News

Union rebukes Gunn principal over homework 'directive'

Grievance accused Denise Herrmann of violating contract

Within three months of taking over as principal of Gunn High School last August, Denise Herrmann found herself confronted by several challenges that were especially huge for an administrator new to the district and not yet fully familiar with the parent community or her own school staff.

From the outset, Herrmann heard Gunn parents raising alarms about the volume of homework and the lack of consistency in how teachers were using Schoology, an online program the district adopted to standardize communications with students and families.

Then two teen suicides -- one on Oct. 15 by a 2014 Gunn graduate and another on Nov. 4 by a Gunn junior -- brought renewed trauma to a campus just beginning to feel it had moved beyond the cluster of student suicides in 2009 and 2010.

Then another gut-punch. On Monday, Nov. 10, just six days after the second suicide, the teachers union served Herrmann with a formal grievance, accusing her of violating the union contract by asking all teachers to use Schoology to post their homework assignments beginning with the new semester in January.

The union demanded that Herrmann issue a written retraction to the parent community and teachers and explain that the teachers' contract only requires that they "electronically post" homework assignments, without mandating that it be on any particular platform.

Eventually, after many drafts and confidential meetings involving Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) President Teri Baldwin, a union representative from the California Teachers Association and Assistant Superintendent Scott Bowers, Herrmann in late November verbally apologized to staff and made clear she understood teacher compliance could not be required but repeated her hope that her request be followed.

The entire tussle over homework and the grievance itself would normally have never come to light, since the union contract also requires that any grievance be kept confidential. When the Weekly in December heard rumors of the grievance, Herrmann, Superintendent Max McGee, Bowers and Baldwin all declined to comment, asserting its confidentiality and stating it had already been resolved.

Two weeks ago, however, responding to a Public Records Act request made in January by the Palo Alto Weekly, the district turned over the grievance documents and emails among school officials about the dispute.

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In concept, more consistent use of Schoology would reveal, on a day-to-day basis, the total homework load on each student, enabling teachers to better coordinate their assignments and course plans and prevent any unnecessary burdening of students. It would also allow parents easier access to information about their children's schoolwork.

But the union's grievance against Herrmann -- the first such formal complaint in more than a decade in the Palo Alto Unified School District -- claimed that her "directive" to use the online system violated the union's collective-bargaining agreement.

The one-page grievance cited meetings between union members and Herrmann over use of Schoology as early as September, in which they warned her about pressuring teachers to use the platform. Then on Oct. 22, Herrmann sent a message to parents explaining her expectation that all teachers post their homework assignments on Schoology, along with time estimates for how long the assignments would take to complete. This expectation had been communicated to Gunn teachers at a staff meeting earlier that month.

Herrmann's expectation -- later characterized by her as an admittedly "naïve and bold" yet "passionate" request -- and the ensuing debate over Schoology revealed fissures in the relationships between the new principal, the union and some, but not all, teachers. Her efforts to relieve student stress were perceived by some at Gunn as dismissive, pushed out quickly from top down without consideration of the teachers themselves, some school sources said.

But Herrmann saw Schoology as a system, already in place, with which she could fulfill her required role as school administrator to ensure compliance with the district's homework policy, which was adopted in 2012 but is widely acknowledged to have been implemented irregularly at the schools. Herrmann said she "took that on" herself in terms of pushing out that message to the school's instructional supervisors, who oversee each department.

"In the (homework) policy, it clearly states that the principal will have a system in place to make sure the staff is following the homework policy and things like that," Herrmann said. "I thought it was a pretty simple solution. I definitely underestimated that the reluctance that some staff members would have to taking that on (as) a regular part of their work."

As a compromise to Herrmann, the union offered that teachers post links on Schoology to external websites that many of them have built over the years, Baldwin said, accomplishing the goal of having everything in one central place. Many teachers post homework information and much more -- videos, Powerpoint presentations, links to resources -- on independent, self-built Google sites and some reportedly objected to having to transfer or duplicate this elsewhere, Baldwin said.

Herrmann called this idea a "step in the right direction," but one that doesn't take advantage of the "power of the Schoology software" -- particularly a calendar feature -- to provide students and parents a full picture of their school loads.

"Again, it's trying to say, we have this tool that can do all of these amazing things to support kids in their time management," Herrmann said. "Are we doing our part to try to make sure that they are benefiting from that?"

Baldwin said the union's expectation and impression after the first meeting was that teachers would not be expected to use Schoology. But the grievance states that Baldwin and Gunn union representatives met again with Herrmann -- who stuck to her vision of teachers using the software -- on Oct. 17 to "remind" her that the requirement violated the union contract.

Five days later, Herrmann sent her message to parents.

"I am appealing to the 'spirit of the law,' not the 'letter of the law,'" Herrmann wrote. "I presented this expectation as a challenge -- not a directive. Just as hospitals use a consistent medical electronic record system to improve patient care, I believe schools need to use a consistent learning management system to improve student learning. Electronic medical records allow any medical professional in the hospital (doctors, specialists, nurses, CNAs, etc) to access real-time information about the patient and coordinate care. Electronic learning-management systems allow any education professional in the school (teachers, special education teachers, counselors, administrators, etc.) to access real-time information about the student's assignment to coordinate assignments across departments."

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Teachers have said that Schoology does not differentiate between types of assignments or tests, so a journal entry for an English class and a biology midterm exam are weighted the same, creating a color-coded "red flag" day that indicates a heavy workload or multiple conflicts.

Some also complain that entering assignments in the system's calendar function can take up to four hours of additional time each week that would be better spent on working directly with students.

"It's a difficult tool to use," Gunn physics teacher Lettie Weinmann told the Weekly in a January interview about homework. "I think it would be better if it were a better tool, but it's all we have right now, so let's use it and it will help us to understand homework (loads) a little better."

Minutes from the Oct. 29 meeting of Gunn's Instructional Council, a regular staff meeting with the heads of all departments, note that "some teachers are reluctant to spend time transferring their assignments from Googledocs to Schoology. Though the PAEA contract states that assignments must be posted online, it doesn't specify with which software."

The minutes mention offers for tech support, an upcoming Schoology training and Herrmann's commitment to "work with teachers not yet on Schoology, asking what they need to ease the transition."

But Herrmann's attempts to help teachers move toward use of Schoology, and her continued direction on that point, became for the union the "catalyst" for filing the grievance, Baldwin said. The union saw Herrmann as unwilling to settle and called the Oct. 22 letter to parents "an attempt to undermine teachers and influence current negotiations."

Baldwin hand-delivered the grievance to Herrmann on Monday, Nov. 10, when Herrmann was coordinating the school's response to the suicide days earlier.

"The timing was awful," Baldwin said, but under the teachers contract, the union was under a 10-day timeline (not counting weekends) to file the grievance.

The grievance alleges that Herrmann violated Appendix C, Section 1 of the union contract, which states that "In order to provide readily available and inclusive access to learning expectations, secondary teachers are expected to electronically post homework assignments, instructional materials, and test and quiz dates ... in a timely manner."

Baldwin said it was not a single teacher or group of teachers who prompted the grievance but rather the decision of the union's executive board.

"When the contract was being violated, in what we saw, the executive board decided (to file a grievance)," she said. "Some teachers weren't necessarily in favor of it, but we have a contract that we need to uphold."

In fact, several teachers wrote to Herrmann the week the grievance was filed to express their support for her and their disappointment that the union did not take into account all teachers' voices on Schoology, according to emails released to the Weekly.

"Please know that you have the support of many people on our staff, and I know I'm not alone when I express my utter gratitude for your commitment to us as a staff and school community!!" wrote one staff member, whose name was redacted to protect privacy, on the day the grievance was filed.

On Nov. 16, another staff member wrote to Herrmann: "I hope this skirmish is but a regrettable bump in the road of a long period of your valuable presence at Gunn. I deeply hope that we can overcome this current difficulty and can devise a way to have a real and (dare I say it) full-throated conversation about this and many other issues certain to arise as a faculty and come to an understanding in which all teachers feel heard, parents' concerns are taken into consideration, and our students are given the very best education we can possibly give them."

One staff member criticized the union directly for the timing of the grievance.

"I just wanted to share that I wish the same kind of mindfulness of the mental health (of) our principal was used when serving her a grievance on Monday afternoon," the staff member wrote in a Nov. 13 email, copying Baldwin. "We all are very emotionally exhausted, and it seems rather insensitive to serve our new principal with a grievance at this very moment (especially since our entire staff was not in agreement that we wanted this grievance to be filed)!

"Teri, I hope that moving forward that you can encourage our staff to work through our differences with our principal first before filing grievances," the email continues. "I do not agree with this line of action at all, and am rather upset that the union is not listening to my voice!!!"

Herrmann verbally summarized the grievance to staff at a meeting on the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 24, she said. In an official written response, Herrmann apologized for any miscommunication and defended what she intended as a "passionate request," not a directive, to post assignments to Schoology. This response was provided to union leadership but never sent to staff, as the union felt that Herrmann's Nov. 24 verbal communication was sufficient, she said

"I would like to characterize my actions as a bit naïve and bold but not manipulative or dictatorial," she wrote. "I wrongly assumed that the request to consistently use Schoology school-wide would be readily accepted by the Gunn staff. As a new principal, I saw a student need and a parent need, and I also saw that we had no data about nightly/weekly homework load and thought a small adjustment in our communication as a school could meet that need."

Herrmann wrote that she stands by the request so that "students can more easily plan and manage their time" and staff who provide academic and non-academic support can find students' workloads in a single place.

Some teachers and the union have objected to this reasoning, saying it places an excessive burden on the teachers to "nanny" their students. In a statement sent to the Weekly, Baldwin said, "There is apprehension that programs like Schoology do not promote the sort of organization and self-management skills that young people need to acquire for success in life after high school. Teachers know that one-size-fits-all approaches to education are never in the best interest of the students they strive to serve every day."

In an interview, Baldwin added that inter- and cross-departmental communication and coordination is essential to monitoring homework loads and practices.

"All teachers are all on Google Apps and can share information through their Google Drives, which many already do. They collaborate via Google Docs and Calendars and this can help them monitor homework loads," Baldwin said. "I am sure there are many other ways, that if the teachers were asked which ways would be the most productive/useful for them while they are creating lesson plans, they would be happy to collaborate with administrators to implement."

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Central to the debate over Schoology is the district's homework policy, which mandates limits of the amount of homework per night for each grade level and expects assignments that are designed to "deepen understanding and encourage a love of learning," the policy reads. The policy also requires teachers to post assignments so that they are available to students inside and outside of school, to monitor time spent on homework and to coordinate with each other on deadlines and tests to "minimize student over-extension."

In February, shortly after a third student death by suicide, McGee sent a districtwide memo requiring all faculty and staff to take immediate steps to review and follow the policy, stressing that "compliance is expected and required," not encouraged or recommended. McGee asked all principals to work with their staffs to develop a plan to ensure implementation. He also echoed Herrmann, writing that he frequently hears that "one of the biggest stressors" for students and parents is having multiple tests or assignments due on the same day.

McGee also pointed to a segment of the homework policy that requires teachers to "post assignments in a manner that is clear, consistent and easily observed by the student both in and outside the classroom. The use of online communication tools is strongly encouraged at the secondary level."

"While recent public conversations repeatedly relate to Schoology, the first and most important sentence ... is neglected, and that is the requirement," McGee wrote.

Meanwhile, Herrmann is continuing her efforts to better grasp the amount of homework assigned and teachers' modes of communication around homework. She said some parents reported to her that they saw an increase in use of Schoology at the start of second semester in January.

Herrmann and Gunn's instructional supervisors also created an online survey that teachers took this month, answering questions on average amount of weekly homework assigned, strategies for finding out the actual time students spend on assignments, methods for electronically posting assignments, policy for accepting late work and ideas for streamlining the implementation and monitoring of the homework policy, according to minutes from Gunn's March 4 Instructional Council meeting.

Herrmann said she and staff plan to look at the survey data after spring break and "highlight the areas that need our greatest attention," including targeting specific courses where there are discrepancies between teachers' and the course catalog's homework estimates or between individual teachers instructing the same course. She said she hopes to tackle quantity first, then shift gears to focus on teacher support and training around quality of homework assignments.

Herrmann stressed that while she disagrees with the teachers union, she has the utmost respect and support for Gunn's teachers.

"My greatest goal was to make sure that staff understood any reasoning or greater good that I was trying to accomplish and how much I respect the teachers and that I would only ask them to do something in such a consistent way if I thought (a) they would be able to do it because they're really talented people; and (b) because it would make a difference for kids," Herrmann said.

Meanwhile, school sources say the debate over Schoology is a major sticking point in current union negotiations, perhaps because the district is seeking clear authority under the contract to require use of the program.

One thing is certain: The grievance against Herrmann revealed details about the union's role in school politics that rarely are seen by the public, including a willingness to challenge a brand new administrator.

Barbara Harris, the district's director of elementary education, wrote a sympathetic email to Herrmann after the grievance was filed last fall: "You will be just fine. This is just showing you the real deal of what you will be facing leading in this district."

Related content:

• View the full set of documents provided by the school district under a Public Records Act request here.

Chronology of events surrounding the grievance

Palo Alto high schools take action to ease student stress

School district homework policy stalls

Comments

113 people like this
Posted by A few bad apples
a resident of Addison School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:59 am

"Baldwin said it was not a single teacher or group of teachers who prompted the grievance but rather the decision of the union’s executive board."

PAEA Executive Board:

President: Teri Baldwin teribaldwin@paeacta.org

Vice President: David Tomatis davidtomatis@paeacta.org

Treasurer: Rusty Tooley peaetreasurer@paeacta.org

Secretary: Corey Potter coreypotter@paeacta.org

Members-At-Large:

Dave Franceschi davefranceschi@paeacta.org

Tara Hunt tarahunt@paeacta.org

Marc Igler marcigler@paeacta.org

Hooray for Dr.Herrmann and the Gunn teachers who wrote to support her. Shame on the PAEA Exec Board.


105 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:51 am

Normally, I'm pretty supportive of the teacher's union, but this bad. A teacher's union rep filing a grievance because the principal was trying to enforce a district homework policy with the intent of reducing stress at a school where kids are killing themselves.

Well, I guess we can see where Ms. Baldwin's priorities lie--what's a few dead kids when there's a contract negotiation? We're all in this together until it's inconvenient.

Incredibly stupid PR blunder--nice way to give fuel to anti-union folks. But I guess Baldwin figured this would stay behind wraps the way so many of the maneuvers in the school district too.

Well, if nothing else, recent news is giving us some insight as to why some basic needed changes haven't been happening--pushy parents, like the mayor, in positions of power, a union that's forgotten the actual job of teachers and who's paying their salary, a weak board, and secretive bureaucrats.

Nope, I really don't think you can blame all the problems here on the convenient spectre of Tiger parents (aka blame the victims). This sounds like Palo Alto's good old small-town entrenched politics.


96 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 3, 2015 at 6:33 am

Completely infuriating that teachers would call posting homework on a calendar so that students and parents can find it "nannying" them. Excessive burden on teachers? What about the burden on students of teachers who can't be bothered to exhibit the "organization and self-management skills" to use a calendar?

And this is just a load of baloney from teacher union president Baldwin: "Teachers know that one-size-fits-all approaches to education are never in the best interest of the students they strive to serve every day." Translated: "Teachers know that quoting edu-babble is a good way of avoiding responsibility for the paycheck they collect every two weeks."

Who negotiated a contract with the union that allowed them to post homework any old place? I will be watching the contract very closely to make sure the district doesn't keep giving away the store and everything in it.


74 people like this
Posted by Union versus children
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:03 am

Thank you Elena for revealing this sliver of the rot that PAEA brings. Which PAEA representative will speak at the next board meeting to make us feel sorry for teachers? Will it be Teri Baldwin. Past president Triona Gogarty? How about my school's Kara Stoneburner or Tom Culbertson? Just awful stuff. Baldwin and the executive board had a grievance that they could put in the shredder or delay, but two current Gunn student deaths made no difference. Apparently, we have not hit rock bottom. Absolutely NO on the parcel tax.


76 people like this
Posted by #RightNow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:25 am

[Portion removed.]

Check out our situation: we have Measure A up for a vote. We have a group of teachers in the union fighting us hard on two issues:

1. They want to keep zero period and say ending it would interfere with their ability to run the school the way they want. Notice the similarity in what they say about zero period (it would interfere with choice and self management) and what they say about Schoology (it would interfere with choice and self management).

These teachers do not care about medical science. They don't care that 100 doctors have advised the district not to teach in zero period because it causes sleep deprivation and that elevates suicide risk. They are working behind the scenes with Max to keep it, for no better reason than that they want to show us who is boss.

2. They want to stop Schoology from coming. They don't want to be accountable for following the district homework policy. They are stunned that anyone is suggesting that they should do it, and they reacted with fury. They thought it would be secret, and they thought they could just beat Herrmann with a lead pipe, mafia style, and she wouldn't tell anyone. Surprise!

This is also related to suicide risk since Homework is offender numero uno in sleep deprivation, which is why the board adopted the policy in 2012 in the first place.

Baldwin has made some other moves as well: when Heidi Emberling wanted to make sure that teachers weren't forcing children who failed to do their homework to stay in from recess to finish it, Terri showed up to stop it.

And why is Phil Winston still on the payroll? Why, he's protected by the union too and the district was too afraid of the union to give the boot to Leering Phil.

So now what's the result?

We have a union that wants a fat raise.

We have a vote on a parcel tax that will fund it.

The answer is clear: Vote NO ON MEASURE A to save our children.

The district needs to demonstrate it can govern effectively with public health as the top priority. The way to do that is to stop caving to the union and get rid of zero period and require Schoology. Anything less is just reaching in and picking the public's pocket.






33 people like this
Posted by Gunn Alum
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:39 am

Here we go again with the Weekly demonizing the Gunn teachers. When will you be happy? When all of the teachers resign, leaving the students with no core support at school?

Unions exist for a reason. They are in place to protect teachers from bad administrators, which is exactly what happened in this case.

The school board and Superintendent approved the contract. If they wanted to mandate Schoology, they should have bargained it in somehow, but they didn't. You can't hold the teachers accountable for something the board didn't see important enough to fight for on the bargaining table.


64 people like this
Posted by Paly Family
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:49 am

Let's fix this in the next union contract, plain and simple. Dr. McGee, I know they want more money, if you give them that, then trade it for Schoology (or whatever tool the district requires). It's absurd that staff is resistant to using the technology tools of the district. Thanks to the Weekly for exposing this.


67 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:53 am

Normally, I'm very supportive of unions but the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) appears to be the real reason that PAUSD can't address the underlying issues behind the cluster of teen suicides. Schoology may suck but it's the choice of the school district. Perhaps PAEA could suggest a school wide calendaring system that doesn't suck instead of filing confidential grievances to avoid implementing the district's homework policy or fighting for academic classes at 7:20am.


75 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:08 am

This just proves once again what we have known for a long time. The students are pawns and have to suffer at the mercy of adults who are playing childish games.

I am amazed at this sort of behavior. I feel I have just witnessed a playground argument between rivals, not a group of professional educators.


74 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:14 am

Thanks to the Palo Alto Weekly for this reporting, and thanks to Principal Hermann for taking on the issue of homework overload.

There are many reasons for the situation, but clearly the teacher's union, is clearly the main obstructionist in preventing any progress in being made to address the homework overload situation. By preventing all homework activity from being shown in one central place, the teacher's union is making it difficult, if not impossible to show how much homework students are receiving.

And the other clauses in the union contract about "confidentiality", to prevent issues like this from coming to public view is absolutely horrible.
My impression is that the teacher's union is there to protect underperforming teachers, not to help educate kids. We need Wisconsin style union reforms if we are to make any progress.

We need a strong board to take on the teacher's union.


53 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:33 am

Empowering the district to mandate the use of Schoology is likely part of the ongoing contract negotiations with the union. Through their grievance, the union has created leverage for themselves in their negotiations that they could use for higher compensation in the new contract. However, we won't see what this concession is costing the district because the negotiations are not public and we will only see a final number without knowing the quid pro quo.
The union leadership may view this as a victory for them, but it will undermine longer term public support for them and the district and the parcel tax. As several progressive teachers pointed out, this whole grievance is contrary to the interests of the kids and against the desires of those many teachers who care about the well being of the kids foremost.
The zero period debate is related, but more likely this Schoology episode has caused the administration and the board to back away from doing what the medical professionals tell us what is an important policy.
Sadly, the union appears to be flexing its muscles on behalf of the wrong teachers and against the well being of the kids, very short sighted and just plain wrong. It's time for our good teachers to stand up for what they care about most, our kids. That's why they became teachers and we need their support to help fix our serious problems.


23 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:48 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@#RightNow writes: "Baldwin has made some other moves as well: when Heidi Emberling wanted to make sure that teachers weren't forcing children who failed to do their homework to stay in from recess to finish it, Terri showed up to stop it. "


Wha? Really? Can you elaborate on this? I had teachers try to force my kids to stay after school for homework punishment, but I have not heard of eliminating recess.

What's next? Lock them in the cellar for homework punishment?

Please tell us more about what happened with Baldwin/Emberling. Did Emberling back down?


19 people like this
Posted by #RightNow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:51 am

Palo Alto Weekly, I am pretty sure that the negotiations are open and public. You don't have to speculate about the content of the negotiations or the district's position. Email Scott Bowers and ask him when the next negotiating session is going to happen and then send your reporter. You can probably watch the union bend Scott Bowers (married to a union member) to its will right before your eyes.


