News

Editorial: The Addison gift horse

Unprecedented $17 million anonymous gift to Addison shows need for clearer policies

Last March, Addison Elementary School Principal Amanda Boyce, in her position for less than a year and new to the school district, received a call that principals only dream of.

A person representing an anonymous donor wished to discuss giving millions of dollars to improve Addison's facilities.

The smallest, oldest and most densely populated campus of all Palo Alto elementary schools, Addison could certainly use it. Like many other elementary schools, it got largely bypassed by the $400 million Strong Schools bond measure approved by voters in 2008 that funded substantial upgrades at the high schools, middle schools and at Duveneck, Fairmeadow and Ohlone elementary schools.

Worried about the likely need to re-open an elementary school, in 2011 the school board set aside $60 million of elementary school funding from the bond proceeds and reserved it for a new school, pending a board decision -- action that always seemed just around the corner, as it does now.

The bond measure was criticized at the time for its lack of detail about how the funds would be spent and the sense of false promise that could therefore arise. There was no allocation of funds by individual elementary school, only a laundry list of possible projects that might be funded. Ultimately, the Ohlone, Fairmeadow and Duveneck expansions, all two-story classroom additions to accommodate enrollment growth and reduce the use of portables, sucked up most of the money targeted for elementary schools.

So with a prospective donor at hand, Addison principal Boyce, with support from district administrators, her site council and staff, immediately went to work on developing a plan for how Addison could be improved. By May, the donor had provided $25,000 to fund an architect to work with the Addison community. Students, parents and staff were surveyed and a plan emerged that was estimated to cost $17 million. It would reconfigure the campus, replace portables with new two-story classrooms, move the office, build a new library and multi-purpose room and expand the playground.

Incredibly, these efforts all took place without the knowledge of the school board or the public because Superintendent Max McGee chose not to inform the board or put the matter on a school board agenda for public comment. Only when word leaked out did McGee disclose the potential project in a weekly memo to the board in early December, and he didn't provide details until the board meeting on Feb. 23, when he asked for approval of the conceptual plan, a $17 million scope of work, approval of an initial $1.3 million donation to fund the development of detailed plans and approval of no-bid contracts with architectural and project management firms.

The eleventh hour sun-shining of the proposal amounted to a fait accompli and gave little opportunity for the board or community to reflect on and consider the policy implications of two unprecedented problems: the anonymity of the donor and the inequitable investment a donation of this size obviously creates within a public school system.

The district lacks any policy on anonymous gifts or on major donations offered to an individual school, and these sensitive issues should have been immediately brought to the school board for discussion the moment the Addison donor emerged, not after countless hours of work had already been invested in developing a plan for how the money would be spent.

In our opinion, anonymous gifts to a public agency over a certain amount should be prohibited by law. Otherwise, the public has no way of knowing what promises or special treatment may accrue to the donor or his children. When John Arrillaga funded the Burgess Gym in Menlo Park he wanted to be anonymous and the City of Menlo Park told him that wasn't possible. And to their credit, when the Peery family decided to donate $24 million toward the construction of the new gyms at Paly, it recognized the donation could and should not be anonymous even though they preferred it to be so.

But more troublesome than the anonymity is the inequity of one public elementary school hitting the jackpot while others have no resources to improve their campuses. This was the problem that led to the initial adoption of district policies on fundraising, which prohibit individual schools from raising money to pay for additional staffing resources.

The time to adopt ethical and equitable policies on donations is before, not after, gift horses present themselves.

At this point the Addison project should move forward. But as the school board and McGee now scurry to justify approving the Addison plan by spending $163,000 from the bond fund to study facilities needs at the other elementary schools when there is no assurance that money will exist to pay for them, let's make it a priority to develop gift policies so we act in the future like a democratic public school system that provides equal opportunities for all our students regardless of their neighborhood or the wealth of their parents.

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Comments

20 people like this
Posted by Parent of two
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 4, 2016 at 8:14 am

Good points. McGee has a bad habit of skirting the board to drive his own agenda, which does not include a strong regard for district wide equity concerns. Getting things done is nice, but we need to do things the right way. Hopefully McGee can learn to work with the board instead of daring the 6th tell him 'no'.


