News

New goals for Palo Alto schools come into focus

Districtwide, school board and superintendent eye consistency and social-emotional learning

After spending a day looking inward, the Palo Alto school board shifted its gaze forward at the second day of an annual retreat, drafting a list of new goals for the upcoming school year.

By the end of the retreat on Wednesday, the board and Superintendent Max McGee narrowed down their list to 10 wide-ranging districtwide goals, which will be further pared down before further board discussion. Goals ranged from helping teachers to increase differentiated teaching and consistency and aligning courses to better use of data and supporting students' social-emotional well-being.

Six of those 10 goals emerged as the group's top priorities after a facilitator helping to lead the two-day retreat asked the board and McGee to rank them from one to 10. Those six are: raising the achievement of historically underrepresented students; consistency and alignment; enrollment-growth management; differentiated learning and student social-emotional well-being.

These goals have yet to be finalized and will be further vetted by both staff and the public before being officially approved, but the board's discussion on Wednesday signaled where the biggest priorities for the 2015-16 school year lie.

One of these will surely be to begin following through on an ambitious set of recommendations made by a committee that spent several months studying the root causes for and how to close the district's longstanding achievement gap.

The minority achievement and talent development committee last month presented a report to the board with 12 high-priority recommendations, including hiring a new "equity coordinator" with a $130,000 salary to oversee the district's efforts, providing additional extended or full-day kindergarten and administering a diagnostic literacy and mathematics assessment starting in pre-kindergarten and through second grade.

McGee said Wednesday that he's confident these top 12 recommendations have been thoroughly researched, analyzed and are ready to be implemented in the coming school year.

This is not the district's first attempt at closing the achievement gap. McGee said Wednesday, "we don't want to start something and not finish it. Somehow, this needs to be front and center."

Another committee that McGee created this year to look at how to manage the district's enrollment growth, which will likely mean the opening of a new school, has begun its work and is expected to report back to the board this October, he said.

The board agreed that finding "inspired" and "creative" ways to deal with rising enrollment will be key both in the short and long term. Short term, the district is facing an influx of students from families expected to move into new Stanford University housing by the 2017-18 school year – a new group of students that cannot be accommodated by the three elementary schools in the area, according to McGee.

Long term, the committee has been charged with thinking outside the box when it comes to using current district facilities, including working with the city on future uses for the Cubberley Community Center, and/or opening new schools.

Consistency and alignment in instruction, curriculum and grading -- mostly at the high school level -- has been repeatedly raised by students, parents and board members as an issue this year. Results from this year's strategic plan survey, which the board also heard Wednesday, reaffirms that: only 33.4 percent of students who responded to the strategic plan survey administered in May ranked "curriculum and instruction is consistent across my teachers and courses" as positive, compared to 37.8 percent who were neutral and 28.8 percent who were negative. On the same topic, 37.9 percent of parent respondents ranked it as positive, 36.1 percent were neutral and 26 percent were negative. Both students and parents felt slightly more positive about grading across teachers and courses.

The board and McGee said that related efforts like reducing test and project stacking and enforcing the district's homework policy should be nested under this broader goal.

The goal will also be informed by the soon-to-be-released results from a study the district commissioned earlier this year to evaluate consistency at Palo Alto's two high schools.

Board members Heidi Emberling and Ken Dauber urged the board to adopt an official focused goal around communication and transparency. Emberling suggested during the meeting the previous day that the district look for concrete ways to be more proactive in this area, such as regularly posting online all email communication with the board as the City of Palo Alto does.

McGee also came to the retreat on Wednesday with his own set of proposed goals, one of which he said he developed after they met the previous day, during which they talked about how the board can better operate: "Conduct board business in a manner that engenders community trust and promotes a culture that supports innovation," he said.

Though 65.6 percent of parents on the strategic plan survey rated as positive "how well the district and the school board communicate with you," 41.7 percent felt positive about how "PAUSD follows fair and transparent decision-making processes." Student ratings were far lower: 22.1 percent felt positive about how well the district and board communicates with them (students did not have the "fair and transparent question" on their survey).

The goals will now return to McGee and staff for further refinement and fleshing out before a study session the board said it wants to hold in August for further discussion.

"This is a first draft," Dauber said. "We have not yet heard from the community on these goals. There's a ways to go."

To watch a video of the second day of the retreat, visit the Weekly's YouTube channel.

Comments

41 people like this
Posted by Get some new glasses
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 18, 2015 at 10:04 am

McGee proposed that the board ""Conduct board business in a manner that engenders community trust and promotes a culture that supports innovation."

