News

Community, school board express broad support for new secondary school

'The time for innovation is now,' parents tell board

The Palo Alto school district office, at 25 Churchill Ave., was imbued with excitement and enthusiasm on Monday night as both the school board and community members agreed that the moment is ripe to break with the status quo and open a new, innovative middle and high school in Palo Alto.

This proposal – which community members hailed as a "bold" and "much-needed leap forward in education," among other laudatory descriptors – is a preliminary recommendation from a subcommittee of the district's Elementary Management Advisory Committee (EMAC), which has been charged with coming up with ways to creatively address Palo Alto's enrollment challenges.

The secondary-schools subcommittee presented its preliminary research, findings and proposals at a special board study session Monday.

The recommendation is for the district to use Cubberley Community Center at 4000 Middlefield Road for an integrated middle and high school — a school that would not only reverse growing enrollment at the district's middle and high schools, which the subcommittee repeatedly described Monday night as "too big," but would also be designed from scratch with desirable educational elements like choice programming, project-based learning, individualization and social-emotional connectedness.

Subcommittee members said Monday that the district is unusually primed to make this proposal a reality. There is broad parental and student appetite for innovative educational options in the district; the district has a willing partner in the city to redevelop Cubberley; the Institute of Design at Stanford, the d. School, has already committed a fellow and staff member to work with the district on next steps; there are major local investors who are "ready to participate in bold secondary initiatives," the subcommittee's presentation states.

"Land (is) available, (there is) enrollment that would indicate we should offload students to a new campus, (there is) an appetite for innovation, funding sources, competition — it seems to us that we're at a very unique moment in time to consider this unique proposal," said subcommittee member Mark Romer, a parent in the district.

The subcommittee is also proposing changes for Palo Alto's existing secondary schools, including an expansion of "core" and "house" programs. In such programs, cohorts of students move through several years of school together with the same teachers, a model that increases feelings of connectedness and student engagement.

More than 20 community members — mostly parents representing a wide range of schools, both public and private, as well as grade levels — urged the board on Monday to support the subcommittee's proposals.

Many parents of elementary school students expressed trepidation about entering middle schools so large that they feel like "factories" and "community colleges," parents said. Jordan Middle School is the largest with 1,130 students this year. Jane Lathrop Stanford (JLS) Middle School is next with 1,112 students. Terman Middle School still remains small with 749 students this year, though its campus is also smaller than the other two middle schools'.

Those with experience in the district's various choice programs — particularly Connections at JLS and Ohlone Elementary School's philosophy, which emphasizes independence, personalization and social-emotional learning — said the experiences were overwhelmingly positive, and they wished for more of them throughout the district and at higher levels.

Several parents talked about making the decision to leave the public school district for private schools upon facing large middle and high schools that they said can't deliver the same level of student-teacher connection or relevant, personalized instruction.

"My husband wanted our son to know his teachers well and be known by them, to have deep relationships with his teachers. ... With schools the current size of our middle schools and high schools, we realized that was going to be really difficult to achieve," parent Callie Turk said. "He's now in a private school with small class sizes where those relationships blossom naturally."

Another mother called the size of Palo Alto's middle schools probably the "strongest deterrent" for her family in attending public school. She looked at alternative options for her two children, one of whom is now attending a private middle school.

School board members, too, expressed their support, though they had limited time to ask questions. More than two hours of the three-hour meeting were taken up by the presentation and public comment.

"This is exciting. This is innovative," said board Vice President Heidi Emberling. "It's aligned with our goals for students; it increases both peer-to-peer connections and connections with trusted adults on campus; (it) promotes our focus on professional learning communities (and) on teacher professional development — investing in our best resources for students, which are our teachers.

"If we want to move the needle, particularly for our under-resourced and historically underrepresented students, we can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results," she added.

Board members Terry Godfrey and Ken Dauber asked the committee to consider what resources the district might need in order to open a 13th elementary school and a new secondary school at the same time, if the board decided to do so. (Though a majority of the EMAC's elementary subcommittee has preliminarily recommended that the district does not need to open a new elementary school, three members of that group have penned a "minority report" expressing the opposing view.)

Dauber also asked to hear more about why the new school would be a choice program rather than a neighborhood school. The subcommittee said Monday that many choice programs in the district are oversubscribed, with many parents applying to more than one.

"My sense is that we in Palo Alto have sometimes missed an opportunity to do good things across all of our schools by doing those things in our choice schools," Dauber said. "I would read the interest in choice programs from middle school parents as a desire not to drive across town to a different school but to have the school where they are provide them the benefits that they are talking about."

President Melissa Baten Caswell asked that the costs for opening a new school, both capital and ongoing operating costs, be brought to a budget study session the board is holding next Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 6 p.m. She also stressed that the district not leave behind the existing middle and high schools in the excitement of a new school, which if approved would take years to open.

"What do we do in the interim? Do we just sit here and wait? I don't think so," she said.

The EMAC secondary subcommittee is also proposing that the district create a separate task force to delve into the actual design and development of a new school, with a goal to provide recommendations in June 2016. The entire enrollment committee is slated to bring a final report to the board in December. The district also plans to host at least one town hall meeting to discuss the committee's work in November.

"I believe the recommendations of the enrollment-management committee would set the district on a path to build more relevant, relationship-oriented learning communities that would serve the needs of our 21st-century students," Turk said.

Her final words to the board, which were echoed throughout the night by many other parents and community members: "Be bold."

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 27, 2015 at 8:55 am

Sounds like the secondary committee did a good job at evaluating our situation and arriving at reasonable conclusions. I and other Barron Park parents don't feel the same about the recommendations the elementary committee made that will basically gut Barron Park Elementary and impact our other school, Juana Briones, making BPE a choice school for the whole town, forcing our kids out of our neighborhood school, and filling our safe routes with many hundreds more cars a day while refusing to open another elementary school though current and near future enrollment supports doing so.

There has been no input sought from Barron Park people about any of this. The harm these recommendations will do to BPE students is terrible, at the most diverse school in the district. If the Maybell rebellion was any indication, people in Barron park will resist mightly and with good reason. Open another school to address elementary overcrowding and let BPE continue to progress.


13 people like this
Posted by new in town
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Oct 27, 2015 at 9:00 am

Thank you so much to all the committee members who volunteered their time and talent to do this work. We are fortunate to have so many intelligent and giving leaders in our community.

This report was well received across the board. In addition to parents representing several schools in the area, speakers included former school board leaders, education innovators and long time Palo Alto community advocates.

Our middle and high schools are maxed in size and becoming more impersonal and one-size fits-all at a time when teaching critical thinking and collaboration are needed 21st century skills. Even the best teachers cannot possibly give enough attention to all students when their class loads are well beyond the norm for healthy schools. Portables have taken away green space and open meeting space making it harder for students to connect informally. What is the impact on emotional health of this factory feel where students are herded like cattle through crowded intersections in between class periods? When teachers cannot offer sufficient time per student?

Please move forward quickly on these recommendations so that kids who are in middle and entering high school now can begin to enjoy the benefits of these bold ideas.


36 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 27, 2015 at 9:03 am

I remember all this being discussed at some length when my present senior was in 2nd grade.

Please implement this now before another 2nd grader becomes a senior.


20 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 27, 2015 at 9:18 am

I think this idea sounds nice but I don't agree with making it a "choice" school. I don't think people have yet considered the traffic implications. Let me just scratch it out here. This is going to be 1050 students driving from all over town to Cubberley twice per day.

Get ready Greenmeadow residents, because your neighborhood just became a parking lot. [Portion removed.]

In terms of "choice" I am interested in what Dauber and Caswell said -- why would we once again give a few lucky lottery winners a good middle school [portion removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by new in town
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 27, 2015 at 9:26 am

@Paly Parent

Triple-like your comment!

It is time for action and not for another endless cycle of discussion and debate while kids continue to fall through the cracks or receive a PAUSD education that could be so much better. Everyone should go read the report.


12 people like this
Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2015 at 10:13 am

I applaud McGee for even speaking about innovation and trying to move the district in that direction. It won't be perfect, but he's at least making the effort rather than ignoring it.

Having said that, the kids falling through the cracks problem is a whole different discussion, at least while the district continues to gloss over the trust problem. If the district, McGee especially, does not deal with thte trust problem, the employees involved will ultimately be a stumbling block to true innovation. Innovation and openness go together, especially today. Any forces, practices,or personnel actively thwarting openness and honesty, will by default be thwarting the potential of collaboration, communication, connectedness, and ... innovation.

A new program will not help kids falling through the cracks so long as the district continues to allow behavior that effectively opens those cracks and actively sweeps some kids and families into them. Innovation isn't a top down phenomenon, it's a user-borne phenomenon (see research by von Hippel). And it's in doing the hard work of solving problems (not hiding or glossing over the pain or damage they cause) that you find true innovation. Necessity is the mother if invention. If everyone is fine, why innovate? It seems to me one of the above posters hit the hypocrisy nail on the head: if the district wants to innovate, at some point they are going to have to come to terms with the fact that things are not all fine. Unless it does so honestly, the usual ugly effects if hypocrisy will thwart the best intentions.


9 people like this
Posted by Cele Quaintance
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2015 at 10:30 am

Fabulous idea. When schools get too big, really special kids get lost or plowed under. The idea of trying something a little different is also great. Thanks. My kids are way out of PA schools but the schools in my community still matter.


17 people like this
Posted by MI all over again
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 27, 2015 at 10:59 am

This reminds me of Mandarin Immersion. We get something great for a few lucky lottery winners but nothing for everyone else. Remember foreign language in elementary schools? Do we have that yet? Nope. Everyone down there talking about how great this will be have a few things in common: - they don't live in greenmeadow. 2100 car trips per day!!! - they are largely ohlone families meaning they like choice schools - they pulled their kids to send them to private schools to avoid Jordan - they haven't thought from the perspective of those who would not win and those who would have 2100 cars per day into their neighborhood Why don't we fix Jordan instead of create a choice school? I heard a lot of people who think that Jordan is not good enough for their kid. That sounds like a reason to fix Jordan not a reason to send 2100 cars down Middlefield. Doesn't anyone notice the irony of the elementary report saying we need to "fix Barron park" to solve the elementary school problem and the middle school report saying we need a new school rather than fix the existing broken one? A lot of people with private agendas have driven this process in nontransparent ways. Choice schools drive traffic. They create winners and losers (mostly losers).


12 people like this
Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2015 at 11:35 am

@MI,
With all due respect, there will not be 2100 cars. At Gunn and Paly, half the kids bike already.

The district may talk a big game about innovating, but all the internal politics add up to making them big chickens (dinosaurs) in fact. The only way they will open a 3rd high school is if there is a choice program. It has the advantage of not forcing anyone out of their designated school that they bought that expensive house to be near. But a choice program also allows the district to try things it would be scared to try at Gunn or Paly, also a good thing. The answer to a problem - like choice programs emding up exclusive - is to solve it, not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Critics of MI have a point that we never got FLES, but in the years since MI came in, who of them made the efforts of the MI group in getting MI, to make FLES happen? You might feel it shouldn't have been necessary, and that may be true, but this is the real world. If you want the district to change, you have to put in the effort.

And I don't mean just volunteering, because it's clear there are very few mechanisms to move the district to act even when it's a matter of life and death. I mean doing what the Maybell neighbors did and changing the law, in the schools case that means creating the ability to change the law so that there are healthy mechanisms and checks and balances. You should be able to expect that if a choice program becomes exclusive, that you can do something swift and effective about it (i.e., more than just talking to the hand at 25 Churchll at board meetings). That ability currently does not exist - but it can be created. In fact, it is sorely needed and overdue. Creating it will not be easy. But giving the community more leverage and checks and balances is not only good for our district, it would allow the community to expect that concerns like yours expressed above will be addressed, because community members have the power to do so. If you want the power to do that, though, that mechanism has to be created. It doesnt currently exist such as at state and city level.


7 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 27, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Optimist's caution & MI all over again - If nothing else, this helps ALL students by reducing middle and high school sizes across the board. It might be more fair if Cubberley was reopened as a neighborhood school, and optional project based tracks were introduced to all the middle and high schools, but this is better than nothing.


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 27, 2015 at 12:57 pm

The traffic part of this argument is a swings and roundabouts situation. Some will travel further by car, others will be able to walk or bike.

Don't worry about where deckchairs are placed on the Titanic.


10 people like this
Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2015 at 12:59 pm

@Slow Down,
I'm not sure if you understood me -- I have been advocating for the opening of Cubberley for many years, as a choice program. I have been advocating for innovation in the district for many years.

But it wouldn't help ALL students, because it wouldn't help mine, and a lot of other families I know who left the district for similar reasons. What would help us would be the district dealing with the trust problem.


13 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 27, 2015 at 1:52 pm

I am a resident of Green meadow, and I have a child attending PAUSD. I live right behind Cubberley, and I fully support a middle/high school in this location.

I don't think the traffic in Green meadow is going to be significantly worse than it already is. ( Try driving through Nelson drive during a soccer game pickup/drop off, you will see what I mean) Plus, most kids in middle/high school bike - even if they live at the other end of the town.

We need more schools like Ohlone. There is always Gunn & Paly for those who want to push themselves. However some of us just need a peaceful existence.

Hoping the board will act fast on this proposal.


7 people like this
Posted by Calling BS
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 27, 2015 at 2:01 pm

No one who actually lives in Greenmeadow wants a choice school at Cubberley. That definitely sounds wrong to me.


3 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 27, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Calling BS,

Hmmm, I know people who live in Greenmeadow who have their kids attend choice programs and would be happy to have one at Cubberley.

Lot of misinformation in this thread--it's not 1050 kids, it's 150--so, no, not a huge traffic impact--particularly as a number of the kids would live within walking/biking distance. This is, after all, an area that's seen a lot of growth in enrollment. By making it a choice program, people who want their kids to go to Gunn will have that option.

*If* the program is successful and becomes more in demand, I think it makes complete sense to give families in the Cubberley draw area priority enrollment.

This is not like Mandarin Immersion--MI took up classroom space at a school with a long waiting list that had been approved for a half-strand expansion and led to a gigantic elementary. The Cubberley proposal is a way of using new space and relieving some of the overcrowding at the middle and high schools--and by having families volunteer to be part of this experiment instead of forcing people into it.

That said, I'm glad Dauber's still talking about the elementary school--no, Max, it is *not* okay to have mega-elementaries. It is *not* okay to pretend there won't be growth at the elementary-school level when there's tremendous pressure on Palo Alto to accommodate more residents.


10 people like this
Posted by Palo Verde mom
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 27, 2015 at 2:38 pm

I don't think transportation needs to be such a failure point for a choice school. 1. Lots of kids who are local may opt for the new school site and walk and bike there instead of driving to Gunn. 2. What about bringing back busses? PAUSD or VTA could add routes. 3. Cubberley has space for parking. Cars won't need to be in the neighborhoods. The only way to get on campus driving is off Middlefield Rd. . 4. A choice school doesn't necessarily mean more drivers. Ohlone has one of the highest (or the highest) bike ridership of all the elementary schools. It's not necessarily true that just because people come from farther away, that they drive. Some kids like to ride, and Palo Alto isn't that big a city.

As to having a choice school, versus a "regular school". We have had ample time to add project based learning to middle and high schools, and only JLS has actually chosen to do anything about that in their main program. They have added smaller groups within JLS to follow students and coordinate homework, are implementing learning targets, community experiences for the students, and added projects to help connect kids. They have worked extensively with Challenge Success.

Sharon Ofek and her teachers regularly go to conferences, and have pushed some very innovative programs not just in the connections program, but broadly through the school. They were influenced by having the Connections program on site, and seeing how successful it was for the students. It would be wonderful to have a program like that at Terman and Jordan. The administration and teachers there need to want to do it though. I predict that as the students from JLS come in better and better prepared to the high schools, that the other middle schools will want to adopt those programs. It's easier to adopt change when you see success.

Educational change is hard, time consuming, and messy. We will find what works, by going through educational ideas that don't, and modifying them until they do. But in order for change to be successful, teachers, parents, and students all need to work together to find the best path. Teachers at our overcrowded schools are already dealing with a lot. Asking them to add significant open ended and experimental change without reducing their student workloads is unreasonable. A choice program would give teachers a chance to start off trying something new, with a cohort of people (parents and students) who are committed to making it work, and who want to be there. Once ideas are shown to work, there could be collaborations with our other schools to show how to easily implement whatever target programs they were interested in.

Again, I would point out that JLS has added a great deal of wonderful change lately. And the teachers involved want to do it, it's a small cohort doing the bulk of the work, and they are committed to making it work, and strongly supported from above. They have done an amazing job of introducing some real, cohesive change into their program that aligns perfectly with the district's stated goals and I will be very interested to see how the students rate the program. It looks great as a parent.