1 person likes this
Posted by FUD
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2016 at 9:05 am

"In our opinion, anonymous gifts to a public agency over a certain amount should be prohibited by law. Otherwise, the public has no way of knowing what promises or special treatment may accrue to the donor or his children."

This is the same argument as red states are using to bring in voter id laws. Nice company you're keeping there, editors.


10 people like this
Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2016 at 10:38 am

When I was on PTA Council 20 years ago there was a policy that gifts could not be given to just one school. They had to be given to the district for district-wide use. This is what started the predecessor to Partners in Education (PiE). But, then someone wanted to donated $1 million or so to the new pool at Paly, and even though Gunn's pool was in much worse shape, the district took the donation. A school district -- even one as wealthy as PAUSD -- will never turn down money for someone's pet project.


25 people like this
Posted by It Depends
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 4, 2016 at 10:47 am

Yes, there was a policy many years ago against taking donations for just one school. Someone wanted to replace the Gym at Gunn and the gift was refused. But then 5 years later, Paly got the offer for the pool and that one was accepted. So, it depends on what neighborhood your school is in on who gets the gifts.


20 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2016 at 10:58 am

I was surprised that the last paragraph of this editorial says that the Addison project and money should be accepted.

Up until that point, I thought the editorial was asking for both transparency and equity. That is, donations should be sunshine-d well in advance _and_ donations should not be allow to benefit one school in a public district disproportionately.

Free donor money is wonderful (thank you!) but I am surprised the Weekly is supportive of the idea of one school hitting the jackpot and hand-waving away the important progressive parity issue.


30 people like this
Posted by Fait Accompli
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 4, 2016 at 12:38 pm

Palo Alto Weekly summed up the problem that occurs repeatedly in PAUSD:

"Incredibly, these efforts all took place without the knowledge of the school board or the public because Superintendent Max McGee chose not to inform the board or put the matter on a school board agenda for public comment. Only when word leaked out did McGee disclose the potential project in a weekly memo to the board in early December, and he didn't provide details until the board meeting on Feb. 23, when he asked for approval"

Palo Alto Weekly brilliantly summed up the result of this practice:
"The eleventh hour sun-shining of the proposal amounted to a fait accompli and gave little opportunity for the board or community to reflect on and consider the policy implications of..."

This happens again and again in this District. We first saw it with the Reorganization last year, promoting key senior District staff without giving time for input. Counselors, Special Education, Testing and Evaluation, Attendance, and the law firms are all under one person, who has no particular training as a Counselor It took months to prepare this plan, but the public was given almost no notice. The plan was only presented at the last minute at the final Board meetings of the school year, after families were away for summer and had to be rushed for approval and implementation. Too late, it's done. Fait Accompli.

When the public did manage to complain about legal expenses and rehiring the law firm with little public input, the Superintendent promised a new Attorney would be hired as a District employee and within 90 days would review the work of the paid law firms. This would have given families time to give input and express concerns. Then he abruptly cancelled hiring the Attorney. Families cannot give input or report problems with the District's legal work or attorneys. To late, it's done. Fait Accompli.

Now, there is a Request for Proposals for legal service firms to report to Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, Counseling, Testing and Evaluation, Attendance with almost no notice, in a print only version of one single newspaper. Such a controversial step was not put on an Agenda for Board discussions or on the web site. Proposals were already due in February. Too late, it's done. Fait Accompli.

Another example: families waited years for the results of the CDE Special Education review. When families complained to the Board, suddenly the Superintendent presented results that the District was in 100% Compliance. But those were not the results of the CDE review. The true results were that the CDE had actually found the District in non-compliance months earlier, but the District never told the public. The District did not tell the public it was put on a plan and closely supervised by the CDE until it fixed the non-compliant items. The 100% results were the District finally fixing problems. It's done. Fait Accompli.

What was concerning is the Board expressed concern about the attorney's role in the CDE review, and the 100% was an argument why the attorney should be retained and the reorganization approved, employees promoted without competitive job applications. Too late, it's done. Fait Accompli.

