Palo Alto school district spokesperson resigns

Superintendent: Leadership team to re-assess communications needs

Two years after creating a communications-coordinator position, the Palo Alto school district will reassess its needs in the wake of a vacancy created by the resignation of Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley.

The job, which has garnered criticism from some people who feel it is an unnecessary expense, was authorized by the Board of Education in 2013. Kappeler-Hurley was hired that July at a salary of about $130,000.

She said she is leaving Palo Alto to work for the Milpitas Unified School District as coordinator of human resources. Her last day will be Wednesday.

"Although there have been some challenging times and topics, there has been an overwhelming amount of positive accomplishments to share," Kappeler-Hurley wrote in an email. "Working alongside the dedicated staff members and parent volunteers in Palo Alto has been a wonderful experience for me both professionally and personally."

McGee said that his leadership team would meet this week to reassess the district's communications needs.

"Right now, it's on the organizational chart," McGee said of the position. Before posting the job opening, however, the team will consider potential changes to the job responsibilities, such as a greater focus on strategy, social media or other communications tasks, he added.

When the position was created, the board asserted it was necessary in order to handle the many requests for information directed at an understaffed district office. But critics said that the funding would be better spent elsewhere and that district officials should speak for themselves.

Late last year, school board member Ken Dauber criticized one task Kappeler-Hurley was spending time on: gathering and categorizing all media coverage related to the district by "win," "lose" or "tie." The practice was considered a metric for one of the board's five overarching goals for the year: "to anticipate, respond, and promptly resolve distracting and disruptive eissues in order to maintain focus on the District's vision."

At a December school board meeting, Dauber called for the practice to be discontinued.

"I don't think we should be necessarily monitoring the tone of those articles," he said. "We really should be focused on how do we ensure that we are working to communicate effectively facts about the district and that we are responsive to the media and so forth."

Three months later, the district dropped the responsibility from the communications coordinator's to-do list.

This week, McGee complimented Kappeler-Hurley on her work.

"She's done a good job. I hate to see her go," McGee said, noting that she was particularly accessible and responsive in situations calling for crisis communications.

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2 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:38 am

Who exactly is on McGee's leadership team?

29 people like this
Posted by former PALY parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:15 am

This certainly was an unnecessary expense -- this ridiculous PR flack position should not be renewed. Over 100K of taxpayer dollars for this, just in this one local school district!? -- NO.

16 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:45 am

Interesting. While I don't necessarily blame TKH, you couldn't get a record request filled in this district to save your life before and after she was hired, and especially last year. I think she probably had some standards and didnt want to be the fall guy fir others misdeeds. Very diplomatic exit, though we need a little more telling it like it is.

7 people like this
Posted by peppered
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Glad to see this change.

2 people like this
Posted by Henry
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Is PAUSD categorizing this article as a win, lose or tie?

Hopefully they really have stopped the practice and not just shuffled it to someone else.

3 people like this
Posted by Barron Park Dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2015 at 4:34 pm

I hope McGee continues to clean house.

He needs to eliminate those redundant vice principal positions at Gunn.

1 person likes this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2015 at 9:37 am

I wish Ms Kappeler-Hurley well in her new position and hope she is treated better there. I'm ashamed to be part of a community that treats employees so shabbily, constantly degrading them with comments such as the above in order to serve their personal resentful agendas. If our community hires someone, they should be treated with respect, no matter what your political agenda might be. This includes administrators, and, I might add, volunteers such as PTA members who do a lot of important work for district students.

4 people like this
Posted by former PALY parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 12, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Just caught a re-play of a PAUSD Board of Education meeting on tv at the moment Ken Dauber appeared to be stating his opposition to hiring a new individual for this unnecessary position funded by taxpayers. I don't want to speak for Mr. Dauber, but unless I misunderstood his position and comments, I think I got the gist of his position and I agree with it --
then thank you to him for talking about this.
I get the idea people in minor positions of power get these unnecessary jobs for their friends?!
(like 130K or 150K whichever it was for the lady who just departed) -
for a pr staffer of a local SCHOOL DISTRICT!
How about some justification for this expenditure if the BoE are determined to re-fill this position.
Or is it just for previous superintendents that have personal "PR problems."
I oppose hiring a new person on for this position.
Wait for it - it probably will be re-filled since once a government job is established it can never go away AND s/he will be given an auto COLA/raise too or some such that many are not receiving in the private sector.
Many of us do not work for Google or Facebook or that ilk of company - we aren't all this highly paid and perk-laden.

9 people like this
Posted by Janus
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 12, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Thanks to Ken for trying to cut this wasteful job. Why does McGee want to keep it? Editor I am confused. is the board supposed to get out of his way and let him have this stupid waste of money per your editorial or is it supposed to provide oversight and direction per your other editorials.

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

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