents. Parents who truly love their children are in tune with their children's thoughts and don't expect more than their children can bear. Sadly, most children don't feel true love in their hearts because too many parents are selfish and controlling. Children need respect, and all too often, their feelings are not respected because parents need to feel that they are always the right ones and parent with "Do what I say, not what I do" philosophy. It's truly sad.

3 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 1:58 am

Thank you to everyone who has voiced their opinions, suggestions, and concerns. Hopefully everyone on the school board, the PAUSD Admimistration and many PA parents with students in the system and concerned community members including Realtors and Finamcial Investors are reading these posts.

More Ideas:
1. Zero Period stopped ASAP - student athletes, student nannies of their siblings of two working parents, students who need to work to help their single parent, and students who are taking classes outside of PAUSD should be allowed to have the last period of the day as their Zero Period.
2. Instead of 7 periods - only 6 which rotate in the block system - the 7th period is the single period used by everyone as their 'personal time' whether it's to leave for a sports event, childcare, job, other approved reason to leave campus. Otherwise it's used as time to meet with any teacher for extra help, meet with groups of classmates to work on group projects, student council/school related clubs, journalism, etc....
3. In Middle School - one class is to teach and review with students time management, executive management, organizational skills, emotional intelligence, psychology, self awareness, compassion, healthy practices (hygiene, sleep, nutrition, physical awareness, sex Ed, drugs and alcohol). Making smart choices (police department teaches a basic understanding of making smart choices), self discipline, self control, bullying, also encourage communication between different cultures, different energy levels, getting to know how people learn (experiential, kinetic, linear, visual, etc), students do projects with peers they don't know.
4. Have 2 international days, 1 each semester. Teach and observe by commenting and honoring all the different holidays. Have parents, grandparents, etc bring food, display artifacts during lunch break and talk to kids who are interested in what they brought.
5. Have a community event like bingo, a movie, a science fair during a weekend day (electric cars, LEDS, Maker Fair, etc), a speaker to talk about something community is interested in, Off The Grid gathering of food trucks occur every month.
6. Conduct parenting classes - similar to Pre-School Family and Parent's Nursery School for every grade. Mandetory for all parents who didn't have their students in the preschool system, since that is where many parents learn the latest information about child development, education, different learning styles, meet other parents, and can help parents understand how the district teaches and discuss family, student, teacher issues and help solve any concerns immediately.
7. PAUSD create one web site where parents can post any concern, idea, complaint or thankfulness which is open for everyone in the community to read and respond.

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Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:53 am

a gifted program would be nice. A realization that being able to memorize huge amounts of text is not a gifted activity. The focus on 100 percent is a demoralizing focus. There are questions that are just fun to work on but may never be solved or may have many solutions. This concept should be taught early and often. If (fill in the blank with any innovative person) had to spend all their time fitting their ideas into obsessive rubrics, they would not have been able to be awesome. They would just be able to say they filled in someone else's blanks. At open houses, every kids papers are the same papers. Even the artwork all looks alike. This k-8 levels have become similar to a 1950's parochial school and then in High school, the teachers give AP tests for general classes and say they can do as they please. poor kids.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:18 am

"In Middle School - one class is to teach and review with students time management, ..."

Good ideas. I had a few additional thoughts on the above-
Probably better is aides who are able to help kids develop helpful organizational skills. Otherwise kids just end up hearing it as one more thing they have to do that someone else is telling them to do their way. If someone knowledgeable is in the environment and can see, that might help.

I only would want to see that if we got our minds around the mismatch between the current school program and the way creative kids and especially boys develop. (Read "The Trouble With Boys") I look at so many of my successful male friends and relatives, and almost to a one, they were not great high school students, and not because they were goofing off, but they were great college students and beyond. The seeds of later success were in the outside activities, not school. We can really hurt our kids later opportunities by limiting their broad education with DOING things.

I heard something at a lecture once about how far less music is being composed for strings today because about 100 years ago, string education narrowed into a virtuoso track. Everyone was training to be the viruoso and everyone else, including the "creative types", gets considered 2nd string. Apparently, that wasn't always the way of things. My child's wonderful teacher, who tried to instill in all students a love for the instrument above all, as well as musical excellence, said to me once, "these creative types just take longer because they don't just do what you tell them." (BTW, violin was my child's idea and begged for years before we relented because it does require focus.)