The Superintendent reported he reviewed all the legal cases against children, and he concluded they should have been brought. With one sentence, he demeaned all children the District sued. But the Superintendent is not an attorney. Did he talk to the families involved in the cases? Did he allow them to show documents that might contradict his employees? Or did he only look at information given to him by his employees, when they were being promoted? Too late. Fait Accompli.

When first presented, the reorganization lead families to believe the Assistant Superintendent would be a competitive hire to supervise the departments that had so many problems - Counseling, Special Education, Legal. Instead, he posted the job for only one week and only allowed internal applicants. So only one person could apply. At the final Board meeting of the year, the Board had to approve that person for hire. Too late for families to express concerns. It's done. Fait Accompli.

The Assistant Superintendent had already chosen the group to evaluate Special Education before being promoted. The employee choose their own evaluater. Too Late. It's done. Fait Accompli.

The Superintendent's Weekly - Education Services from 2/2/6/2016 - says programs will be reduced or eliminated. But where was the advance Board discussion and public comment?

"Department of Rehabilitation – We have completed the review and our program is going to be reduced in scope and amount. Department of Rehabilitation has been directed to serve transition age students and no longer focus on adults. The funding will be reduced from $400,000 to $300,000. We are currently in the process of retooling the program and completing the contract for 2016-17."

What review? What the public included? Fait Accompli.

and

"Alta Vista – As a follow up from my last report, Palo Alto Unified School District and Mountain View Los Altos District are meeting end of this week to discuss the 2016-17 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). We will reduce the numbers significantly."
Maybe both the above decisions were right. But was the public included in the reduction, or just told after the decision was made? Fait Accompli.

When there were concerns at Board meetings about District Counseling, answers were put off again and again. The Assistant Superintendent made blanket statements about Counseling, such as that Elementary School Counseling is very effective. How would she know? She is not a Counselor or any kind of Therapist. She is not licensed to provide Mental Health, she just makes decisions about and controls all the Counseling services and the Counselors in the District. Was there an independent study of this before she made the conclusion? Was there public comment? Too late, already said it. Fait Accompli.

Is there an Elementary School family who believes the counseling services are effective or efficient? I never heard this. Access is difficult and controlled by a few employees who only see the child part of the day, counselors are not on campus at the beginning and end of the school year, and most are interns. The District's few Licensed Mental Health employees do testing, but again are not on campus every day and see the child very little. Families often say the District's mental health employees try to divide families and create distension. They complain they are mean and condescending, and both families and doctors complain they never return phone calls or e-mails. District Behaviorists are not licensed at all, and meet no professional standard of training or ethics or supervision. These are people who have absolute control over children's lives, testify in court against their own students, and determine if students receive services or no help at all. Too Late. Fait Accompli.

When outside independent professionals re-test children, they find huge errors and problems with school District work. Families can't complain, hundreds of messages and complaints to special education are ignored, and families are told if special education is involved, the mental health staff are not supervised by District managers in Counseling and they cannot complain or ask an ethical standard be used. Too Late. We control all the information. Fait Accompli.

Then, the Superintendent reports to the Board there are no complaints because families did not use a specific form or process they were never told about, ignoring the hundreds of complaints and attempts for help that went to District staff. Too late. We control all the information. Fait Accompli.

When the Board complains Counseling services are not coordinated, suddenly we hear how great the District is at coordination. We hear that executive talk to each other at every "Cabinet" meeting! Children in pain don't really care about Cabinet meetings. The goal with these types of reports is to say exactly the opposite of the complaint or concern. Multiple District staff are told to repeat the same thing, because if many people say the same thing many times, it must be a fact. When the District writes it in a document many times, it must be fact. These are often accompanied by vague statements about how wonderful and transparent the staff is. We control all the information. It's done. Fait Accompli.

Numerous posters on Palo Alto Weekly commented that record requests are unfilled, or only partially filled. The District launches a game of leaving out records or forgetting certain files, forcing families to make multiple requests spelling out exactly what is missing. The Superintendent reports all record requests are filled. We control all the information. Fait Accompli.