[Portion removed.] District staff are the problem with community trust, not the board. The community doesn't really pay much attention to the board. The community pays a lot of attention to what happens in their child's school. Do you know what does not "engender community trust"?

The culture of retaliation that dominates PAUSD from the top to the bottom. [Portion removed.]

High school students are granted or denied opportunities based on whether their parents are socially well-connected and donate to PIE and provide good free food and lattes to teachers. You need to clean out your own house and get your own house in order. The board may be the bane of YOUR existence but it is NOT why families don't trust PAUSD. They don't trust PAUSD because they or someone they know has had their kid tormented and bullied by a teacher, and has experienced retaliation for asking for help. Jordan in particular is a cesspool. Drain your own swamp McGee, let the board worry about itself.


14 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 10:47 am

Very little of what the poster above is backed up by any hard evidence. Examples please?

[Portion removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by Get McG some new glasses
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 18, 2015 at 10:59 am

[Portion removed.]

So for examples of retaliation you will have to ask around. [Portion removed.] You could also take a look at the dozen or so families who were so frustrated that they thought going to the federal government would make sense. And then there are the many lawsuits such as with the autistic child, and the cystic fibrosis boy who had his FERPA information disseminated [portion removed.] Look under a rock in this district and you can find retaliation, from the lowliest classroom aide on up. [Portion removed.]

This district lacks transparency, and retaliates wildly against critics -- especially the press. The session beating up on the press yesterday was sad, pathetic, and scary. Although they were saying "it doesn't matter and we don't even read it" what they actually said was "this is all we think about and we are so pissed off and blame the Weekly for our troubles."

[Portion removed.]

Fix your own behavior. See that your own house is in order. Stop shooting the messenger and respect our democracy including the 4th estate.


Like this comment
Posted by PersonallyResponsible
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:05 am

Let Some Students, Adults at 12 and 13yo, to represent the PAUSD. ""On their 13th birthday, boys reach the status of Bar Mitzvah. They are then recognized as adults and are personally responsible to follow the Jewish commandments and laws. They are allowed to lead a religious service; they are counted in the minyan, a quota of men necessary to perform certain parts of religious services. They can sign contracts and can testify in religious courts. Theoretically, they can marry, although the Talmud recommends 18 to 24 as the proper age for marriage. Girls reach Bat Mitzvah on their 12th birthday.""
Web Link)


26 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:09 am

@new glasses,

Your post spoke so beautifully for me, I didn't even have anything further to add.

[Portion removed.]

Several families are considering what to do about [portion removed] the retaliation.

How do we get in touch with each other through a trustworthy intermediary?


11 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:15 am

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:21 am

The way to air this out properly is for the Weekly to switch to non-anonymous comments. I bet you all lunch that these negative posters will be saying anything then. They will all hide from sunshine.


26 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:36 am

On the contrary, I would much prefer an impartial source to bring evidence of overt and deliberate falsification of records, letters, and memos, FERPA violations, retaliation, etc. to posting anonymously on a list like this. The evidence from multiple families is similar and disturbing. It would be far preferable to solve and resolve these problems.

Just curious why you chose to remain anonymous when saying such a thing [portion removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Get McG some new glasses
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:37 am

"They will all hide from sunshine."

They will all hide from retaliating, bullying teachers and district staff.

When someone has your child hostage, particularly if your child is disabled, you are not very likely to complain. If we didn't have a culture of retaliation then more people would use their real names. But so long as the price of whistleblowing (even on totally innocuous topics like whether there is moisture under a rug or whatever) leads to years of harassment, retaliation, denial of needed services and basically torturing a family until they leave the district, things will remain as they are. The Weekly provides an anonymous forum, with all its drawbacks, due to the culture of favoritism, cronyism, and retaliation. This is particularly true with special needs students.

The Sped community is apparently not even allowed to talk to board members now. Nor are parents who are having problems getting accommodations. No one in this situation seems to have any idea what the hell an elected board is even for. It exists so that parents can access their elected representatives to ask for a redress of grievances. That is what democracy is.

Oh my god, people. Watch the video for when Melissa says that she finds it disturbing when people come down to Open Forum and they didn't go through proper channels first. How dare these little people come forward and approach her on the dias. Off with their heads!

Max, the problem is not the board. Everyone on the board except Dauber agrees with you already that the board should basically have no real role. They WANT to be ceremonial figureheads. [Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by power tactics
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:47 am

Barron Park dad, like others supporting the current system have two weapons to stifle dissent:
1. Bring more evidence - your experience is irrelevant; the obvious needs numbers

2. Be more polite - the Politeness Police are all over Palo Alto even on the council


18 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:48 am

I don't see how these anonymous posts, with lack of specific or specifics that become deleted, are beneficial to progress and change.