Change is hard, and at first glance, neighborhood schools seem easier to administrate and organize than choice schools. But if we are going to introduce change, we need to draw people who are committed to making it work, early adopters, to push it through to success. There is no known safe path here. What we risk by continuing on as before, is that we continue to educate our students with a methodology that was designed in the 1900's, for factory workers. We need something better for our students here, they deserve our best. Rather than being afraid of change, we should rush to meet it. We can do it.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 27, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Optimist's caution - I understand your complaint, and what I am suggesting is that smaller schools will help the trust issue. So opening Cubberly helps everyone whether is a choice program or not.


2 people like this
Posted by JLS Connections Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2015 at 2:47 pm

>> Lot of misinformation in this thread--it's not 1050 kids, it's 150

Where did 150 come from? That wouldn't even accommodate the kids coming out of Connections over the next three years.


3 people like this
Posted by Another opar
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 27, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Just a note that the recommendations included two prongs. The new school AND a recommendation to create "houses" at existing schools to better connect the students to other students and teachers, relieve academic pressure, and extend project-based learning.

A new school would benefit the whole district, if done right. Teachers can share learning extend successful programs to other schools. I frequently hear that other elementary schools now focus on SEL because it has been so successful at Ohlone.

I agree that I would prefer a district that could meet everybody's needs, rather than creating a culture of winners and losers. Let's expand the desired programs to meet those needs.


9 people like this
Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm

@Slow Down,

"@Optimist's caution - I understand your complaint, and what I am suggesting is that smaller schools will help the trust issue. "

You may be speaking about other trust issues. I am speaking about trust problems that come from individuals in the district office (that does flow through to the school level, but is not an issue of school size). That wouldn't change with 100 smaller schools. It would change if the district had higher standards of honesty and ethics for its employees, a commitment to a culture of openness and honesty, and a willingness to set things right, honestly, when they go wrong.

I'm for more optimally sized schools. It won't change the trust issue I was speaking to.


4 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 27, 2015 at 5:04 pm

I will support a neighborhood school instead of choice school. This will allow local south east PA kids to go to a nearby school. I remember my kids used to bike to Gunn, but it is far especially in a raining day or late in school due to activities. If it is a local school, it can also reduce the traffic to Gunn which is really bad in the morning.


8 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 27, 2015 at 5:35 pm

The correct number is 1050 -- 600 middle school (all being driven for the most part) and 450 high school (mostly driving themselves)., The cars will enter the neighborhood on Nelson to drop behind Cubberley in order to avoid the traffic gridlock that will be Middlefield Road after this begins.

There is no reason [portion removed] to make the Middle School a choice school. I see the reasons to make the HS a choice school -- it will not be a comprehensive HS so students who want that should not be slotted to this school based on where they live. However, there is no justification for making the MS choice. That is 1200 car trips per day. Like going to Piazzas? Forget it. Like the Mitchell Park Library? Nope, that's over.

[Portion removed.]

It should be a neighborhood school, just a 4th middle school. Make it "innovative" if that's the buzzword you like. Obviously Max wants to give a Ted Talk or something. I agreed with all the parent comments. But I do not agree that the benefits they are seeking should go to a select group only. This is a 600 student middle school, and probably larger. It will be 1/4 of our middle school students. Why would we allow it to be better than all the others? [Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 27, 2015 at 5:46 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 27, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Oops, the misread on my part--okay, so 100-150 students per grade. In that case, then, yes, there should be neighborhood priority, but people in that area should still have the Gunn option at the high-school level. (How are you getting more middle-school students than high school students, given that middle school is 3 years and high school 4?)

Neighborhood priority seems like a reasonable compromise to me--most Ohlone kids do live within biking/walking distance. I don't see why this wouldn't be the situation with Cubberley. As it is, it's a long way to Gunn for anyone living in Sterling Gardens.

As someone else mentioned, buses are another option. A chunk of Paly kids take the Marguerite and downtown shuttles to Paly. One of the pluses of the Cubberley site (besides it being designed to actually be a high school with playing fields) is that it's on a main road with with a parking lot and a controlled intersection.

We already have major traffic issues because of the overcrowding at Gunn (Arastradero's not a big street and a lot of kids are crossing El Camino) and Paly (the infamous Embaracero/T&C light). Overall, this could reduce traffic issues in the city.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 27, 2015 at 6:06 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Optimist's caution - Smaller schools should mean more direct personal relationships with teachers and school administrators. Ideally, you should never even have to deal with the district office, but overcrowded unresponsive schools is one reason that is having to happen now.


Like this comment
Posted by JLS Connections Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2015 at 7:46 pm

>> okay, so 100-150 students per grade.

I still don't know what the source of your information is.

>> it will not be a comprehensive HS so students who want that should not be slotted to this school based on where they live

Again, if this is not a true, comprehensive high school, that will cause it to fail. If the district is trying to project-based instruction, this would be the way to do it.


10 people like this
Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2015 at 7:52 pm

@Slow Down,
"Smaller schools should mean more direct personal relationships with teachers and school administrators. Ideally, you should never even have to deal with the district office, but overcrowded unresponsive schools is one reason that is having to happen now."

When your child has to have any kind of accommodation, for health, for disability, for learning differences, you deal with the district office. People who have the power to take out their personal grievances can make life hell for children and parents by influencing the teachers and school administrators, and interfering with every interaction. This has nothing to do with school size, but with an unhealthy administration in which school personnel have too much power and little to no accountability. This will not improve with a third high school. The schools need to be smaller for lots of reasons, but the trust problem I am speaking of is not one of the negatives that will be fixed. You and I are both speaking about trust, but we are speaking about different things.


19 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2015 at 6:54 am

I'm sad that these type of improvements cannot be implemented in our current High Schools now. If this is such a powerful change - why should we wait to open another school - why can't we make changes now to our existing schools?

My children come home every day and say they "hate" school. Its so boring. The teachers just talk and talk. Thinking is not required.

Please make changes to our High Schools now. We do not have to wait years for a new school to bring changes that will make our children stronger, resilient, and appreciate their unique abilities.


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Posted by Size of school
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2015 at 6:56 am

@JLS Connections Parent - The size comes from slide 40 of the presentation to the Board.
"Start with 100-150 students per grade = 700 -1050 total size. This is roughly 1/8 or 12%of our current secondary school enrollment"


7 people like this
Posted by Heidi Reicherter
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 28, 2015 at 8:02 am

Wonderful idea! We applaud the board's innovation and look forward to hearing more about this new project. After all of the horrific tragedies at Gunn, having a fresh start option for MS/high school for our kids is music to our ears.
Maybe the district will take APA's advice and start this school later as well, for the well being of our kids? I read yesterday in Stanford Magazine that MA is implementing a 9:15 AM start time twice a week. Starting this new school at 8:30 or 9 AM would make a huge difference toward greater well being. Palo Alto should lead the charge in innovation in our public high schools. Perhaps we could do like France does, and provide healthy, whole food meals for our kids as well? We are, perhaps, the richest (in both wealth and innovation) city in America at this point. And we need to set an example of how best to care for our youth.

Thanks, PAUSD board and parents!






1 person likes this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2015 at 12:11 pm

@Lisa

> There has been no input sought from Barron Park people about any of this.

That's not true. Ms Olbrich is on the EMAC, lives in Barron Park and is a PiE chair at BPES. She and two other EMAC members in their "minority response" recommended maintaining JB/BPES as neighborhood schools. They propose is to open both to intra-district transfers. That doesn't make sense to me, since this would obviously add more out of area car trips.

> people in Barron park will resist mightly and with good reason

Read the EMAC report linked in the Weekly's article. They give a pretty blunt answer to the Board's questions and your criticism. Essentially, you've got to convince the 47% of kids that pick choice programs over BPES that they should stay at Barron Park. Here's what they say: "BPES is a choice program, it’s YOUR LAST CHOICE." (page 17)

If you can convince Barron Park families that the school is worth attending, maybe you'll have a chance. We sent our kids to Barron Park and took them out, one of them in mid-semester.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 28, 2015 at 7:50 pm

PAUSD Parent,

There has been some innovation at the current high schools--TEAM, Social Justice pathway, the sports pathway at Paly all try to increase the amount of integrated learning. Connections at JLS, of course. But there's a lot of status quo to buck--remember when the principal at Gunn just tried to get all the teachers to use Schoology and how there was a teacher's union grievance?

Bill,

47 percent in the BPE draw area choose to go elsewhere? Are the numbers any thing like that for the other elementaries? As someone who pulled your kids out can you give me a general idea of the kinds of issues at Barron Park? Most parents I know, even if they applied for a lottery program, will tell me that their neighborhood school was great, though I've heard of stressed-out kids here and there.

That almost half the kids in the draw area go elsewhere strikes me as a greater concern than BP's low spot on test scores (which aren't great for Palo Alto, but just fine compared to the state.)


2 people like this
Posted by Barron Park parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2015 at 11:00 pm

This is a very misleading use of data by the people who want to turn BP into a choice school. The kids who go to choice schools from Barron Park are those from Ventura who live on the other side of El Camino and they go to Hoover, which is very nearby and they don't have to cross El Camino. That's all but just a few.




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Posted by JLS Connections Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2015 at 11:10 pm

If Cubberley is not a comprehensive high school, project-based learning will fail at the HS level in Palo Alto.

Please PAUSD, be smart!

Many of us know that project-based education is every bit as challenging and potentially even more challenging and successful than direct instruction, but high school is too important to ask kids to give up all of the other fantastic and critical curriculum available to all other PAUSD students.

So many kids find their "heart" in band, art, foreign language, choir, student newspaper, film, sports, advanced math, advanced science, social justice, etc. Creating a new school that offers only project-based learning but little or none of the rest of what makes our PAUSD high schools fantastic is destined to fail,and will fail most of the students that attend it in the process.

Opening Cubberley as a fully-functioning middle and/or high school is the only logical course.

Implementing a project-based strand at every middle and high school is ridiculously easy and it is shameful that PAUSD continues to ignore the success of the Connections program at JLS.

Project-based learning is the way of the future for all students, as it not only teaches the curriculum but it also engages the kids to a much higher extent (and thus they truly LEARN the curriculum so much better) and also teaches them to THINK, as opposed to just wash, rinse, repeat.

For those that want Spanish or Mandarin immersion, designate a school site for those programs and keep it a lottery with a minimal budget. In my opinion, district dollars should be spent teaching ALL elementary kids foreign language, and "immersion programs," should be eliminated as they do not belong in public school.


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Posted by JLS Connections Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2015 at 11:18 pm

>> The kids who go to choice schools from Barron Park are those from Ventura who live on the other side of El Camino and they go to Hoover, which is very nearby and they don't have to cross El Camino.

Oh my gosh! How broken is our school district that they have elementary kids crossing El Camino Real to get to their "neighborhood" school!!!!

STOP DEDICATING ENTIRE SCHOOL SITES TO CHOICE PROGRAMS!


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:53 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Barron Park parent - there are ~35 kids from Ventura at Hoover/Ohlone/Escondido, and ~40 from BP.


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Posted by Barron Park parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:28 am

I am concerned about opening a new small middle school at Cubberley. Our middle schools are extremely overcrowded. Yet Dr. McGee is not proposing to open a new middle school of a normal size (600-700 students) to relieve that overcrowding. He is proposing a 450 student middle school (150 per grade). The numbers posted above are incorrect.

450 students will do nothing to relieve the overcrowding in our current middle schools, which are bursting.

Then he proposes a 600 student high school. Yet our high schools just finished a massive building campaign that made them larger. They are not overcrowded at all. So this is not necessary.

This seems like the wrong proposal entirely and it is so wrong that I wonder where it came from.

-- we need a full size middle school, which is not a choice program. We have to relieve overcrowding at the current 3 middle schools. That means we need to get more than 450 students out of there, and we need to do it not by sending cars to Cubberley and snarling traffic for commuters trying to get to the 101 along Charleston and San Antonio.

-- we need no new high school. We need to fix the 2 high schools we have. I agree that these high schools are to big and we shouldn't have built them larger but should have opened a third comprehensive high school at Cubberlely long ago. But that ship sailed when Townsend and Caswell and their ilk voted to use the bond money to enlarge Gunn and Paly. They were greedy for the rental income from Cubberley and they made a bad call. That is irreversible unless you want to take a wrecking ball to the new construction over there.

-- A new vanity high school might be a "nice to have" but it is not a "must have" like a new full size middle school.

Our high schools have serious issues. It is a terrible waste of management time and attention to go chasing after the shiny new penny of a new, essentially charter or semi-private choice high school when we have zero college ready black students and counseling programs that are terrible by everyone's admission at Gunn. There are real and serious problems to fix and this will be a giant distraction for an unnecessary end.

If parents are voting with their feet and exiting for private school let's fix the high schools we have not build these advantaged individuals a new school we don't need.

-- we need at least one new elementary school to relieve overcrowding at Palo Verde and in the south cluster. That should also be at Greendell/Cubberley.

When you really take a step back and look at what the document need is and what is being proposed, it is pretty shocking.

--We have documented need for a new middle school. Yet what is being proposed will serve only 450 students selected by lottery. This will leave our three current middle schools at the very top of the "acceptable" size range -- too large.

--We have a documented need for at least one and maybe 2 elementary schools. This proposal dumps portables on the playground at Nixon and kicks the can down the road.

--We have no documented need for a new high school. Yet this plan diverts district resources into a new third high school of 600 students, also picked by lottery and leaves the rest of them to their fate. Do you think that once 300 students are subtracted from Gunn and Paly that class sizes will fall? No, they will fire those teachers. They don't want them at the new school -- this is going to be "BOLD" and "NEW" with entirely new teachers etc. So your students will be in the same size classes but in a larger now somewhat empty building getting the same outdated curriculum and the same racially biased outcomes with the same terrible counseling. All the good things will be across town for the lucky lotto winners.

This is not what public schools are supposed to do and if this school board approves this self-aggrandizing proposal by McGee they should all be recalled. This is a waste of taxpayer dollars in the service of one man's vanity project.


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Posted by Middle School Parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 29, 2015 at 6:15 pm

I'm happy to see Palo Alto embracing project based learning. It is definitely something that would be wonderful to roll out into all our schools. But I'm shocked at how much support people are showing to a solution that for the most part ignores the problems of over-enrollment for the unlucky 6000+ secondary students (90% of the secondary student population) that will not receive any benefit from this new school. And I'm not talking about project-based learning. I'm talking about the problems of over-enrollment, which can't by solved by just moving 50 or 100 kids out of school that is over-enrolled by 400-500 students. Let's not kid ourselves, for this new school to be successful, teachers will have to have lighter loads at the beginning and maybe for years to come and class sizes will necessarily have to be smaller. But this is exactly what our current schools need right now to be successful, so why aren't we giving it to them? This alone would greatly reduce the problems with over-enrollment today. Ms. Caswell stressed that we not leave behind the existing middle and high schools in the excitement of a new school, but that is exactly what will happen unless the board forces this subcommittee to address (with tangible solutions) the over enrollment problems in our current schools. Let's put maximum class size caps on all classrooms and let's add support staff, like counselors, proportionately, based on the number of students in the school, plus let's add elective classes proportionately. Shouldn't we implement a solution to the over-enrollment problems for the 6900 secondary students that are struggling with the effects of over-enrolmment today, before we go off and spend millions of dollars (even if it is donated money) for the lucky few that will win the lottery.


4 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:40 pm

BP Parent,

Thank you for the info about Ventura--yes, it makes sense that families there would apply for a choice school when their neighborhood school isn't in the neighborhood--it's a shame that the district sold the Ventura site--it's fairly central and could handle some of the south cluster issues as well as keeping kids from having to cross El Camino.

However, a small middle school of 450 kids would, indeed, alleviate the crowding at the middle schools and get all of them under a thousand kids, which I believe is the district's goal. A small high school of 600 kids would get Gunn and Paly under 2,000 students (new construction doesn't create a bigger campus or make it easier to monitor 2,000 kids--so, yes, the district *does* need a new high school. Remember, the kids who filled our elementary schools to bursting are now on their way to the upper grades.) Kids who aren't at the new schools would still benefit from being at less crowded schools.

Like the middle and high schools, we still have several oversized elementaries, so while there may not be tons of growth in the future (though never say never as far as Palo Alto is concerned), we need a 13th elementary and have for several years. I'm still interested in Ken Dauber's suggestion--move the immersion students to Garland (since there's extra room at Duveneck now and no place to build dense housing in the Garland draw area). This frees up Escondido for the incoming Stanford housing and frees up space at Ohlone which could then be used for kids in the neighborhood.

The report says that a 13th elementary would cost a bit over a million annually to run. I'd think with our runaway housing prices and, thus, rising property tax base that this is doable in PA and should have been done years ago.

