Palo Alto school district pays $150K for former principal's resignation

Phil Winston left special-ed teaching position at Jordan Middle School on May 1

Former Palo Alto High School Principal Phil Winston has received a $150,000 payment from the school district in exchange for his resignation from his middle-school teaching position and departure from Palo Alto Unified, an agreement obtained by the Weekly states.

"Winston and (the) district agree it is in their mutual best interests to end their employment relationship," states the resignation-agreement-and-release document, which was signed on May 8 by Winston and May 12 by Superintendent Max McGee. It was approved by the Board of Education.

Winston releases the district from any claims and future lawsuits having to do with his employment, and both he and the district agree to a non-disparagement clause.

The district agreed to pay Winston the $150,000 settlement, along with his regular salary through May 1.

Though the terms of his resignation have been made public, the circumstances surrounding it are to remain confidential, according to the agreement.

The June 9 board packet lists Winston's reason for leaving as "personal," and when contacted about his resignation, Winston said he had no comment.

Winston's departure from Paly was marked by controversy. Though he joined the district in 2005 as a teacher at JLS Middle School and rose to assistant principal at Gunn High prior to being named principal at Paly, he resigned from Paly position in June 2013 after three years on the job, saying he needed to guard his health.

However, in August 2013 he was issued a formal "notice of unprofessional conduct and unsatisfactory performance" and instructed to refrain from using profanity, sexual comments and innuendo, and derogatory terms, among other directives. He was also reassigned to teach a special-education class at Jordan Middle School, where he remained through this spring.

During an investigation into complaints against him in 2013, Winston denied the characterization of his actions and said that his behavior, particularly during an extremely stressful period, had been "misinterpreted."

The circumstances of Winston's discipline and reassignment from Paly to Jordan was not revealed publicly until April, 2014, after the Weekly obtained documents from the district under the Public Records Act.

Then-Superintendent Kevin Skelly said then that the disciplinary action was the most serious consequence he could give and that "We have no reason to believe that the conduct that occurred (at Paly) will be repeated" at Jordan.

Winston's resignation from the district was effective May 1.

Related article:

Ex-Paly principal disciplined for harassment

New Paly principal believes in perseverance

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


32 people like this
Posted by Pete Cockerell
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 9, 2015 at 3:04 am

For some reason, the actions and words of PAUSD throughout this saga put me in mind of the Catholic church during some of its recent trials.

50 people like this
Posted by OneMoreReason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:59 am

We are paying him to go.

One more reason to get rid of tenure in this state.

Right here you see that tenure is a $150K* gift every time it is awarded - that is the eventual cost of getting rid of problem employees.

Disgusting waste of money. Necessary but disgusting.

17 people like this
Posted by Awesome
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:21 am

This is a great use of money. Really, I am serious. This money spent shows that we have a moral compass and will do what is right.
[Portion removed.]

Time to use some money to drain the swamp. Let's get rid of teachers and administrators who are bullying our children [portion removed.]

24 people like this
Posted by .???
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:26 am

[Portion removed.]

It is really common practice for insurance companies or organizations that have done wrong to offer a settlement to get an agreement of silence. This is one situation where I am just going to withhold judgment. Any mistreatment of kids is despicable, I just think there is more on all sides than people realize.

13 people like this
Posted by linda
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:18 am

- so happy

its worth 150k to get rid of some - who else can we remove?
jordan has a few choice teachers and admins that need to move on
the elementarys could use some refreshing in certain grades too

12 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:31 am

This is a prime example as to why teachers Union needs to be reformed ASAP. [Portion removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by PAEA rules!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:47 am

He was bullied himself by PAEA when he was principal of Paly, but as soon as he became part of PAEA, he was untouchable. [Portion removed.] It seems PAEA was both the cause and solution to your problems.

77 people like this
Posted by mom of teenagers
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:11 am

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

My daughter was a Paly student when Phil Winston became principal. He changed the atmosphere of the school from one of punishment and assumed guilt to a positive, more upbeat, accepting environment. Every student I know enjoyed and appreciated him as a principal. He was out among the kids during breaks and lunch, getting to know them and being part of the community. He was responsive to parents and students alike.

From what I understand, the issues with the teachers at Paly was Mr. Winston's response to streaking (thinking that it wasn't that big of a deal). There were a lot of streakers during the couple of last years he was there (I think the Class of 2010 wanted to have more streakers than National Merit Scholars and they had over 50, scholars that is).

I think Winston did more good than harm and Paly and I'm glad he was there during part of my children's attendance.

4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

20 people like this
Posted by A Parent, Sr.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:07 pm

A Parent, Sr. is a registered user.

There are many who believe The Weekly owes him ten times that

5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"its worth 150k to get rid of some - who else can we remove?"

Me. Where do I sign up?

3 people like this
Posted by peppered
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:47 pm

peppered is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

12 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:53 pm

outsider is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by former_teacher
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:07 pm

former_teacher is a registered user.

principals are at will employees and can be fired from their positions. There was no reason to put him back in the classroom.

5 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:21 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I think that the scrutiny should be on this whole issue of SPECIAL EDUCATION. Since everyone started pointing fingers, this might be a buy-off of the Skelly made problem with the OCR and the storm that was created by some out and out LIARS. ( to me, withholding known facts is a type of lying. Even so-called Good Scientists withheld facts that skew data away from the people paying the bill )
[Portion removed.]

47 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Crescent Park Mom is a registered user.

Mr Winston didn't only teach Special Ed at Jordan. My daughter was in Mr Winston's class at Jordan where he co-taught Social Studies with another teacher. My daughter says he was a fantastic teacher and this opinion was shared by her friends in the class. I had an opportunity to spend a few hours getting to know him during a special event for the kids in their core class. I found him to be very professional, thoughtful, smart, witty, personable and interesting. There was nothing inappropriate about him whatsoever. I agree there is more to this story than we know. Seems to me we wouldn't need to pay off someone if there were grounds for dismissal. I won't be quick to judge this situation.

41 people like this
Posted by DG
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 7:07 am

DG is a registered user.

My son was a student at PALY the first year Mr. Winston took on the role of Principle.

PALY had a number of issues and the atmosphere for students was one of fear and punishment. Mr. Winston brought a humane and mature attitude to students who are entering a phase of life when being treated like a child only makes them act out more.

He held students accountable and really made them think about their actions. My son was involved in an incident that, because of Phil's handling, taught him life lessons that have shaped him to this day.

The entire school system of PAUSD needs an overhaul. It's competitive, insular and unaccepting of alternative methods of teaching/leading. This is not only the educators responsibility, but the parents and community. Palo Alto has become a bee-hive of competition, one up-manship and less caring of the kids than "pushing" them toward Stanford and other destinations befitting of the town's status.

Get a grip Palo Alto!

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

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 6,721 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 2,238 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 2,120 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,534 views

The kindness of strangers
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 650 views


Register today!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More