12 people like this
Posted by Nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:51 am

I think the "nannying" comment needs to be addressed more thoroughly.

The Union should be able to present sound educational arguments to propose or object to practices which are relevant to student outcomes.

Why are we even buying or implementing technology when teachers object to using it?

Is this the same with the millions spent of Professional Development?


32 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:53 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

I thought Schoology WAS ALREADY negotiated in the contract. AND the homework policy (by the way, I cannot see how LESS homework would require MORE money - can someone explain that?)


There should be no more raises until this mess is sorted out/negotiated/whatever.

I wonder how many raises were given in the past for no particular gain (i.e. give-aways because the District had too much money).


43 people like this
Posted by Mac Clayton
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:55 am

Mac Clayton is a registered user.

The idea behind Ms. Hermann's plan--coordinating and smoothing assignment burdens--is so obviously correct. It the platform she proposed is technically inadequate or tedious, can't we just fix that? We a a town of programmers, are we not.


34 people like this
Posted by #RightNow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:56 am

@My Thoughts

So, that happened. It was in the BPRC. Teachers were making kids stay in from recess for all kinds of things including misbehavior and not having their work done. Heidi wanted to use research and science showing this was bad for kids. Out of the clouds swooped Baldwin [portion removed] talking about teachers needed to be able to respond to classroom issues. Heidi was bullied by Baldwin, Skelly, and Townsend and eventually surrendered. It was painful to watch. I believe that this issue was recently addressed now that there is a new board member on the BPRC, and the policy has been revised so that they can only take recess away for a health and safety reason (i.e., not for homework completion). But that has to be voted on by the board so hopefully that new board member will defend it better than Heidi was able to.

The similarity is that once again, the union fought to stop the application of research and science about what's good for kids in favor of showing who is boss.


41 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 8:58 am

Skelly had told the Board that this issue had been resolved with the last contract negotiation. Obviously the language inserted into the contract was large enough to drive a truck through. The intent was to standardize on Schoology so students could know that there was one place to find their assingment. Now the situation remains the same - looking in multiple locations to find an assignment - after school, dinner and practice. There is no way for anyone to track compliance with the homework policy and prevent test stacking since a minority of teachers are opting out of Schoology. It has always been a concern that the administrator responsible for negotiating with the union on behalf of the District, Scott Bowers, is married to a teacher. This is an obvious conflict of interest. Moving forward, this responsibility should be reassigned to personnel without a conflict of interest so as to better champion the requirements of the District in contract negotions. Also note that the budget for this year included lots of money for teacher training including training on Schoology. Needless to say, in the private sector, we don't get to opt out of any kind of software rollout or upgrade. We learn it and move on.


16 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:01 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

...and by the way, I have no problems with paying for Schoology - it's a zero sum game. So give teachers a raise by x% for Schoology, and remove x% of the teachers.

But we get to decide which teachers - remove the abusers, disengaging and overloaders.

It's a win-win-win.


42 people like this
Posted by Wheat and chaff
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:02 am

And we wonder why teens don't come to us? I would go to Denise Hermann in a heartbeat. And I am so grateful that she is here for our students.

When given the chance to make a difference in 1000s of students' experience of school - to lessen unnecessary (UNNECESSARY) academic stress and improve their health by way of basic, supportive structures like schoology, block schedule, common sense and healthy start times - who's saying yes and who's saying no?

Who's willing to take a few extra or new steps to fix what needs to be fixed? Who isn't? Who sees the value of these measures in relation to student health? Who doesn't? Who holds the value of public education - that policies and decision-making are made with all children in mind? Who is willing to take action and who spins and spins and spins? Who sees the urgency of our current need and who can't - seriously?

Those saying no need to go. Please.
Denise, please stay.


8 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:15 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

Why not improve the system so it does not take and extra 4 hours per week? And in the meantime the people complaining about this could go in and volunteer to do the work.


49 people like this
Posted by Former Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:27 am

I always wondered why certain teachers, like the History teacher at Paly who assigned giant term papers to freshmen and the physics teacher who always assigned huge projects just before vacation, used weird websites instead of the standard one the school used, to post homework. I always thought that was strange. This explains a lot, this problem has been going on for a long time. I remember people trying to change it at the high school years ago, but couldn't for some reason. Now I know why.


48 people like this
Posted by News Flash
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:49 am

@Alphonso

The idea that it takes 4 hours a week to put homework assignments on a calendar is, to put it bluntly, a blatant falsehood. Terri Baldwin is blowing a lot of smoke and spreading a lot of FUD here. I hope she understands the damage that she has done to the reputation of teachers in this community, and that teachers in PAEA are taking a hard look at their leadership.

Teachers: you have a choice to make. Are you going to stand with your current union leadership and a few holdouts, or with the children of this community?


59 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:54 am

Thank you Dr. Hermann. Your action speaks louder than words. Your heart is in the right place.

When there is ongoing tragedy, when desperate voices are speaking out (re: Ms Walworth's recent essay), when thousands of parents are asking for administration to track/reduce HOMEWORK LOAD and TEST STACKING as a way to reduce student stress, you are showing that you do care.

Many teachers already do use Schoology, they use other means of technology as well, they are kind, they do care about their students, and their actions speak louder than words. Thank you to those caring, wonderful teachers.

To those who assign daily excessive homework, who absolutely don't care of student well being, who assign big projects just 2 days before the finals, I don't understand what drives you to do that. How can you not see that your students are in trouble and looking up to you?


7 people like this
Posted by Commenter
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:00 am

Just a couple of side notes -

1) age limit
children under 13 aren't permitted to use Google Docs according to Google:
Web Link
I assume this isn't an issue but worth noting if lower schools also have teachers using it.

2) privacy & security
Also worth asking: does the school system have privacy and security requirements for cloud based systems and are the teachers using Google docs complying with those?


15 people like this
Posted by Mom of Gunn Alumni
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:01 am

Very sad to see this during the crisis our community is facing.

We need school policy discussions to be TRANSPARENT.

What percent of teachers believe this grievance represents the best interests of our students?

We all need to work together and not fight behind closed doors.


23 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:03 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

Wow, great reporting. Give the union an inch, they'll take a mile. Give them a loophole,they'll drive a truck through it. Next contract they have shown that they need to be treated like the untrustworthy partner they are.

Do you think you could get Schoology usage logs via Public Records Act request? Since the union is playing dirty, it would be nice to publicly shame the teachers who are refusing to use Schoology.

@Mom of Gunn Alumni - I'm sure many teachers are appalled an embarrassed by the grievance, but it only takes a few bad apples. Teachers can show they are on the students side by USING Schoology. I ftheya ren;t using it, you know where they stand on the grievance.


23 people like this
Posted by dg
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:05 am



We want Schoology. They want Measure A.

When I think of all the money we spend on administration (principals, superintendents) when really they are powerless against making any improvements.

Thanks Ms. Hermann for trying and continuing to support the children and the homework policy.


13 people like this
Posted by curious
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:07 am

What I find amazing is that everyone seems to be missing the fact that this union hasn't filed a grievance in over a decade. Obviously they are intent on trying to work collaboratively with the district and this principal is not interested in that at all. There are ways to get things done if you are an effective leader. Hermann seems be taking the my way or the highway approach to leadership. It also looks like the union made many attempts to resolve it without filing a grievance. I guess that doesn't mean anything to this community either.

This community wants teachers to be seen and not heard or in other words, teachers just shut up and teach.


5 people like this
Posted by dg
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:09 am


"The timing was awful," Baldwin said, but under the teachers contract, the union was under a 10-day timeline (not counting weekends) to file the grievance."

It's bothersome when the 'letter of the law' gets in the way of common sense and human decency.


16 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:10 am

Makes you wonder if any of the key players in this mess have ever heard of the terms "collaboration" or "teamwork".

Must not be in the contract.


12 people like this
Posted by HR
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:23 am

Had no problem writing the assignment down from the board on tools called pencil and paper. But, that was cost effective, taught responsibility, did not require a massive organization of technicians ,and now, most important, we can blame teachers and unions for something that does not work.


14 people like this
Posted by #RightNow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:34 am

We're all in this together is an empty slogan intended to shame parents for not being perfect while getting teachers off the hook. That's obvious.

We're not all in this together, unless you think that the parents part of together is write a blank check and the teachers' part of together is cash it and demand more.
[Portion removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by PAUSD teacher
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:38 am

Re. Measure A: PAEA hasn't taken a public stance on Measure A, but general language and tilt among leadership is to *oppose* Measure A. Rationales span from ... well, the rational to the irrational, and include whether to tax their membership (some teachers actually live in Palo Alto) and their inability to direct its expenditure directly to teachers' salaries. Measure A funds tend to go largely to infrastructure like capital improvements and tech. Yes, adding classrooms generally means adding some teachers to the base, but again PAEA leadership generally opposes Measure A because they don't have control over where the funds go.

Kudos to Barbara Harris for connecting with Hermann over the tenor of this community. Ms. Harris, Dr. McGee, Dr. Hermann and some of other other leadership hires at the district office and schools thankfully come from outside the Palo Alto "bubble," where so many folks here being cow-towed by the union and a general atmosphere of fear toward making bold change for our student, teacher, and broader community.

Re. the question about network security and age requirements: the district uses Google Apps for Education, and the contract and FERPA audits are mindful of student-identifiable data, data storage and retention, etc.


40 people like this
Posted by Too Much Power
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:47 am

This is nothing new! The teachers have NEVER done anything unless it is mandated in their contract. Before Schoology it was Infinite Campus and they refused to use that. Former Principal Noreen Likens even stated in the annual School report that the teachers would only use the reporting software if their contract demanded it--it's in print! I thought this was very brave of her--to put it in a legal document.

The teachers in Palo Alto have WAY too much power! During the first suicide cluster, Parents on Site Council in 2010 tried to get all the teachers who teach the exact same class (e.g. Algebra 1) to use the same grading policies (how to handle late work, missed assignments, etc) for that same class. Proposal was taken to Math Department and the teachers felt it was too restrictive for them. Kids cannot choose their teachers and some get stuck with teachers whose practices are harsher than their counterparts. Talk about increasing stress!

And where is Site Council in the debate on the Zero period? The IC should not be making decisions about schedules in the absence of parents. Parents pay for the schools, yet the school seems to forget that there is a place for Customer Service in their business model.


43 people like this
Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:56 am

Wow, just wow.

The union is pathetic--This is not a big deal, and in any other industry in the country this policy would have been implemented in days. Perhaps with some eye-rolling by the rank and file, but it would get done.

But the teacher's union wants to make a federal case out of it? (Literally a federal case--that is where most of the laws governing unions lives.)

I would be embarassed to be a teacher in PAUSD right now.

Want to know why progress is so hard regarding Palo Alto education? It's the teachers union making simple--nearly trivial--requests into a legal challenges.


2 people like this
Posted by HR
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:01 am

From Paly Parent...

"It's absurd that staff is resistant to using the technology tools of the district. Thanks to the Weekly for exposing this."

For some reason, a phillips head driver won't work as well as a flat head driver on a flat head application. Then again, if a phillips is all your offered, your expected to make it work and if you don't, your the one to blame.


78 people like this
Posted by teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:04 am

Schoology is not odious. If you have a Facebook account you can figure it out. I like it because it makes everybody more accountable. At back to school night and parent conferences it is the first thing that I ask- "Do you have a parent Schoology account?" I love hearing in class "Yes, it was due today it was on Schoology go look". I like telling kids who have been absent to check the folder and what they need is there and to download it instead of rooting around for it. I like it when parents can get a sense of what topics we are covering when their kids answer "Uh, nothing" if they look on my page. (First hand experience from my own school age kid) If you transfer stuff from another site all at once, yes, it might take countless hours. But if you archive your class and then transfer it as you go through content next year it will take you ten minutes. So thank you union, for heaping on the teacher shaming because you know, we don't have enough of that. All that energy wasted when you could have been saving it for the next round coming down the pipeline. I think I will go post a class update now.


23 people like this
Posted by curious
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:06 am

We are on the threshold of a teaching crisis due in large part to the continual assault on the teaching profession. Despite what people think in this forum, the majority of teachers care deeply about their students. Local teachers unions are comprised of classroom teachers who are impacted every day by decisions made by those who have never taught and/or who think they know about teaching because they went to school.

Where have all the teachers gone: Web Link

Quieting the teacher wars: Web Link

A potential teacher looking to come into Palo Alto would read this forum and more than likely say, no way. They can't afford to live here and the way the people talk about teachers in this forum (only the good ones are those who agree with everything we say) would stir even the most passionate teacher away.


19 people like this
Posted by paloaltoparent
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:11 am

paloaltoparent is a registered user.

This seems to varying degrees to be Gunn teacher (some of them) and union issue. This is certainly not an elementary and middle school issue.

General teacher bashing is NOT productive. Neither is undermining Measure A. That's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. To start with, 46 of 85 teachers, counselors, and other staff are in elementary school keeping class sizes manageable. A parcel tax loss would shift focus from this and other critical district issues I am so glad are being worked (homework policy, bell schedule/zero period, achievement gap, to name a few) in favor of spending a lot more time and money to protect 7% of the basic level school funding with another ballot measure.

FOR PARENTS WHO ARE FINE WITH THE STATUS QUO, THERE COULD BE NO GREATER VICTORY THAN A MEASURE A LOSS. It completely guarantees that work on these big issues that have languished for years would go nowhere for another year.

Just this past Tuesday, Max McGee and the board agreed to spend funds from the reserves fund 2 more therapists at the high schools to address our mental health crisis. Reserve funds gets us started, but as he said, parcel tax funds are to be spent ongoing on mental health and social, emotional resources, including these hires.

It makes no sense to believe that a Measure A loss this year would guarantee a win next year. It is reckless to undermine the benefits to so many students to send a message that sets us back further. Mobilize instead to gather at the next board meeting and put your views on the record. If this is important enough, it is worth taking a stand.


21 people like this
Posted by Watcher
a resident of Woodside
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:16 am

Shame, Shame, Shame....

The union politics pushed by the CTA are so often intended to strengthen the Union's influence, rather than improve teaching, and often at the cost of students or education.

Teachers often aren't aware of the protected little bubble they live in, so well protected from the economic fluctuations and professional competition that most parents have to deal with. They are too open to influence from their union reps to support an unsupportable position.

When this kind of thing happens, it takes about 5 years for me to stop automatically thinking that teachers are dumb and naive and can't be interacted with as people of reason and intelligence.

Kids are dying and you think it's important to stand up for your rights not to deal with software? Disgusting.

[Portion removed.]


39 people like this
Posted by Wheat and chaff
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:17 am

All due respect for the "curious" perspectives from other communities...but these are unusual times in our town - the likes of which I hope your community will never experience.

Dr. Herrmann's common sense and strong leadership given the momentum of our suicide crisis was exactly what we needed. I will never argue against collaboration or partnership - but there are circumstances when the authority needs to be authoritative. Times like these - when you have no time. Simple actions - not the ONLY actions - but the ones that can be immediately helpful and seem - to the common folk - understandable.

What many in our community find "amazing" is the push-back from the union leaders (as evidenced by so many comments here). Why would teachers resist this action - or choose THIS time to make a power play?

10 years of no grievances may just be evidence of where the power has been all along and why, despite plenty of collaborative "talk" - no action; no block, a creep from late start to zero period, lack of implementation of the homework policy... the wrong direction for our children's health AND learning.

We need to change directions and quickly.


17 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:18 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

You only have to look to the PAEA's own newsletter to see they support some teachers' refusal to use Schoology. This is from their Q&A section:

Questions/Concerns
Schoology Expectations document: Is the document that was emailed to secondary teachers the language in the contract?

Answers/Actions Taken
No, nowhere in the contract does it say that you have to use Schoology and if you do, not in the way that the document says. The district would like you to have a Schoology account and would like you to post a link to the site that has your homework assignments and grades if they are not on Schoology. We agree with that. The contract states that grades will be updated every three weeks and that assignments will be posted in a timely manner. You can use the Schoology Expectations document as a recommendation tool on how you can use Schoology.

Link to the PAEA newsletter:
Web Link


89 people like this
Posted by angry Mom of Gunn 2005 alum
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:25 am

"A potential teacher looking to come into Palo Alto would read this forum and more than likely say, no way."

Hahahahhaha.

I just about fell out of my chair reading that nonsense. Yeah, I would never go to a district that is safe, clean, and rich and that pays more than any other comparable district in the state, where all the students have private tutors and are pretaught and the ones who aren't are minorities that the school board doesn't care about, and where the district's bargaining rep is married to a union member! Sounds horrible. I'd rather teach in some gang-infested and broke hellhole.

Hahahahahaha.

Gunn teachers: meet reality. I am glad you are finally exposed. Gunn parents who have had to deal with these people for years know the truth. You don't return emails. YOU NEVER RETURN EMAILS. You don't let students take their tests home to study their mistakes because you don't want to make a new test next year. You don't return homework. You don't grade homework. You don't check homework. You assign giant mountains of work but you don't read what you assign so it is zero cost to you and you just shrug and don't even answer questions about it. You drone on at the front of the room using pedagogy so antiquated that Stanford will not allow its students to student teach at Gunn so that they don't learn your bad habits. You won't implement 504 plans or IEPs. You won't attend IEP meetings. You don't return phone calls. You allow students in your classes to bully others when they ask "dumb" questions. You have students grade each other's quizzes so that students who are having trouble are humilated by peers. You put questions on tests that were never taught or assigned in practice in order to favor students who have tutors.

You are lazy, lazy, lazy and entitled.

You have driven more than one principal from the school. You savaged parents for daring to even suggest that you might consider being TAs like at Paly.

I am glad that it's finally out there. Yes, let the community see you for who you really are.

I love Baldwin saying "the timing was bad." Unfortunately it is Quinn, Cameron, and Harry who had "bad timing" from Baldwin's perspective. That was bad for the union.


39 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:29 am

I grew up with teachers, I love teachers, but I also recognize that as a society we have to face this choice...

Either:

1. We continue letting teachers "do whatever they want" in regards to Homework.

-or-

2. We protect our kid's lives.

And yes, it is that stark a choice. Which is it going to be?

I would note that 40 years ago, teachers were fighting for the right to administer corporal punishment to kids. The teachers said they needed, essentially, unlimited power to control kids "to keep order in the classroom". We as a society finally said "NO" -- teachers, just like all people in power, must observe limits in their treatment of kids. No more physical punishment because this all-too-frequently became physical abuse. Any teacher who couldn't stop physically punishing kids was invited to retire (and they did). If the union fought the change, the union LOST, thank heavens.

We are now in the same battle. Teachers want to reserve the power to throw a different type of abuse at kids -- emotionally and sleep deprivation abuse. This is what 4-5 hours of homework is -- abuse. By every legal definition of the word.

We parents are now preparing to stop THIS kind of abuse. As much as we love an support teachers, we simply cannot continue allowing a small minority of them to drive kids to suicide.

If the elimination of excessive homework makes Gunn less "rigorous" -- well too bad! This isn't a private school. It's a public school and has a legal mandate to provide an atmosphere that ALL families, including those that are less ambitious, can feel safe.

As a taxpayer I DEMAND that this school make whatever changes are needed to ensure the mental health and safety of our kids. Anything less than a safe environment is grounds for dismissal of the entire school staff.






5 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:30 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

KInd of ironic, PAUSD is featured on the Schoology homepage with a link to a case study about the "success".

Web Link

"Teachers have already found that Schoology has significantly increased their ability to be effective in the classroom and has improved communication between students, teachers and parents. High school students especially like the text messaging feature that alerts them to when tests are coming up and when assignments are due."


16 people like this
Posted by Home Owner
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:30 am

Change is difficult but oftentimes necessary. Employees are often faced with a new system based on new technologies or corporate goals. I've never been in a position where I could just refuse to use the corporate technology in preference to my own personal system, even if it already took considerable time to develop that personal site. Times change and it's necessary to grow with the times and adapt.

It sounds like Schoology is meant not only for students but their parents in addition to school staff.. It makes sense to have a site where anyone can see an overview of what is required.

I hate this throw out the baby with the bath water mindset. If improvements are needed, make Schoology a living system where it is updated to reflect necessary revisions as they become apparent.


28 people like this
Posted by database in my nightmares
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:31 am

There is so much blind ignorance and misinformation in this thread it sort of takes my breath away, but after I breathe deep, it does not really surprise me.

Surely many of the experienced business people and lawyers on this forum know what a contract is, and how it is negotiated and how it is enforced? When you have a signed contract, there are terms in force, and those terms *have to be followed by both parties.* It's not a suggestion, it's a LEGAL requirement.

Surely many of the experienced information management systems experts on this forum know how complex a big database is and what happens when you change platforms. The teachers have been down the road of "We have this great new database software to use, we're going to implement it across the entire district. Here's a tutorial. It would be great if you could shift the 15 years of online presence and curriculum you have built onto another platform entirely. In fact, we expect you to do this. It shouldn't take much time."

Does anyone remember "InClass"? We heard the same message then. That system blew away in the dust years ago, and I had spent a LOT of time migrating my information to that database as a teacher. NONE of that was salvageable when we shifted to Schoology, and I put in dozens and dozens of hours creating new sets of assignments on Schoology, which, while better, is still not an ideal tool by a long shot. It's slow, it's cumbersome, sometimes it's down, it is clunky and unwieldy in places and it's still not integrated with the district's OTHER huge database, Infinite Campus. (I have experienced bottlenecks using Schoology with an entire class and it makes me wonder how robust their server system actually is - if it's just me and 30 kids creating a logjam by streaming HD video or sharing other content across the network in a class, what happens when you scale that to the entire district?) I estimate I have put in at least a couple of weeks' worth of extra time over the last several years, *outside of school hours and teaching*, dealing with shifting this data to a new system. And I don't even give much homework. For teachers doing instruction in more than one class/subject, it's even more daunting. All the armchair software quarterbacks on this forum have no clue what they are talking about unless they have actually worked with and managed this sort of data system. If you have been asked repeatedly to migrate your data from one DB to another, then you get some clue.