Why is all of this related? Because they all involve control by a few employees, lack of transparency, poor communications to the public, and District staff presenting conclusions to the Board of Education without adequate proof and without Board or public input. Recommendations are presented at the last minute, with a "dare you to say no or to ask for any oversight" attitude. Too late. It's done. Fait Accompli.


14 people like this
Posted by FUD
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2016 at 3:35 pm

"In our opinion, anonymous gifts to a public agency over a certain amount should be prohibited by law. Otherwise, the public has no way of knowing what promises or special treatment may accrue to the donor or his children."

Actually, considering this more, this is simply that the Palo Alto Weekly editor can't distinguish between an anonymous donation and when the donor simply wishes not to to be named. If the distinct knows who the donor is, then, by definition, the donor isn't anonymous.

The Weekly editors are lumping these together and throwing the baby out with the bath water.

In this case, with the Addison gift, the district does not know who the donor is. So how does the district offer "promises or special treatment may accrue to the donor or his children"?

In the case where the district does know the donor then, yes, we need limits on how much someone can give and not have their name published. However, these numbers should be far lower than the Weekly is proposing.

When the district knows who the donor is, they need not publish the names within the following limits:
- gift to a site: $5K
- gift to the district (including PiE) w/no strings: $25K
- gift w/strings: $5K

When the district does not know who the donor is, the following limits should apply:
- gift w/no strings: "the sky's the limit" (The donor can still specify how they wish the money spent, the district can decide on whether to accept the gift with these requests)
- gift w/strings (e.g.: selecting a specific contractor): $5K

With Addison, we have a real anonymous donor who has yet to introduce any conflict of interest, such as naming a contractor, so there is no reason that the board, or the Weekly, should start to demand that they do not remain anonymous. As soon as that changes, then the above rules apply.


Requesting that large anonymous donors reveal themselves is counter-productive and does not enhance open government. It just discourages large donations.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2016 at 10:48 pm

Does anybody else hear the echo from the OCR kerfuffle a few years ago, when former Supt. Skelley allegedly kept the school board in the dark? The pattern is obvious: the school board does not WANT to be troubled over these issues and has instructed Supt. McGee accordingly, just as it had his predecessor.


8 people like this
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2016 at 6:18 am

This is an excellent editorial. It is well-reasoned, clear, crisp, and makes sense.

Until the end, when it takes an odd turn and ends up approving of the precise gift that it just argued against for 300 words. You said above that this gift should be illegal, and that there should be no anonymous donations. Stanford does not, for example, accept donations from anonymous donors that are unknown to the school. They would never run off and build a building only to discover it was paid for by Bernie Madoff or some other person to whom they might have to return the funds later. This is a terrible philanthropic practice and you correctly said it is even less appropriate for a public agency.

Similarly, you correctly argue that this gift destroys the concept of progressive parity and that the $183K in funds to make plans for other schools is just a fig leaf and a small one that still leaves matters exposed to view.

Then you say "but let's grab the cash," undermining and discrediting all the excellent points you just made. Many of your editorials have this character -- they seem to be going well, yes that makes sense, good point and then bam, whoops, they take a weird turn and end up in the wrong place.

There is no way you can say "there oughta be a law" and then say "but it's ok this time."


Like this comment
Posted by fact checker
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2016 at 7:07 am

"Stanford does not, for example, accept donations from anonymous donors that are unknown to the school. They would never run off and build a building only to discover it was paid for by Bernie Madoff or some other person to whom they might have to return the funds later. This is a terrible philanthropic practice and you correctly said it is even less appropriate for a public agency."

"An anonymous donor has given Stanford $20 million to help boost the university's efforts at attracting and retaining women faculty and students in science and engineering"
Web Link

"Anonymous donors fund Humanities Fellowships at Stanford"
Web Link

"Stanford Received $15 Million From Two Anonymous Donors "
Web Link

"Through an anonymous donation, Stanford has ensured that former quarterback Andrew Luck's legacy will live on at the university by endowing Luck's name to the offensive coordinator position."
Web Link

That's just on the first page of Google results.