You fear retaliation. OK, I believe you, but how are these anonymous posts helping you? Do think think Weekly readers will believe these statements just on your say-so?

Isn't there a better way to escalate and make visible your concerns? Does the PAUSD have a parental ombudsman function?

These anonymous posts don't seem to address the real problem you and your family (seem to) face.


10 people like this
Posted by Board Asks Questions
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:53 am

District employees complain of the Board of Education asking staff too many questions and asking for too much information. This reveals more of a problem with District employee management practices than with the Board.

Looking at the Public Information Requests posted on the PAUSD web site, the questions Board Members ask of District employees are appropriate. Often they are directly related to a District report or to a presentation Board is being asked to vote on. Trustees ask specific questions about numbers and data analysis. These are really great questions to ask, especially before a meeting when there is time for staff to look up the answer and clarify before the meeting.

If there are too many questions, perhaps Board Members have too much direct access to District staff and staff don't have time to respond. If so, look at limiting who is allowed to have direct contact with Board. Board questions could be directed at 2-3 central employees. Questions and requests should be logged and and tracked.

Board of Education, please be cautious of the District staff saying you ask too many questions, for two reasons:

First, District employees very often use this tactic to ignore questions or to blame the person asking the question. If they think you ask too many questions or for too much information, District staff instead needs to think why their information is unclear and not sufficient for decision makers. Do not blame the consumer, improve the quality of the production.

Second, a source of questions from Board Members are from parents when District staff is not answering them. It is common for parents to write Special Education 6 times to get an answer. The 1 answer they may receive are often incomplete or inappropriate, requiring families to start the "process" all over again.
Special Education in particular gives responses that do not answer the question asked. They use their attorney, legal forms or guidebooks written by their attorney as responses. So the process starts all over again, trying to get a question answered. Then, Special Education uses the fact the parent had to write them 6 times to say they answered it 6 times and blames the parent for asking too many questions. A sure sign of this tactic are meaningless District responses such as "All issues have been addressed".

The Superintendent said all questions have been addressed. But we can tell you for a fact there are many instances he never responded. If parents tried to follow up and ask Superintendent for an answer, he'd say he understood the school or SPED was addressing it. That meant nothing, since staff were not necessarily answering the question either. But generally, the Superintendent never replies at all.

If the Superintendent wants fewer questions, he as a leader needs to make sure his staff actually do respond or resolve a question when he refers it to them. He needs to notify parents and Board member who he has delegated response to, what he expects them to do and give them a deadline. He needs to assure parents they can get back to him if the delegated staffer does not respond. He needs to check on his his staff they did what he told them to do. This is a very basic leadership task in any organization, missing in PAUSD for some odd reason.

Board members, you need to ask as many questions as it takes to get information to make the decisions the staff is asking you to make. In every meeting a Board member says 'I wish you had included this' information. Be cautious of District employee attempts to make you feel guilty and blame you for doing your job.


21 people like this
Posted by Get McG some new glasses
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 18, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Isn't there a better way to escalate and make visible your concerns? Does the PAUSD have a parental ombudsman function?

No.

People have been asking for it for years, but the staff doesn't want anyone to oversee them. They don't want the superintendent to oversee them (just ask Mary Francis Callan), they don't want the board to oversee them (Skelly, anyone?) they don't want parents to try to go up the "chain of command" they don't want anyone to do anything. The classroom teacher is to be Duke of his or her own Fiefdom and if you don't like it then you can sit and spin and pay your parcel taxes while you are at it.

There also are not board liasons except to the power-parent groups. PTAC has a board liason even though if you can tell me what the hell PTAC does I will give you that lunch. The PIE board has a liason. They are basically the same people as on PTAC so they actually have two liasons. Take a look at the PTAC and PIE board photos. [Portion removed.] PASS doesn't have a board liason. Chinese Parents don't have a board liason. BV doesn't have a board liason. CAC doesn't have a board liason. [Portion removed.]

What are people supposed to do when they have a problem and no one helps them? Take out an ad in the paper? Oh wait, 350 people did just that, with Save the 2008. Did they get helped? No, they will probably all get retaliated against and treated like crap as Mr. Vincente is. And God bless him for even continuing to try. I saw him on the video slumped against a potted plant, looking as if he would pass out or have a stroke from the boredom and irreelvance and utter hopelessness of that meeting with the [portion removed] facilitator. I am surprised he didn't jump up and scream "children are dying what the hell are you talking about." But he didn't.

[Portion removed.]


26 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 12:11 pm

You wrote: "What are people supposed to do when they have a problem and no one helps them?"

