Jordan Middle School, Palo Verde Elementary get new principals

Gunn High School's Tom Jacoubowsky moving to Jordan

Gunn High School's longtime assistant principal, Tom Jacoubowsky, will be moving to Jordan Middle School this fall to serve as interim principal following Principal Greg Barnes' resignation, the school district announced Wednesday.

Barnes, a former life sciences teacher who came to the district from Foster City, has been Jordan's principal since 2011. He resigned to take a post as director of secondary education in the Milpitas Unified School District.

Jacoubowsky's 14-year tenure at Gunn includes time as both assistant principal and previously, athletic director. He said in a district press release Wednesday that he has for the past few years wanted "to explore the possibility of being a secondary principal, and the opportunity to be one for the coming school year and to stay in the District to serve at Jordan is an incredible opportunity."

Superintendent Max McGee commended Jacoubowsky in the press release for "his positive presence, his leadership of the counseling program, and his commitment to clear and frequent communication."

Terman Middle School Assistant Principal Tonya Bailey has also been tapped to serve as an interim principal in the fall at Palo Verde Elementary School. Bailey comes with 12 years of experience as an elementary school teacher and also served as assistant principal previously at an elementary school in the Evergreen School District in San Jose.

"Both Palo Verde and Jordan are highly regarded for both their academic success and for the quality of care and support for students' mental health and wellness," McGee said in the release. "Our two new leaders will enable us to build on the strong foundation and to strengthen programs and services while retaining the family feel of and parental support for each school."

Palo Verde Principal Anne Brown will be moving to the same position at Barron Park this fall as part of a larger elementary-school leadership shuffle announced this spring.

Barron Park Principal Magdalena Fittoria will become a district-based special projects administrator, tasked with supporting the implementation of the recommendations from the superintendent's Minority Achievement and Talent Development committee and with an expansion of the district's Response to Intervention (RTI) program, a tiered process meant to provide early identification and support for struggling students.

El Carmelo Principal Chuck Merritt will become the principal at Escondido Elementary School and also serve as the district's world languages administrator, a new position covering pre-K through high school; and Escondido Principal Danae Reynolds will become the principal at El Carmelo.

Elena Kadvany

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


16 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 1, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Michael O. is a registered user.

Mr. Jacoubowsky, I sincerely hope that your leaving Gunn will not leave it without the voice of academic reason you have been for these years. Sad to see you go, the kids need you.

25 people like this
Posted by HipWaders
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 2, 2015 at 8:19 am

Hi Tom,

Welcome to the swamp. You'll need taller boots for Jordan, as you have your work cut out for you.

'...and Jordan are highly regarded for both their academic success and for the quality of care and support for students' mental health and wellness," McGee said '

Max couldn't be more wrong. Jordan is a hell hole for any kid with anxiety and depression or ADHD. And if they don't have anxiety when they arrive, the teaching staff will instill it reliably. This place is, for many children, an oppressive and uncaring environment.

And by this, I don't mean accidentally or incidentally oppressive. I mean that I had teachers sit me down and tell me precisely how they were going to pressure and intimidate students to do more homework. The staff there are purposely oppressive. And uncaring. Not in a forgetful 'sorry, I didn't see you there' sort of way, but in a very mindful, purposeful way of deliberately stating: I don't care about you as a student.

On so many occasions we were told: "I have 130 students, I cannot possibly help your student". Verbatim. Over and over. It was like the school motto. The other tag line you'll hear often is: " It will only get worse next year" - I heard this originally from Chris Grierson the principal now at Duveneck, but others reminded me of this all the time.

If you are looking to change the culture so that this really is a place that supports student's mental health and wellness, here is a short list of actions.

1) Reform the Science department. [Portion removed.] Bring in outsiders to run the department. Start over.

2) Do the same for English - The [portion removed] department cannot teach writing. Not as bad an attitude toward students as the Science department [portion removed], but nonetheless a large contributing organization to the dysfunction in the school. Needs a do-over. Get a new IS, and teach them to teach kids to write.

Generally, be less abusive than say, the average homeless guy yelling at a lamppost, and it will be a strong improvement. Try to instill a culture of NOT oppressing kids to tears. Don't allow homework to be used as a weapon to 'break' kids. The goal is not to send a certain number into hospitalization, or send them home in tears.

