School board to discuss roles, goals in retreat

Topics to include governance, communication and survey results

With the school year over and a full school year with a new superintendent under its belt, the Palo Alto Board of Education will convene with Superintendent Max McGee this week to discuss the roles, communication protocols and goals for the next year during a two-day retreat.

The retreat will run from noon to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday at The Westin Palo Alto hotel, with a facilitator also participating. The first day will be devoted to reviewing board protocol around communication with each other, with McGee, with staff and with the public. Part of the review will include discussion of the process for how items get placed on meeting agendas, which McGee said Monday "hasn't been followed with fidelity in the past."

McGee said he and the board will also discuss the roles and responsibilities of the board compared to the superintendent's, citing as an example his decision this spring to ban academic classes during early-morning zero period at Gunn High School.

The decision was communicated to students, staff and parents over spring break after writing to the board to suggest he make a recommendation. Some board members at the time described the decision as "disturbing," and lacking transparency during a debate over the superintendent's authority at a board meeting the following month.

McGee said Tuesday's retreat discussion will also touch on protocol around individual board member's requests to staff.

"Under what conditions can a staff member respond to an individual board member and under what conditions should it be a full-board request?" McGee said. "We've had a few instances of those issues arise this year."

During the second day of the retreat, the board and McGee will review the results of a strategic plan survey administered to both parents and students this year.

McGee said he will also be bringing several new goals for the 2015-16 year, many different from the six ambitious goals he brought to the board at the first retreat of the year in August. (The board ultimately adopted five of them.) McGee said several new goals came out of a workshop last week with his administrative team and also work with the district's leadership team.

At least two of the new goals will relate to the recent recommendations from McGee's minority achievement and talent development committee and forthcoming recommendations from a new enrollment management committee that is analyzing the possibility of opening a new school in the district. The district needs "to take some decisive action" on expanding its facilities in the coming year, McGee said.

Both days of the retreat are open to the public and will take place at The Westin, 675 El Camino Real. View the full agenda here.

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23 people like this
Posted by Reduce spending on lawyers
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 16, 2015 at 5:32 pm

I hope that one of the goals they will discuss is ending the endless siphoning off of tax payer's money to cover legal expenses. It is a travesty that they have to shell out so many bucks just to cover their rear ends. The current law firm appears to be not giving this district what they need and poor guidance on how they can avoid the need to always be seeking counsel

17 people like this
Posted by Don't be evil PAUSD
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2015 at 11:17 pm

How to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees while doing a better job:

Web Link
Excerpts from Randy Pausch's last lecture:

"Apologize when you screw up and focus on other people, not on yourself.

"Get a feedback loop and listen to it. … Anybody can get chewed out. It's the rare person who says, oh my god, you were right. … When people give you feedback, cherish it and use it."

“Proper apologies have three parts:
1) What I did was wrong.
2) I feel badly that I hurt you.
3) How do I make this better?”

3 people like this
Posted by only way to satisfy them
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 17, 2015 at 7:49 am

And, even though, as the case results show, you did nothing wrong, appologize anyway!

7 people like this
Posted by Don't be evil PAUSD
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2015 at 8:53 am

@only way,

You seem to be making a snarky comment about the OCR complaints, but I was speaking about professional practice. Our district personnel seem to be in a habit of glossing over everything they do [portion removed,] in order never to just apologize or learn from their mistakes. This is dishonest and sets a bad example for kids. It also serves them poorly.

As to the OCR complaints you seem to be referring to, you are grossly in error. Your error has been corrected many times on these lists an yet you still seem to wish to forward a completely false idea. Why is that? Your connection to the district is relevant here (reread my comment about when you screw up and the apologizing).

Our district had 2 OCR settlement agreements. One involved an investigation, something that happens only extremely rarely and only in the most egregious cases. The other found that despite the other case, our district was not even offering process to students. It did not determine the outcome of the case. OCR settlement agreements only have to happen in the most seriously problematic situations, and our district had two of them in one year. This is a monumental shame. (To the best of my knowledge, neither family, nor the children, have ever received any kind of apology by anyone in our district, although that was not what I had in mind when I wrote the above.)

OCR DOES NOT DECIDE THE CASES. OCR takes cases based on whether it has jurisdiction and whether there is evidence of a breakdown of PROCESS and PROCEDURES in districts, not based on whether it did or didn't do anything wrong. Districts write the procedures by which they follow they law, ours was found to be hiding them and not extending them to students, even though the law requires them to proactively provide them and apprise parents of their rights.

You can read about that on the OCR website, THEY DO NOT DECIDE INDIVIDUAL CASES. Given that the OCR had just had to make our district offer its own procedures for following the law in two settlement agreements, it would have been extremely difficult to believe the district did not have process available in the other complaints. The OCR did not decide those cases. THE OCR DID NOT DECIDE THOSE CASES. The OCR did not decide whether the district had "done nothing wrong". The OCR found there wasn't enough evidence (after 2 settlement agreements already) that the district did not offer process in the complaints. That's it.

[Portion removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by Don't be evil PAUSD
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2015 at 9:01 am

To explain it better:

It's the difference between waging a court case if something is wrong, and complaining to the government that your local area has no functioning court system at all. The OCR had to come in an make us make our court system available to all students. It does not decide the cases, it says so on their web site. In the later complaints, it basically said there wasn't enough evidence that the court system hadn't been made available. This is not the same as saying the defendant did nothing wrong.

Your confusing the two, deliberately, should you be someone from the school district, would be more evidence that our district is denying process, though.

Repeat after me: This is a school district. We serve CHILDREN. Don't be evil.

24 people like this
Posted by No More Mean Teachers
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 17, 2015 at 9:37 am

How about being more careful in the teachers and staff you hire? Stop hiring teachers and administrators who think a learning disability makes a child sub-human.

6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Some of the teachers are really dreadful. If you can't fire them, then please get them out of the classroom where they can't do any damage to our kids.

6 people like this
Posted by No More Mean Teachers
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Please think about why PAUSD does not take bullying seriously. Many students have been injured and psychologically harmed by bullying it and teachers' as well as administrators attitudes of bullying being no more than a minor annoyance.

Just because Skelly is gone does not mean the problems he chose to ignore are gone as well.

8 people like this
Posted by PAEA 5% richer
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jun 17, 2015 at 4:55 pm

There is nothing a parent can do about an underperforming teacher who's been given tenure after 18 months. My kid had awesome ones, but also two horrible ones. Every teacher has received a nice raise this year after the parcel tax was passed by voters.

2 people like this
Posted by good grief
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 17, 2015 at 5:46 pm

[Post removed.]

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

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