My question back is "How are these anonymous posts helping you and your family? What do you expect to get out of them?"

It's hard for the Palo Alto community to know where the truth lies without specifics or someone brave enough to post specifics. Only with specifics can we move forward. Otherwise it just feels like Internet complaining and tilting at windmills.


21 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm

@Barron Park Dad,
Instead of complaining at people who have no outlet, you have identified the problem: no way to really communicate with and solve problems in this district. We have a giant stable of people making more than the top tier of federal judges in expensive areas like San Francisco, but no one who will go out of their way if you have a problem except to make your life hell if you cross them.

We do indeed need some kind of ombudsman -- with power.

It seems to me the answer may lie in how school districts, and this school district in particular, are chartered or structured. Which code or law grants their existence? I assumed all school districts everywhere were the same, but there are differences.

Our school district is simply way too insular. If there is a way to make a change via some kind of City initiative, I think it might be possible to provide that ombudsman role whether the district likes it or not. (Absolute power corrupts absolutely. )

"new glasses" - we totally need to talk. Is there a trustworthy intermediary?


1 person likes this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Fred is a registered user.

@Completely agree with "new glasses" - schools districts are primarily governed by the state education code - Web Link.

The most important form of local control is the locally elected school board. Terms are staggered, and two or three expire every two years (3 in 2016). If you want to have an ombudsman, and the district disagrees, lobbying the board or helping elect supportive board members seems the most likely path.


15 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2015 at 4:35 pm

"new glasses":
The "Powers and duties" of the local board of education arementioned in the City Municipal Code, and thus I'm wondering if it is the City charter that vests this power and may be changed via charter amendment? May the City set up other governmental structures for school unrelated to the existing school board to create its own alternatives if the district is failing to meet the needs of all students? (Through initiative?) Could it, for example, set up the ability to have co-superintendants, one that acts as an ombudsman to the community, with the equal power?

See Charter of the City of Palo Alto, article VIII-A Board of Education
Sec. 3, Powers and duties.

The City Charter basically says we're going with whatever the state says. But that begs the question -- do we have to? (It seems if we did, this provision would be meaningless so why would it be there.) It seems not. Seems that we can change the makeup, powers, and duties of our school district governance within our City Code, so long as it complies with state law. The way to do that is through charter amendment, isn't it? Similar to what happened in Measure D through referendum. (Charter amendments require 10% of the electorate, I think.)

For one, I would think a citizens review board that takes input from the public, of salaries and compensation, similar to what happens at the state level such as to adjust the governor's salary during recession so it doesn't just go up and up, would be a helpful addendum to Sec. 4.

Our district doesn't have the checks and balances it needs for appropriate local control, hence the endless controversy since no one with a problem can resolve anything with a totally insular bunch of overpaid bureaucrats.

We Can Do Better Palo Alto, and other groups interested in reform: Perhaps it's time to put democracy into action.
Web Link


18 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2015 at 4:46 pm

@Fred,
Lobbying an insular governmental body is only helpful when the insular are benign, such as in a benign monarchy. Lobbying an insular governmental body is often ineffective, which is why we are the United States of America and not part of the British Commonwealth.

We are at such a point. Changing the composition of the school board is too detached from individual issues and problems, and clearly does nothing to provide the kind of small corrections we need to steer the boat before everyone is screaming "iceberg"! Kids can suffer for years without any recourse.

Recall when 800 elementary school parents signed a petition to ask the school district - not to adopt a different math textbook - but only to take an addition a year, with free materials, to consider the textbook parents considered best but had been left off of consideration because of a mistake. Given the amount of money at stake in textbook adoptions, this kind of check and balance is only reasonable. Yet because school districts lack any of the kinds of mechanisms for checks and balances that even Cities and states have, such as referendum and initiative, the Superintendent said no and that was it. 800 elementary school parents is a lot of the elementary school population (especially if you consider only 1 parent in a household usually signs such things).

I think frankly, in a school district, we should have mechanisms for parental input short of going to vote. School boards have the power to adopt such regulations, by the way. But since absolute power corrupts absolutely, that's not a likely way to achieve it. However, the City Charter seems set up to define the board and superintendent, why not an ombudsman role for the public, with veto power ?


6 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Fred is a registered user.

@Completely agree with "new glasses" - not sure why you think going through the city or an initiative process is easier that electing school board members. Also not sure why you think our local school board is "insular." School board is pretty much the lowest level of government, no compensation, usually no prior elected political experience needed or expected; they primarily come from the pool of active school volunteers, and are selected by pretty much the same set of voters as a city-wide election. It is as local as local gets. If you want an ombudsman, get the school board to agree; if they don't agree, help elect others who do. Good luck.