Unions exist to protect workers from bad management. If you want an educational system run without unions there are plenty of private schools for you to choose from. (Of course, they cost money, and they are under no obligation to accept kids who have 504s and IEPs or not enough income or the right pedigree or other issues, so you'll want to keep that in mind. Welcome to the free market in education, where the dollar rules all, actual teaching/learning be damned.) In the public sphere, thank god we have some union protection still in place for our workers. And teachers are workers. They happen to work every day, all day, with ALL our kids, but they are workers. And they deserve protection from bad management (and from unreasonable parents) so that they can focus their attention on the extremely demanding job of teaching hundreds of kids per week in an intensely pressurized and high-expectation environment.

If we did not have a union and an enforceable agreement, someone at the district would happily change these systems every two years, whenever their most recent brief research into the latest vaporware got them all excited and they decided we need to switch again. I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop - I expect that will be the district announcing that we are shifting to a new database again and everyone needs to saddle up and get in line. This is just plain stupid. We can all eventually use Schoology in an integrated way, but we have to do it by mutual agreement and understanding. That's how adults get things done.

The vast majority of the teachers at Gunn are dedicated, caring people who are right on the front lines with these kids. They are grieving just like everyone else who cares about our children. And they are being virtually tarred and feathered on this forum (and by the Weekly) and it is appalling.


41 people like this
Posted by angry Mom of Gunn 2005 alum
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:38 am

Boo hoo, you have to use Schoology. How tragic for you. It won't work this time. The mask is off, and we see you.

WE SEE YOU.

Meausre A is all about teacher salary. That's what it goes for. The bond goes for capital improvements. [Portion removed.] No on Measure A until this is fixed -- no zero period, full Schoology implementation, and get rid of these selfish teachers for God's sake. I'd like to see a contract provision that they have to answer parent and student emails within 48 hours. Or ever. You can still answer my emails from 2002, Merchant.


41 people like this
Posted by gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:39 am

dr Herrmann is the best thing to have happened to Gunn. I hope this is just the union trying to do their thing and not representing teachers. Hopefully for our kids we can reach a thoughtful solution. As a parent I need the info to help my kids learn those skills... Is not nannying. It's educating and teaching chopping skills. And maybe our kids need some care and help???


32 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:43 am

Shameful and absolutely disgusting behavior on the part of the union. More power to Dr. Herrmann. We finally have a real leader at Gunn. We need Dr. Herrmann and the teachers who support her. She is leading the way to positive, substantive change at Gunn.


24 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:45 am

"Completely infuriating that teachers would call posting homework on a calendar so that students and parents can find it "nannying" them. Excessive burden on teachers? What about the burden on students of teachers who can't be bothered to exhibit the "organization and self-management skills" to use a calendar?"
Just to play Devil's advocate (I do see the benefit of having a central platform) -- Why isn't it babying, exactly? Before the internet, students copied down their daily homework and could call friends if they were sick and ask what was done in class. If they didn't, well, then that was on them. Why put the blame on teachers for something the STUDENTS failed to do? If they announced "Problems 2, 4, and 6 on page 260" in class and someone couldn't be bothered to write it down or contact someone later that day, haven't they made their bed, and we should let them lie in it? Okay, my advocacy is done.

Anyway -- it's also worth considering that some websites designed by teachers ARE superior to Schoology in that they are able to include "plug-ins" that Schoology does not allow and are more aesthetically pleasing and have links more centrally located. With this said, some of these non-Schoology sites don't really add anything and could have their information transferred over to Schoology with a few days of work. Perhaps a survey could be given to students to see whether they mind any particular outside site, or not? Because while I didn't mind using the "superior" sites, using outside sites for no reason in particular was irksome, and this might give everyone a better experience. And it's about time we actually listen to students in this district.


19 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:46 am

The demise of public education in the U.S. can be attributed in a large part to Teachers Unions across the country. All they want is for taxpayers to throw more money at them to "solve the problem" of our public schools. The money is then spent in large part on increases in administrative costs, teacher salaries, education of illegals and more protection for lousy educators. The students get the short end of the stick. We are fortunate that public education in Palo Alto is pretty good. But c'mon, California ranks near the bottom nationally. Good for the Gunn principal for wanting to do something that would benefit everyone. Bad for the lazy teachers who are too overloaded to implement something new.


21 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:48 am

As a parent of two daughters that I have; and a son; this whole thing is ridiculous.

Raising children requires love, family commitment, friends, grandparents, neighbors, village, commitment and many other things.

This is not 'homework' alone issue. Teachers and Principle alone are not the problem.

Look at the mirror; too much pointing fingers and the solution is 'hard work by parents, students and teachers together and living healthy and some motivation and desire to excel'.

Respectfully

Respectfully


29 people like this
Posted by teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:51 am

@ Database In My Nightmares,

"Does anyone remember "InClass"? We heard the same message then. That system blew away in the dust years ago, and I had spent a LOT of time migrating my information to that database as a teacher. NONE of that was salvageable when we shifted to Schoology, and I put in dozens and dozens of hours creating new sets of assignments on Schoology, which, while better, is still not an ideal tool by a long shot."

Why don't you put your originals in folders on your desktop and transfer as you go? I teach multiple preps and would not dream of leaving it all on a LibGuide, Google page, In-Class, or Schoology. I have a master back up. And technology changes every day- why would we want to use something that's ten years old? I do think as it evolves and gets updated there needs to be more systemic built in time (department time, PD time, whatever) to always have training. That would solve half the problem. That would be a useful push for a union to make, not what they are doing now. They have created a PR nightmare.....


25 people like this
Posted by Carol Gilbefrt
a resident of University South
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:53 am

Having been a teacher once upon a time, grievances and strikes are NEVER about the kids. It is invariably money. Requesting use of Schoology was a good idea to standardize the reporting. How petty of some of these teachers. I feel very sorry for Dr. Hermann. She accepted a job in a hornet's nest.


35 people like this
Posted by Private sector employee
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:57 am

A teacher writes, "We can all eventually use Schoology in an integrated way, but we have to do it by mutual agreement and understanding. That's how adults get things done."

No, that is not how "adults get things done." That is how adults avoid getting things done. It looks to parents like "eventually" means "never," and "mutual agreement and understanding" means "when I feel like it, if I ever do". That is not how things work for most parents in Palo Alto.

Anyways, the real problem with the union's position isn't the collective bargaining part, it's where Baldwin justifies the position by saying that Schoology coddles kids by preventing them from learning organization skills. That is so transparently crazy that it is obvious that she is speaking in bad faith. And that is why teachers are being vilified online.

Teachers, if you don't want Baldwin to represent you, then fire her and get somebody else. Otherwise, you can't avoid being held accountable for what she says.


9 people like this
Posted by Gunn Alumni and Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:58 am

Suggest voicing collective, constructive beliefs/opinions face-to-face - Our PAUSD Board representatives meet each month.

Next meeting on April 21st - Agenda posted here: Web Link


21 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:15 pm

There is no greater and more implacable enemy of children than the teachers' union.


22 people like this
Posted by former gunn parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Ken, You're on. If ever there was an issue cut out for you to weigh in on, this is it. Good luck.

I will point out that teachers don't want to be accountable for homework and time management but students are in a position to be punished over the SAME EXACT topics.


19 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Wake up people - time to Vote NO on Measure A


10 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:22 pm

A few points:
-We are all flawed humans: both Herrmann and the opposing teachers made mistakes by not talking with each other before taking formal action--Herrmann's public email and teachers bringing forward a formal grievance. Its done, so let's actually address what the concerns are, not focus on communication mistakes. Let's unite.

-Kudos to principal Herrmann for attempting to address long-term, ongoing noncompliance to the collective bargaining contract by some not all teachers: Our BOE and prior administrations have not made any meaningful progress with respect to homework and feedback--no mechanism or formal metric for monitoring homework amounts, no consistent nor uniform student course evaluation feedback on EVERY course. Both of these are in the contract.

-Enforcing the current homework policy is a minor victory because it is largely inadequate for protecting most of the student population--it does not limit homework hours for Advanced Placement, Honors or accelerated courses nor does it enforce or guide quality homework practices [less is more].

-It seems the classroom time has been devalued partly by the shift of so much work happening at home. Let's think about reducing homework for students, which also reduces it for teachers, bring more vibrancy into the classrooms, and increase the opportunities for student voice at school. Let's guide student learning without all the pressure of constantly be graded for every little bit of work done.


20 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Ferdinand - I think enforcing Schoology is more than a minor victory on the homework front because it would be the first time there would be real data, aggregated, about actual homework load. It would really expose the problems where they are. It's a big step towards more openness and accountability.


3 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

Dear Palo Alto Onliners,

We mustn't let ourselves be caught, like deer in the headlights, riveted by the issue of who is right, who is worthier, who we should support: Gunn's principal or Gunn's teachers.

The danger is still coming towards us. Our peace of mind is at risk, and the lives of our kids.

Let's avert these dangers through immediate action, as offered by the community initiative "Save the 2,008"—whose solution to the homework problem is to simply open up communication between teachers and students, giving the latter an empowering voice in their nighty workloads.

"Clocktalk," a confidential website for comparing "minutes assigned" and "minutes worked"—use optional, anonymity guaranteed, built by our own whiz kids—would show teachers the average time spent by all their students on all homework, or the total time spent by any one student, and could flash the grand-total student-body average homework time for the previous night on the electronic marquee in front of school every morning.

This is only one of the initiative's six, sensible proposals, described at:

www.savethe2008.com

Sincerely,

Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)
Co-Founder, with sophomore Martha Cabot
"S2K8," (a plan for healthier, happier high schools)


20 people like this
Posted by GunnParent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:35 pm

I have emailed the union president to complain Web Link, teribaldwin@paeacta.org and urge you to do the same. Hopefully someone from measure A can speak to concerns?
I have sat in meetings where the need for schoology was noted by administration. Some teachers were opposed, some not. Dr Herrman was clearly urging teachers to comply for sake of kids and their workload. This has worked in our middle schools but apparently the resistance is there in our High Schools. The PTA offered volunteer help to help teachers transfer their work to schoology. What more can we do? Take our kids out of the district? Vote down Measure A? Demonstrate at the high schools? Talk more? send more pleading emails? watch our kids stress out and not be able to check if they are accurate in their homework perceptions?
Teachers, please help us and our kids... even if your union has not managed to navigate this, we need your help and we will help you implement this so you can spend time with our kids... please show us you're in this with us and not against us? We have new administration which is competent and caring... don't obstruct this at a time when we really need it.


17 people like this
Posted by Just wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Given all of the discussion about Schoology, I decided to log in to my parent account and see how it is used by my child's teachers. It may not be perfect, few things are, but it does have much to offer.

What I found interesting is the date and time stamp feature of when items are posted on the site. As a parent this is a double-edged sword, the student may no longer misrepresent when an assignment was given and a parent has the opportunity to micro-manage. Is this also part of the reason teachers don't like using it? It does "appear" to hold everyone accountable as to when projects/homework are assigned.


12 people like this
Posted by Fred Astaire
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:57 pm

This behavior is exactly the reason why:
I. Hate. Teacher's. Unions.


32 people like this
Posted by krsweidy
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm

krsweidy is a registered user.

My daughter is a freshman at Gunn. Both of my parents were public school teachers in our hometown for their entire careers. Both of my parents served in various capacities in their union. Having said that ...

there are no words for this union's disrespect for Dr. Herrmann, the students and the parents, not to mention those teachers (and there are many) who can see beyond their own noses.

You just earned yourself a NO ON MEASURE A from me. This is a great way to alienate all the stakeholders.


16 people like this
Posted by PAEA Rep
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm

@PAUSD Teacher. The PAEA Rep council voted to support the Parcel Tax. I'm not sure why you think that PAEA is saying they aren't supporting it. To my knowledge we even procured a donation fro CTA to help support the campaign.

Also, the only reason that the PAEA Executive Board filed a grievance was because complaints came to them notifying them of the contract violation and the president tried to work it out. Teri told us she would rather not file a grievance, but work out the problem and offered many solutions that weren in the contract that were not listened to. I've been a PAEA Rep for many years and this is the first grievance in over a decade because the union you vilify has a wonderful relationship with the district. Many other districts file grievances every year. Teri Baldwin is doing the hard job she was elected to do. I don't know many who would take on that position. Especially in this community where everyone on this forum just rips people to shreds anonymously.

Some of you are blaming the union and Teri directly for these suicides or saying they and she doesn't care. You should be ashamed of yourself. We are all educators. We go into to this profession because we care.. You are being so careless and hurtful with your comments. And you wonder why there is so much bullying in school by your children. Take a look at where they are learning it from.


6 people like this
Posted by curious
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:01 pm

"fred astaire writes: I hate teachers unions."

Then you also hate teachers.


13 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:08 pm

@Curious - hilarious comment, revealing how truly clueless (or disingenuous) you are. Parents don't hate teachers, you sound like Rush Limbaugh


18 people like this
Posted by Private sector employee
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:11 pm

@PAEA Rep

You say, "Teri Baldwin is doing the hard job she was elected to do. I don't know many who would take on that position."

Does that mean you support this statement: "There is apprehension that programs like Schoology do not promote the sort of organization and self-management skills that young people need to acquire for success in life after high school"?

If so, you deserve the opprobrium you are getting. If not, then why are you continuing to support Baldwin?

This statement of yours, "And you wonder why there is so much bullying in school by your children. Take a look at where they are learning it from" is in the same vein: misdirection masquerading as argument. Adults are angry with you because you are spouting nonsense and causing needless stress and anxiety for children and parents. You are not being bullied, you are being publicly criticized.


18 people like this
Posted by Watcher
a resident of Woodside
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:14 pm

By gawd, I hurt and smirk in response to the teacher complaining about having to migrate databases. I guess, in your union-protected and out-of-the-mainstream job, you've missed what it's like for other working adults in this era, who have to be always on their toes, ready for whatever irrational change comes down from Management.

Yes, in order to keep a job these days, most people have to spend their own time and resources staying up to date. None of us can coast. We have to shift to dysfunctional systems on a whim regularly. Most of us learn to lump it.

Don't let the CTA lead you into caring more about the "respect" your contract encodes than you do about the job you do or the KIDS you teach. Union philosophies and strategies benefit the high level admins in the union organization, over the teachers, kids, tax payers, and community.


68 people like this
Posted by District Teacher
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:14 pm

I teach at the middle school level and this is embarrassing to me and my colleagues who endeavor to put the needs of our students first, not our own individual needs. Yeah, sure, when I first started using Schoology, there was a steep learning curve... but that's one of the reasons I am a teacher: I love to learn and I embrace the challenge. Yes, I had a lot of curriculum materials on other platforms, but it takes about a minute to convert things or include links to them via Schoology.

It is absolutely beyond me that a teacher can think, "Hmm... there is a way I can make my students' lives easier and more manageable, but I'm not going to do that because it's inconvenient for me and what I prefer to do." No, it's not coddling students to do this, it's offering them the opportunity to unclutter and streamline the homework process. I've seen firsthand how difficult it is for a student with organization problems completely give up trying to figure out and remember which teacher posts homework which way.

Shame on you, inflexible and intractable teachers and the union, to choose this battle. Let's look beyond ourselves and put the needs of the children first.


48 people like this
Posted by pausd teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:28 pm

It took a little while to get used to Schoology. I attended a 2 hour training to get questions answered that I couldn't figure out myself and to make sure I was doing things correctly. Now I spend about 30 minutes per week entering assignments and uploading materials. All of my classroom materials are organized in neat unit folders. I look forward to showing parents how I support their children.


16 people like this
Posted by Suggestion
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:29 pm

I realize this thread is about implementing a particular technology but in terms of kids having multiple tests on the same day, there is a simple solution. Departments need to agree to only give tests on a particular day (i.e. Math gives tests only on Monday, Science can only test on Tuesday, English only on Wednesday, History/Social Studies only on Thursday, Language only on Fridays). This type of schedule is implemented by some excellent U.S. high schools and it works well (as long as the teachers adhere to it). It doesn't solve the whole problem of heavy homework loads but it helps a great deal.


15 people like this
Posted by gunn community
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:32 pm

@PAEA you've lost this one... Please be gracious? You underestimate the pain in the community that is now giving birth to action. Maybe you can help us by 1) trying to ensure your actions don't mean measure a fails and some of your teachers lose their jobs and 2) work with administration to find a solution like the middle schools have? Or maybe this is just the beginning of the end of union power..


51 people like this
Posted by district teacher
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:38 pm

As a PAUSD teacher, this is embarrassing. Schoology is easy for teachers, students, and parents to use. Refusing to use it, when you know it's good for students, is selfish and immature.


25 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:41 pm

To the teacher who said "eventually" schoology would be implemented, how long should that take? It was introduced 4 years ago when my child was freshman. That class is now graduating. In my experience, the teachers who won't use it are the ones who want to violate the policies on homework. It lets teachers see how many of their kids have tests on the same days, etc. if all teachers don't use its that function (in my understanding, the reason why PAUSD switched to it) is useless.

All professions have varying degrees of capable members, that's why there are administrators. The school board needs to be held accountable for agreeing to a contract where the administrators can administrate. There are some teachers who spend a great deal of time teaching- but there is help available to them to switch to Schoology. For the others- shame on you! You are the same ones who are never at tutorial during the contracted period, not available by email, etc. In my experience, many of these teachers are also teaching at Foothill, and their overburden comes from more than PAUSD. Collaboration is fine, but it does not mean reaching unanimous consensus. At some point, a principal needs to be able to set standards.

Let's all stand up for the kids here- regardless of what program the individual teacher likes, how much easier is it for them to sign in to one program to see their assignments? Can you imagine a job where you had to sign into 6 different programs to keep track of your work, and these are 14-18 year olds! And as for paper and pencil, welcome to the 21st century! Part of what we are teaching our kids is to be able to participate in today's society and work environment!

Kudos to Dr, Hermann and shame on the teacher's union! There should be a recall if it was truly only Baldwin who supported this.

Funny someone mentioned Phil Winston. His push to require teachers at Paly to use schoology is part of what set some of the staff against him, including at least one who made an (unsubstantiated) claim against him,


15 people like this
Posted by JIm H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:52 pm

So, if a student doesn't want to use technology to do their homework (type a paper by handwrite, answer questions on a YouTube video, use Google docs, Turnitin, Prezi, etc, then will they be allowed to without punishment or lower grade from teachers?
My kids have often complained about having to do an assignment using a specific program a mandated by a teacher. Sometimes new things are uncomfortable and take time to learn. Some of my kids teachers do a great job with schoology, posting the in class slides or links to notes, answer sheets for math review, etc... and some never use it. Frustrating that there isn't consistency.
the Union picked the wrong time for this battle. Makes it hard to support the teachers and Measure A when yiu see this kind of petty bickering which serves no purpose in benefitting the students


7 people like this
Posted by LosingCredibility
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:53 pm

This is how you generate income:

A) Build a system which is terribly inefficient, overloading, and lacks innovation. Like work hard to add a lot of steps that make it truly onerous.
B) Negotiate out each and every little problem, in exchange for more money at each step.
C) Add more problems as you go, so that there is a future revenue stream

There you have it! Success at the negotiating table.

I think it is time to charter every school in the district.


7 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:08 pm

How insensitive of the union to do this. But here we are and how do we move forward?

My strong belief is the schools are not to blame, the parents are. My kids have told many, many stories of kids crying when they get A-'s, chopping off inches off hair when a kid gets a B, no weekend get togethers because they have to study all the time.

Zero period is not to blame. A few years ago there was a suicide at Gunn by a student on the water polo team. Why don't we eliminate that team. They practice at 5am several morning a week!

Voting against Measure A does not help. We need the school to focus on educating these parents how to raise healthy, happy kids. As I read the info, Measure A funds do not go to "infrastructure" as many people here claim, they go to teachers, counselors, and programs.

My $.02. I'm supporting Measure A.


12 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:23 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

No. Moral. Compass.

[Portion removed.]

Good example when Teri Baldwin says: "There is apprehension that programs like Schoology do not promote the sort of organization and self-management skills that young people need to acquire for success in life after high school"?


Okay - how is this supposed to work exactly?

We have had teachers REFUSE to write the assignment on the white board, refuse to write it on paper, refuse to put it is Schoology. They refused to indicate a due date. It was just: "SURPRISE! today is the day I'll collect random stuff that I failed to assign clearly!" Oh - and you get a zero for late homework.

When Teri stands for such behavior, then claims students fail for lack of organization, it makes my head explode trying to figure out what planet she is on.

No. Moral. Compass.

No on Measure A.


13 people like this
Posted by Moving forward
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Baldwin should resign. Teachers, you have a clear decision to make.

McGee should fix zero period and pledge to make health based decisions. Board, otherwise you have a clear decision too.

More evidence of the impact of poor leadership, if we needed any.


20 people like this
Posted by Opar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:35 pm

Wow, interesting to see the back-pedaling and buck-passing here.