One last practical note--Silicon Valley types are big on changing education right now--it's pretty clear that there's some funding for a project-based learning school--I'd say getting more classrooms is worth the trade-off of choice v. neighborhood high schools--particularly the desirability of our regular high schools. I don't see a huge loss here for anyone--though traffic management needs to be improved. That's doable though and a south cluster high school would probably reduce Arastradero/Charleston traffic to Gunn.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:50 pm

JLS Parent,

The fact that Ventura kids go to Barron Park has *nothing* to do with choice programs. It has everything to do with Palo Alto shutting down a third of its elementary schools in wake of Proposition 13 and the baby bust that followed the Baby Boom. Ohlone and Hoover, the two choice schools that arose in the wake of this were attempts to *attract* students to the district.

After Proposition 13 (which drastically cut school funding), Palo Alto shuttered a third of its elementaries, Terman and Jordan middle schools and Cubberley. When I first moved here, there was talk of shutting Gunn. The district did, however, have enough sense to hold on to some of its school properties--Jordan and Terman (I remember when Terman was a library), chunks of Cubberley, Greendell, Garland and Palo Alto Hills. Ventura was taken over by the city.

Ohlone and Hoover both took over sites that were closed due to poor funding and lower enrollment. Many of the city's parks used to be school grounds.


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Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 21, 2015 at 10:07 pm

I just was sent this facebook link -- it is circulating wildly right now on many different email groups.

Web Link

It seems that the EMAC secondary subcommittee (including our Superintendent Max McGee) have already been working behind the scenes for months on this new school, which already has a name -- "Wayfinder." The design task force McGee is "asking" the board to "appoint" already exists and already has designed the school. The whole thing is very odd.

Apparently some wealthy VCs were already working on this Wayfinder as a Charter or private school and then they got McGee to agree to do their school behind the scenes. An application was already filed describing both the problems with the district's existing schools (which is a pretty upsetting read) and the need for this new school and what it would look like with a lot of specifics -- and a grant proposal submitted.

It's all on facebook, including the fact that McGee was an author of this report and is identified as part of the Wayfinder "team) (which appears to be headed by wealthy VCs and charter school advocates).

Without getting into the specifics of their proposal, this process is broken. McGee is actively urging the public to lobby the school board -- he's hosting something called an "Innovation Town Hall" to push for this private Wayfinder proposal being funded by our tax dollars -- 70M plus millions annually in operating costs. This is unbelievable. You have to see this to believe it.

In the proposal, McGee says that our schools have only paid "lip service" to the suicides (not clear how this VC [portion removed] dream "Wayfinder" is going to prevent suicide, but if he really thinks that, why isn't he doing more, since he is the man in charge). He also says we are doing a bad job with minority students. No argument there, but why open a new choice school to solve that problem?

What kind of process is this? Does the school board just rubber stamp a $70M basically private school pitched by a bunch of rich VCs behind the board's back? Did the board know but keep it from the public? I don't see any mention of this in any of the prior articles about the EMAC or board meetings. Is it possible that a whole private school initiative being backed by a bunch of rich VCs and pitched to the Super and a whole grant proposal for private money was written by McGee and the board didn't even know?

There is a major process and governance issue breakdown here. And I personally am not happy with the language in this proposal that McGee was an author of -- it is very denigratory of our district and our teachers. What about the teachers? This proposal says that the teachers' union contract with be "flexible." Was the union involved or consulted? What about parents? What about students?

What I also don't understand is all the people who support this who seem to think that their kids are going to get to go to this school. I get that you are rich, but has McGee promised people preferences in the lottery in exchange for money?

How can we be this far down the road in the planning and the public does not know it? Why is McGee asking the board to appoint a task force to do what he already did? That's just weird.

The next round of proposal is due Feb. 1. It seems like there must have been a Brown Act violation because McGee must have consulted the board members and known that they were going to go along with this, in order to get this far down the road with it. The whole thing smells like a backroom deal -- it reminds me of the City Council and Arrillaga. is the Weekly going to investigate? When? This "Innovation Town Hall" is scheduled for next week. Better get going.

I have so many questions right now. If McGee didn't tell the board about this I think he should be terminated. The EMAC appears to have been hijacked by these private interests and private money. There was a backroom deal. This is just really unbelievable.

Even if I liked the idea (and of course I don't even know about it not being a billionaire I did not get the special Max McGee treatment and did not get the memo) I don't think this process is fair or inclusive. If this goes through we should recall the board and fire McGee and start over.


5 people like this
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2015 at 10:31 pm

@choice for the few
You refer to an application. Can you share the link or post it? Is this a charter school application? Would love to see more of the documents.


21 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 21, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Yes it's right here on the facebook group. Web Link


Does anyone know how this happened? Has the public already been told about this Wayfinder school and the "XQ" application and I just missed it? I googled around for it and I don't see anything about Wayfinder on paloaltoonline.

However, looking at the application you can tell who is behind it and it looks like McGee, the members of the EMAC, a bunch of Charter School people like Jennifer Carolan from Bullis Charter School, some VCs, etc. There is clearly a PR campaign to sell the public and the board on Wayfinder in a very professional and advanced stage.

I feel confused about what McGee is up to. This application says for example that the school board political process is characterized by "inertia," and unable to innovate. Is that something the super should be saying? Seems imprudent.

What really bothers me though is the way this application uses the suicides to pitch for this VC school. It says "Tragically at least 10 Palo Alto teens have taken their own lives in the past decade, including 4 during the 2014-15 school year. We must do something to create a school and community culture that values the mental health of our students -- not just pay lip service to it."

OK. Wow.

Max McGee is an author of this document. Max McGee is the superintendent of schools. If Max McGee believes that the schools have not done enough to prevent suicide, and is only giving it lip service, why isn't Max McGee doing a better job at it. Why isn't Max McGee shouting from the rooftops that he needs more money, more whatever he needs to do more? I missed that part of the board meeeting.

This is not very well thought out, to say the least.

Does anyone want to give more information about what is going on with this? I am personally really interested in knowing whether the public was told about this, when the decision was made, what the role of these very rich VCs has been?

This seems like 27 University all over again. Secret deals with rich people. Lots of these government employees get stars in their eyes when they get to sit down with the billionaires. They think that they are getting to be Queen for a Day.


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Posted by XQ insider
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2015 at 9:20 am

- XQ only provides 2 million dollars per year over 5 years -- even if a school wins. It is not enough money to worry about for a district like Palo Alto.

- preference is going to be given to public schools that can show that the school significantly improves underserved minority performance and enhances civil rights. Palo Alto, as one of only a handful of known civil rights violators of the rights of disabled students is a poor candidate. This is particularly true given that the person making the decision is Russlynn Ali, former Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, who was running the department when the Terman finding against PAUSD was issued, and whose leadership was publicly attacked by our school board, which passed a Resolution condemning Ali and her department.

- Max McGee is on the application as a "Team Member." It is his application. He submitted it on behalf of the district.

- Applications have to be submitted by the public school making the application and have to warrant that they are not using the name or likeness of anyone who is not actually a team member. The rules clearly state that no one can warrant or apply on behalf of anyone else. If Max is not the applicant on behalf of PAUSD, then the application has to be disqualified.

"The submission does not contain materials embodying the names, likenesses or other identifying indicia of others, other than Team Entrant (and Participants of Team Entrant), without written permission"

Here are the rules: Web Link

The "team" including Max McGee was also required to submit with its application "written permission for any non-Participant individuals whose name, likeness, or other identifying indicia is included in the Team Entrant’s Initial Entry." In order for McGee to claim that he isn't a Team Member, he is disqualifying the entire application. So Max, you will not be able to say that you don't know how your picture got on the application. Or if you do, the application is voided.

- In Max's Friday "Weekly" from this week he mentioned something about "the group" and some d-school "fellow" submitting the application but that is not true. The application had to be submitted essentially by him, because he is the only member of the group legally authorized (if he indeed really is) to warrant on behalf of PAUSD that this will be a public school.

This is totally misleading.

- Not only is McGee on the XQ "Team," he also put all the district EMAC committee members such as Joe Lee, Mark Romer, and Diane Reklis and others on the team too. This district committee, along with the Superintendent, authored and submitted an application committing it to build this new Wayfinder school. They warranted and promised that they had the authority and ability to make the application even though the board has not been informed let alone approved it yet.

-Wayfinder school (which as shown above consists of McGee, Romer, Lee, Reklis, Tsrenchko and the other EMAC members as well as several Charter School activists and VCs in the area like Kevin Efrusy and his wife, has set up a Facebook Page. This page, which is created and managed by the group that submitted the XQ application urges the public to lobby the board and provides board member email addresses so that the public can do that.

Let's be clear. Max McGee is now publicly lobbying the board through a Facebook page set up by and managed by the group that is supporting/promoting the Wayfinder school, which includes Max McGee and the members of EMAC as members of the leadership team.

Max McGee has now set up a Town Hall and a Webinar the point of which is to PROMOTE the Wayfinder school and get the public to LOBBY THE SCHOOL BOARD for it. The Board has not been told about Wayfinder, at least not in public. The board does not know about who is backing it, who the players are, what they are doing, or why. The board has been actively misled (at least in public) into thinking that all they are being asked to vote for is a design task force and McGee told them (in public anyway) that the outcome of the task force was not predetermined -- it could conclude anything. He did not tell them (in public anyway) that not only was the outcome already predetermined, the school already had a name, a design, a design team, and a grant application.

So, now the question is what did McGee tell Melissa Caswell and Heidi Emberling in private. Emberling is slated to become board president in a few weeks and when she heard the EMAC presentation said "sign me up." Did she mean it literally? What did she already know? When did she know it?

Did McGee really launch the district proposal to build and fund Wayfinder without telling the Board President and VP? That seems very unlikely. How could he make the guarantees that he can actually build the school that are required by the rules of the XQ competition without having cleared it with the current and incoming Board Presidents?

-In the unlikely event that PAUSD is selected as a "finalist" then the Superintendent has to go to a "finalist" reality show filming in which the "finalist" teams -- which will include community members, our Superintendent, and possibly students -- engage in filming a reality TV show about the competition. Did the Board approve this degrading sideshow? Yes, they must have, since the rules say that "Each Participant [including Max McGee] represents and warrants that she or he—or her or his teammates—has or have all rights in any and all parts of any Contest submission to be able to grant to Sponsor all rights and licenses set forth herein."

- The board should immediately require the Superintendent to withdraw this application that was submitted without board approval. This is premature, to say the least. The Superintendent has engaged in a design process with a group of private wealthy individuals, has used district resources to advance the goals of this group of private wealthy individuals behind the scenes, and has engaged in a private process that is completely divorced from the public process. He is asking the board to approve a design task force that is already in existence to design the Wayfinder school that is already designed for a school that the board has not yet voted to build or open.

This school will require the issuance of a $70M bond. The public will have to pay for this school and it will have to do it based on the desires and non-public deals made between McGee and a group of wealthy private individuals who have publicly stated that they want the school for their own children (who are not yet in middle school).

In response to the "Choice for a Few" poster, this makes 27 University look legitimate.

-Recap: McGee is using his position to advance the agenda of the "Wayfinder" proposal, formulated by a group of super-rich people, who are operating backstage with McGee. He used district resources (The EMAC committee and staff) to advance this agenda, and has already designed the school with a task force that is already working toward the Feb 1 deadline for the Reality Show Super School contest. McGee and the "Team" have already submitted the first round application for it. McGee and the "Team" have a facebook page, which urges the public to lobby the board. McGee and the "Team" are holding an "Innovation Town Hall" to gin up support for Wayfinder. McGee has never (publicly) informed the Board of any of the above facts, and issued the board misleading statements minimizing his involvement in this two days ago.

There are only 2 possibilities. Either McGee did not tell the board and now is engaged in lobbying them using the public to do it, or he did tell a majority and privately lobbied them and developed a majority off-line, which is a massive Brown Act violation.

Whether or not this Wayfinder school is or is not a good thing is beside the point now. As it stands, the outcome is predetermined, the process is a sham, and the brakes must go on. Board members and the community must be allowed to engage in the right process to examine all the alternatives and whether or not the billionaires' "Wayfinder" is what PAUSD wants or not.


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Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 22, 2015 at 9:42 am

The "Wayfinder" facebook page says that "We're gathering support for a new PAUSD secondary school designed to address the root of the problems facing our community."

What are the "root problems" that this new choice school will solve? Is this about suicide? The XQ application talks more about suicide than anything else so I am assuming it is. What about this new choice school will solve the suicide problem? I don't see the relationship between this and suicide. What other "root problems"?

Why is McGee posting to facebook about PAUSD's "root problems"? Does anyone else think that is weird?


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Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2015 at 10:12 am

Wow, that puts the district's complete denial of our request for partial independent study for our child (and others) - a kind of school/independent study hybrid - in a new light. If McGee was angling for rich people to pay for a school, our request for a way to accomplish something more flexible and instantly available to all kids in the district would probably have seemed a threat. It also puts his ignoring our complaints of retaliation by staff in a new light. Tragic, too, since I like the idea of the school (can't see how it will work in PAUSD, though, look at the difference between how Connections is billed and how it is actually implemented after 6th grade, it's like bait and switch). These kinds of innovations can only thrive in an environment of intellectual honesty and openness, which us anathema to the PAUSD district office culture.

XQinsider - we are looking at a really fast way to achieve an independent study center of gravity for all types of independent students,, but we didn't feel going through XQ was worth the effort when we could put the effort into just doing it. A little bit of funding could go a long way, though. Are there other initiatives related? This would not be a public school endeavor, it would be nonprofit, ironically, in order to be more fair and serve students our public schools aren't and won't.


19 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 22, 2015 at 11:29 am

I just finished a close reading of the XQ application that Max and the EMAC committee filed. It is full of revealing information. Just a few points of interest here.

Page 1. The proposal starts out by praising charter schools as "more nimble and innovative" and contrasts charter schools favorably to "our seemingly impervious traditional public education system." The application says that the reason for the PAUSD application is so that "we might bring innovation to Palo Alto Unified's more than 12000 students."

There is much to critique in just the first few sentences. First, the praise for charter schools as opposed to our district is really worrisome given that it is coming from the head of our district. I feel like I could and should just stop there and the board should now fire him. But I'll continue. Max evidently feels that a charter-like school such as PAUSD's proposed Wayfinder school is needed to "bring innovation" to PAUSD's "12,000 students." But even if it is true that this is the only way to "bring innovation" to our students trapped in our "traditional" system, this charterish application will bring it to 12% of our 4000 high school students at most.

Page 2. The application says that minority and poor students in PAUSD are "relegated to lower academic tracks" while affluent students "cannot find meaning in the ever more grueling arms race of AP tests . . and siloed courses designed for the industrial revolution."

Wow Ok. That's a pretty grim picture of our high schools being painted by our superintendent. Fair to assume that this is Max McGee's diagnosis of PAUSD after his one year of being here.

[Portion removed.]

Page 2. The PAUSD/Wayfinder proposal says that the new school will 'bring progressive and unfamiliar innovation to a community and school board political process where inertia and conservatism" are the rule.

Should the superintendent be criticizing the board in a public document like this? This struck me as very very impolitic to say the least.

The real issue here is not the board, it is that in school governance (unlike in Venture Capital), the process is democratic and open. A governmental planning process proceeds slowly because of the requirement of inclusivity. There was not a single teacher on this committee nor any principals nor any students. This proposal was never even exposed for public comment. This is not how a planning process for a transparent, open government works. that requirement of time-consuming process isn't a bug, it's a feature. It's democracy. Sorry Kevin Efrusy and Mark Romer [portion removed] if that is taking too long for your kids to get into the shiny new thing you want the government to build for you but that is what democratic government is. Not a bug. A feature.

page 3. PAUSD/Wayfinder [portion removed] members think that it is not just a school, it's a "moral obligation" to bring their idea to life. With or without the democratically elected leaders of the district -- our disobedience of the law and process and circumventing of the rules is a moral obligation. We are stealing medicine to save our sick child. Can't you see why this is ethical even when it appears unethical and even borderline illegal? [Portion removed.]

page 3. PAUSD is already sending out a survey to our 4000 high school students "to hear their thoughts about the Wayfinder school" and will "conduct one on one interviews and focus groups with teens at both our current high schools" about this even though the board has not even approved it. See above, the board must be circumvented, it's a "moral obligation."

page 4. This new PAUSD/Wayfinder school will stop teen suicide. All we have done so far, according to McGee and his [portion removed] buddies, is give the issue "lip service." Right now we don't "truly understand the needs of our students." Here is where Max McGee and the Wayfinder group blame the schools for the suicide cluster. This is bizarre, since McGee himself is the guy running the response and if he thinks that he is only giving it lip service, he should stop that and do more. I wish that guy McGee would "value the mental health of our students and not just pay lip service to it." [Portion removed.]

There are no counselors or mental health professionals on the committee, and no evidence that "Wayfinder" [portion removed] will prevent a single suicide. [Portion removed.]

page 4. "We're conducted focus groups with teachers and administrators at both of our high schools and their support for a new, more innovative high school is high." Actually the EMAC talked to two teachers. This isn't true, but if you wan't the truth, you are reading the wrong document. This is the one about "moral obligation."

page 4. The document includes loads of names of luminaries and their corporate names claiming that they are on board, will help, and just generally implying that they are part of the team. According to XQ insider, you have to have written permission from everyone you name and all corporate intellectual property: I am assuming that Lazlo Block, Google, High Tech High, Devin Vodicka, Sal Khan, Stanford University, Challenge Success, Tesla and Pixar all provided the required documentation. Stanford will excited to learn that it was represented as essentially a sponsor of this project with a "vested interest" (page 5) in it. [Portion removed.]