3 people like this
Posted by oxymoron
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 8:38 pm

"Ken Dauber urged the board to adopt an official focused goal around communication and transparency"

And whatever happened to Ken's election pledge:

"I pledge myself to make available to the public, via the Web, all of my communications with district staff and other board members that are not legally confidential."

It's now the end of the first school year and he's produce zero communications. What's his problem, it's not hard to set up a web site.


17 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2015 at 9:05 pm

@Fred,
The biggest reason families need checks and balances is that school districts exist to serve and educate children, and it is unacceptable to wait for years for an election that MAYBE will change the culture of the board or balance of power and MAYBE result in an issue that was long ago decided and possibly causing harm to children the whole time getting resurrected, and MAYBE getting solved, and probably not in time to help a whole cohort of children who needed it. That is simply not acceptable.

Think about what you just said. What if there was no initiative or referendum process at the city or state level? What if the only leverage you had as a citizen was to elect people every so many years? If you don't get that, then you are missing how power works and I can't help you. It doesn't help very much to have only an election every several years to course correct on particular issues or problems in a school district. Even the PTA bylaws have all kinds of rules that allow ordinary members to leverage actions that would help serve as checks as balances to abuse of power or misappropriation of funds (and the bylaws even state that as the purpose).

Our school district has a budget rivaling our entire City budget. The school district exists as a governmental body to allow local control. And yet, there is less control by locals than at any other level of government. I have been a part of a citizen group that changed IRS law. I have found that easier than getting the district to fix serious problems. Why do you think we've had OCR complaints in special ed and disability accommodation compliance problems? The families weren't treated any better by the government than the district. Because there quite literally is no other recourse.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, the same is true of school districts as of emperors. There should be some checks and balance on the power of the board and ability of families to course correct. I do not understand why you find that very fundamental democratic idea of checks and balances as so strange in a school district.

Are you arguing that a handful of people should be vested with all the local power over a $200million organization, and that families should have absolutely no real leverage for checks and balances such as exists at other levels of government or even the PTA? Because there is no fundamental principle behind that, in fact, our City charter allows us to change the number of school board members, etc.

Having the ability to bring the equivalent of an initiative or referendum to the school district shouldn't be easy, but it should be possible. If district leaders know their decisions can be overturned should enough parents be concerned about an issue, they will better check their behavior at the outset. It's much better to be able to solve problems earlier than later. Kids' lives and educations are at stake.

It is possible for the school board to adopt their own rules to allow parents that kind of ability of checks and balances, but there is no way that will happen no matter what. They have to be faced with the possibility that someone will make them do it, and then they'll either adopt something or they'll be made to. And then we can all roll up our sleeves and move forward.

Another fundamental reason such power should be vested in local families and citizens is that business research shows that innovations don't come from above and they don't come from "satisfiers" and the complacent, innovations come from people who have a need to change things or solve a problem (necessity is the mother of invention, it's a truism), and anticipate benefits from innovating. In an insular district, the petty in power find it easier to push out the troublesome who don't have power rather than work with them to improve things (innovate). I don't know why McGee thinks he's going to get innovation from the inner circle/sycophants/satisfiers. Checks and balances are essential for the best functioning governance, for efficiency, and for innovation. Our kids deserve as much.


5 people like this
Posted by Historian
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:03 pm

[Portion removed.]

Anyone familiar with Skelly knows that our new Superintendent McGee has hit the ground running and made vast improvements in a short amount of time versus the figurehead who preceded him and was superintendent for what, 7 years?

And thank you to Ken Dauber for his sincerity in caring for our students' stress.

I am particularly looking forward to teacher consistency at Paly.

As far as helping underrepresented students, my wish is that they try to help themselves too. We have found most Paly teachers to be helpful, accessible, and caring. Teachers cannot help apathetic students who don't want to stick around after school for help.


4 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Fred is a registered user.

"Anyone familiar with Skelly knows that our new Superintendent McGee has hit the ground running and made vast improvements in a short amount of time"

I'm curious - what do you think the vast improvements are? McGee seems like a nice guy and has lots of energy, but I'm not clear what all has changed in the last year.


15 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2015 at 12:20 am

@Historian,
[Portion removed.] Parents who have had problems with the district, such as being retaliated against for trying to solve other problems, do not deserve being marginalized [portion removed.] Of course not everyone shares their views - not everyone is treated the same way, that's been one of the problems. PTAC sycophants, for example, are happy to suck up to get favors and blame others for problems rather than advocate for our district serving everyone fairly, which would be more in keeping with the purpose of PTA. This is a public school district, in case you forgot. If you want special treatment, private school is a better option.