Curious,
Thanks for the concern trolling, but no, the district will continue to be able to recruit teachers for the same reason families pay insane prices to live here. Teacher kids get to attend PA schools without having to live in the district. We're a basic-aid district so the benefits package is sweet as well. Hell, I wish I could pull off double the square footage in a less-than-stellar district and send my kids here. Sweet.

It's also clear that a number of teachers get that refusing to comply with Schoology in wake of student suicides and concerns over student stress and homework loads is selfish and morally repellent. (As well as terrible PR--as others have pointed out, those of us in the private sector update on this sort of thing as a matter of course.)

And no grievances for ten years is indicative of a weak administration in bed with the union. Not impressed.

"We're all in this together" needs to *mean* something. To me, it means looking past your own immediate convenience and what serves the community at large. Not everything suggested is needed by my family, nor is it of particular benefit to them

EXCEPT THAT--

All of us are better off having a less depressed, stressed-out group of children. All of us are better off not having our kids experience the multiple suicides of classmates.

Oh, as for Schoology--I say give noncompliers some help and assistance to get on board over the next month. After that, I think it's time to name names. Not that hard to do. It's called accountability.


22 people like this
Posted by No on A
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Enough is enough. Sometimes a shock to the system is needed. This is apparently one of those times. I am taking down my sign and will put it up only when/if I see some real change.


13 people like this
Posted by PAUSD teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:43 pm

As a PAUSD teacher, I find Schoology to be a reasonable platform for posting assignments and, with some training, not excessively burdensome with regard to the time required to post. However, I have two concerns about this discussion.

1. Someone earlier in the comments made a good point about how Schoology doesn't allow you to differentiate between types of assignments. If it is the district's goal to use Schoology to track the quiz/test/project burden on students, then there needs to be more work to distinguish between different types of assignments rather than looking at the total sum of assignments per student.

2. Regardless of how parents feel about teachers and teachers' unions, PAEA was responding to a legal contractual violation. This is a community of highly educated professionals who, I am sure, adhere to the letter of the law in their own jobs and practices. I would hope that same expectation is extended to the teachers of their children, who, like the parents, are there to not only help the students achieve academic success but help the students grow as people and citizens that have an awareness and appreciation for following the law. Reporting violations of law - whether we agree with them or not - is a responsibility shared by all of us, teachers, students, community members. We shouldn't be able to selectively turn a blind eye to some violations and not others because we don't agree with some of the contract provisions.


2 people like this
Posted by formerpalymom
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm

[Portion removed.] What a bunch of hair-splitters!

The zero period crowd is classic. They still haven't found evidence that zero period leads to suicides. You are a math/science crowd. Where is the data from the scores of Silicon Valley schools who have zero period?


9 people like this
Posted by Sauce for the Gander
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Maybe the kids and their parents need a union and a contract, too.


19 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:57 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@PAUSD writes:"This is a community of highly educated professionals who, I am sure, adhere to the letter of the law in their own jobs and practices."


My employment contract does not specify what tools, how I use them, or whether I like them. It specifies that I get the job done, or I am gone. If you rely upon low level details in the "letter of the law" you are likely negotiating in bad faith.

"You can't do good business with bad people." -Buffet


My boss does not tell me how high to lift my pencil, where to move my mouse, when to open a spreadsheet, or any other low-level details. They update MIS systems about every other year. The reasons each time are the same: improved information flow, improved efficiency. We do not renegotiate the contract at that point, because low-level details are not in the contract.

If there is a provided tool, I use it. If the tool changes, I use it. It's part of the job. I may not even like the tool, but I understand the synergies achieved when everyone uses the same tool. Here is what my boss would say: Grow up. Use the damn tool and get on with the job.

Understand that the tool is not there for your convenience - it is there to help students, parents, and teacher coordination. Yes, there is a burden to put data into a tool, but there is value to others being able to access that data.

If you don't like that, here is the contractual view: The school should no longer require you to write down the homework and make sure that every student clearly receives a piece of paper with written homework instructions delivered to each child in a highly reliable manner. Using Schoology is easier. It just saved you time.

Those who view this otherwise were likely just not assigning homework clearly.


8 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:11 pm

For those unfamiliar with Schoology, here are a few tutorials:

Schoology Tutorials:
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

It would be helpful if those complaining about Schoology would be specific, and provide examples of problems you think make Schoology inappropriate for use in the PAUSD.


23 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm

This is not a good move on the part of the Union. It looks bad and mean spirited. It looks pro-status-quo teacher. It looks anti-student.

Boo!

I support Dr. Herrmann's efforts to change Gunn to be more transparent and fair. It is time for teachers to make Gunn a place for students and not just teachers.


10 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:26 pm

formerpalymom,

Oh, let's make this one easy for you--show that none of the kids who killed themselves or has been hospitalized or treated for serious depression and suicidal ideation has not taken a zero period class. Dauber, who has access to information we don't have, has strongly indicated that this is not the case.

Show that the AAP's assertion that early class starts are associated with a more-than-doubled risk of suicide is false.

See, when the stakes are high--i.e. kids are killing themselves--the moral thing to do is err on the side of caution.

So, you can also show me how the benefits of zero period outweigh the increased risk of kids killing themselves. What amazing things have happened as a result of Gunn's three years of academic zero period that makes the increased risk of children killing themselves worth it?


36 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@PAUSD teacher - You say there was a contract violation, that is nonsense. The last labor agreement requires that teachers post assignments online. PAEA and troublemaker teachers found a loophole because the exact online system wasn't defined. That is really gross nyah-nyah behavior that even a kindergarten teacher wouldn't tolerate from a student. It reflects extremely poorly on the union and teachers who refuse to use Schoology. I'm relieved to see most of teachers posting here in support of Schoology.


12 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Wow - can we get a reality check here!

Timing was really inappropriate for Teri in light of what was going on at Gunn.
Does this really require all the venomous responses regarding teachers and unions.

If the public wants to complain about Unions, perhaps a separate article so the space for focusing on opinions can be aired. Do not conflate the two.

Hard community to work in when the "vocal majority" tries to abrogate their responsibilities. (Interpret that any way you want).

Real issues require respectful dialogue, not what always appears from the same voices the majority of the time.


Like this comment
Posted by a parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Jiminy,

Weekly, can you please stop whatever your system does that refreshes everything when some people post? Someone above posted three times and my post was lost.


14 people like this
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Ahh once again paloaltonline throws red meat to it's base.


10 people like this
Posted by A parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm

I support Denise Herrmann. And I support the teachers. I hope this won't be blown out of proportion and cooler heads will prevail.

I'm not really a fan of Schoology as a platform, though.
"and provide examples of problems you think make Schoology inappropriate for use in the PAUSD"

I have heard disturbing reports of kids getting ahold of teacher accounts and using them to create seemingly sanctioned social media lists that exclude some kids, and that this is a problem Schoology has been trying to fix. Who knows whether this is accurate, It's hard to get any information because our nontransparent district never provides trustworthy information when asked, if they answer at all. The Schoology discussion lists have numerous posts by students who got teacher accounts and couldn't change them and vice versa, so it's not inconceivable.

As a parent, I have not found Schoology very user friendly.

I also think we have much more serious issues to deal with. Much more serious. I hope this gets put in context and resolved soon.

Denise Herrmann: Gunn teachers: We love you all, good people sometimes have disagreements, sometimes they are even messy. Many of us understand that. We have big problems to solve here, hope this gets resolved soon.



1 person likes this
Posted by Gunn Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Do teachers and their union understand that this stance in light of Gunn suicides makes it look like Gunn teachers only care about student health if they don't have to do anything substantial to help.


28 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:04 pm

It's very likely that Schoology has usability problems and bugs. All niche market software has problems and no doubt there are pros and cons to every available package.

What's baffling is a group of professionals saying, "We agreed to use an electronic platform, but you can't tell us to use the district-supplied platform." It just seems like good professional grooming in the 21st century to use a common platform. Does anyone really think that personal platforms are more secure than the district platform? Do individual teachers really want to own security responsibility and liability?

What level of minutiae need to be spelled out in the next contract? Does the contract need to say "Assignment feedback will be provided in visible ink in the language of instruction using a Roman alphabet" to ensure that teachers don't write feedback in Serbian using invisible ink and a Cyrillic alphabet?


24 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Dear Dr Herrmann, I am grateful every day for the difference you have made in supporting our students at Gunn. You are truly amazing! Just ask any student at Gunn this year about how noticeable the difference is in the way they feel about Gunn Administration. I hear it often!

To the teachers: I know many of you support using Schoology and the benefits it provides to students to find their assignments/tests in one place and much more easily manage their time. For every teacher that uses schoology rather than a personal wesite, there are 20+ students not hunting around for a different place and format for their assignments/tests. This might cause a bit more time on the teachers' part initially, but it saves to entire class of students much more. If the teachers need better features, they should be submitting a grievance to the district staff that works with Schoology, NOT the prinicipal.


15 people like this
Posted by Worst Union Ever
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:05 pm

The teachers' union thinks their only job is to protect teachers. They give absolutely no thought to the actual obligations a teacher has, which, first and foremost, are supposed to the students! They don't give a whole lot more thought to the basic job a teacher has of actually imparting knowledge successfully to the students.


4 people like this
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:07 pm

I thought of an "The Onion" like parody of PaloAltoOnline.....

an article describing how the SEIU (or teacher's union--fill in the predictable blank) is now demanding to have a voice on deciding which style mansions fit into the goal of "preserving the historic Palo Alto neighborhood".


11 people like this
Posted by curious
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:08 pm

The issue as I understand it has been resolved and was resolved months ago. This "newspaper" seemed to think this story was worthwhile enough to write about in April, reopening wounds. I guess that's one way to get clicks on this website. Create sensationalism about an issue that was resolved between the teachers and their principal months ago.

I go back to an earlier posting. The message to teachers from those in this community seems to be shut up and teach, you are not entitled to question anything. I find it laughable that this highly educated community seems to want people to think that they never have disagreements at their workplace and so they just blindly follow whatever new dictate comes out. Really? None of these highly educated people ever question anything at work?

The grievance was a disagreement between the school principal and the teachers, which was resolved months ago. What purpose does it serve the online "newspaper" to publish this months after it occurred?

Since this community is so intent on data, I want data that shows how many parents and/or students actually log into schoology.


46 people like this
Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:10 pm

As one of the big critics of the union's actions, I want to be clear that it isn't really about Schoology.

It's about simple, near trivial requests being fought tooth and nail. If you have contracts that specify things in this level of detail, you have a real and serious problem, because it is painfully hard to adapt.

The world is changing, and the teachers and the union need to adapt--we all do. Formal complaints on something this trivial is not "adults working together". If I refused an order like this at my job, I would be out of work the next day.

And lets be honest, Schoology might be annoying, but this is not a serious imposition on you. Working more days than you are contracted? Or more hours? Well, maybe (although I work plenty more than forty a week).

But switching tools and coordinating your assignments is a burden? Really?

Even if Schoology is totally lame, that shouldn't matter--you should adopt it now and then work with the administration to get a system you like more.

Simple things like coordinating homework assignments shouldn't be this hard. Making it that hard is where the real damage is done. Can you imagine a meaningful reform going through this process?


35 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:16 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@curious asks a question: "What purpose does it serve the online "newspaper" to publish this months after it occurred? "


I think it serves the purpose of shining a light on the backstory behind a substantial problem. A problem that you see as resolved, but isn't.

My kid still cannot find the homework online. Sometimes it is assigned in class, sometimes it is not.

You see, when a kid KNOWS they will get a ZERO for late homework, it becomes essential that the teacher assign the homework clearly. Schoology, for all it's faults, is one place to go look for homework.

Kids just cannot deal with 27 different ways that teachers might assign homework (some of which fail altogether). Use schoology. It helps relieve the pressure on kids.

Alternative: make kids guess where the homework is, then penalize them.


If you haven't noticed, the Weekly is pointing out items which CAUSE student stress; and shining a light on where the school is failing our kids.

Every opportunity to fail our kids is another stress that adds to disengagement, frustration, anxiety and depression.

That's why this story is important.


23 people like this
Posted by #RightNow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:28 pm

I just got a mailer for Measure A. I am quoting here. The very first reason given for supporting the parcel tax is to "attract and retain qualified teachers" and that if it expires we will have to cut $13 million from teacher salaries.

After this story, I say whoopeeee let's cut 13 million in teachers and let's start with Terri Baldwin.

Seriously.

Also, why do we need school libraries? I am not asking this to just be negative, but with the internet, school libraries seem really antiquated and if it is expensive to retain them, let's not. The books have to be constantly updated, they have to be cared for, the librarian is need, and the rooms could be repurposed for other kinds of space.

Isn't this pretty much a waste of funds to maintain 17 separate libraries in an age of e-books?

The other reasons are dishonest. "Continue advanced programs in science, math, and technology." Who thinks that this would ever be discontinued? Hey folks, we are cancelling science. No more science. Cancelled. Also no more math beyond Alg 1. All gone. [Portion removed.]
"Funds cannot be used for administator salaries." Right. Only for teacher salaries. Your money goes right to Terri Baldwin.

I was also enraged by other aspects of this brochure, from the "notables" on the front who are people who have been silent and done nothing about youth suicide to the photo of Paly and no mention of Gunn, to the fear-mongering, it's horrible

Carolyn Walworth asked us to act #right now to help students. Let's help them by sending a message.


56 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent of 3
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:59 pm

[Portion removed.]

Thanks Dr. Herrmann. If we didn't need you so badly at Gunn, I'd urge you to run for school board.


25 people like this
Posted by PAEA Teri resign now!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 6:21 pm

PAEA grossly overreached on this latest principal attack because it had been so successful during the Kevin Skelly years. Someone please count how many principals has PAEA (led by Triona Gogarty and Teri Baldwin) taken down. Phil Winston was the best example because of how it looked like Phil Winston was the problem. Phil was popular but mistakenly thought that the power of his popularity could back up his desire to lead the teachers. PAEA power was stronger. The visits in the hallways of 25 Churchill and special meetings with board members is where decisions are being made. Only now do some of you realize this. Go back to 2012 and one could not question PAEA with a quick label of teacher-hater. It has taken several of our children to kill themselves to get to the point that our school district is toxic, even though almost all students do well in our schools. Unfortunately, that is the power of our children dying. We may have advanced degrees, but wisdom will help you see that we are not as talented as we would like to think. We need real change right now, not fake Skelly change, but resignations, dismissals, and a superintendent and board who need to clean house and reduce the power of PAEA. Please replace the two below Max McGee. Replace Charles Young (and please don't delete that opinion). But also replace Scott Bowers. He has done nothing but push the pencil and manage the paperwork of this circus, he has not been a change agent in any form. It is time for him to move on.


Like this comment
Posted by sea reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 3, 2015 at 6:32 pm

Teachers union?
Why?
Who needs it?

It takes three to tangle.

Students welfare needs are our first priority.
Too much automation and watch dogging.

Go back to basics.

Let the students learn in group studying.
It is like breaking the walls down at google and creating like tents.

Be innovative.

Kids/learners are more hardworking when they ate smiling, learniy and giggling.

Respectfully


14 people like this
Posted by Another Dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Since the thread often wanders I want to remind everybody...

Kids are dying. Many kids. They have been dying for YEARS. Only now have people finally decided to pay attention.

This is not a debate. This is an emergency. Strong, emergency action is required in response. This action must satisfy some *very* angry parents.

Teacher's union: if you quibble on xontract wording clauses, you are headed for serious trouble indeed.


4 people like this
Posted by sea reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 3, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Typos. Sorry

Kids/learners are more hardworking when they are smiling/learning and giggling.

Respectfully.


11 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Measure A, aka the Parcel Tax, primarily is specifically allocated to reducing class sizes. The funds can only be used as the voters approve(d). There's an oversight committee that watches this like a hawk. Currently the parcel tax pays for 85 teachers/staff thus allowing for class sizes to be 23 vs 27. Do you really want 4 more squirmy kids in your kids class?

The Parcel Tax does not pay for technology or buildings. That is a bond issuance.

Many of our teachers are extraordinary. Ask your kids. Some are not. But to vote no on Measure A does nothing to get the Union to stop these shenanigans. I think it's time to address the Union issue but let's not penalize our community by putting our schools in crisis. Let's support our children by voting yes on Measure A!


31 people like this
Posted by Former teacher
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Palo Alto's schools and teachers aren't that great. It's the intellectual quality of the students that makes PA schools appear so good.


16 people like this
Posted by Taylor Swift
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:31 pm

So many gifted, wonderful, beautiful students at our schools.

So many sad, angry people. Particularly parents.

Such a privileged community.

I wonder what a family who came from a poor country or a dysfunctional school system would think if they saw how unhappy people are with one of the best school districts with so many caring teachers and staff.

Why are people with so much so unhappy?

And what do the kids think when they see adults full of such anger and hate in an environment of such privilege?

Perhaps the haters gotta hate. The blogs certainly give them an outlet.

Hang in there Dr. McGee, teachers, staff and board. Lots of us love and appreciate you.


6 people like this
Posted by a parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Concerned Parent,

I voted for the bond Measure A and when I asked about this and that which were important to me, I was told these things are written so you can't really enforce anything.

The family community stands to lose more if the district doesn't hear us. There will be time to try again, this has happened before.

If it goes down, the first thing we need to ask for is that the board enact regulations allowing families a clearer complaint procedure - with teeth - and some rules that allow us to collectively put some teeth into balancing decisions when the administration is very at odds with the family community. Then at least we will never have to resort to making our displeasure known by rejecting a bond measure.


25 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Thank you Dr. Herrmann for standing up for our kids to reduce homework and stress at Gunn. We are with you!


15 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Concerned, remember that parcel tax that included a rebuild of a 13th elementary at Green Gables. Didn't happen. Instead we have a series of mega-elementaries. So, I'm not a big believer in anyone watching things like a "hawk."

Private Parent has it right--this is only a bit about Schoology. It's really about a school system's resistance to make *any* sort of change in a situation where we're facing a second suicide cluster.

Taylor Swift, oh spare me--we have children killing themselves, hundreds of kids deemed at risk of doing so, and a school district refusing to do anything about it. What? You think affluence means we don't have feelings, that we don't care about children?

If the district wants Measure A then the teachers' union, the teachers, the bureaucrats and local movers and shakers need to step up and do more than give lip service about changing the school culture here.


3 people like this
Posted by Out of
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:14 pm

Let's harness the real tech brain power in Silicon Valley -- our kids. Set up a contest for Gunn students to design an app to track homework, or start a club with this express purpose. The teachers could review the submissions and vote on the best one. This would ensure buy-in from teachers, take Principal Hermann out of a Dictatorial role, and certainly result in a far better program than Schoology. imagine how empowering this project would be for kids who love these sorts of challenges.


27 people like this
Posted by Janelle
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:15 pm

Way to go teachers union! Instead of using your clout to negotiate about something important, you lit a giant bag of **** on fire and started stomping on it! Too bad it all ended up on you. Schoology? that's your line in the sand? Really?


34 people like this
Posted by local yokel
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:34 pm

From the moment they announced they were bringing in a new principal from outside CA, I already felt sorry for her. There was no way for her to truly understand the job situation she was entering into. my heart goes out to her. She doesn't deserve it. All of her intentions have been about helping the students. She has been fighting for all those kids (like mine) who don't feel worthy as students at the high schools. She's worried about the students who just can't keep up with the amount of busy work they need to get done. She's trying to give the students more chances. She's trying to make high school a little more enjoyable. The teachers are not open to change. The teachers make an average salary of $87K but push back on any type of change. If the teachers don't like Gunn they can move to another district!
It makes me sick thinking about how poor Ms. Herrmann has been treated by the teachers union, when all she was trying to do was help the students and implement the homework policy as the superintendent has asked.


7 people like this
Posted by @resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2015 at 12:48 am

I completely agree with user 'local yokel'.


41 people like this
Posted by PA CA Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 4, 2015 at 1:42 am

PA CA Mom is a registered user.

Curious asks: "I want data that shows how many parents and/or students actually log into schoology." Anecdotally, in our family, Schoology (and such) has been used regularly. For one child, it was a way to gain a sense of clarity and control amidst being overwhelmed by the pressure. For my other child (with learning disabilities), the inconsistency fed into his poor organizational skills. For him: if homework wasn't on schoology, it must mean that it wasn't assigned. I'd been pleading with administrators to demand of their teachers an all-or-nothing policy on Schoology/Infinite Campus for years, and I'm thrilled that Dr. Hermann has boldly taken it on, albeit at her peril. Glad to see that so many of us support her in this important effort!


36 people like this
Posted by Agree
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2015 at 7:29 am

I totally agree with PA CA Mom on the Schoology.

Both my kids use it every day, including weekends, when they hav a pile of homework.

I use it maybe once/week as well to keep an eye on things.

For our disorganized child it is a blessing.- no more homework assignment confusion. We may still be confused about what it means or how to get it out of the 'pile' and turned in. But at least we have a fighting chance to at least know what is assigned.

For the teachers who moralize adhd as 'irresponsible' or 'lazy' or '...they need to learn how to manage' your perspectives are cruel because you are not teaching organization, just test/stressing it.

You cannot teach organization to a kid with ADHD - their brain is not developmentally ready yet.

BUT if the assignment is on Schoology, we can teach coping skills: make a todo list, make a weekly time budget, etc.

When homework is hidden from parents , we cannot teach these skills - it becomes some sick game of. 'Find -the-zero' Teachres don't teach coping skills, and blocking parents from the info we need to do this is just mean spirited.

Please use Schoology. It lowers stress for many of the kids.