25 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 22, 2015 at 2:12 pm

I don't know about all the rest, but I am very upset to see that Dr. McGee was involved in something that appears to blame the school for the suicides. I don't agree with that at all. The XQ proposal doesn't give any info about how or why the new school will do a better job at preventing suicide, but if Dr. McGee thinks he knows how to prevent suicide better than he is doing at Gunn but he is not implementing that at Gunn, then I and other Gunn parents find that very very upsetting and wrong.

I think to be honest that he is using the sucides as a throwaway line, much like this line from the facebook group for the new school: "We're gathering support for a new PAUSD secondary school designed to address the root of the problems facing our community." I think using the suicides is really wrong and Dr. McGee owes the Gunn community and the parents of the victims a huge apology for going there. Even if this is what he thinks this is not the way to handle that.

Signed,
Gunn Parent of 2 alumni and 1 current student


3 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 22, 2015 at 2:41 pm

[Post removed.]


22 people like this
Posted by XQ insider
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2015 at 3:37 pm

The facebook group for Wayfinder/PAUSD was just edited to remove some of the criticism of the district, perhaps due to this thread on TS which criticizes Max's leveraging of the suicide cluster to support the PAUSD school grant application.

The facebook post previously read: "We're gathering support for a new PAUSD secondary school designed to address the root of the problems facing our community. It's time to innovate to bring deeper purpose and happiness to our students."

It was edited today to read: "We are gathering support for a new PAUSD secondary school that will focus on bringing purpose and connectedness to the student experience. Please join us in advocating for a design task force that will explore and propose how it might be done."

A friend just emailed before and after screenshots. This is getting a bit hard to watch.






10 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 22, 2015 at 5:28 pm

Dear XQ insider,
Could you please email those screen shots to the PAUSD school board? Thank you for making the public aware of how the Superintendent and the EMAC committee members inappropriately chose not to disclose their affiliation with the Wayfinder school and the details of the Wayfinder proposal. I hope that the Weekly will further investigate this story and that the district will respond by delaying the school board vote on the EMAC proposal to build the new school until the public is fully aware of how this proposal came about.


3 people like this
Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2015 at 8:42 pm

As much I can't believe I'm saying this given our experience - I hope everyone will look at the end goal and try to work with other parents to move our district toward innovation, overlook the warts. Even if this isn't perfect circmstances, there are so many worse things to pick on. The XQ had a deadline. It's hard to imagine anyone would choose PAUSD as the model of innovation at this point, especially with the super saying he can't change the district to innovate. But the effort is at least giving McGee an idea of the interest in this kind of education in the district.

In this case - don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The concern I have is that this ends up as yet one more thing the district has a different view than the community, uses for other purposes and it ends up being a shadow of what it could have been if done at all. I'm personally in favor of a charter at this point, because the district is so good at sucking the life out of things like this. Remember these are the same people who scared away a $40 million new Foothill campus on a fraction of that property. I hope thise developing it will have a parallel effort on the charter just in case. In fact, even if they get a district effort, ca charter could be just the thing to get the distric to do betterby our other students.


20 people like this
Posted by XQ insider
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2015 at 8:54 pm

Now they have removed the XQ application from the facebook group. I have a screenshot, also sent to me. At 3:48 today it read:

"We intend the new Palo Alto School to be part of the national movement to innovate secondary education. For example, this album contains our application for the XQ project." And then it included the entire 16 page application. Which is now gone.

The interesting thing about this fact, is that it associated the EMAC and Max McGee with the facebook group and with the Wayfinder school initiative, since the facebook group is maintained by the Wayfinder people,, points to the Wayfinder website, and refers to the application (of which McGee and all the members of the secondary EMAC committee are Team members and authors) as "our application for the XQ project."

I am not sure what removing it nets them. It just makes them look guilty.

The EMAC as a group [portion removed] misrepresented their findings to the school board during the meeting on 9/28. In that meeting, a powerpoint was presented (that is still posted to this facebook page and is probably also somewhere in a board packet on the district website). This entire more than 70 slides doesn't ever mention the history of the Wayfinder group coming to Max and the EMAC, pitching their idea, being adopted, adding Romer to the committee, and then the decision to pitch Wayfinder as a district school, merge the objectives of the two groups, and enter the XQ Contest. Not a word.

Where it should be mentioned is on Slide 3: Web Link

Slide 3 is titled "EMAC information sources" and it does not mention Kevin Efrusy, Mark Romer, their powerpoint (even though it was presented to the EMAC and became essentially the charter of the group, replacing the board-drafted charge). This is where [portion removed] the board was told by Joe Lee, Mark Romer, Max McGee, and the rest of the group that sat there through more than 2 hours of presentation (and then another board meeting on the same topic) and never even uttered a word about this source of information.

Incidentally this slide also says that they only consulted 2 teachers (both at Gunn) before deciding that teachers in the district can't innovate without a $70M new school paid for by taxpayer money. That is outrageous and the board should have simply rejected this proposal out of hand and also realized something was afoot. So we have here a proposal that concludes that our high schools are unfixable, that our teachers cannot innovate or implement innovative programming and that is based on talking to 2 teachers, 28 parents (only ~8 of whom are in secondary school, not stated how many in high schools), and 32 high school students. Yet 20 parents showed up to praise the conclusion that our schools are horrible centers of stultifying non-innovation. The board should have smelled a rat, especially the way the parents were all winking about the vast sums of donated money "waiting in the wings."

It is hard to know where this goes from here. Max McGee appears to have engaged a group of citizens on a board committee in a decision to fail to disclose key pertinent information to the board and then there were two board meetings in which nothing about this was said. A school has been designed, A design task force has already been meeting with Max's involvement in secret and without having been approved by the board. They submitted a grant proposal, and then started a facebook page aimed at promoting their school and lobbying the board to approve post-hoc what they already are doing.

I am not sure how to retain a Superintendent who would engage in that kind of conduct. There will be a lot of internal pressure on the board to try to find a way that this isn't as bad as it looks and to allow Max to pretend that he didn't do what he clearly did. From the perspective of governance, I am not sure that is the right idea. If you have a CEO who misleads the board and also engages other employees and reports in misleading the board you may just get more trouble down the line unless you deal sternly and clearly with that kind of situation. If you don't you are certain to get more of the same. If the misleading conduct is about whether he fudged his expense account once or twice, maybe that is not so bad. When it something of this magnitude I don't believe looking the other way is in the cards. If the board allows him to get away with this they can look forward to being misled about big things a lot more.


10 people like this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of University South
on Nov 22, 2015 at 11:23 pm

I think that all of our public schools should offer ALL students the same opportunities. A choice school is exclusive. PAUSD has worked so hard to send the message that we are an "all inclusive" school district, so it surprises me that instead of working to make all of our public schools innovative and choice for all students, they would even ponder this idea to open Cubberley as a choice school.


7 people like this
Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2015 at 12:51 am

@Sharon,
Regardless of how much I agree with you about fairness, the only way to get a project-based high school is to open one from scratch. There are too many philosophical differences across school populations. If the choice is very popular, it can quickly be moved to the other schools.

That said, I'm still having trouble with the fact that we asked for independent study for part of the day, and were told the district couldn't allow us to do that because pretty soon everyone else would want to and they even took independent study out of the catalog. They refused to give any information whatsoever about independent study practices in the district so we could at least understand the standard, despite informal and formal records requests. (I can't think of a single request for information, even student records, even when a child's safety is at issue, that has been properly filled by the district. Who enforces those laws, btw??) There are indeed many private schools in the area for billionaires. Well, you do shed a new light on McGee's wanting his own lawyer with him in the office, @XQ.




14 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 23, 2015 at 8:22 am

@Optimists -- I don't think you can have a fundamentally dishonest, closed, and undemocratic process that produces a good result. The ends don't and can't justify the means unless there's an emergency. Even then, it is never OK for public officials to mislead the public or cover-up the real reasons that they are doing something.You can't have unaccountable government officials who are off doing deals with wealthy prospective donors and then hiding those relationships.

I do think that this is worse than 27 University -- at least in that case the Council members were involved in the backroom deals. Here it appears that the board members were as in the dark and clueless as the rest of the public. Here McGee is carefully manipulating the board, feeding them only what he wants them to know, engaging the EMAC committee members in also withholding information from the board -- treating the board as completely optional and as something he can just ignore, manage, manipulate, and mislead.

Also, contra 27 University, in this case the cover-up has been sloppy and ham-fisted so as has been posted, we can see the facebook page edits as they happen in real time and the ongoing effort to wipe away Max's footprints. Now it says "come support a design task force to explore what is possible" instead of "come support the new school that will address the root problems in the district," but it's too late. The cat is out of the bag, and every edit to the page, which someone out there is apparently documenting through screengrabs, just makes McGee look more guilty. Now the question is how long until the page just disappears entirely. Which it should do.

One interesting fact about the ill-fated facebook page is that it only has about 135 likes and appears to have plateaued. Support for a choice program may not be very deep. Or it may be. But right now this process has been so corrupted and phony that we can't know.

Just because this school appears as of now to be something you might like does not make it a good reason to support passing it through a broken and nondemocratic process. Democracy isn't nimble, and doesn't even always lead to the right outcome, but it's a part of the price we pay for living in a democratic society. It's true that a benevolent dictator can do things faster and with less friction. It's true that if this was a privately held company, the proprietor can decide what to do, and in many corporate governance situations, even publicly held companies, the board defers to the wishes of the CEO. But that does not always work out even in the corporate world, which is why there are so many famous cases of board governance failures that we can point to -- from Enron on down.

But in a democracy, unlike in the private sector, we trade the dubious benefits of decisiveness for inclusivity and transparency.

What if this was something you were against, @optimists, such as a new school that focused on high stakes pressure and teaching to the test even more than we currently do. What if instead of Ohlone High it was Hoover High. And it was being rammed through in the dead of night by a Super who appears to feel that the board is an impediment, along with a group of rich Chinese donors who want such a school for their students who are emigrating here from China. There is undoubtedly demand for such a "testing academy" and such a school would be very very well received by a certain group of constituents. It would absolutely raise our property values as even more Chinese investors flood the market to have access to the kind of school they want. What if McGee met with these investors, saw a powerpoint proposal about Testing Academy, and just decided to do it, created a proposal for it and submitted it without informing the public, actively misled the board about it, and then launched a Testing Academy Town Hall to gin up public lobbying of the board for the new school. What if all that happened over the holidays when most of the public was paying attention to other things.

The ends do not justify the means. Just because you think you will like Wayfinder does not mean you should support this process. If Wayfinder is a good idea it will have support in 6 months too. If not, then that is democracy. We can't give the taxpayers the bum's rush.


10 people like this
Posted by confused
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2015 at 10:22 am

Choice for the few,

Do you know how this proposal for a brand new choice middle and high school campus at Cubberley squares with the enrollment committee's parent survey results that it shared in its report to the school board which says the opposite?

"New School or Not? Parents expressed desire to expand choice programs within our existing secondary schools, as opposed to delivering choice programs at a new expansion campus"

New school: 24% support
School within existing school: 76% support




16 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 23, 2015 at 10:41 am

I also noticed that. It is on slide number 65 of the EMAC Secondary Subcommittee report to the board on 9/28/15.

I think that is consistent with Palo Alto's general antipathy to choice programs. PAUSD families all want what is best for their students. They make big sacrifices to live here and they do not want to feel that they have to compete in a lottery to get something excellent.

I think some kinds of choice programs like language immersion are things that some parents want and others don't. In that case, you might conclude that opposition to "choice" would be less intense since everyone gets an excellent education and some choose immersion. The problem there was still profound since everyone wants foreign language and the money being expended for an immersion program for the few could have been expended for a good program for everyone. I think the MI debate will look tame compared to what this could look like based on the survey results.

The reason is that this school is being marketed by our own superintendent not as merely an issue of preference but as an issue of urgency. The XQ proposal makes it clear that the superintendent believes that changing course in our high schools is a matter of urgency. It is not merely that there are two equally good but different ways of doing high school -- he is saying that our current schools are bad, antiquated, and are in no small measure "the root cause of the serious problems in our community."

He is presenting the Wayfinder pedagogy is not only one option among many but as a necessity for the 21st century, for mental health, for equity, and for learning. He is saying there is a right way and a wrong way, and Paly and Gunn are the wrong way and Wayfinder is the right way.

I cannot imagine that there is a large group of parents out there who will think -- "Yes I want a 1 in 10 chance of sending my child to an excellent school with an appropriate pedagogy and a 9/10 chance of sending them to hell," but that is what Max McGee has set up.

Given that range of alternatives, no, I don't think there will be a lot of takers for a $100M bond to fund something so unequal in which 9/10 of taxpayers get the short end of the stick.

75% of parents want a 10/10 chance at an excellent education using great pedagogy, with equity and excellence for all.

That is why Ken Dauber said at the two board meetings to discuss this and in his blog that he does not think we can have these kinds of innovations locked in a choice school but have to spread them to everyone. Everyone wants these things and though it might be challenging to give them to everyone, that's the role of the district.

Private money does not solve the problem it worsens it. Private money introduces inequality even more. That's why we have PIE. Even if Wayfinder attracted donors, it would only mean that the funds would have to be distributed equally among schools. That's board policy.

If we think that our schools need an update from "the industrial revolution" per the Superintendent's Wayfinder proposal to XQ, then it is his job to fix that for everyone not just lottery winners and angel investors.


7 people like this
Posted by Duveneck mom
a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 23, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Can anyone tell me where I can find the EMAC report online? I would like to take a look at who was on the committee and what they recommended. Will this take money away from Paly and Gunn? I ask because it seems like it would be hard to have a small school for the same per-student cost that we spend at a large school. Does the report explain the economics of that?


5 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 23, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Duveneck mom,
This is the report.
Web Link
The committee suggest private funding to offset the operating costs of this new smaller school. This is in violation of our current district policy prohibiting site-based fundraising for staff ( staff is the major portion of operating costs.) The district's current policy is that PiE funds can be used for staff because those funds are distributed equitably per student across all the schools of the district. Currently, funds raised for a specific school cannot be used for staffing. This type of innovative school would probably require a lower staffing ration than the current 28.5:1 PAUSD staffs at. For example, the Oracle School, a high school charter school that is a similar size and has a somewhat similar profile, staffs at 18:1. To build and support this new innovative school, PAUSD would probably have to change our current fundraising model of PiE and central-based fundraising to a site-based model, which has ramifications for equity and the achievement gap, or make an exception for this new school and retain central fundraising for all the other schools. Either way it is problematic.


13 people like this
Posted by Good Idea
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 23, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Hey, I've got a good idea - rather than build and staff a new school with a high staffing level, let's just hire more teachers/staff at our current schools and give every student a lower ratio. I can't figure out why we have money to spend on new schools and new programs, but can't spent that same money to make our current schools and current programs better.


5 people like this
Posted by Waylost
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 23, 2015 at 11:40 pm

A copy of the XQ application is here Web Link

Notice "Mark" in the upper right of on the login screen. Thanks to Mark for making this hidden process public.


4 people like this
Posted by confused
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2015 at 6:20 am

Concerned Parent,

PAUSD on private fundraising to cover costs: "While some of the [financial] impact [of building and running a new school] may be mitigated by private funding, the impact is significant and uncertain until funds are raised."

Web Link


Duveneck mom,

PAUSD's estimate for a school housing 1,000 middle and high school students at Cubberley:

$65-$70 million for construction (paid out of the Bond Fund and/or the capital funds)

plus

about $2 million/year in operational costs in addition to per student funding (for administrative and support staffing and utilities, from the general fund)

plus

$5.5 million/year in lost rental income (at the current rate).

Web Link


Good idea,

PAUSD's estimate of the cost of reducing class size by one (1) student for all middle and high school students:

Jordan, Terman and JLS which have about 26 (core) and 28.5 students/teacher (non core) now - $375,000/year/student reduction

Paly and Gunn which have about 28.5 students/teacher with lower grade core classes at 22 students/teacher now - $750,000/year/student reduction

Web Link

$7.5 million/year applied to class size reduction would lower the size of every class taught on those five campuses by 6 or 7 students.


3 people like this
Posted by Good Idea
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 24, 2015 at 7:32 am

@Waylost - Mark is probably Mark Romer, one of the main Wayfinder people. He is listed as the "author" on the document properties page of the powerpoint. I'm not sure if you were being sarcastic, but this wasn't leaked - it was posted on the "Build a New School" facebook page before being taken down a couple days ago.