A good program for violin leaves kids happy and good at playing the instrument in whatever form makes them happy, amateur, professional (orchestra or country music sessions, whatever) - and gives an appropriate narrow challenge to those who want the virtuoso track, but doesnt force everyone else onto that and only that.

What has our educational system become but basically the educational equivalent of the virtuoso track? We need to broaden the education for all kinds of learners, but especially to foster creativity. I hope well-meaning people will realize not to destroy that virtuoso track for the small segment of kids who truly do need it (not mine, but I recognize not everyone is the same) , but that the education should be about fostering a love of learning so kids have lots of options in life - and will love what they do and be good at it.

I note with some irony that our kids do take a healthy living course, that we had to opt out of because the old carpet in the room activated my child's asthma....

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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:25 am

"We can really hurt our kids later opportunities by limitinng their broad education with doing things..."

I of course meant a broad education includes DOING things and by that I don't mean narrow projects with all that carefully scripted graded output. Kids need opportunities, support, and freedom to explore and do. We well-meaning adults meed to think of solutions that don't involve adding another class!

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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:24 am

I just wanted to add one more thing about the "virtuoso track" of education we seem to be on. Many people have reacted in these two very different ways:

1) Not everyone is a virtuoso, so tell your kids to lower their expectations, not try to be the best, accept that they are average, and everyone will be happy.

2) Not everyone is a virtuoso, so we need to make other opportunities available so kids can find their gifts and shine - in this analogy, some kids might be great bluegrass fiddlers, composers, teachers, instrument builders, inventors, shopmakers, etc., and if we make more opportunity, freedom and support to explore the gifts and interests available, both those who want to be virtuosos (or those who try and realize it's not for them) and those who want something else, can shine and find meaning and challenge in what they do.

I think we have to be really careful not to fall into the trap of #1. Because engagement and meaning are essential elements of happiness, and "engagement is the creative application of our skills to meet challenges." Web Link

If we leave the virtuoso track as the only game in town, no matter how much we tell kids to lower their sights (which will be stressful enough for many of them), most of our kids will quickly end up back on it, as the only educational way to challenge themselves. A few people's kids won't care, and they'll be fine. But telling everyone else that they should just be like the kids who don't care isn't anymore helpful than telling them they should be like the virtuoso. Either is stressful for the majority who need to find engagement and meaning relevant to their skills and gifts.

Everyone has their gifts, and our system will allow more of them to be happy if we help them find them, and challenge themselves in their gifts, and learn joyfully, not just hold up the score card for everything they do.

Continuing the analogy, my child is in a youth orchestra that he loves because they challenge the kids to do their best, believe in them, but also recognize that they are kids and it's an educational program. My kid quit the school orchestra, because he was bored and the practice sheets and homework, while well-intentioned, loomed and started to hurt playing. My kid never spent less time practicing then when taking school orchestra. Please don't get me wrong, the school orchestra teacher is fabulous and does an amazing job with a lot of demands. But what is the purpose of the program? It seems to me it's to learn to play and want to play music well. The traditional scoring system (grades ad homework) is for the adults more than the kids. The youth orchestra, often with many of the same kids as the school orchestra, consistently plays music at a much higher level -- and they don't ever get or need grades to "motivate" them.

Max McGee said something that was very telling. He was very on board with the idea of innovating, but he said, that's all well and good, but how will we evaluate them? How will we send a transcript to colleges?

Homework for parents and the kids on this thread:
How do we answer that question so that we can allow kids to explore and do their best? Letting kids drop their lowest 3 grades during the year so they have some slack? Letting kids use a final evaluation involving a conference and an overview of what they really learned and accomplished? (If we listen to the orchestra performances, isn't that enough to know they learned?) What about helping the kids develop portfolios instead of grades?