19 people like this
Posted by Union versus children
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:13 am

Every parent I've spoken to feels betrayed by PAEA and one or two, if not more of our teachers at each school that my kids attend. The released documents on this web site are tip of the ice berg. It seems that this is PAEA's thing: putting principals in their place. What did Denise Herrmann get? A month? Two? And then the power plays began. I support Herrmann just because of what has been revealed, and now I have more support for Lisa Hickey.


16 people like this
Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:47 am

I encourage everyone to post this on FB or any social media. Help parents to make an informed decision
with Prop A.


30 people like this
Posted by expose teacher's union
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:55 am

It makes me so angry that while the principle is trying to do the right thing for the children, the teacher's union is using the power of union to obstruct changes that are so needed in our schools. I know that most teachers have the interest of the children in their heart, but a few might not and these few are using the power of union to make things so difficult for the other teachers, the principles. Ultimately, the children suffer as a result.

Thank you Elena for exposing this story. I wonder how many more similar stories are still hidden from the public? We have the right to know. My son is only in 9th grade once in his life. We need to make changes now.


8 people like this
Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:56 am

Sorry, I meant measure A.


36 people like this
Posted by #RightNow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 4, 2015 at 9:09 am

I urge parents and voters reading this thread to consider the following regarding district operations:

1. There are very few means available to parents to send a message about the overall management of the district that do not involve a risk of retaliation. Measure A is a secret ballot, so it is possible to send a message without that fear.

2. There is no downside. This is a tax increase occurring a year ahead of its actual need. The reason they are running the campaign now is so that if it fails they have a margin to do it again next year before the money is actually needed. So let them run it again next year, having received the message that they need to do more to protect our children from dying of suicide.

3. It will work. If the district loses Measure A and has to re-run the tax next year or face dire fiscal consequences then everyone will understand how serious it is to get this right. The sense of urgency around suicide that is lacking (as Carolyn Walworth says, the time for action is right now, yet we are still being treated to grievances filed against our principal for even attempting to suggest that the district's IT system be used to implement the homework policy.

Believe me losing Measure A will be wake up call. And the best part is that it is a free wake up call, since they can just re-run the campaign next year, when it actually matters, and when they have shown that they are listening and making the changes that are long overdue.

4. It is the one thing that hasn't been tried. We have seen over the past 5 years multiple political campaigns, organizations, parent groups, PTAC efforts, policy proposals, doctor letters, organized efforts by Stanford faculty, a mass exodus of parents leaving the district, seven or eight federal investigations into bullying and harassment, and a massive negative media situation. Our board has proved remarkably impervious to political pressure. They don't care about parent views.

Finally, the union and the district have been in an overly-cozy relationship for far too long. Scott Bowers is the district's bargaining agent and he is married to a unit member. He has a conflict of interest. He should not even be bargaining over schoology or MIS systems. Those are not even topics established for bargaining under the Rodda Act. Why is the district being held hostage over its ability to protect student health and safety? Scott Bowers is weak and in bed (literally) with the union.

The changes that should be made before supporting the Parcel Tax are:

1. universal schoology adoption;
2. universal and immediate homework policy implentation and enforcement
3. eliminate zero period classes and move all start times to 8:30am or later

An effective, anonymous form of protest would be the following idea. The parcel tax just sent a flyer to every likely voter in Palo Alto. When yours comes, if you agree with the above, do the following, and all you need is a black magic marker and three stamps.

1. Black out your name and address on the mailer if you are afraid of retaliation
2. Write a large black numeral zero across the front of the flyer
3. Fold up and put it in an envelope with three stamps
4. Address and mail to:

Max McGee
PAUSD
25 Churchill Street
Palo Alto, CA 94306


15 people like this
Posted by I'm Voting No
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2015 at 9:46 am

Vote No on Measure A


22 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Apr 4, 2015 at 9:47 am

The teachers' union is doing its best to shelter teachers from accountability while increasing their compensation and benefits. That is its natural role.

That is why parents and concerned citizens should practice vigilance and skepticism when it comes to the demands of the teachers' union. Children are too important to be subject to the whims of low-accountability teachers.


32 people like this
Posted by Appalled Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2015 at 10:26 am

The teachers' union gives teachers a bad name. Schoology has been around since my kids were at Jordan.... so at least 4 years. If teachers haven't transitioned to a "new" tool by now, then they are being Luddites.

I am STILL more tech savvy than my Paly kids and, yet, I find it enormously frustrating to sort out their homework/project/test schedules because every teacher has their own home-brewed way to do things. This is unacceptable in this day and age where we are supposedly teaching our children to be "life-long learners" and ready to adapt to changing careers multiple times in the future. Do as I say and not as I do. No wonder there is a huge issue of mistrust.

Everyone in the working world is expected to learn, adapt, and be more productive. But noooooo, not teachers! The union and tenure protects them. If the union can't negotiate better pay, they negotiate reduced responsibilities. This is a huge disservice to the teachers and a big reason the union will fight to the death to protect teacher tenure and prevent any innovations in their responsibilities.


15 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2015 at 11:12 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Great going, teachers. Your union needs more thoughtful PR to cover up that the union is always about the teachers and not about the kids.

Never has been and never will.


20 people like this
Posted by We are all in this together.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 4, 2015 at 11:13 am

Before we all jump into our polarized corners, let's take a deep breath and try to understand what is going on here. Dr. Hermann has impressed me as an intelligent and thoughtful administrator. She has jumped in at a very challenging time for our school. Can we please cut her a little slack try to work with her? It sounds like she underestimated the complexity of the issue from the perspective of some teachers. That's an easy mistake for a new employee.

The teacher's union exec board action, in this case, seems to me hasty --but I think it's time for everyone to set aside differences and try to hear each other for the kids' sake. I know that there are MANY teachers at Gunn who are excellent. (Yes. Of course, there are also some duds. Those people exist in every large organization.)

Let's get these good folks together for a robust discussion of alternatives that WILL work for the kids and the teachers to will address the problem of uneven homework loads that kids have trouble planning around.

My kids are NOT getting extensive outside tutoring. We can't afford it. They are doing well in their honors, AP and other classes. (We don't let them overload themselves.) Nonetheless, homework loads see to be quite variable and it would be nice if work could be assigned in a more organized way so kids could plan their time better. This would reduce a lot of unnecessary stress, I think.

We can always do better. There will always be problems to solve. If we work together, I'm sure a mutually acceptable solution is out there.

I've been a teacher. I felt that sometimes the union got in the way of this kind of problem solving by taking an adversarial action when diplomacy was needed. I hope that in this case, they will stand ready to help identify possible solutions that might work rather that taking an adversarial position. "We are all in this together." Let's model that for our kids. Show them we mean it.

I write with gratitude appreciation to our teachers and administrators who are trying to find solutions. I respectfully ask the union leadership to support that effort. Thank you.


18 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Apr 4, 2015 at 11:57 am

Forget it the time for his butt kissing of the union is over. We're not going to try to figure out how to let them reopen what we are doing. The district has policies and bargaining unit members are required by the contract to follow them and they aren't. This kind of let's start over from scratch is just a stall and delay tactic by the union. NO on MEASURE A.


20 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2015 at 12:54 pm

We're all in this together,

I think what most people are asking is completely reasonable: enforce the already established homework policy, completely implement Schoology to make this possible (so far, I've not seen anything that makes me think that this would be a bad idea--just some fussing about how much work this involves--most of us have done just this sort of thing before, so I'm not buying it), and eliminate the academic zero period that started three years ago under dubious circumstances.

These are *all* minor things and should *already* have been implemented. Not one thing is a new idea. Hermann was not asking her teachers to do anything new or against district policy--and she got a bloody grievance filed against her. I'm appalled and I've been a union member.

If we're all in this together, the teachers' union (I know that many, possibly most, of the teachers are not the problem.), the entrenched bureaucracy and the board have got to start playing ball.

Three things guys--three little things.


4 people like this
Posted by joinpa
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2015 at 1:54 pm

The challenge with introducing new technology or getting a teacher to adopt it is often the challenge of the software platform for those less savvy to utilize it. I think we need one platform for teachers, students and parents.

Bring in experts to get the teachers ramped up to speed on Schoology. PAY FOR IT - Create a unified front to battle the issue of excessive homework. Lastly, give the new principle a break.


16 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 4, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Reason is a registered user.

@WeAllTogether puts forward an interesting idea: "let's take a deep breath and try to understand what is going on here."


Okay, sure. I think a timeline analysis is a good way to understand what is going on here:

a) 2 years - develop political support within the community for a homework policy
b) 1 year - convene a homework committee to draft and approve a policy
c) 3 years - no implementation, negotiation with the union
d) 0.5 year - Principal Hermann attempts to implement 1 clause in this policy. ONE friggin clause.
e) 0.5 year - Union grievance, back to the negotiating table.

Assuming the negotiations go well, (which only happens when the contract is up) - 2 more years to negotiate this one clause. Even then, the union does not enforce the clause, the unwilling are still dumped on unsuspecting parents who risk retaliation to get this implemented. This ONE clause.

Let's round this to an even 8 years, at which point we will have a begrudging implementation of ONE clause of ONE policy.


Okay - got it? follow me so far?

Okay, now realize we are in a crisis, where about a dozen and a half things need to change in the classroom in order to fix this mess. Probably starting with ending retaliation, so we can actually learn about other problems lurking out there. Keep in mind, we have no management ability to set goals and get **** done in the classroom. The negotiation with the union completely eliminates any ability to manage classrooms.

So lets see..... (a dozen tasks to get done) X 8 years each = about 100 years for progress to be made.

This brings to mind: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. Science advances one funeral at a time." - Max Plank


Or in our case, the school district will advance on retirement at a time.

Can any of the teachers out there propose a better way?


[For comparison - in the private sector if I found out my products were killing 1/1000 customers per year, we would convene a meeting the DAY we found out, and the NEXT DAY would begin implementing every possible means to prevent it. And there would not be a hint of resistance from anyone in the entire company. In fact, people would be calling me up offering to help. They would be dropping their normal work to help out. They would be working weekends and vacations doing everything possible to fix whatever problems existed. And they would not stop until it was solved. Ever.

Just saying. There is a reason why having a management role authorized in an organization is needed. And it is a role we don't have.]


Time to authorize management in our schools.

Oh, and replace the Principal at Jordan - even if authorized, he would not be the right guy. No moral compass.


13 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 4, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Reason is a registered user.

... further understanding at a very very high level:

We have a political process which moves at a glacial pace. They are negotiating with a Union body who resists all change.



You could not construct a more ineffective system to manage a crisis. Not even if you tried.


30 people like this
Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2015 at 2:16 pm

@MOM: I totally agree with you!

I've been in this district for the last 20+ years. Schoology has been around for years! Most public schools and privates schools in our area have been utilizing some kind of homework management system for years. This benefits everyone involved most importantly our students. I cannot believe we are still discussing how to convince our teachers to adopt a system which they evaluated and trained on years ago.

Parents, we need to send a strong message!! Our students are suffering! NO more politics and delay tactics! No more empty promises! I am voting NO to send a strong message that I am displeased with their attitudes and politics!!


11 people like this
Posted by HS Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2015 at 3:21 pm

@Curious- you are exactly right on with this paper's intention to drive a wedge between the community and the schools by doing this story. They have done the exact same thing in our community- in the Pleasanton Weekly. Their 'investigations" and bias reporting have taken a very successful district and torn it apart.

While I know PAUSD is facing some serious challenges, I just remind you that your teachers are very qualified professionals and just as you wouldn't want to be judged as a whole community, they dont deserve to be judged by the actions of Union leaders. Even their principal stands by her staff. Schoology is not the panacea.

Remember that this paper is playing a role in how this plays out, a very deliberate, calculated role. Start paying attention to their patterns. This is not the first community they have done this to.


21 people like this
Posted by Unpleasanton
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 4, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Doesn't Kathleen Rueggesacker who works for Skelly and now McGee live in Pleasanton? I think she used to be on the Pleasanton School Board too, if I am not mistaken...


28 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2015 at 4:11 pm

I'm not anti-union in general, but I just wanted to add my voice and state that this is the kind of ridiculous action that undermines peoples' support for teachers unions.

And seriously, how is this the PA Weekly's fault? It's no-one's fault but the union's.


Like this comment
Posted by Fact
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Pleasanton, what is your point? Regardless of your implication, if and when Kathleen Ruegsegger has something to say she does it under her own name.


17 people like this
Posted by PAUSD High School Teacher
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:02 pm

PAUSD High School Teacher is a registered user.

Adopt InClass? Check.
Adopt Schoology? Check.
Update Infinite Campus every three weeks? Check.
Run a fully inclusive, blended classroom utilizing best practices, and research-based instructional strategies? Check.

Horrified to see two students viewing a Shapchat video of a classmate urinating in the boys room? Check.

Until we confront the misuse and abuse of social media by young people (despite classroom agreements) and by adults, we will fail to make real inroads in our students' social and emotional health and well-being.

Our union is so missing the point.



12 people like this
Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Web Link

Headline: School board to discuss $2M in staff, program additions March 31, 2015

Quote from Jim H:
osted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 31, 2015 at 11:16 am
Nearly all of this is admin support. Very little goes to helping students. Yes, they try to say that adding admin gives others more time for students. Bunch of BS.

The article says, "the largest chunk, $600,000, to fund an additional full-time Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) who would provide math and literacy support for all of Palo Alto's 13 elementary schools." Makes it sound like a lot is going to support the students. Buth, they then go on to say, "In addition, each elementary site would receive a part-time staff member to "to support their schools as determined by site needs," a staff report reads." So, another 13 administrators to support the schools is included in that $600K figure.

Also included:
- $358,864 to pay for three additional TOSAs to support staff during the transition to new state standards'
- $363,156 would fund additional middle school administrative support
- $157,905, ,,, assistant principal who would "perform administrative support duties
- $133,253 two additional classified staff members at the high schools to perform clerical and secretarial duties
- $142,862 for new student research coordinator who would "design, develop, deliver, and evaluate electives for high school students
- $100,000 to bring the three middle schools' health technicians on full time

They're also approving $2.9M in additional pay. Everytime I'm over at one of the school sites, I see plenty of administrators standing around shooting the breeze. Let's put to money where it needs to be going.

This is why I am voting NO to measure A!!!!!


10 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Weekly Reader
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:22 pm

For those interested in what's happening in Pleasanton, here's a couple links for you:

Web Link
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:39 pm

Pleasanton unified is another district that abuses parents and kids with WAY too much homework and stress.

There was an outright revolt in 2011...just Google it. Something like 500 parents organized and eventually forced the district to adopt a homework policy.

Of course the union was screaming the whole time "teachers should be able to do what they want. Parents should have NO SAY in their children's workload." We literally heard those words spoken.

Not the teachers simply ignore the homework policy. Again, 3, 4 hours a night is common. Kids take ADHD meds to stay up all night. Schools refuse to accomodate medical conditions (teachers just ignore whatever they are told to do by doctors). Pleasanton is #2 in suicide rate compared to Palo Alto.

Another school district ikely to face a lawsuit, if any more kids kill themselves.

The Pleasanton Weekly never says a peep about any of this.


19 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 4, 2015 at 9:46 pm

Reason is a registered user.

A few people have asked something like 'what would need to change to vote for Measure A'

I have thought about this quite a bit, and I think the short answer is: nothing will make me vote for Measure A.

But the real question is: How will this be interpreted by the Board? I am sending a message by voting NO, and I think it is important that message says something rather clearly.

We have had 4 students take their own life, a few dozen hospitalized, and hundreds on a 'watch list'. Honestly, they are not staffed to 'watch' a few dozen kids. And the real pressure of finals has not even started. Then when grades roll in at the start of summer, we have more chances to lose another child. Max called it a crisis; and I don't know what else to say; I don't know if I can state this any more strongly. It is a tragedy certainly.

Part of my Measure A message to the board is to wake up and really reform the schools to prevent this tragedy.

Our problems are not economic. The city residents have more than enough money to solve any number of problems; if we vote NO it is not for lack of means. So it is critical that when Measure A fails, the Board does not interpret this as a cry of poor. No, we are not poor.

Most likely their first response will be to ignore the results, and try again in November. But by November, there will be an actual organized NO on Measure A campaign. Without serious change by then, the politics will be even harder to win. So I don't want the board to ignore the failure of Measure A, nor do I want them to think it will be easier next time. Next time I will fund an actual campaign to vote NO. It won't get easier.

So what is the problem? The problem is fundamentally one of politics. The Board has lost the will of the people. And that is going to be tough for some of them to accept. They NEED 2/3 of the people to vote for this measure, and they have completely lost the pulse of the community. That is the first thing they should understand: they failed as a Board to gain the trust and will of the community.

How did they lose the community? Mostly by ignoring the problems of the students, by ignoring the parents, and by setting up schools that systematically ignore, and exclude parent and student input. The board needs a reminder that they work for US. Not for the district, not for the teachers, not for the teacher's union. They work for US the voters.

In that light, I think there was someone here posting that TRUST is a primary concern. This makes a lot of sense. I don't trust the board, the district, or the local schools. I don't TRUST that my children are safe. I don't trust that the teachers won't abuse them, bully them, intimidate them, overload them, disengage them. I don't trust the principal to stand up for them. Because I have seen all this go wrong already. There is no reason to trust them. I don't trust that my kid will be the next to jump. It is a terrifying prospect to send your kid off to a school operating in this state.

District staff give the Board nonsense rah-rah reports of no substantial value. Nowhere do they mention the number of kids hospitalized each week. Nowhere do they report issues happening in the classroom. They are not made aware of OCR issues, they live in a vacuum. The Board has insulated itself in 25 Churchill, surrounded by sycophants, yes-men, and cheerleaders. They are not listening to the parents. They are not problem solving. That is the next message they need to get when Measure A fails: listen to the parents.

But I think it goes further than listening, they need to GO OUT OF THEIR WAY to solicit input from parents. Go GET the list of problems. In order to do this effectively, the board needs to eliminate, completely, the culture of terror and retaliation. As long as retaliation is even a remote possibility, the parents only means of communicating is the ballot box. And we will continue to vote NO.

Retaliation is a form of corruption and a power play in the classrooms. It establishes an alternate power structure that is NOT derived from the Board. The teachers doing this, know that the board won't touch them, and the parents cannot touch them. They do this to hold absolute power; and it works. And it must stop in a very visible, dramatic way that shows clearly that Max means business. A nice letter to parents is not it. We need heads on spikes on the castle wall. Otherwise you are just pandering to the alternate power structure WHERE YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL. We won't give money to a board that is not in control.

These are fundamental aspects of the message: listen to the parents, re-establish the trust that you clearly don't have, terminate retaliation, re-establish the board as the power structure in the district, and save the children. Literally: save the children.

Only then we can begin the detailed work of discussing, honestly, fairly and openly how to make the district better. This will take real change directed into the classrooms. Changes to the schedule, the use of Schoology, the AP issues, the intimidation and bullying in the classroom, the homework overload, the disorganization, the disengagement. The board cannot shy away from this problem - they have real problems in the classrooms, and problem teachers. The board cannot face these issues without a political mandate. They need the trust of the parents in order get that political mandate.

That is the message the Board should take from this entire mess, should Measure A fail.


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Reason - Measure A will pass, like last time, because even those who agree with you (I generally do) realize that losing the measure A funds will make things worse for the kids. I'm not willing to punish the students to make a point to the board. Better to go find another Dauber (though not literally, please), and continue to change the makeup of the board. Though as this article makes clear, the teachers union is clearly a big part of the problem, and we can't do much about it.


8 people like this
Posted by Reason is Right
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 4, 2015 at 11:02 pm

I agree 1000% with Reason. Just gotta say. S/he has hit the nail on the head.


14 people like this
Posted by #RightNow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 4, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Reason, well said.

Front and center must be that students are dying. It cannot get worse for them than that, and the idea that Measure A being defeated will punish students is detached from reality.

If Measure A is defeated, the district will lose a few million dollars that are the increment of the increase between the current parcel tax that we already pay and the new increased rate. While that is not nothing, it also is far from catastrophic. It was found money in the first place since the parcel tax does not expire until 2016 and it was being raised early.

Essentially, the defeat of Measure A leaves us at the status quo ante. Frankly, the middle of an uncontrolled suicide cluster in which the district has abdicated leadership, presented misleading information to the board to cover up the full extent of the trauma, failed to allocate sufficient funds to mental health, and has a union treating Denise Herrmann like Jimmy Hoffa shouldn't be running a parcel tax campaign. When Cameron died, that should have caused reconsideration of the campaign. When Harry died it should have been deep sixed. When Byron died, it should have been cancelled.

The refusal to follow medical advice on zero period has enraged the community because it is taking risks with our childrens' lives for the convenience of a few teachers who want to leave work early. The same is true of the homework policy -- for the convenience of a small number of teachers who don't want to use schoology, our children's very lives are being held hostage.

So who does the parcel tax help? Well virtually all of the money will go to the benefit of the PAEA union. There will be more teachers hired. That is more bargaining unit members and more dues payers. Salaries will increase, and that is more union dues. Teachers will not be cut, and that is more union dues. The vast majority of the money will go to certificated union members and that makes the union stronger.

In point of fact the soaring property tax revenues will more than make up for that lost one year increment. We are in an unprecedented period of property value increase.

There will never be a better time to send a message.

Then they can re-run the campaign next year, hopefully chastened by the experience of the loss. Send a message.,


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2015 at 11:31 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@RightNow - obviously the impact year 1 of measure A failing is 0, but if the parcel isn't replace by year 2, it will be terrible for the students. If you are hoping for a vote no this year, vote yes next, that is a game of chicken with the pausd students stuck in the middle.