4 people like this
Posted by Good Idea
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 24, 2015 at 7:34 am

@confused - thanks for those. That seems like quite a substantial reduction, esp since some classes would benefit more than others (e.g., gym and choir would not be as critical), and in fact you could put two teachers in some classrooms to facilitate individualize and small group instruction. This sounds like a good set of things to look at - did the EMAC consider them?


7 people like this
Posted by Scott Walker's older brother
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2015 at 7:42 am

@confused
The class size issue at Paly and Gunn is worse than you report because we now have A-G required foreign language classes that are not classified as core and some of those classes have as many as 38 students or 40 students. The class sizes at Paly and Gunn in some now required course are outrageous.

Too bad Paly and Gunn are "industrial revolution" junk heaps instead of shiny new super schools.

@Everyone

Max McGee is at the front of a column of charter school proponents who are going to kill our schools dead. Don't believe me? Take a look at the XQ proposal.

The thing that really worries me reading McGee's XQ application is his obviously positive view of Charter Schools. It is clear that this group of people would be perfectly happy to open a charter and bleed our district dry the way Bullis has done in Los Altos. Look, one the board members of Bullis Charter, Jennifer Carolan, is on the application.

McGee has set up a situation where these people now have their expectations up, they have a prospectus, they have formed an interest group, and they have started lobbying. They are going to demand this or they are going to file a charter application.

That will basically be the equivalent of shooting our district and our budget in the face. Is McGee trying to support a charter school movement? If a charter application is filed, isn't McGee basically responsible? [Portion removed.]

If you think I am paranoid, here's the first few sentences of [portion removed] XQ application and you tell me he's not in love with charter schools:

"Since the first charter law was passed in 1991, charter schools have introduced a disruptive force to the traditional public school system that has shown us what is possible when we are able to innovate and re-think school. However, only 6% of public school students nationally have been able to benefit from the more nimble and innovative approach to charters."

[Portion removed] also promises that the union contract in this new Wayfinder school will be "written for maximum flexibility."

[Portion removed.] No teachers on the committee, but it produced a report calling for more "flexible" union contracts and praising charters. Trying to ram it through with parent demand? Doing it basically over Christmas break?

The other problem with a charter application is that it will divide and destroy the community. That process has already started. Friends will be angry at friends, people will stop speaking due to this Wayfinder application. It will be incredibly divisive. Once it becomes a charter application it will be worse but it is already bad as people choose sides. The harsh language and criticism of the XQ application directed at our schools is really a problem, as was written above: our current schools are described as awful while Wayfinder will be awesome but only 1/10 of our students can get in. Private fundraising is discussed, a really divisive no-no that will destroy PIE. I have heard from my PIE board friends that it is already dividing PIE with some members wanting to change the rules to enable them to raise money for this school separately. There are many many elements of Palo Alto schools that will be ripped apart by McGee through this charter application and private funding idea. It's probably already too late to stop that from happening.

[Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by confused
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2015 at 9:09 am

Waylost,

Thanks for the link to XQ's application.

It is an interesting read, especially its promise of a tight relationship with the Stanford Education School whose faculty has already had a hand in designing this new school.

It reads as if the Stanford Education School will provide the school, once established, with its "leading thinkers in K-12 education" too.

Here's a tale that suggests caution may be warranted before PAUSD goes too far down the road on this, which should be especially concerning to our low income and minority families caught in the achievement gap.

The Stanford Education School designed and ran the "Stanford New School" in East Palo Alto. A decade after it opened, the Ravenswood City School Board closed it for poor performance.

Founded by Stanford Education School Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, a leader in the education reform movement and an education advisor to President Obama, the school enrolled 521 students Kindergarten through 12th grade and was funded with $3,000 per student above the state average.

After 10 years of trying, 84% of the students were not proficient in English and math, placing Stanford's charter school in the state’s lowest 20%, even lower the other East Palo Alto school with similar demographics.

New York Times' reporting 10 years after it opened, at the time of its closing:

"Starting a new school Dr. Stipek [dean of the Stanford School of Education and president of the charter school’s board] said, 'takes time.'"

"Stanford’s educators expected that with excellent teachers, many trained at the university, they could provide state-of-the- art instruction, preparing students to become 'global citizens.'"

"despite the ... benefits that a great university can provide...Stanford New School was not able to become the national model that the School of Education set out to create"

There are similarities in what Stanford tried then and what this new school says it is going to do with Stanford Education School's help.

*Goal

Will inspire students to take on the challenges of the 21st century (proposed new school)

Is "preparing students to become 'global citizens'" (Stanford Education School's now closed charter school)

*Teaching Approach

Project-based learning (proposed new school)

Project-based learning was the "backbone" of its learning environment (Stanford Education School's now closed charter school)

*Demographics

Will provide an opportunity to close the achievement gap in new and innovative ways for underrepresented minority and under-resourced students that will be a model for other schools in the nation (proposed new school)

Hoped to become the national model for low income and minority students (Stanford Education School's now closed charter school)

*Tapping into Stanford experts

Professor Jo Boaler, whose book on creative math education that the new school's design team highlights as the inspiring ideas that the new school will be built upon, is helping the team design the new school (proposed new school)

Stanford professors brought "advice, support and novel learning opportunities" such as Professor Jo Boaler who brought her "nationally celebrated math strategies to the school" (Stanford Education School's now closed charter school)

*Using outside advisors too

Will engage experts from Silicon Valley corporations such as Google (proposed new school)

Its board included Google employees (Stanford Education School's now closed charter school)

*High school courses that won't be offered

No APs (proposed new school)

1 AP (Stanford Education School's now closed charter school)

*Grading

Will have "novel" transcripts (proposed new school)

"Students receive a rubric of evaluations, not grades" (Stanford Education School's now closed charter school)

*Mental Health

Will address, not give "lip-service" to, serious mental health issues mentioning that 25% of PAUSD's current high school students are sad or depressed (proposed new school)

Focused intently and intentionally on "students’ emotional and social lives," ten years after opening 50% of its high school students accessed some form of mental health support noting that the "demand for these counseling sessions has been high." (Stanford Education School's now closed charter school)

Web Link. com/2010/ 04/16/education/ 16sfcharter. html?ref= education
Web Link
Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by And so it begins
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2015 at 9:23 am

Watch closely. One of the next proposals will be to be "flexible" with the teachers' contract, which is another way of saying they will bust the union at the new school. Then they will be able to hire a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears 22-year olds from Teach For America, most of whom will spend a year or two at most polishing up their resumes before moving on the the private sector with bragging rights of having been a teacher. That's the scenario at a lot of charter schools now, and it's often used as a way to get rid of the oldest and most experienced teachers, who also happen to be the highest paid. It also does the most damage to the kids who need the most help. Tenure needs reform, to be sure, but efforts to kill job protections for public school teachers, like the recent Vargara case, led by a VC who sends his kids to an elite private school that costs $50K, do nothing but undermine the system; they do not actually "disrupt" it in the way boasted. They disrupt it by destroying it.


10 people like this
Posted by Union Maid
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 24, 2015 at 10:02 am

McGee is holding a gun to the heads of the board and PAEA. He should be terminated. [Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Not A Private School
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2015 at 10:36 am

PAUSD is trying to make its schools into individual private schools, and some are open to a select few via a lottery system.

There is no continuity between grade levels at different schools, or even different schools of the same levels.

This is not fair to anyone: not to the gifted, not to the special needs kids, no one.

Everything in PAUSD should be equally available to all kids who want it and can benefit from it.

These are public schools, make them equal and fair to all who live here.


6 people like this
Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2015 at 10:42 am

@And so,
I doubt very much there will be any union busting. The last thing this district does is mind the store on salaries. Look at admin costs here. District office employees aren't unionized and there doesn't seem to be anything that triggers pay reduction, personnel reduction, or judgment of poor performance. McGee is too smart to tick off all the teachers in the rest of the district who will fear they are next.

@Choice for the few,
I hear you, but it's hard for me to get worked up about opposing something I see as at least a positive outcome when my family has been subjected to all those things over personal and less worthy ends. You want to ferret out the rot, make some substantial free legal services available so parents have help to get records out of the district, or properly prepare complaints when there is serious malfeasance, especially where there is retaliation that hurts the kids. Giving individuals the resources to solve those problems for their kids will in the end do more to shed light on any secrecy and problems you describe, because those behaviours will be decisively rooted out.

If someone wanted to start a Hoover flavored high school (done well, not the exaggerations) more power to them, IMO. It wouldn't be for me, but I think a lot of the conflict and stress today comes from putting the Hoover learners in with the Ohlone learners, in a school more on the Hoover end but not serving them well either.

On the other hand, I think the district could do the innovation way better without having to open an expensive school by just beefing up support for independent learning - putting together an office for that with teachers who want to work with independent learners, and granting more flexibility. Kids who wish could cobble together their own individualized programs in part from district classes and in part from resources that best individualize their education. They could incorporate across disciplines to do big projects and endeavors. The district could enroll the kids in a new program so they can keep an eye on whether it's working without mixing the kids scores in with their coveted test scores. Then the program could expand as needed, because the kids would be going to high school some of the day and using the resources at Gunn and Paly for things like PE and theater, but not for everything. This would have the effect of reducing on campus overcrowding during the day, even though the number of students is essentially the same. It would be a way of innovating and creating an individualized project based program, where kids can easily find each other to collaborate on projects THEY conceive and direct, without the cost and build up of a new school, and it could be made to happen by next fall. (We proposed this to McGee - is it a backroom thing because no one heard about it? Conversations have to start somewhere.)

Yes, you do have good points, but in the system we have which is far from perfect, there are bigger rotten fish to fry and you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I'm a lot more concerned about much more serious practices the public has zero idea about, practices that hurt individual and vulnerable kids and families, and the district has almost zero mechanisms to hold them to account.




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Posted by Union Maid
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 24, 2015 at 11:16 am

@optimist So as long as it's not your personal ox being gored you don't care about democratic transparent process. At least that's clear.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 24, 2015 at 8:18 pm

There is a facebook group for PAUSD/Wayfinder, which is maintained by the same group that filed the XQ application -- a group that includes Max McGee and all the members of the EMAC secondary committee, such as Mark Romer (one of the initial proponents of the Wayfinder school back in the summer) and the wealthy Kevin Efrusy, Charter advocates like Jennifer Carolan of Bullis Charter, and Big Time Charter School guy Alex Terman (on the board of both Leadership Public Schools and Rocketship).

Here's the link: Web Link

Today on this facebook page, the following message was posted:

URGENT: Before you take off for Thanksgiving, don't forget to take a minute to email the school board and share your support for moving this concept forward - let them know that you encourage convening a task force to drive and define our next-generation school. It is time for Palo Alto to take a leadership position in public education. Include a shout-out for our superintendent Max McGee for listening to us and lending his support. Email addresses to make it easy for you: mcaswell@pausd.org, hemberling@pausd.org, ctownsend@pausd.org, kdauber@pausd.org, tgodfrey@pausd.org

So here is the nub of the problem. The members of the EMAC committee and the Superintendent, rather than being impartial, objective members of a district committee and staff are engaged in lobbying the board for a particular (and very expensive) goal. The board can't count on the information being provided by ANY (stress the word ANY) of the people involved in XQ -- including the EMAC members and very unfortunately the Superintendent -- to be honest brokers of information. They are partisan and are actively lobbying the board and managing public opinion.

This facebook group should come down. it is totally improper for the Superintendent and the members of a district committee that is supposed to be evaluating options and advising the board to be lobbying the board. This also shows how far McGee has gone in communicating his support for the new school to the public.

It is interesting to note that the core of support for the new school comes from Ohlone families. This makes sense given that they very much like this philosophy and are unhappy that it ends after 5th grade. As are the Mandarin and Spanish Immersion choice parents as well. Shall we build a high school for all of them? Shall we build one for Hoover parents too? This is what is wrong with choice schools (aside from traffic and neighborhood disintegration). It creates overblown entitlement.

Many of the families who are lobbying hard for this school are those who can and do go to private schools such as Nueva which offer what they want. Is that a problem? Not for me. I don't believe that the public schools are required to or should try to "compete" with private schools. Some families choose private school and that is fine. I feel no obligation to prevent that from happening by spending $70M to build them a school.

On the other hand, it is true that for many years we have known that our high schools do not work for some fairly large subset of our students -- between a quarter and a third. What should be done about that? Should we improve our existing high schools or throw up our hands and build them a new school? What is the evidence that a smaller school would work better for all or even most of these students? Do they need less structure or more structure? Do they need smaller classes? Because if the new smaller school has the same large class sizes, would it matter? This school is supposed to have a whole day per week of "work" in the community. Would that work for this group of kids? Many of the students who are not succeeding in our high schools have disabilities, particularly ADHD and those on the spectrum. Changes and distractions can be hard for some of these students, as is organization. Can those students do the level of independent research envisioned here? That seems like something requiring proof of concept.

Not everyone will select this school and not everyone will get in. So then what? Do we just throw away 3500 students? "Harry Potter" houses is a fig leaf. It's insulting to the intelligence of the Palo Alto taxpayer that you want to offer "Harry Potter" houses when it is clear that the Superintendent himself disdains the way teaching and learning occurs in our current schools. WHere are the concrete improvements that we need so that our schools can work for the students who currently do not succeed there? Where are the reforms of teaching, counseling, homework, AP courseloads, and so forth? When is McGee going to enforce the goddamn homework policy?

McGee has a lot of nerve telling the public that he can't reform Paly and Gunn to make them work for all students who live in their attendance boundaries. I find this enraging. This man makes $300K per year and lives RENT FREE in a $1.5 million condo that the district purchased for him and which he occupies with NO payments, and which he gets to keep half the appreciation on, even though it was purchased with $1.5million in our tax dollars. What exactly is the reason he gets half the appreciation on dollars he did not invest? He also gets a car.

Are we not giving him enough money to investigate who the students are who are failing in our schools and make the changes necessary so that the majority of those students (not 100% but most) are succeeding where they are? I think we are and I think if he doesn't want that job, the job he was hired for, he should depart.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2015 at 8:52 pm

A lot of the objections to the proposed high school seem more reactive and emotional than thought out. It comes across as "I don't want project-based learning, but I'll be damned if anyone else gets it because those kids might get an advantage over my kid."

It's like sibling rivalry run amuck.

Fact: our high schools are huge.
Fact: our high schools don't work well for each kid--to the point that we've had not one, but two suicide clusters and a high number of hospitalizations.

Even without including the mental health issues, our high schools--because of their size--have become more rigid and less able to deliver differentiated instruction--though attempts to offer this meet with the same objections from people who are afraid someone else's kid will get an advantage.

There is a huge issue with trust in the district and for several good reasons. However, some of the objections strike me as throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Above someone asked if there's an Ohlone-style high school, will the Hoover parents then demand one? I expect not since the direct-instruction model is pretty close to what's currently offered in high schools. Also there's much less demand for Hoover than there is for Ohlone. Immersion high schools? Again, the demand isn't there and keeping up fluency is relatively easy to manage by high school level with fluent-speaker classes.

The pressure, the competitiveness and the push toward constant testing has resulted in an increasingly rigid high-school environment. Grades are less dependent upon the quality of the work than upon adherence to the rules.

Really, I'd be for any alternative to the status quo--even if my family did not directly benefit from it--because I think a reminder that there are other ways to do things matters.

It's not a zero-sum game--and I think there's way too much black-and-white thinking about this.


5 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2015 at 10:03 pm

"Fact: our high schools are huge." - this is just incorrect. Our high schools are not unusual in size in any way. There are plenty of very good schools our size or larger, around this area and around the country. There are many good smaller high schools too of course. So ... no.

"Fact: our high schools don't work well for each kid" This is true, and a good point. Of course, those kids probably need different things, not just one big alternative program. And there are lots of kids whom we can improve things for, even if they don't want/need a radically different approach to school.

As for suicide clusters - I sympathize with the concern, but I'm not aware of any evidence that PBL or a smaller school or whatever somehow improves mental health or reduces chances of suicide. I know some think it is just "obvious" but it is not.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@ Confused

The Stanford charter involvement in East Palo Alto is confusing. The program that was closed was the East Palo Alto Academy Elementary School, which was chartered through the Ravenswood Elementary School District. The 9-12 East Palo Alto Academy, however, continues as a charter school collaboration between Stanford and Sequoia Union High School District. It recently moved into a newly built facility on Myrtle Street.


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Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Organiclaws is a registered user.

"Fact: our high schools are huge.' - this is just incorrect. Our high schools are not unusual in size in any way."

Fred, schools can both be huge and not unusual in size at the same time. The national average high school size is 850, in California it is 1325, and in Palo Alto it is 1900. Huge is a subjective but reasonable description of the school size.


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Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2015 at 3:20 am

@Union Maid,
I didn't say that AT ALL. Perhaps you should read what I wrote. Where were all of you when I was trying to point out that the planning process for the facilities bond measure was subverting the democratic process and that enlarging the schools was a bad way to spend so much of the money? That whole line of contention is just not a productive use of energy, you will accomplish nothing.