[Portion removed.]

@Fred,
I agree with your last comment.


14 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2015 at 12:24 am

[Portion removed.]

Parents who complain about problems are complaining because they want light shed on them and want them fixed so that all kids are served by the district per its own vision and mandate. McGee has made no move to deal with big issues like the special ed department, in some ways, his behavior has been troubling, such as doing worse when it comes to records requests.

[Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 19, 2015 at 7:07 am

Easy fix. Adopt mandatory teacher ratings. Keep it simple out of five stars, those four and below are fired.

Uber can do it with thousands of drivers, why can't we do it with a couple hundred teachers? Unless the teachers are precious and excluded from any feedback backed by actions.


24 people like this
Posted by Alumni Parent
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2015 at 11:20 am

As to why parents speak anonymously:
Parents with children in school will be retaliated against--been there myself. Teachers take it out on the children verbally and with grades--putting kids in a corner (7th grade because my son complained the classroom environment (out of control) was too noisy and disruptive), telling him senior year to "grow up--you won't have a 504 plan in college" (WRONG, they can have one!)so that was her reason NOT to follow a school designed 504 plan based on testing I had to have done on my own money. I can go on.....and yes, these teachers are still in the school district and should not be!

Mandatory teacher evaluations, unless anonymous to the teacher, will also cause teacher retaliation on your kid. Student evaluations--teachers recognize handwriting and again there is retaliation. If evaluations were signed or electronic and someone else entered the data and the teacher only saw the rankings and comments, that would work.

There is also a sigma attached with major issues--ADHD, depression, etc. Parents do not want to "brand" your kid as "Special Ed" or mentally ill to the broad community because your kid may end up living here and he/she has to live with the public having that perception of them. Most people are able to meet someone new without any baggage. We don't want to give our kids that baggage.

I think the best way to advocate for the rights of students is for a group of Alumni Parents (without kids currently in school) who have direct experience with these issues to band together for change and be the interface for parents with school age kids.


4 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Dear Fellow Onliners,

I very much agree with and applaud the Board's attention to social and emotional well-being.

There has been tremendous suffering among our high-schoolers this past year, and the Board's help is important.

For further proposals to help with kids' well-being, please visit:

www.savethe2008.com

This community initiative--backed by doctors, LMFTs, professors, lawyers, national experts, teachers, engineers, authors, artists, self-defense instructors, business people, an Oscar-winning filmmaker, and the chief health strategist for Google--is OPEN TO ONE AND ALL.

Sincerely,
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)
Marc Vincenti
Co-Founder, Save the 2,008


7 people like this
Posted by SPED Appointment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Largely hidden in the Board of Education packet is a change that has had little to no public light before now. Item 21, (Page 331 in PDF) sets out a management reorganization and organizational charge for Board of Education Approval that was discussed last Board of Education meeting. For Special Education changes, it does not discuss who will be appointed, and the Superintendent did not discuss his appointment plans in the last Board of Education meeting. Only on the very last page of the Board Packet, Item 28, Page 551 it is revealed the current Director of Special Education is being appointed to Assistant Superintendent: Chief Student Services Officer with control over Special Education, Psychologists, Medical Staff, and Attendance. Hopefully this is some mistake and just reading it wrong. There have been so many parent concerns about these areas, OCR, bullying and legal costs, lack of transparency. This needs to be considered more publicly and carefully.


8 people like this
Posted by Completely agree
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2015 at 9:11 am

@SPED Appointment,
IMO the nightmare of the Skelly years boiled down to 3 people (not Skelly), two of whom are getting promoted.

Many SPED parents with graduated kids probably are just too glad they escaped and are done (have heard as much), but they are the ones we need to come forward and speak against this. Everyone else will be too afraid of retaliation, and for good reason. McGee already got too cozy with the 3 and did not really hear the problems from families.


6 people like this
Posted by SPED Appointment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Why is this job opening not publicly posted, advertised and candidates allowed to apply? This is one of the most sensitive jobs there is in PAUSD.

The proposed organizational chart is seen here for the first time:
See Page 335
Web Link

Why is appointing someone to it buried at the very last page of the Board package? The Superintendent had to know he was planning to do this when he proposed the reorganization.

The Superintendent's reorganization plan does not say he is appointing Holly Wade to this job. It is not what the Superintendent talked about in the previous Board of Education meeting discussion sections. This is too important to handle at the last minute this way.