17 people like this
Posted by Union versus children
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Apr 4, 2015 at 11:40 pm

A no on the parcel tax will not hurt students at all. Did all the parcel tax funds over the last seven years save lives? No. many interpreted its passing as a confirmation of all is well, just as they did in the 2012 election. Vote no on this parcel tax and the next. That would actually force administrators and teachers to make easy, inexpensive changed to reduce the apparently hundreds of students who have contemplated killing themselves.


16 people like this
Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2015 at 7:50 am

@Slow Down,

I agree with union vs children. Take a look at another article below:
Web Link

They are already talking about $2M additional staff and program additions. Also included:
- $358,864 to pay for three additional TOSAs to support staff during the transition to new state standards'
- $363,156 would fund additional middle school administrative support
- $157,905, ,,, assistant principal who would "perform administrative support duties
- $133,253 two additional classified staff members at the high schools to perform clerical and secretarial duties
- $142,862 for new student research coordinator who would "design, develop, deliver, and evaluate electives for high school students
- $100,000 to bring the three middle schools' health technicians on full time

A strong "NO" will send a strong signal to our board, administrators and teachers that parents' voices cannot be ignored! We don't want a overstaffed district office. We don't want multiple assistant principals in our schools! We don't want a teacher's union to dictate what's good for our students. Hire more counseling staff to help our kids! Get teachers on Schoology (this is free actually!)! If they're concerned about the shortage of budget, they could use part of this additional $2M to ensure smaller class sizes!!

Vote "NO" to Measure A!


33 people like this
Posted by Priorities
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 5, 2015 at 8:06 am

To me it is about priorities. Where is Dr. McGee right now while the online parent community is considering a tax revolt? He's off in Singapore (totally random location by the way) with 11 hand-picked elite students doing "research" on the taxpayer dime. It's very tone deaf to what we are going through, as well as expensive and unnecessary. To me it stands in for the high-spending on the one hand, and out of touch with reality on the other. I was solid for Measure A until I saw the last board meeting. He had a long list of new district staff and admins and nothing at all for mental health. How about a district admin to enforce the homework policy instead of to create more homework (the research position). How about a district admin to coordinate suicide prevention? He doesn't get it. So to me, Measure A just is more money on the wrong things.

I also am for smaller classes. But that's got to be second to getting homework under control and getting rid of zero period. A small class at 7:20 is still going to cause suicide. Small classes with 5 hours a day of homework is still going to cause sleeplessness (and suicide).

Priorities.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 5, 2015 at 8:37 am

@ Opar - re: Garland.

I believe you have your school taxes mixed up. The Measure A parcel tax (and the aforementioned oversight committee) does not go towards the building program. You are referencing the "Strong Schools Bond"...a wholly separate program.


2 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2015 at 11:11 am

Looking at the headline for this article makes me wonder if there's any way to rebuke the union.


6 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2015 at 11:14 am

@HS Parent - Hilarious. create a conspiracy theory to try and divert from the real issue at hand. How about teachers just use Schoology instead of trying to hide behind their contract?


1 person likes this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 5, 2015 at 11:15 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


7 people like this
Posted by Whatever name I used on this thread
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2015 at 11:37 am

Sorry I don't remember what name I used it's a long thread. Not trying to multi post. The comment stands this board is just going to reward the union with flowers and candy no matter what they do to Denise. Then they'll make Tom Jabberwocky the principal since he would be acceptably weak in PAEAs sight.


4 people like this
Posted by It's the TRUST, Stupid!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2015 at 1:42 pm

@Mac Clayton,
You wrote : Hermann's plan--coordinating and smoothing assignment burdens--is so obviously correct. It the platform she proposed is technically inadequate or tedious, can't we just fix that? We a a town of programmers, are we not.

That would be a great idea, in fact, there are SO many ways our district could benefit from such collaboration.

But that woukd require a modicum of open communication and a culture of communication and dialog. That is actively discouraged at 25 Churchill, both overtly, and by the untrustworthy behavior of those same admins.


Like this comment
Posted by It's the TRUST, Stupid!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Creascent Park Dad - they were all Measure A, incl Strong Schools.


9 people like this
Posted by It's the TRUST, Stupid!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2015 at 2:01 pm

@Pleasanton Parent,
"Pleasanton unified is another district that abuses parents and kids with WAY too much homework and stress.

There was an outright revolt in 2011...just Google it. Something like 500 parents organized and eventually forced the district to adopt a homework policy.

Pleasanton is #2 in suicide rate compared to Palo Alto. "

Well now, that's very interesting, because the person many of us feel most stands in the way of positive change is Assistant Superintendent Charles Young, who came to us from Pleasanton, is that right? [Portion removed.] how did Young's departure from Pleasanton relate to your information? Please share as much concrete info as possible (and how you managed to free yourselves)?


2 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

No, I was referring to an earlier school bond that people thought would, in part, go to rebuilding Garland as a 13th elementary. Instead, the board renewed the Garland lease and built mega-elementaries.

My point was not that Measure A would do this, but that the district did not have a record on using bonds in a way that reflected the desires of voters.


10 people like this
Posted by Union versus children
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Apr 5, 2015 at 5:17 pm

I did use Google some time ago, and yes, the Pleasanton connection is suspect. All the following information is from the Town Square or the pausd.org website. Charles Young came to PAUSD in 2011 from Pleasanton. Kathleen Ruegsegger was a Pleasanton board member a long time ago, but has remained active on the Pleasanton Weekly's Town Square. Ruegsegger was also Kevin Skelly's secretary when Young was hired. It also looks like Anne Fox, of Pleasanton, sent Ruegsegger an official Public Records Act Request on July 4, 2014 regarding current or former Pleasanton teachers Lynn Cronin and Candace Aderman. What was revealed in emails between Cronin, Aderman, and Young was a $300 contract for staff development for the Briones teachers on May 30, 2012. What does it all mean? Others can chime in.


4 people like this
Posted by nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Union versus children

a staff development contract, as in $300 thousand maybe?

Weekly,

This is something that merits investigation about money matters. How much is spent on professional and staff development, which I am all, for but given this situation with Schoology, what's the point of staff development if the union deems itself above best practices.

Isn't this also C Young's specialty? Is there a way to track the $$$ spent on staff development? Like what has been done in the last 10 years - what was the focus, vendors, who decides...does the Union have a say?


3 people like this
Posted by Union versus children
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Apr 5, 2015 at 6:31 pm

Only $300. Go to the Public Records Act page on PAUSD and you can read some amazing stuff. Even more amazing is the amount redacted.


42 people like this
Posted by What I didn't learn in kindergarten
a resident of Addison School
on Apr 5, 2015 at 6:34 pm

In reviewing the current union contract it is clear that Dr. Herrmann was within her rights as an administrator to require her staff to use Schoology.



The Education Employment Relations Act (Rodda) 1975 established the right of unions to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of teachers. However the language limits items that a district must submit for collective bargaining. See California Government Code Section 3543.2 for a complete list. The Rodda act specifically preserves the districts authority on all matters not covered under section 3543.2. Technology platforms are not on the list of items that must be covered by a collective bargaining agreement.



Teri Baldwin and the union have perverted the meaning of Appendix C section 1. The district did not in any way abrogate their right per the Rodda Act to specify technology platforms through this appendix. The Rodda Act does give teachers unions the authority to negotiate on “procedures to be used for the evaluation of employees” and Appendix C only refers to teacher evaluations. In 2011 PAUSD and PAEA adopted the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP) for teacher evaluation standards. Appendix C was added by PAUSD and PAEA in 2013/14 to add more district specific details to the state standards. Appendix C section 1 says that implementation of online homework posting is one of the items secondary teachers will be evaluated on.



It would be silly to specify the technology platform under the collective bargaining agreement. We are in the 21st Century and teachers are supposed to be teaching and modeling 21st Century skills. Technology is constantly changing. Schoology was selected based on teacher input. If a better system pops up the district must maintain its prerogative to implement better systems for the benefit of teachers and students.


18 people like this
Posted by nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2015 at 8:47 pm

union versus children,

In PAUSD it looks like $5 MILLION was earmarked for professional development in 2014. The numbers are in the millions in other years as well.

I couldn't find a comprehensive list of spending year after year. But millions add up. My point is that how can it be that the Union is resisting adapting to a district system, and possibly resisting homework policy when millions are being spent on their development?

I would still like to know how money is being spent to develop teachers. If millions cannot cause an impact on something as basic as communicating effectively on homework, what is money being spent on?

How can the explanation be that they do not want to nanny children? How are the millions being spent? Who decides?

Weekly - please consider investigating.


13 people like this
Posted by It's the TRUST, Stupid!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2015 at 9:28 pm

@nanny,

That's a really good question, because one year when we had a great librarian who got in a dispute with the principal at the local elementary, they were both fired. Both were good people who should have been retained and received professional development to resolve any issues. Parents wrote the board as much. So we noticed when the paper reported Cathy Mak putting aside $8 million that year for professional development. What did it go for?

I also noticed that hardly any of those administrators are in the office over the summer working even though they aren't on the shorter schedule like the teachers. In fact, a lot of them seem to be gone an awful lot for people making so much.

It's interesting you bring up records requests, because I have all but given up trying to get information from the district. They don't provide it, they complain they can't, and sometimes they complain and then claim they provided it when they didn't.

These are important records, things like conversations between children's doctors and district personnel. Try asking the district what their policy on maintaining records for those and providing them when asked. This is a pretty major issue right now with so many children being hospitalized for depression. Do you think the district personnel should be able to say whatever they want about your child without maintaining records? Do you think they should at least have to tell you their policy and professional duty to maintain such records if you ask?

Perhaps we should ask the union where the millions on professional development are being spent?


16 people like this
Posted by Bust the union
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 6, 2015 at 8:20 am

The teachers unions need to go. Tenure is bad enough but when educational decisions for kids are being made by union representatives things have gone way too far. Time, energy and money devoted to busting this union would be well spent.


27 people like this
Posted by Paly Family
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2015 at 8:25 am

I'm glad that as a community we are starting to peel the onion to find out what's really going on and what the root causes are. If we continue this trend towards transparency and accountability, I think it's going to make a real difference in the lives of our children. It's clear that the entrenched bureaucracy and defenders of the status quo have enjoyed a certain anonymity while wielding great power by operating outside the public discourse, both at the district and site level, and I'm glad that's starting to change.


17 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 6, 2015 at 8:29 am

I hope the elementary parents are watching this debate. Any changes will probably not be made in time for our kids, but future high school students, those still in elementary school now, just might benefit.

Please tell all your elementary friends what is going on.


10 people like this
Posted by nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2015 at 8:53 am

Trust,

Thank you for bringing up the case of two adults in a dispute. Surely there was a misunderstanding there somewhere.

Which brings up the many ways that someone can be misunderstood, and when it gets to homework, there are umpteen ways teachers either write it on the board, announce it, or insist for all eyes and ears to be on them at exactly that moment in time when homework is declared. This may have worked in the prairies days with a small class size, all students looking at the teacher at the same time, when homework was minimal and when the homework stakes were not as high.

Teachers don't want to nanny because the children they have are not perfect. Neither are the classroom situations (big class sizes, kids are mobile in the classroom, they go to the bathroom, are absent) or school circumstances (compared to prairie days) - for example kids take multiple classes, 6-7 subjects per day, and we have a diversity of types of kids, including some with english not as their first language. Kids are not just attending 1 class and playing, they are navigating smorgasbord education. Lots of things going on, and so yes they are not perfectly synchronized to catch the varying - often easily misunderstood homework assignments. Homework can be misunderstood even on Schoology.

Which brings up the fact that teachers are not perfect.

Anyway - my original post was that the teachers should provide a sound educational reason for not using Schoology. If it is the nanny reason, I expect a rational argument for schools being run in the same ways as the prairie days. And I want to see how much money is spent on technology professional development if the point is to be stuck in the prairie days.

Until then, it's looking like it's the Union that does not want to be nannied. A system to track homework levels is oversight, and there are those who maybe do not want the nanny catching them at something. I could be making stuff up here, but in the absence of a rational report on the Union's position about Schoology, all we have is the nanny issue.

The way the Union is communicating with District staff, hallway talk, is very serious. No wonder everyone is a contortionist in saying one thing to the public and then acting in a different way later. This needs to change because it is unsafe to allow this to continue.

Thank you Weekly for reporting on this, but there is much more now that we should know. Can we please hear more about how millions are being spent on professional development. How does this compare to other districts as well.



21 people like this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 6, 2015 at 9:47 am

EmmaB is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] This is exactly why my kids are going to private schools, where the teachers who are there actually care, are actually qualified, and care more about results than contracts.


26 people like this
Posted by Union versus children
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Apr 6, 2015 at 10:59 am

It's no joke. PAEA has been pulling the strings for some time. Only the heavily-redacted release of public records has given the public its first glimpse of how much undue power folks like Teri Baldwin and former president Triona Gogarty have wielded. Denise Herrmann wanted to release her letter of apology or clarification to her teachers, but first it had to be blessed by Teri Baldwin and the new CTA puppet master Christal Watts. Herrmann was not even being allowed to write a letter to her own staff. How's that for power? PAEA and CTA have the power. They don't need to be busted, but a reset does need to take place. PAEA should not be in charge of board policy, that's the board's purview, they should not be in charge of evaluating the principals, that's the superintendent's job, and they should not be in charge of evaluating how well the teachers perform, that's the principal and vice principal's jobs. But after seeing them out Herrmann in her place, and remembering how Teri Baldwin chatted with various board members and suddenly we had no bullying policy, then thinking about the inglorious departures of Katya Villlalobos and Phil Winston, it's pretty clear that PAEA has been putting these folks in their place for years. That kind of record invariably leads to overconfidence, the kind that makes you feel bolder and bolder until your judgment becomes impaired and you file a reckless official grievance. I think that's what happened here. And I think that has happened at Briones more than once and a lot of other schools, including El Carmelo, Barron Park, and Palo Verde.


12 people like this
Posted by objective parent
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 6, 2015 at 11:25 am

i can't imagine that any real teacher wouldn't trade a couple of extra hours a week of posting homework on a central platform [portion removed.] this is surreal to me. Herrmann is trying to make a much needed difference - let her! you can see what good the board has provided so far (aka NONE).


4 people like this
Posted by entrepreneur
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 6, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Sounds like a business opportunity for somebody to build something better than Schoology.


Like this comment
Posted by PaloAlto
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2015 at 1:16 pm

@EmmaB,

That is simply not true.

Thank you.


12 people like this
Posted by #RightNow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2015 at 1:27 pm

[Portion removed.]

Why can't we just have regular public schools where the kids learn stuff and there isn't all this drama, federal investigation, suicide, and union bullying? I mean really do we not already pay enough taxes just to have frigging regular schools? Does someone want to say that we don't already pay enough just to send our kids to school without all this crap?

NO on MEASURE A unless we can get things straightened out:

1. Eliminate zero period, all classes start after 8:30. No exceptions.
2. Implement and enforce the homework policy
3. universal schoology

I also want to second some of the comments about the way Max seeks attention for himself and seems to want to run the district like a magnet school instead of a K-12 school district. We cannot have the super jetting off on a special trip that was hand-selected participants without a lottery or other fair way of selection. This is a public school district and has to be open, inclusive, and fair.

[Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Careful what you wish for
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2015 at 1:40 pm

While I am in favor of using technology to help our students and teachers, Schoology has enabled teachers to post homework on weekends, holidays, and in the dead of night. I was complaining about this to my Paly alumnus daughter who pointed out that in her day, teachers had to give out assignments in person, which meant during school hours. So maybe not using Schoology is such a bad thing after all.


8 people like this
Posted by We are Palo Alto
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 6, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Remember we are all true progressives and Democrats here in Palo Alto and strongly support all Unions. Palo Alto is a great pro-Union place.

We cannot undermine our Unions like they do in states like Wisconsin with a Tea Party government!


8 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

#RightNow,

I believe Supt. McGee was sought out by the district, not the reverse. The Singapore exchange seems to be exactly the kind of activity the search committee was impressed by. If the district was misrepresented to him as supportive of the kinds of programs he has built his reputation on, why blame him for any perceived mismatch instead of ourselves? I doubt he had any idea he was stepping into the kind of situation he finds himself in when he signed on. I believe he is determined to bring about positive change. To do so requires our critical and caring support for what must be a common enterprise, not the burden of a parcel tax rejection.

Please vote Yes on A, then stay engaged in making Palo Alto schools better through persuasion, or legal action if needed, rather than through threats to deny funding.


26 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 6, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Ridiculous that a principal can't mandate a software reporting system. In what other occupation does that happen?!?! And if teacher's think will consider this "abuse" they're as delusional as they are coddled. Someone's acting like spoiled brats and it ain't the students.

If you don't like this situation, ask your state representative whether they support the continuation of K-12 tenure and the on-going dominance of the teachers union in educational policy. We have recourse against incompetent administrators - we can fire them. It's time we had some real accountability with teachers.


15 people like this
Posted by I don't rememeber the name I used
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2015 at 4:02 pm

@jerry

Circumstances have changed. For one thing the board that hired McGee is not thankfully the board he has today. The libertarian cheerleaders who denied reality and failed to care about mental health are gone thank the stars and We have different priorities. More importantly reality had changed. Even if you thought that Mitchell/Tom/Townsend had the right ideas then, we've had 4 deaths and 60 hospitalizations along with 10 percent of the Paly population on a watch list. If thst isn't a change then I don't know what is. Good leaders are flexible and change to meet exigencies. We all have plans but we have to adapt. Herbert Hoover had a plan and he stuck to it. Is that your suggestion for McGee?


40 people like this
Posted by Former Teacher & Board Member
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 6, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Let me tell you about professional development. You'd like to think it goes to improving student experiences. By FAR the majority of teachers attend simply to get the extra stipend. You sit in a classroom on a summer day, listen to an ex-teacher drone on about smart boards or new math or whatever, then collect your paycheck. In some cases the new credential allows you to move up a column in your annual salary. So when you see $x million budgeted for professional development, know that it's not professional development -- it's just another layer of cash for teachers.


8 people like this
Posted by Yes on A
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Use the school board elections to send a message, not the parcel tax. For people who want reform: you have Dauber. As someone pointed out, it is already not the same board that slept through the last suicide cluster. 3 seats are up in a year. Don't like the current direction? Vote the incumbents out and new board members in. There is no more clear message than throwing the bums out and putting in fresh blood.


20 people like this
Posted by Frustrated Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2015 at 7:17 pm

@Jerry argues we should fight with less effective means:"Please vote Yes on A, then stay engaged in making Palo Alto schools better through persuasion, or legal action if needed, rather than through threats to deny funding."


Why? What you propose is ineffective and I suspect you know it.

We've tried persuasion, discussion, engagement and politics. I have funded campaigns of sitting board members, I throw money at PoE, and I've talked to IS , Principals , and two supers. Nothing works!

We are still met with disdain, abuse in the classroom, retaliation, and no accountability. So I feel we have tried all the ineffective ways to get a message across already.

Our kids are dying and being hospitalized at an alarming rate. If taking away the piggy bank finally gets their attention, it is worth a try.

Nothing else has worked. Done that. Been there. No more Mr Nice Guy.

Save the Children.

No on Measure A


16 people like this
Posted by Frustrated parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2015 at 7:21 pm

...oh, and the Union will recognize this: the association with losers is a dangerous, costly game.

Collective bargaining is countered with collective punishment. Your game. Your rules. Eat it.


20 people like this
Posted by No on A
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 6, 2015 at 7:35 pm

No on A. No money for PiE.

Too much money feeding the Union. Obviously it has the grip. No board change will make a difference.


8 people like this
Posted by No way
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 6, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Giving more money to the district would be flat out irresponsible. It's like giving booze to an alcoholic and then saying "you're helping him get sober".

Of course he's going to beg for it and use every manner of argument. Alcoholics are THE most persuasive liars.

No on A.


4 people like this
Posted by Grievance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2015 at 8:06 pm

When the Addison School principal left was a similar teacher grievance involved?


21 people like this
Posted by Union versus children
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Apr 6, 2015 at 8:50 pm

The Addison principal had very little chance following John Lents and having Teri Baldwin there, also. But no, no official grievance was filed. It usually is not necessary. It is much quicker, though slimier, to do it behind the scenes, in the hallways at 25 Churchill, in private conversations with board members, and with threats of filing a grievance. The Palo Alto Weekly only asked for emails that had the word grievance in them and also only from a few employees. If they, or anyone, expanded their search terms a bit, more ickiness would be revealed. The Weekly should be commended for the good work they have done in the last two years. Without it, the public would know so little. We've got great teachers, but we do have some lemons in every school, and we have a lousy union. It would be great to see a letter of apology from Teri Baldwin and PAEA to the community for focusing on the wrong thing while Gunn students were killing themselves.


25 people like this
Posted by Frustrated parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2015 at 9:45 pm

I think the unions plan for this suicide cluster matches their previous plan: lay low; deflect responsibility; blame mental illness, parents, victim, or anybody but them. Dodge accountability for its worst members, and avoid anything that might help if it means any more work.

Leverage the crisis to get a parcel tax INCREASE EARLY, and spread the money around. Is there any doubt why the parcel tax renewal is happening now? It is a cynical money-grab orchestrated by the union as a ruse for more money..

That's their plan. And we aren't buying it.

"Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face," - iron Mike Tyson

Our plan is to save the children. And it doesn't start by showering more money on a union who is doing a money-grab during a crisis. Shame on you.

No on Measure A.