Our school district is dysfuntional and still is. My family won't get any personal benefit from this school because we won't use it - You couldn't pay me enough to subject our family to dealing with this district again. We're giving the schools enough to pay for more than one child through our taxes but had to leave ourselves because of being made to feel so unsafe and unwelcome by certain district personnel it was traumatizing the whole family. I can't even describe what we went through because the moderator would have to delete. I know for a fact we are not alone. If you want to get up in arms about something, get up in arms about adults at school bullying kids and justifying it to themselves, with no recourse by the kids. Get up in arms about such unequal treatment of families, or of an utter lack of mechanisms to seek redress.

I don't know what you even mean by your accusation. We will spend five figures educating other people's kids this year thru our taxes with nothing like that to educate ours. I support opening Cubberly as a new school because I do think the district would be better for having options for kids on the project based end and it has to start somewhere. Do I think it's the best way to achieve the goals of that application? No, not even close. I have just been in this district long enough to know that hell will freeze over before you can expect anything approaching optimal before acting.

But if you are concerned about democracy and secrecy, I just told you - make legal help available for families to vigorously pursue violations of disclosure and records acts, Ferpa, etc, to put a stop to secrecy, manipulation and mishandling of student records. If the district office is no longer able to every day get away with the violations every day, the culture will have to change.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 8:09 am

@Organiclaws - as we all knows, averages can be misleading or just uninformative. Comparing our schools to lots of rural and urban districts in CA and around the country just seems not relevant. If you compare to other high performing schools, there is a wide band, with many smaller schools, a bunch our size, and some larger. All appear to be successful. It's not clear why proponents of smaller schools think adding a new campus will automatically address the problems they see. There are schools smaller than ours that have lower academic and connectedness results - so there is no natural law at work. The most likely result will be that we will have the same issues, but at 3 places instead of 2. Sorry, there is no easy fix.


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Posted by just ignore the data and all your problems are easily solved
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 8:18 am

"It's not clear why proponents of smaller schools think adding a new campus will automatically address the problems they see. "

It's the standard dauberism approach. Say really loudly how simple solutions will solve complex problems. Like how removing zero periods at Gunn would stop the suicides, completely ignoring the fact that the latest suicide was at Paly. Or how TA at Gunn would solve connectedness, completely ignoring the fact that the survey results show that TA at Paly is producing apalling results.

The latest simple solution to a complex problem is "let's open a new high school, that will solve all the issues with connectedness", completely ignoring the fact that survey results show families in south palo alto are less connected when compared to north palo alto.


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Posted by Admiral Ackbar
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:12 am

High Tech High is a very exciting and promising school. No one is questioning that idea. But it is a charter school and it operates with private funding sources. It has small class sizes that are much smaller than comparable public schools (around 23:1 and dropping due to the increase in the charter school funding formula passed by Gov. Brown two years ago). It also raises very significant amounts of private corporate money through the High Tech High Foundation which raises money for their network of HTH charters. According to the HTH annual report:

"Donations help us limit enrollment and keep our schools smaller than traditional public classrooms;
Donations increase Teacher Classroom Budgets allowing access to innovative tools and experiences;
Donations outfit Maker Spaces/ Labs with contemporary equipment adding to the authentic nature of student work;
Grants support programs in Aftercare, College Advising, Sports Teams, STEM, Robotics, Internship, Inclusion services, Parent Education, Field Trips, Art of all kinds and much, much more."

Here's a partial list of corporate donors: Web Link

A lot of people went to the documentary, and loved what they saw. What they don't understand is that this is essentially a private school funded in part by the public and in part by extensive, massive, large, enormous amounts of private money in order to create smaller class sizes and a rich curriculum, which would be impossible to create in a small school for the same per-student cost as a large one.

Do you think post-it notes and "maker" supplies are free? How about laptops? Not free. CAD software? Also not free. What about all the cool maker-ish looking stuff that hangs off the carefully exposed beamed ceilings? Not free.

The only way to make this work is to either bleed that money out of the district itself and create massive inequalities in our high schools or to raise private funding, which is currently not allowed by our board policies. Undoing the PIE compromise for this school will mean undoing it for all schools as the parents with greater resources at Paly suddenly demand to be able to donate money directly to their childrens' classrooms like is allowed at McGee Academy.

High Tech High is great. It costs more money to produce that experience in a small school than it does in a large school. Use your brains, supposedly smart Palo Alto parents: This is basically Nueva School. Do you understand that Nueva School costs $40K per year per student? You cannot have a small school without having some revenue stream that makes it possible. And in a public school district those kinds of inequalities are unacceptable. If they were to be allowed, it would have to be through a fully inclusive public process that really exposes all the issues and problems and inequities it will create.

That's why HTH is a charter school. Because it has to be created by people who don't care that it is going to create inequalities of a very large magnitude and who are prepared to do the fundraising necessary to bring that into being.

So, PAUSD parents who are signing up on the facebook page for McGee Academy/Wayfinder -- there are only about 140 of you. You are charter school proponents. Do you know that? Do you understand that McGee/Wayfinder is essentially a charter school movement? That you are signing up to open a Palo Alto Charter School which will take funds from PAUSD and funnel them into a quasi-private charter school?

Max McGee is over his head. He has thrown in with an active charter school movement. If he wants to cooperate and give them what they want (the Cubberley building, the ability to raise private money by destroying PIE, smaller classes, more per student funding) then they are happy to have his support. It saves them the legal fees from a bruising Charter School fight. But they don't probably much care if they have to have the fight and they are gearing up for it I am sure. Look at their application -- they are mostly charter school people. Read the application: it's all about how much better charters are.

If McGee were to withdraw district support from this application, it would be immediately transformed into a charter school application. Do you think that these people will just go away? No. They will continue as a Charter Application. They already have a name, a design committee, and a board. They are ready to roll. Their XQ application can be transformed into a charter application with the deletion of three sentences and the removal of Max McGee. Without anyone on the application who can speak for the district, it is automatically a charter application -- it is an application from a group of parents and charter advocates who want to open a publicly funded school in Palo Alto. That's an entity that has a name.

It's a charter school.

So, what does this mean. Not to be too alarmist, but it means that there is a fully formed, up and running, charter movement in Palo Alto, headed up by Kevin Efrusy and Mark Romer. It means that the members of the secondary school EMAC committee- a group that by the way includes ZERO parents of high school students but only elementary parents who collectively have zero hours experience with Paly and Gunn and probably fear sending their small children to those "big schools", people who have not yet parented teenagers let alone current high school students.

They aren't wrong in thinking it would be cool to build a HTH here in Palo Alto. They are wrong in thinking it can be done with out a charter or private school.

So. Are you people liking the facebook page and emailing the board members ready to launch a charter school against PAUSD? Are you ready to demand a big chunk of the PAUSD budget and space be given to you? Are you ready for the massive community outrage it will spark? If so, that's fine. If not, now is your chance to reconsider because right now you are on the precipice of creating a huge community rift that will engulf the district in infighting and controversy for years to come.

This only has one endgame. This cannot be done as a "choice" school. It has to spend more per student to be do-able. It can't make it work without being able to break the union, train their own teachers, hire noncertificated staff, (in Wayfinder's parlance 'flexible contracts') have smaller classes, and spend private money. That isn't a PAUSD school that is a charter.

Congratulations Max McGee after only one year in PAUSD you have literally brought it to the brink of destruction. In the words of Admiral Ackbar, "It's a trap!"


2 people like this
Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:45 am

I thought this was going to be a PAUSD school?

If a charter means someone can run a school here that will be free of district administrators, bring it on. Measure A (the most recent one, why are they all Measure A?) gave McGee the clear msg that this town will pay whatever and whenever schools ask. If a charter means there will be reasonably intelligent people who are driven to achieve this vision and serve even the kids falling thru the cracks, it's about time. No, I do not believe there will be any such uprising, and you will make McGee look good for saying so. Talk softly and carry a big stick, not the opposite.

People with kids in elementary still have the optimism of what can be, so more power to them, too. I think they are completely naive about the denizens of 25 Churchill that they would go in with them in any way, but maybe they are being pragmatic for now.

Open your eyes. Fairness has long gone out the window between the campuses and there is no outcry. Not even a peep. Because within the parent community, you have huge social pressure to tow the district party line, especially among the PTA. There is no way to fix anything broken from within, because dissent that would lead to change is so aggressively snuffed in its tracks. District people get powerful parents to believe and do things even against their own interests and worse against the interests of kids, but they don't even get it. (What's that book ... Perfect Sheep?)

If anyone creates a way for families to access their public education while getting away from the toxic control from the district office, they will be fulfilling the mission of public school better than anyone. If they are just trying to create an expensive alternative sheep pen, then they are deluding themselves. Hopefully not.

As to the person above slamming Dauber - I don't always agree with him but he's the only one with a backbone and capable of making decisions from integrating all the information and needs. We'd be better off with more like him.


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Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:58 am

I think @optimists has a very ethically consistent argument. He or she is supporting a charter school as a way to force the district to make the changes that some group of parents want. That was also the argument for Mandarin Immersion -- and please take note that Grace Ma, the last person to threaten a charter school to get what she wanted, is on the EMAC committee.

In the case of MI, there was no need to really have a charter school. They didn't actually want a charter school -- they wanted exactly what they got, an MI program in a PAUSD school, like SI. That has the same per pupil costs, while Wayfinder appears to require private money to make it work.

It seems worth noting that @optimist appears to be proving @ackbar's point -- this is really a charter school movement masquerading as a PAUSD choice school. If you just read the XQ application with its paen to charters and its mention of "flexible union contracts" and having to seek a-g approval which it might or might not get, it's pretty clear. This is a charter application. @optimists seems to be saying "yes! about time! bring it on!" What about everyone else? And what to do with a superintendent who has created this mess?


5 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:08 am

@Admiral Ackbar - truth. The only thing standing between the Wayfinder and a charter proposal is taking off McGee's picture. Remove that, and it is by definition a charter school, with "new funding sources waiting in the wings" to supplement the public money and facilities. EMAC secondary was essentially a Trojan Horse - Mark Romer was inserted from the Wayfinder team (by McGee as far as a I can tell) and the committee was captured. If the Board says "no," it becomes a charter application that can claim the enthusiastic support of the Superintendent and the EMAC. Was McGee naive or duplicitous? Does it matter?

Who is Admiral Ackbar though?

As for Dauber, he has come out against the need for a new high school in his website blog here: Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Admiral Ackbar
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2015 at 11:21 am

This is me: Web Link

I think it's pretty clear that this is a Charter School group. California charter school laws are extremely favorable to charters. It is extremely easy for a wealthy group of backers to establish a charter. Palo Alto could in theory establish a charter school and give admission preference to PAUSD students and then establish a low-income preference that would enable it to hit the diversity benchmark (which is incredibly low anyway). In a high school of 500 students, only 35 latino/a students and 15 African American students would be required in order to achieve the 'diversity of the district in which it is located' that it must achieve by law.

You can see why PAUSD is an attractive place for a charter school. There are millionaires and billionaires who want their children to attend such a school, which can also provide preference for the children of teachers and board members. They can donate unlimited money to it (and then write it off their own taxes as a 501(c)(3) foundation). They can siphon funds from PAUSD to cover more than half the operating expenses, and they can demand and receive facilities of equal quality to those provided to non-charter students in the district.

If PAUSD denies their application, they can appeal to the county where they will have it approved. The law gives very little basis for turning down a charter application. There is almost no discretion. If Wayfinder submitted an application it would succeed. Period. They would demand and get Cubberley and they would demand and get our money.

The only thing stopping this kind of thing in the past is that it would be seen as an attack on the district. But what if the Superintendent agreed that it was a good idea, and set up a situation where it was the citizens and the Superintendent versus the board. Remember the line from the Wayfinder proposal about "school board political process where inertia and conservativism are trusted defaults"? McGee was an author of that line. McGee is a proponent of this thing. McGee has led us into the maw of destruction.

Surprising that in Palo Alto, the Admiral has to be explained. #notsonerdynation

It's a trap.


8 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 25, 2015 at 11:57 am

@Fred you wrote that Dauber has already come out against the high school, and @optimists wrote that "I don't always agree with him but he's the only one with a backbone and capable of making decisions from integrating all the information and needs. We'd be better off with more like him."

I want to commend Dauber for offending a large group of his supporters who support this new school by saying that the case for a new high school is unproved and that the capacity numbers do not support it at this time. According to Dauber's blog, the schools were built for 2350 students using $200M of public money. Gunn has not even finished, nor has Paly. There is a bubble of students moving through that is almost finished. After that, the schools may even be less than their current 2000 students each, and will certainly be less than the capacity.

I think someone who is willing to act against his political interest and in the interest of the broad base of taxpayers has ethics and someone who is willing to commit to transparency and process even when his own base wants to go the other way is really a great example of a public servant. I supported him before and I support him even more now.

If however, we decided to reduce class sizes, we might then need additional classrooms. We could do that through more construction, through more portable, or through a new school. Reading Dauber's blog it seems like he is supportive of using money to reduce class sizes. It should be noted that Save the 2008 also wants to reduce class sizes. Dauber would probably support a study of what it would take to reduce class sizes at Paly, Gunn, and the middle schools and whether that would require a third high school/4th middle school or whether it could be done some other, less expensive way, and I think Godfrey and the others would also be on board with that. I have heard no board member express anything other than support for reducing class sizes.

The cost of doing that would be significant but it would also benefit every single student in the district. If we can reduce class sizes for every student or create McGee/Wayfinder "super school" charter or choice school I think most of the community would rally to the cause of smaller classes for all.

That is what I suggest.

Rally to the cause of smaller classes for all. Show up at the December 8 board meeting during open forum and say:

- I am concerned about the lack of transparent process
- I do NOT support a charter school
- I do NOT support a choice school
- I want reduced class sizes for all students at Paly and Gunn
- I do not trust this process as it appears to be working with private interests that were not disclosed to the board or public
- please start over and please reduce class sizes for all. If that reduction requires more classrooms, please provide the board with several options for achieving that goal including building more classrooms at existing sites and opening a new school, comparing the costs and benefits of each
- please explain how the excess space at Paly and Gunn that we just built will be used once the bubble generation is gone


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 25, 2015 at 4:00 pm

@Admiral, if you gross over $300K, you cannot write things off your taxes as much as you think. (See Pease Limitation.)


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Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2015 at 7:48 pm

@few,
Supporting independent study and school altschool hybrids could help reduce class sizes overnight with significantly reduced costs. People tend to share what works and it would bring innovation into the district immediately without a new school.

If the district isn't going to ever open cubberly they should sell it to the City or should have to Foothill. I think the phrase is s^%# or get off the pot. So applies to the years and years of district dithering.


3 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm

I have a rough back of the envelope calculation of what a McGee Academy/Wayfinder would cost if it was a charter school. Charter school funding in a basic aid district works as follows:

- The charter would receive, directly from the district (paid through the County), an amount equivalent to the revenue limit funding for each enrolled student. The average statewide per-pupil expenditure for California this year is $13,462 (page 19: Web Link).

Basic aid districts receive no backfill from the state (which non-basic aid districts receive) for any of that money. Therefore, charters have a more negative impact on basic aid districts then revenue limit districts.

- Under the Ed Code, we would also have to negotiate with McGee/Wayfinder over giving them part of our basic aid money in excess of revenue limit, as well as part of our parcel tax, and even part of our PIE dollars. That negotiation would be the subject of a protracted legal battle that could itself cost millions and would likely end with an arbitration which we lost on the basic aid dollars.

- We are required to provide equivalent facilities. This is a very big deal. Take a look at the fabulous new Paly Media Arts Center and the performing arts center and the Gunn science classrooms and the Gunn "central building project." Oh boy. Those are awesome. We have to give a charter stuff that is equally good. We would have to float a bond to build this charter school. [Portion removed.]

This is at least $10million per year for 1000 students, back of envelope, not counting legal fees (another 2 million judging from Bullis Charter's impact on LASD) and not counting the bond we will have to float to cover renovating Cubberley to give them equivalent facilities.

This is a mortal threat. I am not being alarmist.

PAEA should wake up because if this happens we have to fire $10,000,000 worth of teachers.

Parents should wake up and stop playing with fire. You are going to require the district to fire guess which teachers? The newest youngest most enthusiastic and least burned out teachers -- the new fun cool teachers you love? Forget it, under union rules they are last hired and they are gone.

Maybe they can get nonunion jobs teaching their old students at McGee Academy.

Wake up Palo Alto. Max McGee let the fox into the hen house. Stop emailing the board about wanting Wayfinder and start emailing them about wanting them to save our schools, repel this threat, not renew McGee's contract, and then figure out how to improve our existing schools through an appropriate community process.