1 person likes this
Posted by fact checker
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2016 at 7:26 am

Also, aside from being wrong about Stanford's policy, you certainly shouldn't put them forward as an example that PAUSD should follow given that:

"Former Stanford Admissions Officers reveal the presence of a separate mechanism for processing applications of students who are children of top donors."

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Stanford Alum
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2016 at 7:31 am

We're getting mixed up over the term "anonymous." Let's distinguish between an "undisclosed" donor and a "hidden" donor - the first is known to the recipient, but not disclosed to the public; the second is hidden from even the recipient.

The Addison donor would like to be "hidden" - they work only through an intermediary and no one at the district knows their identity. Golton and McGee have said so several times.

Stanford and most charities often have "undisclosed" donors - people who want to give but not have the gift publicized. My understanding is that Stanford WOULD NOT accept a "hidden" donation, where no-one at Stanford knows the identity of the actual donor.

This should certainly give pause to the PAUSD Board before accepting a gift under conditions that Stanford would simply not accept.


15 people like this
Posted by Watch the Bling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2016 at 9:30 am

"Numerous posters on Palo Alto Weekly commented that record requests are unfilled, or only partially filled. The District launches a game of leaving out records or forgetting certain files, forcing families to make multiple requests spelling out exactly what is missing. The Superintendent reports all record requests are filled."

It goes beyond that with this administration - they stonewall or give misleading information, so that parents cannot solve problems or work with the district. In many ways, McGee is turning out worse than Skelly, because he is nicer in person and smarter, but no more ethical, sadly. He is also much better at currying favor and politics. He's looking forward to namedropping in his rich retirement, I'm sure. The Weekly is not helping by wagging it's finger and then saying, oh well, we disagree, but you should go ahead anyway. They helped create this by giving the greenlight on Measure A, supplemental tax, which turned out to be completely unnecessary, but it did in fact seem to give the district the idea that anyone or anything they didn't like or want to deal with, including laws, could now and forever safely be ignored. Every one of these weak editorials reinforces it.

But if you know the above, poster, then file a complaint with the OCR. You do not have to be a parent or even complaining for yourself. Because not only are such practices illegal (and discriminatory if they are done to prevent special ed parents from solving problems), the district is legally required to have processes in place to fill records requests under the law, and the entire board was reminded of this recently. If the district is failing to fill them, and the superintendent is claiming there are none open when he knows better, and there are no processes in place to comply under the law yet the board does nothing, then our district has seriously broken down again in one of its most basic functions. Soecial ed parents: Palo Alto CAC is not going to be able to do anything, the regional CAC will have to. If you know of the districts failures to comply with such a basic requirement and law, do something.

It seems to me, if you know so much and do nothing to help, you are part of the problem. (I know of numerous records request that are unfilled at present.)


Like this comment
Posted by another stanford alum
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 5, 2016 at 9:35 am

You can give completely anonymously to Stanford. However if the donor does not wish to have their name recorded anywhere in the system they can't go through their normal donation procedures and the donor's representative needs to contact development services directly.

Please do not distribute incorrect information.

Weebly's argument that "Stanford would never run off and build a building only to discover it was paid for by Bernie Madoff" is joke. Lots of charities benefited from Bernie Madoff's "charity" and they knew who he was. Banning anonymous donations did not prevent his donations.


4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 5, 2016 at 9:53 am

Not sure why we are even arguing about Stanford. Stanford is a private institution that, as we've found with the naming of Jordan Middle School, has some made some very dubious decisions in the past. The fact that Stanford has an admissions bias towards children of large donors indicates that their model is the last thing we should be trying to emulate in a public school district.

In any case, the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund, the fund that the Addison donor has worked through has also donated to Stanford.


12 people like this
Posted by Focusing on What Matters
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 5, 2016 at 10:22 am

Ideally, we can achieve rational parity and an organized, coordinated plan for achieving it in our district. By this I mean that we can understand that our goal is parity across all schools and also understand that all schools cannot have the same level of each type of service, facility, etc. at exactly the same point in time. If we strive for equitable, VISIBLE parity at any one point in time, we will devolve to the least common denominator for all, regression to the mean, average or less than average facilities for all.