1 person likes this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 7, 2015 at 12:42 am

SAVE the 2,008

Reviving the heart of our schools.

Sign our "Open Letter to the School Board and Superintendent" at:

www.savethe2008.com


24 people like this
Posted by GonOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 7:41 am

Egregious behavior by the union and their members.

We employ the Principal to run the school, NOT the teachers or their union. In any other business an employee failing to follow the direction of their superior would be fired for insubordination.

The school board just announced an additional $2+ Million windfall due to increasing property taxes (and their plans to spend it on new items - see article in PAonline). I see no reason to give the school board more money again via measure A given the spending excesses, wasteful spending on "teacher development" and insubordinate behavior of the employees.

No on A.




14 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent of 3
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 7, 2015 at 9:43 am

I'm in. No on A. No more money for PiE.


4 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 7, 2015 at 9:44 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

A more interesting article would take a deeper look-


Why are the schools using two applications - one for homework and another one for grades?

Is Schoology the best system - or is it just the one of the early systems that the District happens to have? Has there been any effort upgrade to the best system (whatever that is) that might be easier to use for everyone?


5 people like this
Posted by I don't remember which name I used
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2015 at 9:55 am

After we vote up measure A is when the real FU will happen. Wait until the public finds out the bill the teachers will be probsbly sending the taxpayers to use schoology if it is even in the contract. Then there will more years of loopholes and work-to-rule wherein the union says "when you said we had to "use schoology" you didn't say which parts or how often or how prompt it had to be updated hahaha gotcha..." But thanks for the big ass raise!!! That's going to be a helluva morning after!


10 people like this
Posted by should not be this hard
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2015 at 4:20 pm

If Schoology is such a difficult software to use then surely there are other districts that use a program that is more user friendly. Someone in the Silicon Valley could help the district find a solution that works for both staff and students. Instead of going round and round about Schoology (we have heard about this for years now, this is not a new problem) find a program that works and get everyone on board. It should not be so difficult.

If every parent would donate one hour of the money they have to spend on tutoring for their student then tutors could be hired to help these teachers learn how to use a new software.


9 people like this
Posted by I Don't Remember if I Posted Before
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2015 at 7:39 pm

*** Disclaimer: I don't remember if I posted on this thread before but if I did, PA Weekly: please feel free to change my username here or in my original comment.

It's completely ridiculous that after four years we do not have 100% conversion to Schoology by all teachers. There is no excuse other than arrogance and laziness on the part of those teachers who have still not migrated.

There are many, many wonderful PAUSD teachers, and we appreciate so many of them. That said, I also have first hand experience with teachers that are unprofessional and only personally-motivated, and think they have accountability to no one. We experienced this last year with a certain 5th grade teacher at Fairmeadow. I sincerely hope our feedback to then-principal Prehn was properly recorded and tracked as documentation for future, similar issues. No child, or their family, should experience bullying by a teacher who has her knickers in a twist because she mis-stepped and got caught!


13 people like this
Posted by Schoology is not the problem
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 7, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Schoology is not the problem.

Homework (though for the most part useless) is not the problem.

"Bad teachers" are not the problem.

The board is not the problem.

Max is not the problem.

The problem is in the culture of Silicon Valley, in the offices of the Weekly, and in the community of PA in particular. It is systemic, unique, complex, not amenable to a single solution, and unlikely to be solved by a single initiative.

If you think something as simplistic as voting no on A or getting all the teachers to use Schoology is going to resolve this deeply entrenched issue, you are fooling yourself. And you all continue to do the Palo Alto Weekly huge free favors by putting your eyeballs on its ads and clicking on its links, encouraging it to continue fanning the flames of this imbroglio.


12 people like this
Posted by Nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Schoology not the problem,

There are no walls protecting other schools or families from the "Silicon Valley culture". It's not like someone who lives in Old Palo Alto and has kids going to Paly is so different from the next door neighbor whose kids go to Castilleja or Pinewood.

Baloney that there is a "condition" here which has nothing to do with the school environment. Or that for example Unions are not a source of challenges for educational reform.

The big problem is that the schools are the opposite of the culture here that expects innovation and problem solving.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 7, 2015 at 10:01 pm

I went to Wikipedia to look up "Human Condition". There's our problem.

Then I checked "Absurdism." Now I don't know.


11 people like this
Posted by It's the TRUST, Stupid!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2015 at 10:57 pm

No, actually, for us, the homework is the problem. Having a project-based learning program in some form (many doable before next year without any extra resources), a better boundary between school and home so that there is no more homework problem, and a school district with personnel who act in a trustworthy manner with a culture of working with families -- we would be good to go.

The families are one of the big reasons we LOVE this place. Nerd Utopia. Nice, thoughtful people who really will think and try to get it right, willing to stand up when things go wrong. With nice, thoughtful, smart kids - I would have given my eye teeth for friends who are such peers and great kids when I was that age.

Kids, if you don't appreciate your unique GIFTS to the world, we adults have failed you. We are working on it.


6 people like this
Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 7, 2015 at 11:38 pm

"No, actually, for us, the homework is the problem. Having a project-based learning program in some form "

Just wondering why you think project-based learning would mean no homework? My high school student has a big group project due right after spring break. He will spend a lot of time this break coordinating meetings and doing work with his group to complete the assignment. So much for a work free spring break. Clearly teachers are not adhering to the "spirit" of the no homework over break policy. Technically there is no homework over the break but in reality if you have a major project due right after break then you have to work during the break to complete it. Group projects are great in concept but a real hassle in reality.


13 people like this
Posted by Frustrated parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2015 at 11:51 pm

@Palo Verde Parent - your child's teacher is violating the homework policy. And they are doing so DIRECTLY after being told their responsibilities to this policy. Max laid out what he expected teachers to do in February.

Your teacher is purposely ignoring Max's directive.

Which is yet another example of the alternate power structure in the classroom. Max is not in control. The union is.

That is why you should vote No on Measure A.

Send a message that projects over break rob kids of a stress-free break.

Follow the homework policy!

@Schoology is not th problem - how many examples of abuse do you need to see in order to alter your opinion? The facts are right here in front of you in dozens of postings and Op-Ed articles. Are you ignoring the obvious school problems on purpose?

Vote No on Measure


5 people like this
Posted by It's the TRUST, Stupid!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2015 at 12:53 am

Palo Verde Parent,
Project-based Learning means more than just adding propjects to the regular curriculum, just like organic farming is more than just refraining from spraying poison. The whole point is to learn the curriculum through projects, because people learn better by doing, not pile on projects on top of the program.

PAUSDs own project-based program at Ohlone does not give mandatory homework either. A good program gives kids room to use their time after school freely, it's part of the philosophy. We phase out PBL after 6th grade. By 8th even Connections resembles the traditional classroom.

PBL provides a whole host of benefits related to creativity and student autonomy. ALT school takes it one step further and allows student-led projects.


3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 8, 2015 at 6:03 am

Just curious, not counting spring break, how many weeks in advance was the group project assigned to your teen?


3 people like this
Posted by it depends
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2015 at 6:13 am

Crescent Park Dad - I can see where you are going with your question, but without the context of how much other work was assigned at the same time as the project across all classes, it would be hard to judge what was reasonable in this case.

Too bad some of the high school teachers won't use Schoology so that it would be easier to make that determination.


16 people like this
Posted by Nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:24 am

$142,000

"Palo Alto and Gunn high schools could also have a new student research coordinator who would "design, develop, deliver, and evaluate electives for high school students that provide a framework for students to conduct original investigations on compelling questions of interest; collaborate with other students and on-campus or off-campus professionals such as educators, researchers, and scholars; and to share their investigation results through professional presentations, competitions, and publications," the report reads. Staff is recommending the board allocate $142,862 for this position. Web Link

The above is from the thread about $2 million spending and the Board meeting is recommended viewing.

Schoology is not the problem.

Note the word "COMPETITION" in the purpose for this new staff position. This looks like a new Olympiad type thing which will serve a handful of kids. This could easily fit as several other competitive things we have (sports, other academic clubs which compete around the country, with boosters) which could attract parents to help out, and get for FREE whatever competition Max wants to sell us.

I would bet that researchers in this community would find a "Student research coordinator" position for original research competitions unnecessary. Shouldn't all kids be doing research learning in the classrooms? Compared to teachers using Schoology for example (which costs nothing), this is a warped way that the schools appear to be making "progress" but they fail to prioritize for a smarter learning environment.

The focus on ranking, sorting, competing, show and tell at Board meetings, distract from what really counts.

There are no standards to protect students.


3 people like this
Posted by Nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:30 am

One more elective which very few can take because nobody has time on their schedule anyway. Oh, I forgot, with Zero period you could maybe manage to do this.





10 people like this
Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 8, 2015 at 9:13 am

@cresent park dad

The were given class time to work for 4 days but what often happens is the teacher under estimates the amount of time it takes groups to complete a large project. It takes teenagers a lot more time to do the research and formulate a plan than it does for adults to do the same thing. They had one weekend other than spring break but only found out about the project a few days before that weekend and the members of the group had prior commitments. The homework policy clearly states that group project should be completed during class but many teachers completely ignore this part of the policy and claim that they were "given class time" but didn't finish. I find this unacceptable, the teacher should be giving more guidance to the kids and directing their work so that they finish during class time not just giving the students undirected free time in class. Yes, the most organized and most capable students probably did finish during the class time allotted but the "average" kid did not and now has HW over the break and it has to be coordinated with other group members which makes it even harder.


20 people like this
Posted by FrustratedParent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2015 at 10:10 am

The teacher is violating homework policy. Tell the Principal and Max.

Then sit back, relax, and watch nothing happen!

Or vote No on Measure A


13 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 8, 2015 at 11:38 am

Not knowing the depth of the assignment, allowing for less than two weeks and only one weekend to do a group project is unrealistic. The assignment should have been given more time. And given your feedback, the teacher would have been more consistent with homework policies if he/she made the assignment due before spring break or allowed an additional week beyond the return to school. I agree, the assignment due date was pure you know what.


23 people like this
Posted by Green mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2015 at 1:29 pm

"One thing is certain: The grievance against Herrmann revealed details about the union's role in school politics that rarely are seen by the public, including a willingness to challenge a brand new administrator".
What a shame!! What are the hidden interests? Who is behind? What happened to "we are here for the students"? This has nothing to do with improving education! The UNION and their haste to "protect contracts" is going wacko!!! If they make a stink about a request to use a tool, what will happen next? When more radical educational reforms need to be implemented to support our youth? What will THE UNION "approve"? Is this about the teachers or the students? Ms. Hermman, thank you for your courage and determination, and your following your heart. We know you are working hard to recover education in Palo Alto!

This is very very scary for us, parents of children in middle school who look forward to High school in a few years. . It feels like we are entering a den of hungry wolves.


15 people like this
Posted by thirty-year resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 9, 2015 at 9:56 pm

This is the most discouraging news I've ever read about the Palo Alto Schools. I'm an old-fashioned lefty and can whistle all kinds of labor songs, but it's hard for me to see the union's actions as a constructive contribution to the education of our city's children.


6 people like this
Posted by another PAUSD teacher
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 11, 2015 at 11:58 am

Thankyou "curious" and "paloaltoparent".

Just as there are badapple teachers, there are badapple parents. And in this town they tend to come at us litigiously. The Exec Board is obligated to follow contract: it is Scott Bowers and Max McGee who should have taken the lead on this one, stepping in front of a new admin to let her know she was in violation.

Kudos to all you parents out there who work with teachers, who contact us when there's an issue; you who let our supers know when we are doing well, not just when you are angry. The vast majority of you are awesome families, and it truly is a blessing to work in a community that so highly values and support$ the school experience.




6 people like this
Posted by Nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2015 at 2:05 pm

another PAUSD teacher,

So the problem for you here is that the chain of command to reprimand Hermann was broken or didn't work as it was supposed to? It was Max and Bowers who were supposed to stop her.

What about Schoology use? What chain of command does that work with?

There must be a better way to communicate than through Union grievances to address critical supports for students.


9 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 11, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Ah, here are some teachers,

Okay guys--you want my "yes" vote on Measure A? Well, then, I need something from you. I need you high-school teachers to get on board with Schoology.

According to another publication, current compliance at Gunn is around 50 percent--i.e. failing.

Get the compliance up to 80 percent--because a "B" is really okay with this parent--at least I'll know some of you are actually making an effort.

Otherwise, you get to retake your school-bond class as far as I'm concerned.

Oh, and drop the grievance--it's terrible PR and really all sorts of wrong. It's embarrassing to watch people try to defend it--down with the dog-ate-my-homework level of excuse-making.


21 people like this
Posted by Patient Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2015 at 2:30 pm

@another PAUSD teacher,

Given all the crap the parent community has had to deal with over the past several years, that we as parents have had to deal with, you think the parent community is "litigious"? You're a teacher, did you look up the word in the dictionary? Or do you just believe everything Brenda Carrillo and Charles Young tell you about parents?

Because from what I have seen and even experienced, I see a parent community with herculean patience and pretty strong inclination to put up with crap to avoid litigation. If parents were litigious, PAUSD would have been sued out of existence a decade ago.

Speaking as a parent whose teachers won't even answer emails, probably because Brenda Carrillo makes everything go through her for some indecipherable reason that has to do with covering someone's @ss in the district office, since we certainly never threatened to sue. (Perhaps they think persistently lying to us and making it impossible for us to help our child is avoiding a suit? On top of all the crap we take, we also have to deal with being treated like we are stupid and "litigious".)

I have tried to contact teachers when there's an issue. Brenda Carrillo in the district office sent us an nasty letter in which she went on for pages making false accusation after fabricated accusation, then claiming all the emails (less than 8 total for most teachers so far that year, many to just say "thank you", only 5 so far that year to her, but most to express that our child was getting too much homework) were too much, that they interfered with teaching, and that if we had any problems we needed to file a UPC complaint from then on. If you want to understand the full extent of a Brenda Carrillo masterpiece of written falsehoods, try talking to parents of special ed students, especially those who have moved away within the last few years.

Teacher: We sent a non-aggressive, factual letter to the principal to let them know that they had done something so wrong, our child was hurt beyond any bullying experienced by children, and asking for a simple verbal apology to the child. No explanation, response, or apology was ever forthcoming. Just a letter recharacterizing the situation with statements that were easily demonstrably false. We have never despite years of crap and emotional and physical harm to our child ever threatened to sue the district. There was NO excuse for what happened, and no excuse for the response.

Go ahead and tell yourself it's because of parent "litigiousness" -- from where I'm sitting, if someone sues the crap out of the district, it will be long overdue and the fault of people who kept burying their heads in the sand instead of doing the right thing for kids.


2 people like this
Posted by HR
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 11, 2015 at 9:45 pm

We need Schoology software. Without it we would not be able to monitor our children's assignments. We also need Infinite Campus software. Without it we would not be able to monitor our children's grades. We also need Office 365 software. Without it we would not be able to communicate with our children's teachers and administrators. We need these things because we can no longer do what our parents expected us to do. I believe it was called responsibility.
Instead, if things don't work out, we can blame teachers and the unions. They are very easy targets. Our community is very blessed to enjoy what we have. I feel sorry for the handful of unfortunate parents who feel they were not given all the attention they needed. I feel especially sorry for the parents children.


9 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 11, 2015 at 9:56 pm

No HR, we need Schoology so we can establish whether the homework load is actually in compliance with the district's homework policy. If only 50 percent of Gunn's teachers use Schoology then it becomes difficult to establish whether the schools are in compliance or not.

Why is this unreasonable to you? Particularly in a district with a high rates of teen suicide, depression and anxiety?

Please be specific.


5 people like this
Posted by Hr
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 11, 2015 at 10:37 pm

We need our children to do what we did. It was called responsibility. Why would you need to check for compliance? Ask you child. Be a parent. Get a big desk top calendar. Teach them how to use a real "tool". Maybe a few pretty colored highlighters too. Like I said earlier, easy to blame teachers and unions. Easy targets. My children have binder reminders supplied by the district. They use them. Why would I need to rely on anything else?


3 people like this
Posted by Nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2015 at 1:12 am

Hr,

Binder reminders are old tools. Isn't it even easier for you to provide links, and resources online for assignments?

You paint an anxious picture of parents on Schoology, which may be the case for some kids - some who really need their parents' support. But I suggest that you consider that students use Schoology. Please try looking at the value of having this tool be a reliable tool.







22 people like this
Posted by Frustrated parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 12, 2015 at 5:37 am

@HR trips over a common developmental fallacy:"We need our children to do what we did. It was called responsibility....Get a big desk top calendar. Teach them how to use a real "tool". "

Wow! Where to begin.

0) Nowhere in my childhood was my workload so overwhelming and so disorganized that I needed a calendar.. Not until College, and only rarely. Your expectations are crazy. What age did you start coloring your first calendar? Really?

1) for many kids they have not developed the frontal cortex go organization. Developmentally it is inappropriate to expect middle schoolers to have such skills.

2) you are moralizing a developmental aspect as lacking 'responsibility' this is the most common cruelty I have seen among the teaching staff. Followed by 'Lazy ' when the brain isn't ready to organize and make sense of YOUR chaotic classroom, somehow you think less of the children as irresponsible , and parents as incompetent. Nice. You and your ilk are evil.

3) many teachers fail to teach organization skills; but stool expect it. Divine intervention?

4) the teachers use FAR FAR to many different admin procedures. At one point in 6th grade our kid had no less than 20 outstanding assignments; all constructed or turned in or assigned differently. Unbelievable. The mentality seems to be: Overload them, then give them a broken tool and overload them more. And make it confusing. The existence of a tool encourages expansion of the workload to match that of an adult. But they are not adults.

5) many teachers refused to write the assignments on a piece of paper, or on the whiteboard. The written language was developed a long time ago for the purpose of communicating clearly. That is lost on about 1/3rd of our teachers. So assignments never even make it into the binder reminder. Blurting out a verbal assignment as the bell rings doesn't count.

6) the binder reminder is taught poorly. Teachers te the kids to write the assignment on the day assigned; not on the due date. ( like a normal calendar) so the child has no understanding of a due date or a deadline. IT IS TAUGHT THIS WAY BY THE TEACHERS. They may believe it is easier for kids, but it fails on multiday or multi week assignments because the assignment is lost on past pages ON THE ASSIGNED date, as the teacher directed.

7) Teaching a kid the proper way to use a calendar as a deadline is impossible. As a parent, if you attempt this, it just confuses the child further because you are telling them something different than the teacher.

8) reliance on the children to organize a ****-ton of homework that the teachers cannot organize is unfairAND violates the ADA act. Children with learning disabilities like ADHD simply cannot track the sheer level of chaos and mountain of work in the classroom. The Feds can start there.

9) some teachers don't bother, or refuse to tell the kids a due date . They have literally told me directly that they do not provide due dates because they want the kids to go home and work on their stuff first. This essentially uses fear (of getting a zero) to hijack the kids schedule. So the kids could not plan their day even if they had the skills and tools.


10) your entire attitude is the problem - the combination of incompetence, overload, and moralizing just ratchets up the pressure on students. [Portion removed.]

11) a unified tool helps students manage ALL the work. And allows the school to manage teachers who are overloading students. I suspect that is the real backlash against Schoology - you feel you are above being managed for the best interest of students. [Portion removed.]

Vote No on Measure A to end this nonsense.


18 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 12, 2015 at 9:20 am

I just discovered from my kid that his English teacher assigned a big project before Spring Break due this upcoming Friday. He was told that although there should be no homework done during Spring Break, if he didn't make a start on this project during break he would find it hard to complete in a week. He was working on this since Friday.


25 people like this
Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 12, 2015 at 10:23 am

@Paly Parent
Same thing in our house. Different subject but project due on Wed, my student has been working solidly since Thursday on it. All this talk about enforcing the HW policy is just that "talk", no one is checking to see that it is enforced. There is no way for a student to alert administrators to these teachers because they fear it will be taken out on their grades since these type of grades are completely subjective. The Principals need to have an anonymous way for students to communicate which teachers are not adhering to policies.


13 people like this
Posted by Frustrated parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 12, 2015 at 10:52 am

... Considering the homework and organization overload further, it is a great example of developmentally misplaced expectations destroying students self worth.

Everyday the are supposed to 'just get it' and perform with the organization of an adult. Or more - sometimes having to organize conflicts across multiple teachers. It is too much to expect for a teenage brain. So the fail. And the penalty is a ZERO.

Every week for the duration of school they are made to feel a failure because of this overload and badly taught binder minder. Any wonder kids are depressed?

And for those who are still engaged in parent blaming: yes, our kids get more than enough 'failure' in this district. Too much. You cannot possibly shield them from all the ways the system places unreasonable expectations on them.

What we need is a rare success. Some encouraging words, and a lot more organization from the teachers.


13 people like this
Posted by New to Paly mom
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2015 at 11:35 am

My daughter is a freshman at Paly. She has homework in
English and a small PE project due Monday. I've asked other parents of 9th grade students, and their kids have homework too

Even if there was a way to anonymously let the principal know about the homework, my daughter would be too scared. I think it's the principal's job to figure out a way to enforce the policies!


17 people like this
Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 12, 2015 at 12:12 pm

@New to Paly mom
"I think it's the principal's job to figure out a way to enforce the policies!" I agree, but the policy has been there for over 2 years and no method for checking for enforcement has ever been implemented. I have conveyed my concerns to the principal and teachers but still no enforcement. Now Dr. McGee has said for the schools to enforce the policies and clearly that is still not happening. If the District Office and School Board cannot find a way to make sure policies are enforced then how can I truss them with more bond money? I have never voted no on a bond but am pretty sure I will vote no on measure A.