This new Assistant Superintendent job will have control over Special Education, Counseling, Psychologists, Nurses and Attendance. There is no independence in functions used which are too easy to use against disabled students: psychologists test to tell Special Education a child should not receive Special Education help, Central Attendance is used to threaten disabled children with truancy if they cannot attend school because of illness or they are in danger and being bullied. Nurses and psychologists are all part of this and also all report to the same appointee.

Psychologists need complete professional independence. The proposed appointee does not have a psychological license. They should not report to the same person as Special Education. It is too much power and too much control given to a single person.


5 people like this
Posted by Historian
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 21, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Wow, some people really do think a person can snap his fingers and magically make change. Are people ignorant to office politics? Sheesh, things take time. No superintendent can appease everyone, especially relentless Palo Altans. McGee already eliminated Gunn's zero period and he plans on distributing teacher evaluations. Anyone who has experienced the high schools knows that sleep deprivation and teacher inconsistency are the biggest contributors of stress for our students. And there were simple solutions that Skelly didn't lift a finger to address.

Skelly did nothing but allow Everyday Math to be adopted. The only reason Everyday Math is not a complete disaster is that the teachers are allowed to teach it without following the exact program, thus, the parents don't realize just how hazardous the program truly is. Skelly allowed everyone to bully him - I've seen it in action. He was a nice person but not a leader. So much for a Harvard degree.


2 people like this
Posted by Max just doing his job
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Of course Max can do make this appointment. This has nothing to do with the board. They don't hire and fire staff.

Next you'll be questioning whether it was appropriate for Max to stop schools offering zero period.

What sort of micromanagement are you expecting the board to do? It would be completely out of proportion for the board to even comment on this let alone try to influence it.


1 person likes this
Posted by SPED Appointment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2015 at 6:57 pm

The Board of Education is voting on this. It has everything to do with the Board.
The Superintendent is asking the Board of Education to approve the management reorganization and reclassification of positions. He is also asking the Board of Education to approve the appointment.
Both items are in the Board of Education packet posted on the Board of Education web site as on the Agenda for the Board of Education to vote on Tuesday night. If these are items so important they require Board of Education approval, it has to do with the Board.


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Posted by karma
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2015 at 7:25 pm

You mean like how Max had to wait before stopping zero period?

Oh...wait...


2 people like this
Posted by SPED Appointment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2015 at 8:36 pm

The application deadline was June 16 BEFORE the Board of Education approved the job or reorganization.

From PAUSD Website:
Web Link
Chief Student Services Officer (Assistant Superintendent)
Please click here to view job description. To apply, please email a letter of interest to Scott Bowers.
Application Deadline: June 16, 2015
Expected Start Date: July 1, 2015
Work Days: 224 (in full academic year)

It looks like the District planned to give the position to a current employee without waiting for Board of Education approval.


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Posted by conspiracy theorist
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 21, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Oh, this is horrendous! How dare the district hire staff without board approval!

Look at all the jobs they are advertising for without board approval: Web Link

I mean, look at it -
"Speech-Language Pathologist (Part-Time, 60%)"
Start Date 08/13/2015
Open Date 06/10/2015
Closing Date 06/24/2015

A part-time speech language pathologist. Just check out those dates, there must be a conspiracy behind this.


8 people like this
Posted by Completely agree
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2015 at 12:41 am

@just doing job,
"Of course Max can do make this appointment. This has nothing to do with the board. They don't hire and fire staff.
Next you'll be questioning whether it was appropriate for Max to stop schools offering zero period. "

You are linking two things that are completely different in an apparent attempt to make the first less odious for those who don't know the facts. To anyone who knows the people and the facts, that's downright threatening to students.

It being appropriate for Max to do away with zero period had to do with copious evidence and recommendations by local doctors, for the purpose of saving students' lives. The retention or even promotion of certain persons in the district office only seems ok for LACK of delving into the evidence. I can't even describe to you the behavior I have witnessed because it will be deleted (describing unlawful behavior). The poster above is correct: when you get psychologists to do the dirty work, it destroys trust. Then kids are not able to trust the adults when they have other problems in school. (Has happened in our family.)

So, if Max gathered the relevant evidence in the special ed/personnel situations, he would be letting certain key people go for the negative impact on our schools and kids, and the increase in district liability, harm to the district and school culture, damage to relationships between personnel and families, damage to relationships between schools and families, etc.

Sorry, but Skelly was never the worst problem. They are still among us and getting promoted. Maybe Max can't snap his fingers and fix things, but he should be lifting a finger to look into some of our most problematic areas and he doesn't seem to be. Instead, he seems dazzled like a kid with a snake charmer.