Instead, we need rational parity that includes a vision for what we strive for in our facilities for each facility. A common set of goals to aim for. A checklist of where we are in and out of step with our vision. And a specific plan and timeline for achieving our vision given our resources.

Then, we could be more open to outside funding that is restricted to one site, because we could recognize the an increase of resources at one site can shift resources to other sites for all sites to achieve the vision more quickly.

Every site has its own space constraints and opportunities. Yet there does not seem to be a facilities plan from the district level that outlines the vision of what we would like each elementary site to have in place. This plan could include things like kinder play yards that serve the actual population of the school site (for instance, Palo Verde’s play yard likely was constructed to meet the needs of about 40 children rather than the 50-60+ that are in attendance there now), a maker space, a multipurpose space that can fit x% of the population of the school, designated eating areas, flexible small group spaces, etc.

In short, it might be a good path forward for the school district to create a strategic plan for the elementary school facilities with a vision for what type of learning environment it aims to create and a specific plan of action for putting the pieces in place, with the $60 million in bond money, the anonymous gift for Addision, and any other financial resources it will be able to bring to bear to make our elementary school sites better 21st century learning environments for all the children. Can all the parts of the plan be achieved all at once? That’s not realistic. We need our school district to lead with rational parity – the intended and trusted objective of bringing parity to all our sites with a clear and specific set of goals and timelines for each site, along with the ability to adapt as needs change, to channel generous donors to support the common vision to help all of our sites, and the flexibility to accept financial resources from donors who want to target their donations with the recognition that funds can then be shifted to help other schools achieve the vision more rapidly than they otherwise might.


10 people like this
Posted by Watch the Bling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2016 at 11:37 am

@Focusing,
That us a real bit of sense. Please at least go read it to the board so that it is on record before it is ignored. At least it might help during the November election.


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm

"We need our school district to lead with rational parity â€" the intended and trusted objective of bringing parity to all our sites with a clear and specific set of goals and timelines for each site"

There was no interest in this until the donor came on the scene, similar to FLES & MI. Look to the history of the district behavior and MI's "bait and switch":

"Recommendation #1: Develop an implementation plan for a FLES program (Foreign Language in the Elementary School) in PAUSD elementary schools to include an analysis of time required at each grade level, curriculum recommendations, overall time available in the school day, staffing needs, negotiations implications, administrative time required, total cost estimates, community support, and funding sources. The resulting detailed information would be provided for consideration during the Strategic Planning process in 2007-2008.

Recommendation #2: In summer 2007, reinstate a summer school language immersion program in PAUSD in Mandarin for middle school students provided there is sufficient enrollment.

Recommendation #3: Develop an implementation plan for a three-year single strand pilot of a dual Mandarin Chinese Immersion Program (MCIP) using the 80:20 model. This single strand pilot could begin in the fall of 2007 with two K/1 classes at Ohlone School (eliminating the inflexibility of a traditional single strand) and would follow the instructional model and philosophy of Ohlone. The program would be reviewed yearly, and during the third year of implementation, the final size and location of the program would be determined."


Funny how recommendations #1 & #2 never happened...


6 people like this
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2016 at 8:10 pm

Thank you Stanford Alum for that clarification. I think that many people are not aware perhaps that even the Superintendent and Board have no idea who the donor is. That is the situation I am describing as not something that Stanford -- or any responsible philanthropic organization -- would do, particularly in the context of construction. It is ridiculous, all the more so where the recipient is a public agency.

If your principles are only good in easy cases but you throw them away when someone offers you enough money, then they aren't principles at all. You don't have rules you have anarchy. Rules can't apply only when it is convenient. They have to constrain even when inconvenient. That's what "rule" means.