Tell kids who are smart and ambitious to just cool it is not enough, and in many cases, will only make them more stressed and feeling worse about themselves. It's not an ultimate solution, and it doesn't help to just blame parents for not pushing their kids to lower their sights.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:41 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"it doesn't help to just blame parents for not pushing their kids to lower their sights."

That is not the point - what should be done is for parents, friend s and the community to encourage the students to have different not lower expectations.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:44 am

Peter Carpenter,

You are absolutely right. But please read what I wrote. The point is that if we simply tell the kids to have different expectations while still subjecting them to the "virtuoso track" and making it the only educational game in town, it's only going to cause not minimize stress.

If we make the opportunities available, we won't have to "tell" the kids to do anything, they will find the different things they each excel at.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Think Deep Springs rather than Harvard.

PS. I went to Harvard and wish that I had gone to Deep Springs.

"The desert has a deep personality; it has a voice. Great leaders in all ages have sought the desert and heard its voice. You can hear it if you listen, but you cannot hear it while in the midst of uproar and strife for material things. 'Gentlemen, for what came ye into the wilderness?' Not for conventional scholastic training; not for ranch life; not to become proficient in commercial or professional pursuits for personal gain. You came to prepare for a life of service, with the understanding that superior ability and generous purpose would be expected of you."

Deep Springs Founder L.L. Nunn, 1923

Web Link

Or St. John's.

Web Link

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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Why on earth do the folks at Buena Vista want their kids in these schools? It baffles me. There have to be safe places which are less stressful and convoluted.

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Posted by Another Dad
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:35 pm

@Time to Blame said: Another Dad write "no more negotiation." That's cute! Unless you have a union behind you, you don't stand a chance"

Quite true. That's why so many people are meeting to set up a charter school. School systems can deny anything, but they can't do anything when people start to walk away.

Gunn is a toxic mess and anybody who leaves their kid there is risking their kid's lives. It truly is that stark and deadly a situation. There is only one thing for the responsible parent to do. Walk away, fast.

"Palo Alto's Katrina" somebody said.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Another Dad,
Who is meeting to set up a charter school?

Peter Carpenter,
I went to MIT but only applied to 3 colleges because I was fine with going to the local state college (not even close to a Big 10). In hindsight I would probably have been happiest at Brown, interestingly, a college I had never even heard of before a recruiter came to town.

Aspiring to go to Harvard, however, should not be a crime. It's only a problem in a sorting "virtuoso track" system in which only the virtuosi will get a shot, because no when else finds or develops their gifts. Kids of all kinds should have a shot at Harvard if they wish, and they should have such a fulfilling high school experience that they don't care if they don't.

Also, the issue of colleges is separate from the education kids get in high school. I had a terrible education in high school, and that caused me a lot of stress because I wanted to learn. Ambition to learn should also not be a crime. Again, the problem comes from having a system that doesn't support a joy of learning, exploration, and creativity. We should be leading on that score, and we can and should be a different place in that regard by next fall.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Peter Carpenter -
PS - I did not get in to Harvard, one of the 3 colleges I applied to. I would have been miserable. Kids should also realize rejections are as much about a "fit" and often admissions people know about what will work in that environment better than the child does. Kids should not see rejections about how "good" they are. I look back and am glad I was not accepted at Harvard because I would have gone there! Ultimately going to school across town and my best friend from grade school at Harvard, I could see It was not for me. Luckily, the admissions offers clearly saw that, too, I'm sure.

If kids have a lot of fulfilling experiences and joy in learning, they will care less about a college pedigree as an end game. However, I don't think it's even healthy to dismiss people wanting to do their best and to have ambitions.

3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I don't think it's even healthy to dismiss people wanting to do their best and to have ambitions."

I agree; the key is "their" best and "their" ambitions, not someone else's best and ambitions.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Agreed. (Inclusive of lower and higher ambitions.)

2 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm


There are at least 3 groups of parents working independently right now on charter schools. No school officials welcome...people don't want to get derailed.

Applications to private schools are also exploding, according to the admissions office I spoke to last week.

Gunn is being viewed, not unreasonably, as toxic.

Congrats, it's a rigorous school...and crashing.

1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Another dad,
I am not a school official. Please clue me into the one most like Neuva...

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