19 people like this
Posted by oldpaparent
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 12, 2015 at 12:30 pm

My children have graduated from Gunn over five years now. These problems were going on then and they are still not resolved. There are bad parents -- but what is much worse is that the school culture adds to the stress. That the union would make it hard to coordinate homework assignments just makes no sense.

I too will vote No on A.


3 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 12, 2015 at 6:21 pm

HR,

Do what we did? I'm sure they'd *love* a situation where it only took a 3.0 to get into a U.C. and an unweighted 3.7 to get into Berkeley. I'm sure they'd love a situation where Harvard didn't expect more than 3 AP classes and 4.0 got you into anywhere in the Ivy League.

But the point is not about the organization of the students, but keeping tabs on high schools that don't comply with the district's standards on homework. Yes, having the assignments in one place will, in fact, make it easier for students to be organized, but, more importantly, it will give the district a better idea of the homework loads around here and how long they take to complete.

My suspicion at this point is that the teachers who refuse to use Schoology aren't refusing because it's too much work, but because they don't want to be held accountable for their noncompliance with the district's homework policy. That's the *real* reason a grievance was filed--a little pro-active self-defense.

However, I think this maneuver is blowing up in their faces--it makes the teacher's union look terrible--not a good thing when there's a request for more funding.

But since I'm reasonable, I'm only asking that 80 percent of the high-school teachers use Schoology by the time I vote on Measure A. McGee is trying to do his part, it's time for the teachers to do theirs.


13 people like this
Posted by Patient Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2015 at 7:11 pm

@Palo Verde Parent
" If the District Office and School Board cannot find a way to make sure policies are enforced then how can I truss them with more bond money? I have never voted no on a bond but am pretty sure I will vote no on measure A."

(I love the image of "trussing" people in the district office, as in "truss the turkey" by the way ;-) - Freudian slip?)

I am reading the voter materials and find the language of this bond SO incredibly vague. In the past, when I have asked about specific promises made in bonds, and been pointed to the ways the district could weasel out of the promises -- by district people themselves -- I am just not inclined to vote for something when the specifics are not in the bond.

No trust for these people. My fear is that our concerns will be treated as a few disgruntled parents and everything deemed hunky dory if this bond passes now. If you vote NO, please take a moment and write down your reasons, even in a handwritten note, and mail them to the Weekly and to PAUSD at 25 Churchill.

I, too, am voting NO. There is still time to pass a better bond, and if they do so with a lot of feedback that they have to take seriously, our children will be better off.


13 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 12, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Reason is a registered user.

@Palo Verde Parent - ""I think it's the principal's job to figure out a way to enforce the policies!" I agree, but the policy has been there for over 2 years and no method for checking for enforcement has ever been implemented. I have conveyed my concerns to the principal and teachers but still no enforcement. Now Dr. McGee has said for the schools to enforce the policies and clearly that is still not happening. "


In fact, what you have is a policy that is not implemented because there is a negotiation happening. The district is negotiating with a disinterested or disingenuous party that has no intention of complying with the homework policy or any other policy.

"You cannot do good business with bad people" - Warren Buffett

Throwing more money at the teachers, the union and district will not change the fact that the teachers aren't interested in fixing the student stress issue; the union isn't interested in accountability to district goals, the district isn't interested in being responsible management for the school system, and the board has abdicated all authority over the entire system.

From bottom to top, there is little interest in doing the right thing here. Chicken shits to the left, Chicken shits to the right. Imagining these people will wake up is just silly optimism - like someday the teachers will just suddenly say "ohhhh - I get it. We are overloading students, making their life hell, and that is creating stress. Well, maybe we should stop." They won't.

If they were going to stop the homework abuse, it would have happened already. The fact that it hasn't happened yet, means it won't happen ever. Not until you replace the power structure in the schools. The teachers need to be managed by the principals, the principals need to be managed by the Super, the Board needs to demonstrate they mean business.

And until then, the voters need to Vote NO on Measure A. Someone has to be the grown-up in the room.

At least when the pink slips roll, the Board can point to the voters, and tell the teachers: "well, you pissed off your customer. What did you expect??" It is a leadership cop-out, but at least provides some cover for what is about to happen next.


#RightNow


2 people like this
Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2015 at 11:53 am

@ Reason

I disagree with your statement that "teachers aren't interested in fixing the student stress issue." I don't think that the union leadership is representative of the teachers in this particular case. In the article it is pointed out that several teachers wrote to Principal Herrmann to say that they disagreed with the union stance and agreed with her. We have MANY thoughtful and caring teachers in this district. I am do no believe that the union leadership is representative of the best teachers we have. Personally, I am furious with the Union, but I have a great deal of compassion for many of our teachers.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peeved
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 13, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Normally, I would have feel empathy for our teachers but given that it's already April and my daughter's history teacher at Gunn still has not gotten her name correct. He says she looks like a couple other girls in other classes, but come on, really? All the students laugh whenever he addresses her by whatever incorrect name of the day. He really has no clue what her name is. Of course she laughs along, but deep down, it bothers her. Do you think the Gunn teacher really cares?


3 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 13, 2015 at 12:31 pm


@Peeved

Yes the teacher can still really care and NOT BE GOOD WITH NAMES.


18 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2015 at 7:12 pm

Reason is a registered user.

@Eileen1 writes: "I disagree with your statement that "teachers aren't interested in fixing the student stress issue." I don't think that the union leadership is representative of the teachers in this particular case. In the article it is pointed out that several teachers wrote to Principal Herrmann to say that they disagreed with the union stance and agreed with her. We have MANY thoughtful and caring teachers in this district."


I used to think so too. I used to believe there were good teachers. And in their classrooms, there are good teachers but they are collectively associated with the Bad and the Union. They are independent actors no longer. Effectively, what we really see is a large number of bystanders, with good intentions.

Here is the real deal: the public has lost confidence in the Board, is losing confidence in the Super, and teachers are picking-and-choosing which teachers follow whatever policies, or none at all. The Union is the only coherent force left in the system, and they are acting in a Veto role only. Can you blame voters when faced with this appalling lack of leadership; rejection of leadership, and abdication of leadership (by the Super, Union, and Board in that order)?


How is a voter to believe anything from any "good" teacher in such an environment? They are neutered by their own silence, and are associated with the bad apples who are hell-bent on destroying community confidence in the schools AND risking future livelihoods with the failure of Measure A. When "Good" Teachers sit idly by, evil triumphs. (with apologies to the real Edmund Burke).

The Board, District, Super, Union and Teachers are, as a group, hemorrhaging credibility by the day. My ballot is about to be sealed with a NO vote inside.

What would change this? Simple - given the Union is in a Veto position, they must NOW make a public statement that they, and their members, will implement ALL Board policies, including the homework policy to the best of their ability, and pledge to exceed the expectations of the voting public. They must remove their Veto, and actively speak out in support of efforts to relieve stress, mental health issues, and support public policy. To do anything else is to accept responsibility as the last bad-actor standing.

And I would be my left kidney that they sit silent...just like the "Good" teachers.

And I will Vote NO on Measure A.

And the pink slips will roll.

And they can all sort out later why who did what, to whom; and when exactly they pissed off their CUSTOMERS. That will not be a fun day. But it is not too distant.


21 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 14, 2015 at 12:03 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

I kind of agree with this - I cannot see how this works if every voter needs to negotiate with every teacher on each policy item. Sure we may have a good teacher this year, but last year we did not. Am I voting based on the best behavior of the teachers, or the worst?

Currently, many teachers resist any unifying direction, resist any management direction that would send the whole district down a certain path. And the district management doesn't seem that competent to get ALL the teachers moving in the same direction.

So when I look at my ballot, I wonder who I am getting next year - a good teacher or a bad teacher?

That really affects my vote. I wish I was voting to support a 'system' of teachers, but in reality I am not. I am facing a fractured group of teachers that don't want to work together, or move together as a system under the direction of the voters/board/super/principals.

So it's kind of a problem that I have to vote NO on Measure A because there is no 'system' to support. It is a bunch of random teachers that kind of do whatever they want.

No on Measure A.


9 people like this
Posted by Just a thought
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 14, 2015 at 2:35 pm

The teacher bashing on this forum is truly disheartening. PAUSD employs some of the best educators the kids in this community will ever have, and this forum seems to be a place where all of them get lumped into a single heap and labeled evil, disingenuous, dishonest, cruel, and abusive. I'll be the first to admit that the union made a mistake on this one, and there are numerous teachers here who disagree with the tactics and/or the timing of this grievance (which, by the way, is a perfectly legitimate contractual disagreement, not a deal signed to make daily chid sacrifices to Satan). Teachers are people too, and some of us are getting really tired of being essentially labeled child abusers. The problems that lead to students stress in this community are deep, systemic, complex, and not liable to be resolved through a single initiative. Lashing out at "the teachers" does nothing to resolve any of this, and just makes the environment more toxic. Your children sense this rage and it is hurting them just as much as the stress and the unreasonable homework. It also undermines the atmosphere in the classroom, where it's not out of the ordinary to be treated like "the help" by an entitled 15-year old because their role models at home feel free to completely and openly disrespect the professionals who are charged with helping educate this community's children. People who are raging on this forum need to be aware of the damage they are doing to their own children (by modeling) and to the community, by engaging in the sort of broad-brush denigration that has become all too common on this forum.

I'll show myself out.


22 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 14, 2015 at 3:12 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

I agree it sucks to be belittled, intimidated and treated with disrespect. Imagine this is your daily existence for an entire year in a classroom, where you are required by law to attend.

It's a lot harder than a few comments on a newspaper that you can choose to ignore.

It's a lot harder when the person doing such is also in control of your grade.

That is why it is stressing our children. Please consider that your peers are doing this.

Do you see why parents are frustrated?

Any empathy for the kids yet? At least you get to choose to walk away, students cannot.


6 people like this
Posted by A parent too
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2015 at 7:53 pm

@Peeved- I completely agree with you! Our name is closely associated with our sense of self and has a cultural- historical significance for an individual and family. A teacher who does not bother to learn his students' names is denying that dignity to a student who is already lower in a power hierarchy. Would this teacher like to hear that, because, he looks like so many other teachers, that it is ok for a student or an adult to continue to mix up his name?. Respect is mutual and dignity expected regardless of age, power status or cultural background.


21 people like this
Posted by So selfish
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Apr 14, 2015 at 8:38 pm

When you are a teacher whining about being lumped together and being bashed, it is a good idea to not lump together all high school students as "entitled" 15-year-olds. Teachers, so many of you don't agree with your union's decision, please show us some action by cleaning up your union. An apology from PAEA president Teri Baldwin is a good start. At the next board meeting. Walk the walk. Teachers are fine being lumped together when it's pay raise time, you can't have it both ways. Repair your PAEA image by focusing on our students, not yourselves. This is your moment.


11 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2015 at 12:22 am

Just a Thought,

We've had kids killing themselves and are told another couple of hundred are at high-risk. We have a teacher's union that filed a grievance when a principal asked teachers to comply with district policy on Schoology--in part so that it could be determined whether the schools are in line with district policy.

And you're surprised that there's anger toward teachers online? Instead of self-pity, how about trying to fix the problem? If the union was in the moral wrong, do something right and encourage your fellow teachers to use Schoology so that it's possible to monitor homework loads.

I've seen some great teachers in the district--and I've posted that online recently. But this business over Schoology *is* outrageous.


21 people like this
Posted by A simple solution
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2015 at 6:12 am

Teri, just stand up at the next school board meeting and announce that PAEA will no longer object to all teachers using the district's information systems. If individual teachers need training or support -- fine. But you are in a dead end situation, you have cost your teachers a huge amount of community support, and continuing to be silent in the face of that is not serving your members well. If the parcel tax fails, the anger directed at your members is going to be multiplied 10x, and you will also have cost your members whatever pay increase would have been coming. Leadership isn't even required here. You just need some common sense.


5 people like this
Posted by JustYouWait
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 19, 2015 at 8:36 pm

You ALL really have no clue of what you have just had a taste. This article has really put a spin on an issue that makes Denise Herrmann sound so innocent AND is villifying the teachers of your school district.
After years of having to deal with Dr. Herrmanns "directives", Middleton, Wisconsin is glad to be rid of her.
There's little doubt that Denise is using her position to undermine teachers and put them in a position of ridicule in an attempt to control and cause a rift among the teachers. I guarantee you that in a year, two years from now, you will all be thinking much differently about Denise Herrmann. [Portion removed.]
I do really feel for your school in the issues that it may be having but I just thought you might want a touch of a different perspective on Dr. Herrmann's past and how you might want to put a little more faith in your teachers!


17 people like this
Posted by Union versus children
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Apr 19, 2015 at 8:54 pm

We' will just wait--for more released emails from and about PAEA. Denise Herrmann is lucky for the Weekly to have requested these documents. Did the JustYouWait poster get her information from fellow union folks in Wisconsin? That would be the usual PAEA/CTA tactic, when questioned, attack and start throwing the mud. This last post makes me think that the reason Teri Baldwin overlooked the common sense move of waiting for a week or two of mourning the latest child to kill himself was that she felt cocksure based on exactly what the previous poster described [portion removed.] It is easy to believe that the union there employed the same play that PAEA has used over and over under Kevin Skelly, but I don't think Teri Baldwin was intelligent enough to calculate the probabilities in this case, and it blew up. Denise Herrmann is not the issue, PAEA is the issue, and if the previous poster is indeed from Wisconsin, then she can visit pausd.org and stream the board meeting on April 21 to witness Teri Baldwin's response and the response of CTA. This is a moment for teacher leadership.


17 people like this
Posted by Frustrated parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 19, 2015 at 11:38 pm

@JustYouWait dooms:"After years of having to deal with Dr. Herrmanns "directives""

Okay, can someone explain this to me?

I want a Principal setting a direction. I want teachers to execute this direction. It is the only link we have between the voters -> board -> super->principal-> teachers.

For God's sake YES YES YES. Please set a direction. And get rid of those who don't follow it.

We NEED leadership in this district, it HAS to come from somewhere. This is not an anarchists collective. It is a school; one which is desperately in need of leadership.

Here is my experience with accusations of "directives" and 'dictats'': they come from malcontents who disagree with the direction (often for personal reasons) or from people with a fundamental authority issue . Usually they want to be the boss, but never got selected . Regardless, they completely ignore the fact that a team must have a leader. You cannot have 100 employees set 100 different directions. It doesn't work.

You cannot have 100 employees represent the needs of a customer. The leader needs to do that.

You cannot have 100 employees reprimand and coach bad behavior by individuals. A leader needs to do that.

You cannot have 100 employees negotiate and restore trust with voters. A leader needs to do that.

THIS DISTRICT IS DYING FOR LACK OF LEADERSHIP.

The attitude that teachers are immune from direction and exempt from management must stop now. There is no way for 100 teachers to fix what they have broken.

Lead or leave.

(No on Measure A)


18 people like this
Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2015 at 12:21 am

@JustYouWait,

I have lived in Palo Alto for 20+ years and both of my kids went to Gunn High School. I have first hand experience with our teachers at Gunn. Like your claim in Wisconsin, unfortunately, there are good and bad teachers- just like any other professions. In this case with Schoology, there is no excuse for anything less than 100% teacher participation. its been years already since teachers themselves participated in the evaluation and approval process of selecting a homework management system. These are facts. There is no politics here and we as parents are advocating for our students. I don't see how you can argue with that. I am also sure you're not claiming that Schoology, a system selected by teachers, is NOT good for our students now. Are you?


13 people like this
Posted by Baldwin should resign
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 20, 2015 at 9:19 am

Teachers should be working for kids. Baldwin isn't. She should go.


20 people like this
Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 20, 2015 at 10:35 am

JustAThough:

You write: "The problems that lead to students stress in this community are deep, systemic, complex, and not liable to be resolved through a single initiative."

Exactly. One simle initiative like Schoology has no chance of fixing the problem. It will take many more than just that.

Which is why we can't have a freaking union grievance over simple--practically trivial--requests.

Systemic changes are big and painful, but what we need. When something as easy as this requires all this effort, then yes, the union looks obstructionist.

I don't want obstructionists teaching my kids.


2 people like this
Posted by Obviz
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2015 at 11:31 am

I think it really must be taken into consideration the fact that nowadays pupils benefit of distributive attention and their focus is really hard to be maintained on a subject for such a long time. Giving homework in order to make them understand better on their own terms can be a huge psychical weight and can be perceived negatively from the beginning even though the homework may make a difference for their future choices. [Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2015 at 8:49 pm

Denise Hermann doesn't listen to students.
Web Link

Interesting pattern of behavior.


Like this comment
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Over the years, there have been rumors that the teacher's union has foiled one or another positive development some administrator or group of teachers, parents or others has tried to bring about. But since PAEA operates in secret, it has been hard to get a real sense of why and how this happens. I appreciate the clarity this provides.

Ms Baldwin has been revealed as the problem; [portion removed] an obstacle to improving things for both students and teachers. Our wonderful teachers are badly represented by this [portion removed], and our students are being sacrificed. Yes, it does make the teachers look bad. No, Principal Herrmann did not decree the use of Schoology.

The key point is that the students need to be informed as to their status in every class, in a timely manner. This will reduce stress. Some of the teachers have methods of communicating that are even better as they are suited to the class in a way Schoology is not. Please get rid of Baldwin and work together to improve the lot of our students and teachers! And btw, parents, please quit nickel and diming teachers about every single thing.


9 people like this
Posted by Union Maid
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 25, 2015 at 12:57 pm

If Denise Herrmann had decreed the use of Schoology she would have been well within the district's legal rights.

[Portion removed.]

But when Denise Herrmann was set alight in an open fire for the PAEA marshmallow roast, did anyone call a lawyer and even ASK whether or not schoology was allowed to be mandated for use by teachers?

if they had bothered, the answer would have been why yes, it can be mandated. There is nothing in the contract to prevent that. The selection of the district's IT tool is a management prerogative. The district might have to negotiate (MIGHT) over the one-time cost of training or migration but that does not mean that the union can stop work until that happens.

Look up the Rodda Act online. It is absolutely clear.

Scott Bowers is the problem. He and Max didn't just throw Denise under the bus, Scott held her down and then Max and Terri Baldwin drove over her and then backed up and did it again, just to be certain.

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 25, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Union Maid - the Rodda act doesn't preclude including things like ths in the collective bargaining agreement. By including an online homework requirement, but without specifying which tool, the district gave the power to the union to refuse Schoology. So the district was dumb by not being specific, and the union was evil by exploiting the loophole.


7 people like this
Posted by Legal eagle
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 25, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Not quite true. If a subject is not a mandatory subject of bargaining, which Schoology is not, the district is never required to bargain over it. McGee or the board could impose UNIVERSAL Schoology use anytime they want. They might have to bargain over the one time costs of adoption by teachers who aren't using it now but those should be relatively small. The fact that Schoology is not mentioned in the teacher evaluation language that covers posting assignments is irrelevant.
If the district is bargaining over salary for Schoology their leadership is giving away the store to the union, and I'm sure the CTA and PAEA can't believe their luck.


2 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 25, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Reason is a registered user.

Regarding Rodda Act: - can the district remove the tool item from the collective bargaining agreement? Or does the law require that all management items must be directly specified from the Board directly?

Will having a contract without this clause allow the individual sites to manage teachers directly?

In other words, is it a failure simply by including this in the collective bargaining agreement?


7 people like this
Posted by Legal eagle
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 25, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Management, either McGee or the board, could mandate Schoology use across the district. There is no need for language in the contract about it. It is within the scope of management's prerogative to set district practice.


8 people like this
Posted by Legal eagle
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 25, 2015 at 3:16 pm

To be clear, it would be a very bad idea to write Schoology use into the contract. That would lead to endless dispute over the meaning of the language, which is wholly unnecessary.


20 people like this
Posted by Union Maid
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 25, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Yes but it would be equally a mistake to exit negotiations without a solid admission from PAEA that this is a management prerogative, memorialized in a side letter which covers incidental one time cost compensation.

At the same time the school board needs to pass a board policy specifying that schoology use is the policy of the district.

Otherwise this will never happen and the union will lock this in arbitration and litigation before PERB for many years (more fees for Lozano and the rest of the vampires).

We have to stomp the union and I say this as someone who is die hard pro labor left. This union is outrageous. Look at the recent salary numbers. Yet they are pulling this amateur hour work to rule BS. The only reason this is so out of control is that Scott Bowers is conflicted.

Repeat: board do not leave negotiations without an acknowledgement that management can require schoology.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 25, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Legal Eagle - "If a subject is not a mandatory subject of bargaining, which Schoology is not, the district is never required to bargain over it."

It isn't a mandatory subject, but they did put an online requirement in the CBA, and they didn't specify Schoology. So now the district isn't fully free to mandate it, the district has to operate to the letter of the CBA. At this point, the district might as well say a fair interpretation is that we get to pick the tool, and go to arbitration or court with the union. PAEA is acting in bad faith, so might as well take hard line.


8 people like this
Posted by Legal eagle
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 25, 2015 at 10:37 pm

The online posting of homework is included in the evaluation section of the contract. All that it says is that teachers will be evaluated on whether they post assignments online, which is part of the California professional standards for teachers. The idea that that constrains the district's right to direct the use of the district's LMS is nonsensical.
This is what happens when amateurs try to negotiate complex contracts without legal help, and is worse when the sole negotiator has a conflict of interest. It would make a lot more sense to pay to have a professional in the room. You can bet that PAEA is not making that mistake.


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

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