Explain to your teachers that issues like ADHD (and the disorganization that accompanies it), Anxiety and Depression are not moral failings. I have so many times experienced the attitude that a kid forgetting homework is moralized: "you aren't responsible.... You are lazy...You don't care about your work... " Then the judgment follows. A few years of such treatment convinces kids that they are all of the above; when really it is just impossible for a child to navigate the administrative complexities and hoops-course setup by the staff.

Try to make the school a better user interface. Simpler. More consistent week-to-week, day-to-day. Clear expectations (eliminate hidden rubrics). Allow for redemption, recovery. Make it achievable.

There'll be plenty of time for the kids to acquire anxiety and depression later in life, you may as well let them be kids while in middle school.

Try all that. Good luck.

15 people like this
Posted by Congratulations to Tom
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2015 at 8:43 am

Congratulations to Tom Jacoubowsky and realization of a personal goal.

Tom has been a kind and solid administrator at Gunn. He has been focused, approachable, and hard working. His friendly smile and out-streched hand has been a welcome site at Gunn even in its darkest hours. He is one of the hardest working administrators that we have met across PAUSD.

Jordan Middle School has produced some very bad student behavior. Many Jordan students create a social cesspool at club sports and at PALY. Jordan probably has its friendly side but this is not as obvious as the disrespectful and bully behavior that feels prevelent.

Congratulations to Tom and hope that he will have a successful run at Jordan.

20 people like this
Posted by Relieved
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 2, 2015 at 9:35 am

[Portion removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Peter Principal
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Principal Shuffle
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2015 at 11:07 am

World Languages Program? Must have missed that press release:
How interesting that Mr. Chuck Merritt is moving into a new PAUSD World Languages Administrator position when our district has no universal World Languages Program! PAUSD has been mired in discussion with zero progress for at least ten years about the possibility of languages in ALL our supposedly unified elementary schools. PAUSD has yet to institute a World Languages Program. Parents are surveyed ad nauseam about this topic and yet nothing happens. PAUSD has only awarded language at the elementary school level to a few lucky lottery winners (Mandarin Immersion, Spanish Immersion). Does this new position mean PAUSD has actually listened to majority of parents (vs. the School Board being threatened by law suits by special interest language groups)? Has PAUSD actually made some substantive decisions and progress on instituting world language at ALL elementary schools?

Principal Shuffle - Heads up to Escondido Families:
It's also too bad the district can't find a Principal for Escondido who actually has some relevant expertise working with primary age school children. Mr. Merritt moved from Paly where he'd been for many years teaching Spanish and then as an Asst. Principal. He took over at El Carmelo after the brilliant Principal Lupe Garcia retired. Principal Merritt came in to El Carmelo with zero experience working with elementary school age children - and it was clear from the start it was a bad fit. What was a tight ship with amazing teachers quickly became a very leaky disorganized unsupervised ship with unhappy teachers, parents and students.

10 people like this
Posted by worrying mom
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 2, 2015 at 11:57 am

Hi, my kid is entering Jordan this fall. I've heard from many channels that the middle schools in PAUSD are unsatisfactory. Among them Jordan is the weakest. Many parents send their kids to private middle schools, though they are OK with public elementary schools and high schools here. I have a local Palo Altan friend who strongly suggests me take my kids to private middle school. However, you always heard or read about euphoric comments above the table. Could anybody share with me your candid comments about the weakness and pitfalls in Jordan? Only we know about the truth so we parents and teachers can work together to make a change. We have bright and hard-working parents and kids here. Together we shall make PAUSD better! From my volunteering experiences in the PAUSD elementary schools here, the teaching is fairly low quality and low efficiency.

25 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Crescent Park Mom is a registered user.

So happy to see Barnes leave our school district. Good riddance!

22 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Curious is a registered user.

I also would like to hear from people dissatisfied with Jordan, and specific examples to explain why. My children have had a positive experience there, and my interactions with teachers and Mr. Barnes have been collaborative and satisfying. Curious to know if there are specific issues or areas of concern to parents that just haven't applied to my family. At least, not so far.

32 people like this
Posted by 4 kids
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2015 at 6:58 pm

4 kids is a registered user.

I too am unclear. Jordan has been a fine school. Like all schools, we've encountered some teachers who are better at their job than others, but the experience has never strayed too far from 'generally good'. 3 have made it through and one is still coming up. 1 was highly anxious (OCD) and needed kid gloves. The teachers were always sensitive and caring. She still talks fondly of the teachers. As for Mr Barnes, the dialogue above is just beyond the fray. He has always been professional and friendly. I think people just like to complain. Life is too short people.