Do not let this happen. Tell your neighbors not to be duped into unwittingly joining a charter school project like the EMAC committee members were.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:45 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Choice for the few - Have you considered that by being so vociferous in your response you are going to create the problem you fear? The stronger the opposition the more that a charter becomes the solution of last resort. You might be better off trying to co-opt the momentum to reopen Cubberly and steer it towards something you find more acceptable. [Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 26, 2015 at 9:59 am

@slow down

[Portion removed.] Evidently we have now entered the phase in which the district and public try to offer things to the supporters of McGee Academy/Wayfinder [portion removed] in order that they do not file a charter application.

It is a startling coincidence that Grace Ma [portion removed] is on this committee and that MI parents attend Ohlone and do not want to leave Ohlone for a new home, even if they get an immersion middle school -- supposedly their goal -- because they like the project based learning focus. Smart money says that the final proposal will recommend that MI be part of the offerings at McGee Academy/Wayfinder.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 27, 2015 at 11:24 am

I heard from a neighbor that Dr. McGee believes that opening this new school is going to be how he addresses the achievement gap, becasue he hopes that all the minority students will attend there. I don't know what that means or how they would do that because choice schools are lottery schools. How would the minority students go there? Do they want to go there? What if they want to stay with their friends at Paly or Gunn or if they want to play a sport at Paly? Shouldn't we close the achievement gap at Paly and Gunn and the existing middle schools? Wouldn't this make our existing schools basically segregated? Wouldn't it be saying "minorities should to to this special school that doesn't offer AP classes and white and Asian students can go to the big schools with sports and APs?"

Is this the right thing? I support closing the achievement gap. I don't support segregation. Please explain, anyone who knows.


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Posted by Question
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2015 at 11:37 am

How much of a lottery are our choice options today? Do those w siblings get first dibs? Donors? How do we know it's a fair selection process?


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 27, 2015 at 11:59 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@concerned parent - What are your thoughts on Hoover?


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 27, 2015 at 12:23 pm

@concerned parent - I have heard something similar, and agree it doesn't make much sense. No one brown or black or poor was involved on the EMAC (just as no principals or teachers were involved), so it is fair to say that noone really knows. And yes, if it is a lottery school, it would be difficult (impossible?) to give preference to disadvantaged kids, even if one assumes they want to attend or that somehow it would be more effective for them.

Let's face it - the EMAC proposal is the Wayfinder proposal, which is essentially a charter proposal, designed by and for a group of families who want a certain kind of education for their own kids - in short, Ohlone High School (or Nueva South, take your pick). There in fact is nothing wrong with that idea, except that, with the Superintendent's active support, they hijacked an advisory committee without telling anyone and used it to promote their cause. The idea hasn't been properly vetted, not to mention weighed against all the alternatives, like hiring more staff, decreasing class size, and nurturing innovation at our existing schools. We need to thank the EMAC for its work, shut it down, and set up an inclusive and objective group to make recommendations that can stick.


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Posted by Optimist's caution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2015 at 2:19 pm

@few,
@optimists seems to be saying "yes! about time! bring it on!" What about everyone else.?

My family is everyone else. The only way to innovate in this district is to create something the district office can't poison and control. For it to be available to everyone, that's a public charter. McGee may be hopping on board so as not to be left behind. He has has shown no interest in dealing with the hard problems and has stars in his eyes. But whether this school succeeds or not will not improve Paly and Gunn for now. If parents want that, they'd better roll up their sleeves and stop waiting for someone to do it for them. That's what Wayfinder appears to be doing for the kids who do not learn well in the more direct instruction way.

Again, I say this knowing full well my family will not benefit in any way. We were always weighing what we would miss if we didn't go to the local schools, and didn't realize all the things that would be better just because of not having to deal with the system and its worst denizens. We miss our friends from elementary, but wish our memories of that had not kept us in middle here. Imperfect when dealing with people who care about education and the wellbeing of your child is so much better than rich and administrators with unchecked ability to make life hell and unsafe for your child when they think they have cause. McGee is doing nothing at all about such things and entrenching it by in many ways being more secret than his predecessor.

I say, bring on the parents who are not afraid of ruffling feathers to accomplish something, and will go outside the system if they have to. I am not a charter advocate, I have no political ax to grind. I am against abuse of power, against such inflexibility in the face of such considerable resources. Right now, a charter is just the only mechanism to fix it. That's the circumstance. If you want the charter to work, roll up your sleeves.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 27, 2015 at 6:53 pm

@Slow Down, Hoover is 72% Asian, 10% white, 7% Latino/a, and 0.7% black as of the most recent School Accountability Report Card, see: Web Link

I was not aware of how segregated Hoover has become until you asked and I looked it up. I think this is a big problem that should be addressed. This is too concentrated in terms of one ethnic group into one school. Self-segregation is still segregation. The school district should not maintain a school option like then when it knows that the end result is diminishing the diversity of other schools and this school. Where neighbhoorhoods are segregated, a choice school can be an effective tool for integration. But here, the choice school is doing the opposite. It should not be allowed to go on this way.

The EMAC elementary committee that focused on the problems of Barron Park having an unrepresentative population (not enough Asian students) could just as easily have focused on the distorting effect of Hoover in segregating Asians into Hoover rather than in their neighborhood school (BPES). I think it would be a good idea to look at Hoover and the obviously racially segregated pattern there. It is not something a public school district should do. Even if that was not the intention behind it to concentrate Asian students (and it probably was) it is undeniably the result and it is getting more concentrated over time.

This is diminishing the diversity and it is completely unbalanced and out of proportion to the rest of the district.

What exactly is Hoover offering in terms of educational program? It seems like what it is likely really offering is a Chinese-majority school. What is "direct instruction" anyway? At Terman, they have abanonded this except in name for at least 10 years. The teachers determined that it was dumb and didn't want to do it so they just stopped but let parents think it was continuing rather than have the fight. The DI strand and the regular strand are identical.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 27, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Questions,

There is sibling preference in the choice lotteries while a sibling is enrolled at the school. This works out to sibling preference playing a big part in the elementary schools, a minimal part in Connections and none in one-year programs like TEAM.

Concerned,

Yeah, the self-segregation at Hoover is something no one touches with a ten-foot pole--and it's only gotten more segregated over the years. The big draw for Asian families was originally Hoover's high test scores. That may still be the case, more than families wanting their kids at an Asian-majority school--given that Asian-majority schools with high test scores are pretty easy to come by in less-expensive Cupertino.

Direct instruction's pretty much teacher standing in front of the room and spelling out the lesson. Emphasis is on individual achievement not on teamwork. Lots of tests (which partly explains Hoover's high scores--the kids just get lots of practice.) It's more similar to the educational techniques in many Asian countries than project-based learning.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2015 at 1:56 am

Hoover has some self-segregation, though one might look at the actual composition of its neighborhood - possibly more ethnic Asian that other parts of PAUSD. Most Hoover students come from nearby.

If we are going to talk about self-segregation, let's not leave out Ohlone. It has the highest % white and the lowest % economically disadvantaged (3%) of all the elementary schools.

In almost all cases, choice will create/support self-segregation - this should certainly be a factor in considering any new choice secondary school.

BTW, I did not see anything in the EMAC reports that said Barron Park has "not enough Asians" (not sure what that means). I believe their argument was that it had a higher mix of low income, English learners, and kids with IEPs, plus a lower percentage of neighborhood students actually attending.


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Posted by not a lottery for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2015 at 6:41 am

Choice for the few: "PAUSD families ...do not want to feel that they have to compete in a lottery to get something excellent." OPar: "sibling preference in the choice lotteries while a sibling is enrolled at the school"

These comments got me thinking.

If PAUSD approves this, there may only be 100 seats filled by lottery a year in PAUSD's entire Kindergarten through 12th grade project based learning choice school - 80 seats in kindergarten and 20 in 6th grade.

Here's why:

The EMAC proposal extends Ohlone I (project based learning elementary) to Ohlone II (PBL middle school) and Ohlone III (PBL high school).

Since all three are the same school, I suspect that Ohlone I's 80 5th graders will automatically get to attend Ohlone II (100 students per grade) and the same 100 students will advance each grade through Ohlone III's 12th grade.

If so, the two lotteries a year would be:

For Ohlone I - Kindergarten lottery/80 seats. Instead of 5 grades of students' siblings getting priority, there will be 12 grades worth of siblings who get to go to the front of the line for those 80 kindergarten spots.

For Ohlone II - 6th grade sibling lottery/20 seats. This lottery will determine which of the 1,200 Ohlone I, II and III students' siblings get the 20 open spots that year (100 6th grade seats minus the 80 Ohlone 5th graders who will be continuing on).

Ohlone III - Full. No lottery.





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Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 28, 2015 at 9:14 am

@Fred Hoover is a choice school, but what it is offering is an alternative for Asian parents living in its neighborhood, not a pedagogical alternative. Only 21 students attend Hoover from north of Oregon Expressway, 3 from Escondido and 10 from Nixon. Contrast that to 98 from Fairmeadow, 88 from Palo Verde, 60 from Briones, 50 from Barron Park, and 40 from El Carmelo. So hardly anyone from outside Hoover's extended neighborhood is attending Hoover. All of the choice schools have some neighborhood bias, but nothing like Hoover. Essentially, Asian parents in the Hoover area have 2 choices: attend an integrated school, or an Asian school.

@Fred, the elementary EMAC Q/A from Greta Olbrich referred to the "segregation" of the Barron Park School due to what the EMAC considered the high concentration of ELL, Special Ed, and SED students -- that is, Hispanic, disabled, and poor students, mostly in the bodies of the same group of students. She points out that Barron Park has three times the proportion of poor students as the PAUSD average of 8%, and she calls this "demographic segregation" which has what she calls "an extreme population imbalance" that has a negative effect on achievement.

See: Web Link

The entire point of this recommendation to create a choice program in STEAM at BP is to attract and retain the students who are exiting the neighborhood. The majority of those students are going to Hoover, and it is very likely that 72% of those are Asian. If Hoover were not an option, those 50 students, mostly Asian, would attend Barron Park. That would accomplish all of the goals of the EMAC -- in the words of the EMAC, it would add 50 students who are from "a better-served, more stable population" and therefore "might eventually have a better achievement overall."

If Hoover did not exist, higher achieving better resourced students would attend their neighborhood school in Barron Park, and would raise achievement, provide a stable population to prevent inflows, etc. Rather than creating a choice program to attract students into BP, just transform Hoover into a neighborhood school rather than a "choice" that is attracting the Asian students out since it is basically a segregated Asian school that is diminishing the diversity of Barron Park and other area schools.

Did the EMAC consider that I wonder?

@not a lottery

Actually it's worse than you think. Wayfinder is not Ohlone. McGee wants to open Wayfinder as a k-12. That would mean that the Ohlone students would have little chance at the middle school. There would be a lottery for kindergarten, and then a lottery due to attrition at 6th grade, and then a lottery due to attrition at 9th grade. That's it. The Ohlone families who are pushing for Wayfinder have outsmarted themselves because unless the middle school has a new lottery that has no preference for continuing students from Wayfinder elementary Ohlone students will have little to no shot at this school.

Given this, it seems very likely that the real plan behind the scenes is that Ohlone would be moved to Cubberley, and the current Ohlone building could be converted to a neighborhood school. Ohlone could be Wayfinder elementary with priority given to elementary students for secondary enrollment. That would explain why all the Ohlone parents want the new school -- since if they can't go there, it would be weird for them to be pushing for it. It would also explain why the Mandarin Immersion group was happy with this recommendation -- they go where Ohlone goes, so they would also go to Wayfinder.

The only problem with this scenario is that many people think that "they" will have priority there. The dollar has clearly been spent quite a few times. The Ohlone families, VTP kids, and neighborhood residents are all groups who have been mentioned as having a preference at Wayfinder/McGee Academy.

As a result of the backroom dealings and side deals and lack of transparency, when the dime actually drops, many people will feel cheated.





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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2015 at 10:21 am

@Choice - I agree, it is likely that what you say is true - Fairmeadow and El Carmelo are ~50% Asian and 35-40% white vs. Hoover which is 79% Asian and 11% white. It is also possible that many of the Barron Park attendance area residents going to Hoover are Asian. So I guess you are right - removing the Hoover choice program would probably have a positive effect on Barron Park. On the other hand, so would removing the choice programs at Ohlone (since returning pretty much any choice family to the neighborhood would be a plus). Could one justify closing Hoover but keeping Ohlone open? That seems like a difficult argument to have. Closing both would also be difficult, since many PAUSD parents express interest in choice programs (per the EMAC survey at least, and Ohlone waiting lists).

Since preserving programs is a Community Value (per BP7110), and parents expressed strong interest in choice programs, I doubt the EMAC looked much at the impact of closing Hoover or other choice programs. Though I am sure they were aware of the ethnic mix of the various schools, which is all in Table 6 of the Enrollment Report.


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Posted by Hard working teacher
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 28, 2015 at 10:36 am

As a PA teacher I can tell you unequivocally that the number one thing that we can do to make the school experience better for our students is lower class size. As in *dramatically* lower. I have taught classes with as few as 20 students and as many as 34, and there is absolutely no question that it is a markedly different experience for everyone involved. For the teacher, it is the difference between having a manageable group of students with whom you can actually develop relationships, and subsequently enjoy real guidance and teaching/learning, and having a large group of cats that need to be herded in unison. For the students it is the difference between having a teacher who can actually spend some time with you, and being a number.

If this community really wanted to "put its money where its mouth is", we would need to massively expand the number of *qualified* teachers and the amount of space we are using at our schools. This would be extremely expensive. But we could do it if we had the political will. It's not like we don't have the resources. Instead we spend a lot of time pointing fingers and blaming. At least here anyway.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2015 at 10:56 am

@Hard working teacher - that's a helpful perspective. What do you think if putting 2 teachers in some classrooms vs. just splitting classes? I have seen this promoted as a good path to more individualized or group instruction.


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Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 28, 2015 at 11:03 am

@Fred

Interesting table. I agree that Ohlone lacks some diversity as well. However, Hoover is the least diverse school in the district (at least using the pan-Asian term "Asian"). 79% Asian -- there is no other school in the district that is 79% any one ethnic group. Most of the schools in the south are 40ish% white and 40ish% Asian and 8ish% Latino and 2-3% African American. Barron Park is the most diverse with 30% Latino, 30% Asian, and 30% white. However, given that Barron Park is in the south, there are "missing" Asian and white students and according to the EMAC report, the "missing" Asians went to Hoover and the "missing" whites may have gone to Ohlone.

It is just odd to me that the EMAC Elementary said that Barron Park was "segregated" and had an imbalance when it is actually perfectly balanced at 30/30/30 while Hoover is clearly segregated and imbalanced -- it sticks out like a sore thumb of ethnic segregation looking at Table 6.

Rather than add to traffic by creating yet another choice program in BP, which as you point out can never be removed World Without End Amen, what about transforming Hoover into a 100% neighborhood preference "choice" school to see if the ethnic imbalance can be addressed. In that case, you could redraw the attendance boundaries for impacted Palo Verde, give some of that south area as a "neighborhood" to Hoover (which would be ~50% Asian but not 79%) and then gave 100% neighborhood preference to attend Hoover. Then Barron Park students could enter the lottery with everyone else for any leftover Hoover slots, which would be few, and most of them (50 mostly Asian and white kids) would attend Barron Park. Problem solved.

What do you think?


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Posted by another teacher
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 28, 2015 at 11:59 am

Did anyone notice that on three days ago, on Wednesday, a Briones teacher posted the following question to the Wayfinder facebook page: "So, is this a charter school or not?"

No one has answered it.

That silence seems pretty revealing. The sheep's clothing is off.


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Posted by not a lottery for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Fred,

The students who have made Ohlone their "choice" for elementary school:

You said 3% are economically disadvantaged. Compare that 3% at Ohlone to the 10% of PAUSD students who are economically disadvantaged overall.

9% attending Ohlone are African American or Hispanic students, quite a bit lower than those two races are in PAUSD overall (16%) too.

So:

Project based learning does not appear to be something widely or even proportionately embraced by our low income or African American and Hispanic communities. There is no reason to believe that their interest in Wayfinder will be any different. This is the self-segregation you refer to.

If your 3% economically disadvantaged are all African American or Hispanic students, for every 1 minority student who is low income there will be 2 minority students there who are NOT low income. If it is half that (1.5%), the ratio will be 1 (low income minority) to every 6 (not low income minority).

PAUSD minority family income overall in comparison: 1 (low income) to every 1 (not low income).

So Ohlone is vastly different than the rest of the district in the family income of its minority students too.

If the achievement gap more closely aligns with family income than race as many scholars now believe, on day one Wayfinder will have pretty much closed the gap just by having a really high number of minority students who are not low income (2 to 6 times more than those attending PAUSD's other schools).

That is one way to close the gap, and it avoids the school having to figure out how to teach students more or better.


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Posted by not a lottery for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Choice for the few,

Did you read anything about what the Minority Task Force recommendation that calls for all VTP students to be clustered together in either a north, south or west school will mean for Ohlone and the new Wayfinder school?