2 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 5, 2016 at 10:04 pm

This is so stupid. It reminds me of a story a friend of mine who worked for the city of Palo Alto told me. One time Steve Jobs wanted to donate a lot of money to redo one of the Palo Alto parks. It was a grand, wonderful plan. But the city turned it down because it was felt that the city could not accept a plan to upgrade one single park without upgrading all of the parks equally. So Steve of course said forget it, and no money was donated.


2 people like this
Posted by Not Zuck
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 5, 2016 at 10:27 pm

One thing we know for sure is that Zuckerberg was NOT the donor. As far as I know, he's never donated to causes in Palo Alto. Also, the name of the school would have to be changed, as was the case for the iconic SF General Hospital.


Like this comment
Posted by throw mud much?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 6, 2016 at 7:20 am

@TW, you are wrong on both counts:

"That is the situation I am describing as not something that Stanford would do"

Stanford does allow completely anonymous gifts, where the donor is unknown to the school. Since you're using them as a yardstick, PAUSD should as well.


"-- or any responsible philanthropic organization -- "

The donor is going through the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund. I think I'll take their reputation as a responsible philanthropic organization over your attempt to throw mud at them any day.


Like this comment
Posted by Stanford Alum
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2016 at 8:48 am

@throw mud much - I'm not sure where you are getting your information about Stanford's policy, but I am fairly sure you are incorrect. Someone, at least one senior person in the administration, must know the identity of the donor. I believe this is the case with most established non-profits, since the reputational risk of ill-gotten gains, undisclosed quid pro quo arrangements, etc. is not worth the money. This is even more true of a public agency in my opinion.

You might want to double check your information (I double checked mine).

As for the Goldman fund, per Dr. Golton's statements, they are dealing with a "donor-advised" fund, which as you probably are aware accepts donations into a charitable foundation structure and then distributes at the "recommendation" (read: direction) of the donor. So this is simply a pass-through for the actual donor; I don't think it is appropriate to say "Goldman is giving us the money, so it is fine."


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Posted by please post links
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2016 at 8:54 am

Stanford
Gifts from Highly Anonymous Donors:
Using the Gift Transmittals application will require entering donor names. If the donor(s) does not wish to have their name(s) recorded anywhere in the system, please email Development Services and do not initiate a gift transmittal.

Web Link


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Posted by Stanford Alum
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2016 at 9:09 am

@please post links - yes that looks right. Not all givers are recorded in their development database. But that doesn't mean that no-one knows the donor's identity. I believe they require at least one (maybe more) senior individual actually know the donor's identity. I am not surprised this policy doesn't appear explicitly on their website, since I expect, like in PAUSD's situation, it does not come up very often.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2016 at 9:24 am

@Stanford Alum,

"I am not surprised this policy doesn't appear explicitly on their website"

So you just made it up and thought you would post it? Please provide a link to something, anything, on the Stanfod site where it says that Stanford does not accept truly anonymous donations. Otherwise it's clear you actually didn't "double check" your information.


"As for the Goldman fund"

See: Web Link
"This work was financially supported by the California Healthcare Foundation, Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund (private donation), and anonymous private donors. We have no conflicts of interest to report."

Going for strike three?


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Posted by Stanford Alum
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2016 at 9:37 am

My double check was a conversation with a Stanford official. I apologize that I don't have a link to post for you. I'm not sure why you are taking such a caustic tone.

Not sure about your point with the Goldman foundation. Dr. Golton clearly said, more than once, that they were dealing with a donor-advised fund. Goldman is not making the donation decision; the underlying donor is.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow

on Mar 6, 2016 at 9:58 am


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Posted by nb
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 6, 2016 at 10:03 am

> I'm not sure why you are taking such a caustic tone.

It's probably because you are making claims you can't backup.


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Posted by Watch the Bling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2016 at 10:06 am

@Palo Alto resident, Can you please provide a link, I am a City watcher and have never heard this. I searched on "city of palo alto parks steve jobs donation gift" and get nothing. The Peery Foundation recently donated like a million dollars to the new play area at Mitchell Park, and didn't the junior museum take a big donation for an expansion recently (I stand to be corrected on that one, but maybe even it was the same donor?) so I think that's an apocryphal second hand story that is probably wrong.