14 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 2, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@worrying mom - Special needs parents have had issues with Jordan, but the vast majority of regular kids do great there, and like it. Homework is more than elementary school, less than Paly - pretty much what you'd want to prep for high school. The kids and staff are generally friendly and supportive, but it isn't the place to go try and bend the system a kid who has issues. So if your kid is doing well in elementary school, they'll continue to do well at Jordan. If you are already starting to struggle, then maybe you should look to a private school that can cater to your child.

11 people like this
Posted by PA native
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2015 at 10:46 pm

PA native is a registered user.

My child also had a really good experience at Jordan. Mr Barnes was everywhere, all of the time, and did a really
solid job as principal. Good luck to you in your new endeavor. I really appreciate all of your hard work.

10 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 2, 2015 at 10:50 pm

Reason is a registered user.

...yeah. Or if your kid is normal, and you just don't like them intimidated by teachers who feel they need to pressure, coerce, and criminalize homework.

Or if you just don't like your kid being bullied in front of their entire classroom. For no apparent reason.

Or if you don't really want your kid to be the subject of retaliation.

Then maybe you should look at private school. But, you know, other than that it's a perfectly fine place to send kids.

I just don't know what all the fuss is about. This is a perfectly fine place to send a kid to develop a true dislike of learning. Everyone should experience this.

11 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 2, 2015 at 11:03 pm

True is a registered user.

I have 3 children in PAUSD (two experienced Jordan) and we were satisfied with the school. Yes, there are good and bad teachers, same as most schools, but most of them sincerely care about students. Each child had one incident of bullying, one under principal Milligan and the other under Barnes. Milligan was tough on bullying. The bullying of each ended immediately because administration took bullying seriously. The administration is competent and caring. The teachers were alerted and were concerned and caring also, even one of the teachers who frequently yells.

Which leads me to the subject of the staff. It appears some of the bad apples are gone, although two teachers who yell are still on staff. But they aren't mean people who bully students - they are moody and impatient (thanks, tenure). It's part of life - co-workers aren't perfect either.

As far as complaints about continual bullying, sometimes the students themselves provoke it. And some bullying cannot be contained by schools (ie: negative facial expressions, sarcasm, non-inclusiveness). I challenge anyone who thinks those can be contained to offer a solution. Some parents just expect too much. And I've seen the disrespect some parents show administration in PAUSD. Hint for life: Don't yell and threaten if you have an issue - be professional, polite, clear in your communication, and show gratitude. No one wants to help someone who flies off the handle.

Another issue to consider is that middle school years are tough anywhere. These are the years when girls get weird and feel awkward. And at lunchtime, the Jordan campus feels like a fishbowl, vs. the larger Paly campus and T&C.

I think some parents forget that this is a public school district and expect it to be like private schools which are managed with different rules. My children have found that the majority of students in our district are nice, and the majority of teachers are caring.

Don't let the whiners here scare you away from Jordan.

Finally, consider that middle school grades aren't forwarded to college applications. Your children should learn academic skills and try their best but "A"s are not the priority in middle school. No need to burn them out prior to attending Paly, when the grades WILL matter.

11 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 3, 2015 at 12:03 am

Reason is a registered user.

It is true that many middle school children will experience bullying by other students. We are talking about kids who are immature, and do not have a fully developed moral sense of what is right from wrong.

Jordan, however is the only place where we experienced staff bullying students.

On more than one occasion. And yes, Barnes knew of this, and did nothing about it. Glad he is gone.

Hope the new Principal brings a sorely needed moral compass to the administration of this school and helps point out the difference between right and wrong with regard to treating students with some compassion and dignity.

2 people like this
Posted by hr
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 3, 2015 at 1:02 pm

hr is a registered user.


"Which leads me to the subject of the staff. It appears some of the bad apples are gone, although two teachers who yell are still on staff. But they aren't mean people who bully students - they are moody and impatient (thanks, tenure)."

Children yell, adults raise their voice. Obviously you forgot about physical education outdoors or experienced a program with safety as the number one concern....Cooking and building programs. Why not contact the teacher ? I'd love to hear that conversation.

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

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 3,065 views

Juggling Renewables
By Sherry Listgarten | 44 comments | 2,174 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 974 views

Premarital and Couples: "You're Not Listening to Me!" may mean "I don't feel heard."
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 733 views

Migraines and motherhood
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 473 views


Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Palo Alto. Voting is open now through May 27. Watch for the results of our 2019 Best Of contest on Friday, July 19.