8 people like this
Posted by smelliferous
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2015 at 6:01 pm

Oh, I don't know. I find it pretty odious to agree with the board that you want to discuss zero period and then to just implement it regardless.
I find it odious that the board takes 5% of the student data that students collected, which suits their argument and claims they are "listening to the students".
I find it odious that they claim they are doing it for the purpose of "saving students' lives" when they have not way if it will make any difference. Particularly odious that one as it gives them the justification to do anyting they like.
Almost as odious as trying to block someone's promotion based on hearsay.

Yep, retaliation is alive and well in PAUSD, just not in the direction you think!


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Posted by Appointment
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2015 at 7:06 pm

A 60% time speech therapist job posting was posted after the position was already approved and budgeted. Many jobs are already approved and in the budget.

A 60% speech therapist is not the same as:
- Creating a new job requiring Board of Education approval
-Not obtaining required Board approval before you post and advertise the new job
-Making a hiring decision on who to hire for the new job before you obtain approval for it's creation

A 60% speech therapist is not:
- A new position at senior level of Assistant Superintendent
- Overseeing many of the most sensitive functions in the District with control over Special Education, Psychologists and Counselors and Attendance, without any intervening management controls or safeguards
- Being filled by a candidate overseeing the biggest concerns in past years, bullying of special needs children, OCR, high legal fees

Approval for hiring a 60% speech therapist job will:
- Be included for Board approval in position portion of the package, where the Board and public would be expected to look for it
- Not be added as one of the last topics to be approved late at the end of the Board meeting so it can be rushed through or tired public cannot attend or comment


The new Assistant Superintendent position is one of the most sensitive positions in PAUSD, requiring the most skill, sensitivity and good judgement. No matter who you hire, filling it at the last minute without discussion and input is not the way to handle it.


4 people like this
Posted by Completely agree with "new glasses"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2015 at 8:57 pm

@smelli,

Whose promotion was blocked based on hearsay? I'm curious, because I see no evidence of that, nor that the district is bothering to investigate any of the problems. Retaliation is very real against families, we have experienced it, witnessed it, and heard of it from reliable families. I have witnessed retaliation against teachers and one principal, but they are all gone. I see no evidence of anything like blocking a promotion based on hearsay, nor interest in doing due diligence (which would rightly result in dismissal if it's who I think you mean).


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Posted by witch hunt
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 22, 2015 at 9:32 pm

"Retaliation is very real against families, we have experienced it, witnessed it, and heard of it from reliable families. I have witnessed retaliation against teachers and one principal, but they are all gone."

That sounds awfully like the reaction of people who didn't get what they wanted after the district did their due diligence!


"I see no evidence of anything like blocking a promotion based on hearsay, "

Really? try reading the thread again.


4 people like this
Posted by Completely
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2015 at 10:01 pm

"That sounds awfully like the reaction of people who didn't get what they wanted after the district did their due diligence! "

Sounds to me like you may be one of those administrators who wouldn't know "due diligence" if utter lack of doing so resulted in an extremely rare OCR settlement agreement.

No, I'm talking about petty, vengeful behavior like violating student privacy and negatively influencing staff in a way that hurts student education and access, deliberately stressful and even unlawful actions, deliberate creation of false narratives, etc.

I'm talking about insular, petty district personnel flirting with huge district liability thinking they are getting away with it because no one has (yet) sued.

I see no evidence that McGee has ever investigated. I see no evidence of a promotion being blocked based on hearsay or anything else. Once again, whose promotion do you think was blocked based on hearsay? If it's who I think it is, a proper investigation would get said person fired.


4 people like this
Posted by Completely
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Teachers should be just as concerned about parental reports of retaliation. I remember one of the dismissed teachers reported the lying from the district as well, and retaliation.

There is no place in a school district for this kind of behavior. Unfortunately, there appears to be absolutely no mechanisms for rooting out that kind of behavior or ensuring better performance for families. (Doesn't seem to be any mechanism for getting people like "witch" to remember who they work for in the first place.)


4 people like this
Posted by Look First
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 23, 2015 at 8:36 am

BEFORE the current Director of Special Education is given the Assistant Superintendent position, the 5 year review of Special Education discussed in the retreat needs to be conducted. If the job is awarded NOW before the study, the same current employee will be in charge of the consultants and influence the study and report results.
The position should be awarded AFTER the consultants critique Special Education's performance over the past 5 years and see if it achieved what it says it did, and recommend what kind of organization, and leadership for it, is needed for the future.
The new position will have such immense control over all Special Education, Counseling, and Attendance functions without checks and balances, the study needs to be comopleted before the job is given away.


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Posted by Completely
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Same should be true of Student Services.


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

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