Either:

There will be no VTP students at Ohlone and Wayfinder. Given that they are both choice schools, this seems to be the likely outcome.

The low income student percent would drop pretty close to 0 at Ohlone and Wayfinder then.

or

Ohlone and Wayfinder will become the two South cluster's target schools.

That would move Ohlone and Wayfinder from 3% to about 20% low income students.



"MINORITY ACHIEVEMENT AND TALENT DEVELOPMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE
REPORT" Recommendation:

"Create an enrollment plan for Voluntary Transfer Program students. They would be
placed with targeted schools in each cluster; North, South and West. The targeted sites would receive extra funding for bus duty and professional development on how to create Identity Safe classrooms. This would help lower racial isolation of Voluntary Transfer Students" Web Link


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Was this recommendation made by the Superintendent and/or adopted by the Board? I believe the Super did not endorse all the MATD AC recommendations.

"MINORITY ACHIEVEMENT AND TALENT DEVELOPMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE
REPORT" Recommendation:

"Create an enrollment plan for Voluntary Transfer Program students. They would be
placed with targeted schools in each cluster; North, South and West. The targeted sites would receive extra funding for bus duty and professional development on how to create Identity Safe classrooms. This would help lower racial isolation of Voluntary Transfer Students" Web Link


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Posted by not a lottery for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Fred,

Last I recall is that all the committee's recommendations were put in a final report presented to the board as an information item.

On that committee were Dr. McGee, three PAUSD principals, the PAUSD staff member in charge of the VTP program, and representatives from PASS and Dreamcatchers.

Would the board vote on the schools VTP students enroll in?


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Posted by Confused
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 28, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Can someone explain what has gone on to me?
The decision to establish a charter or quasi charter school would be a monumental policy decision for PAUSD. The board was not supportive of the initiative when they first heard about the proposal a week or so ago. Were they aware of the application by Wayfinder for a grant from XQ that had already been endorsed by their superintendent without the knowledge or approval of the board?
This clearly seems to be an important policy decision. Can anyone remind me who sets policy for PAUSD, the superintendent or the elected body?


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Posted by another teacher
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 28, 2015 at 6:38 pm

@confused, the School Board sets policy, and the Superintendent administers the district and has control of operations. Opening a new charter or quasi-charter choice middle and high school would be a very big change for PAUSD. The kinds of inequities that it would be certain to bring in its train would be very different. Certainly nothing like that could happen without having a much more representative process that engaged all voices, as required by Board Policy 1220:

"The membership of citizen advisory committees should reflect the diversity of the community and represent a diversity of viewpoints." See: Web Link

Frankly, Max McGee had no business convening a Citizens' Advisory Committee and driving it to make recommendations for something this weighty when it was composed of 5 random parents, no teachers, no principals, no administrators, no city council or city leaders (despite the fact that Cubberley is in play), and no high school student government leaders. Just 5 parents, making judgments and recommendations of this import. It strikes me as very odd.

The responsibility and failure here was McGee's, as the board policy makes clear: "The Superintendent or designee shall provide training and information, as necessary, to enable committee members to understand the goals of the committee and to fulfill their role as committee members." McGee encouraged and allowed them to exceed their role and act beyond their expertise and their charge. What a waste of their time and now we have a mess to clean up.

By the way, no one has yet answered that Briones teacher's question on facebook: Is this a charter school or not?" Palo Alto Supports a New 6-12 Public School . The Silence speaks volumes. A City Council member has "liked" the question along with a member of the EMAC. This is just getting positively weird.

Mark Romer, please answer the question. Is it a charter school or not? Will you state unequivocally that there will be no Wayfinder charter application against PAUSD regardless of the outcome of the EMAC recommendations? I'm sure the school board would feel much more comfortable dealing with you with that public assurance.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Confused
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 28, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Thanks to Another Teacher.
The proponents appear to be hoping they can use McGee's support to accomplish what would be a charter school in everything but name. Their application to XQ makes that clear.
I remain mystified how a superintendent could endorse such a move without transparency, public discussion or the concurrence of the board. Perhaps this will finally cause the board to act as if they are the actual governing body with responsibility for setting policy.


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Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 29, 2015 at 12:56 am

[Portion removed.]

I think this is a Charter School movement, and I think that they know full well what they are up to. If it's not, then I second the call above for the Wayfinder group to come out and publicly state that you will not file a charter school application against PAUSD.

As it stands right now, the XQ application is in fact a charter school application, now that McGee is no longer on it. What is it other than that. It's a group of parents and charter school advocates and rich people who want to start a publicly funded school in Palo Alto.

What is it if not a charter application?

My personal diagnosis is that McGee got swept up with the idea that he was going to be talking to millionaires and billionaires and rich famous people and he would be AMONG them, he would be ONE of them, he would be running a START UP and it would be EXCITING and FUN and COOL to be GIVING A TED TALK about his COOL FUN NEW THING.

So this is our third Superintendent who has turned out to be problematic. Clearly, we should never use Leadership Associates ever ever ever again.


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Posted by not a lottery for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2015 at 8:43 am

Choice for the few,

It doesn't take a rocket science degree to figure out that the pieces won't fall in place for a PAUSD choice school at Cubberley or for a charter school before XQ's April deadline.

So the only way XQ stays alive as a possible funding source is if this new project based learning choice program is run by PAUSD on a campus that is running a school now.

Why:

Dr. McGee needs school board approval for PAUSD to open this school. If there is going to be an expensive new campus built - $60 million or more in construction costs for Cubberley right? - he also needs another winning school bond measure to pay for it. Even if both of those come through, that will be well after XQ winners are selected this April.

The non-PAUSD Wayfinder team members can modify the XQ application by swapping "charter school" everywhere "PAUSD" appears. But if Wayfinder turns into a charter, it won't be able to get the necessary charter approvals by XQ's April deadline either. Bullis took at least 7 months to get approved.








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Posted by another teacher
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 29, 2015 at 10:21 am

They don't need approvals by April. I don't know where you have that idea from but it is completely incorrect.

Contest rules, see: Web Link

First of all, they don't even need approvals to win at all. The criteria used in evaluating contest entries is "creativity, thoroughness, viability as a public high school, alignment with the values of the Contest, community endorsement, likelihood of realizing the goals of the Contest, and commitment of Team Entrant participants and their supporters to implementing the proposed XQ Super School"

All they have to show is that it would be viable and that they are committed to implementing it. Given California's pro-charter law, that is simply no problem.

Second, the winners are selected July 10, not in April. Entries are due 2/1. 50 Semi-finalists are selected March 10. Semi-finalist entries are due on April 19, and include the "Develop Application Supplement." Then 25 finalists are selected on June 1. The 25 finalists will then be required to sign an agreement (“Finalist Agreement”) that requires them to travel to and participate in a Finalist Workshops and be in a reality television show about the finals. This is probably the part that excited McGee. Winners are then selected on July 10 and announced (probably in the big reality TV broadcast) on August 4, 2016.

This is plenty of time for their charter application. More than enough. But they don't even have to file that charter application until after they win. Then with their $10million and their XQ approved design plan in hand, they come to PAUSD, file their charter application, and it is approved a year later, they move into Cubberley, then end.

People -- read the rules of anything before you decide you think you know what it is. That is kind of basic. That includes the law. Their charter application is strengthened by the XQ contest not weakened, and there is no deadline conflict. Emerson Collective is a huge charter proponent so they understand the law and they also basically presume that the winners will be charter applications for the most part.

McGee has either wittingly or unwittingly helped to launch a charter school. This group is going to take Cubberley for its own purposes -- Golton even said at the board meeting that Cubberley was basically move-in ready in many parts and this could start as early as fall 2017. So maybe he's going to be on the Wayfinder board, since he just killed the district's best hope to hold this off a bit by arguing that facilities aren't available.

Wayfinder would probably be happy to have PAUSD float it a bond. Thanks! But be under no illusion that somehow the XQ thing means they can't be a charter. On the contrary, it makes their charter application bulletproof.

That's why they haven't denied that they will file a charter application. Because they will.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2015 at 1:25 am

Fred,

Where do you get the idea that Ohlone's the whitest school? It's not. Addison is. Ohlone is second, but by less than a percentage point than Duveneck. I'm not sure you can claim self-segregation when whites are a minority as they are at Ohlone (and at every other elementary besides Addison).

Hoover's 10 percent is an outlier; Ohlone's 46 percent is not--it's within 10 percent of most of the elementaries.

As for economically disadvantage--Tinsley kids are assigned spots across the district, with a couple of clumps--Escondido's SI program and Walter Hays. The percentage is low, in part, because Ohlone's so damned big and Tinsley kids aren't going to qualify as native-Mandarin speakers, whereas they might qualify as native Spanish speakers. Ohlone has more VTA kids than the other schools in the South cluster and underprivileged kids have less of an achievement gap at Ohlone than any of the other schools in the districts.

And, yes, 90 percent of the VTA students at Ohlone are in the Ohlone-main program.

As for the Minority Task Force Recommendation, does anyone seriously think the district is going to create "identity safe" schools for VTA kids? You think local residents are going to be happy when the test scores of their neighborhood school drops because that school has been designated a focus school for poor kids from out-of-town (non-voters)?

It would be political suicide; it's not going to happen.

Re: charters. Yes, a charter could be forced on Palo Alto, but that doesn't mean the charter would get Cubberley. The charter doesn't even have to be in Palo Alto. If the district *does* open up a choice program, though, it won't be a charter in all but name only. The district has quite a bit more say over choice schools than it would over a charter. Most importantly, a choice school is limited to kids in the district (and the VTA and teacher kids).







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Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 30, 2015 at 2:43 pm

@Opar

You are misinformed about how charter schools work. I think many PAUSD parents should get ready to be amazed, because I have some super bad news.

First, you only need to collect signatures from parents of half the students you expect to be admitting in the beginning of the school in order to get approved. Assuming that they hit the ground running with 1050 students (and they would surely roll up grades and start smaller) that is only 535 signatures. A billionaire like Kevin Efrusy can get 500 signatures from his household help. This is not going to be a struggle. That's done.

Here's some more info: Web Link

Second, you absolutely can limit a PAUSD charter school to priority for district students, and you can have other priority categories too, such as low-income preference (you can't have a clear racial preference for URM students as that would violate Prop. 209). You can also prefer the kids of teachers, donors, and board members.

Third, and most horrifying, we have to give them facilities and probably Cubberley but maybe Garland. Under Prop 39, they are entitled to equivalent facilities. EC Section 47614 requires that school districts make available, to all charter schools operating in their school district with projections of at least 80 units of average daily attendance (ADA), facilities that will sufficiently accommodate all of the charter’s in-district students, and that facilities be “reasonably equivalent” to other classrooms, buildings, or facilities in the district. We can make them pay some rental for that. They can pay it out of the $12K per kid we have to pay them out of our general revenues.

Thanks to Bob Golton's case of start up fever, he declared Cubberley to be move in ready for the new school. That of course means it's move in ready for Wayfinder to take it.

My prediction is that they will start with this year's Ohlone 5th graders in the fall, and then add a class per year, taking parts of Cubberley or just taking Garland. Then they will get the HS up and running with a 9th grade class by 2017. That 9th grade will roll up a grade a year.

This is probably coming. If it comes, the blame belongs on McGee because he enabled this to happen, he bought into the flattery and the buffoonery and the "Ted Talk- quality research" that he said this represented. He caught start up fever and then said at the 10/26 board meeting that the presentation by Romer was "better than that usually heard by VCs" as if he has any idea. He got excited about the edu-speak-babble and the moonshots and the being in the club and the crowd and White House and XQ and talking to Laurene Jobs, and making a splash and his mark. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2015 at 8:49 pm

Choice,

I'm aware of how charters work--I researched it pretty thoroughly when PACE blackmailed the board with a charter threat for Mandarin Immersion. In case you don't remember, the majority of the board said it would vote no on MI--and PACE came back with the charter and forced the board's hand.

But here's the thing--the threat of a charter is there no matter what McGee's doing--you're not saying anything that wasn't true five years ago. All that's really different now is that Silicon Valley money has a new interest in taking over education.

If the board turns down a charter application, then the charter proponents can go to the county and force a charter (The county BoE has been very charter friendly.) and, no, it doesn't have to be in Palo Alto (see how Bullis has been bounced about for an example.)

And, yes, there can be in-district preferences, but a charter can also push to be bigger and take out-of-district kids--the problem with that here is that we're a basic-aid district. We'd only get general-revenue payments for out-of-district kids, which is substantially less than we spend on kids in-district.

So, let's switch this around and say that the board *does* approve a new choice high school. Will it be a charter school in everything, but name only?

Well, first of all, out-of-district kids who aren't in the Tinsley/faculty categories aren't going to be let in, which is a benefit in terms of budget and traffic. Second, the district gets a say re: curriculum and structure--an open lottery could be required at each school level. Third, the union contracts would apply. It would, in fact, be easier to convert a choice school into a neighborhood school if need be.

Fourth--and this is key--it is *much* harder to convert an existing school to a charter than to open one. You have to have a majority from both the faculty and the parents to pull it off. There's a reason you don't hear much about it.

In some ways, this all goes back to Skelley's mismanagement. He allowed huge schools to be built and ignored the numerous social/emotional issues that arose. So, now we have a high-achieving school district where a sizable minority are dissatisfied with the schools. We also have an underused high-school campus.

It's no surprise that serious money has come sniffing around. The question is what are we going to do about it?


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Posted by not a lottery for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2015 at 10:18 am

another teacher,

Here's why XQ likely won't be awarding its millions to Wayfinder, as a PAUSD school or as a charter. Its rules:

"If it is found, AT ANY TIME DURING or after the Contest Period (from September to August), that ANY of the ELIGIBILITY criteria herein are not met with respect to any Participant or Team Entrant, such Team Entrant or Participant may be disqualified"

On March 1, Semi-Finalists "will be selected from all ELIGIBLE entries based on":

1. Viability as a public HIGH school

This knocks the part of the Wayfinder application as a middle school out. If "viability" means it already has the approvals needed to go forward, neither Wayfinder as a PAUSD choice high school nor as a charter high school do.

2. Community endorsement

Not yet unless the EMAC report written by the Superintendent and less than a handful of parents constitutes a "community endorsement." The board has not acted on that recommendation, nor has the "community" of 20,000+ parents, 12,000+ students, and 1,000+ teachers even been told about Wayfinder, let alone approved it.

3. Likelihood of realizing the goals of the Contest - see 2

4. Commitment of Team Entrant participants and their supporters to implementing the proposed XQ Super School.

Superintendent McGee's commitment is questionable since he speaks for the board and the board has not given him its go ahead. He acknowledged as much in his note to the board ("if the Board were to approve a Design Task Force (DTF) [for a new PAUSD choice school] ...the DTF could draw upon this preliminary work of this [XQ team of PAUSD and non PAUSD people] committee...or not...we would need to discuss how to integrate the work of this team with a DTF, or if one is on the path to Board approval") Web Link

5. "At the time such submission is provided to Sponsor," the entrant needs to have obtained "all licenses and rights for the content" included in the application and the application comprise "materials to which Team Entrant has the right to use throughout the Contest and after the Contest"

The XQ application bills Wayfinder a PAUSD choice school and mentions throughout the submission the resources Wayfinder will get from PAUSD if it wins. Again, the school board has not approved this school so the PAUSD Wayfinder choice team does not have these rights yet, right? I don't know how charters work but I suspect that Wayfinder as a charter can't just take PAUSD committee work and put its name on it; it likely has no right to the PAUSD staff and materials that are promised in the XQ application either.




4 people like this
Posted by Choice for the few
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 1, 2015 at 10:23 am

I'm sorry you don't make sense. They want this to be in Palo Alto so that they can offer in-district preference. They aren't going to make it bigger. They want a small school. Are you not following the discussion, all of which is about wanting a small school. There is absolutely demand to fill a 500 HTH Charter in Palo Alto, with Palo Alto student-only preference. The reason they want it here is the money that is present here. If they move it to Sunnyvale or even Mountain View they won't get the kind of dollars in parent donations they will get in Palo Alto.

That will suck the life out of PIE but whatever, that's the least of it.

Also, Palo Alto has a bunch of available facilities, which they are drooling over. I don't know how closely you are following this Max McGee actually took Mark Romer and the other Wayfinder Team members to meet with Jim Keene and other city staff to discuss the future of Cubberley with Bob Golton. I don't know if you can even characterize that as asleep at the switch. This is more like anesthetized, drunk, on drugs, passed out cold, concussion-level and possibly dead at the switch.

Is a charter the worst thing that could happen to PAUSD?

No. the worst thing would be being blackmailed by this group into giving in to their demands rather than give them a charter. At least with a Charter we aren't required to create and maintain significant inequities within district in class size and resources and private donors and the Board won't have to look the voters in the eye and say "we screwed you and then we didn't fire Max because we are cowards who don't understand what governance means."

How's that for a Christmas present, PAUSD?


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Community Center

on Sep 25, 2017 at 5:05 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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