Schools are different than parks, too. As we all know, some Palo Alto residents are more equal than others. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try for parity. Look at Los Altos downtown (where I now prefer to shop instead of Palo Alto). We all know the big money going into maintaining a nice family style town, instead of those same people saying they got theirs and who cares about anything outside my compound unless it affects me personally or my kid likes to go there. (Although look at that old moldy rec center at Shoup, bleh. I guess aforesaid donors never use it...)

Speaking of mold, it's really kind if egregious that the district wouldn't put a fraction of the resources they are now putting into reviewing the schools because of this potential donation into "improving indoor air quality" which starts with reviewing the schools, and which was promised in the facilities bond - I was quoting there from the facilities bond, in the "specifications" section. While the laundry list of promised projects may have been weasel-outable, @specifications@ generally are not, especially when those things affect the physical health, mental health, and performance of students (during a serious crisis of those no less) and a very small amount of money wielded competently makes a huge huge difference. Addison has had at least one wealthy family complain seriously about unhealthy levels of mold at Addison (not the only school site to field such conplaints) but with a major renovation, that will inadvertently be taken care of there. Which is as it should be for all kids, but if the donation goes through, only the less well heeled kids will get the most asthma attacks and catch the most illnesses, i.e., the rich donor's kids won't have to worry about the district utterly failing to honor the facilities bond specifications that most affect student health and performance, and can just smugly think, " Let them eat steroid inhalers..."

That is probably the most important reason to care about parity. Because those with power are far more able to solve problems than those without, and the way life works, they're usually only likely to so so if the problems affect them personally. It's just the way things work, people don't really understand problems until they deal with them themselves. Imagine what could happen if the child of a wealthy citizen couple, one of whom is a physician, got asthma from attending school and then clued the distrct in on the relevant medical literature connecting greater suicidality and depression rates with those environmental factors? Suddenly, the inexpensive, well researched preventive measures like "improving indoor air quality" in all renovations would get done.



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Posted by Yuge
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2016 at 10:09 am

Mud is just enraged that anyone would even suggest that principles sometimes require sacrifice. As Donald Trump says "it's ok to change your mind and forget principle if you want to build something HUGE." Let's make Addison School great again.


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Posted by principled
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 6, 2016 at 10:25 am

What principle would that be, Yuge? The principle that people should be allowed to make donations anonymously? Yes, I wouldn't want to sacrifice that principle.

>Let's make Addison School great again.
Glad you agree.


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Posted by First world problem
a resident of Woodside
on Mar 6, 2016 at 10:32 am

Such a nice 'problem' to have. Looks a lot more like an opportunity to me.


10 people like this
Posted by Watch the Bling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2016 at 12:49 pm

@First,
Actually, fairness is a deeply-rooted human need. There are several modern day experiences of hunans treating chimps in a group preferentially and being torn to shreds (like hands and feet torn off) because of it. Chimps do not recognize human constructs like GNP but seem to care even more deeply about fairness.

Besides, it's the law. The whole Tinsley agreement was won because of fairness. Education in California is a right enshrined in the state constitution and there are many laws regarding fairness. You may think it's a first workd oroblem, but it does not mean it's okay to break laws and treat people if lesser means less fairly.

As I pointed out in the above post, the district pleaded poor when it came to just honoring their requirement of improving indoor air quality in the facilities bond. That has implications even to the depression epidemic, the disparity between high schols in mental healthoutcomes, potential future asthma deaths, teacher healthcare and substitute teaching costs, and to student performance even today, They couldn't be bothered to review the campuses for student health, despite considerable efforts by a number of parents in the past whose children have suffered (including at Addison), but here they are doing something even more expensive than that just because a rich person wants to give money to one school. That alone demonstrates why it's so important not to give preference in a public district. The rich person hopefully could see the value exercising their influence across the district, but never if they get their iwn special new school and no one else does. In the worst case scenario, a rich person would be on a far better position to call out malfeasance that results even in the need for donated funds to fix up such aging facilities after such a rich investment was supoosed ro renew the facilities.


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