Middle-school principal named secondary-education head for Palo Alto school district

Sharon Ofek to replace Katherine Baker

Sharon Ofek, principal at Jane Lathrop Stanford (JLS) Middle School since 2009, will be moving to the school district office to serve as chief academic officer of secondary education, the district announced Monday.

Ofek is replacing Katherine Baker, who is retiring at the end of this school year.

In Ofek's new role, she will "lead the processes of development and evaluation of the school district's curriculum, instruction, and assessment areas" for Palo Alto Unified's three middle school and two high schools, according to a district announcement.

Ofek first joined the district 17 years ago as a seventh- and eighth-grade mathematics teacher at Jordan Middle School. She came to Palo Alto from Cesar Chavez Academy in the Ravenswood City School District, where she was an elementary-school teacher.

She taught math at Jordan for three years, from 1999 to 2002, then served as an instructional supervisor for three years. From 2002 to 2003, she was the school's dean of students and oversaw Jordan's Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which provides extra academic support to struggling students to help prepare them for college.

Ofek became Jordan's assistant principal in 2003 and stayed until moving to the same position at JLS in 2008. She was named principal the following year.

Ofek is also herself a graduate of the Palo Alto school district.

"This is my home and my community," she said in the district announcement. "I am familiar with our challenges and opportunities and I look forward to working with Dr. McGee and our community as we continue to improve the educational opportunities for ALL PAUSD students."

Ofek's appointment is effective July 1.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


23 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 9, 2016 at 7:13 pm

[Post removed.]

23 people like this
Posted by Kate
a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Congratulations to Ms. Ofek! She is a dedicated and inspiring educator who is committed to this community. We are very lucky to have her! Hooray!

1 person likes this
Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2016 at 9:32 pm

[Post removed.]

11 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 9, 2016 at 10:53 pm

Ah, phooey, we are just about to start at JLS and have heard only good things about Ofek. I hope we are able to retain a solid principal for JLS. We need a good year in PAUSD for a change!

14 people like this
Posted by On balance
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 10, 2016 at 12:50 am

@ Parent,
Ofek is a very competent manager, I don't think it gets any better. She is calm in a storm and far more genuine than anyone in the district office. Unfortunately, that isn't saying much. She is also a company man, so to speak. She can play favorites without thinking that of herself. I wouldn't say she is inspiring or very innovative. She will be very ... obedient ... and not speak out if she sees anything wrong. Or, let's just say if she sees anything wrong, she won't interpret it that way. She's the type to justify and go along with what she's told from above. The upshot in my opinion is that, like McGee, she could go either way and would benefit from people in the office with strong moral compasses, and fewer people without them, i.e., it's a concerning development in a way, let's hope it's not the Peter PrincipAL. She absolutely won't be the type to improve transparency or honesty, like I said, she's a company (wo)man. There won't be any surge of creativity, but she is a very competent manager.

But if you haven't had a good elementary experience, Ofek would not have been the answer to your problems. JLS is not a good experience across the board.

20 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2016 at 9:41 am

I feel that Sharon Olfek represents what she thinks that her management wants to hear.

She took the Connections program apart when Kevin Skelly was trying to make all education homogeneous at all costs. Then she flip flopped when Max McGee seemed to prefer different type of programs.

I feel that she did not adequately address bullying at JLS or support students that had diverse requirements or needs. She managed the main stream. [Portion removed.]

I do not see any type of creative academic leadership from Ms. Olfek. She may be a competent administrator but that's it. Our children deserve better instruction and following the status quo traditional methods is not enough.

24 people like this
Posted by Corrine
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 10, 2016 at 9:44 am

I have known Sharon Ofek for 14+ years. She is the most organized and detail oriented administrator there is. She cares for the kids and puts their needs first. I congratulate her and wish her well!

17 people like this
Posted by Congratulations
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2016 at 11:39 am

On the whole, my two children's experiences at JLS with Ofek were very good--not perfect--but VERY good. My kids had a few teachers who could stand to retire (that happens in any school), but when she could hire, Sharon Ofek made excellent hires in the arts at JLS while we there, transforming the music and theater programs into something that really is very special with an infusion of SPARKLING new teachers.

Overall, JLS is a fine school. My kids (one now a college Frosh and one a high school Junior) were well prepared academically, built a caring friendship community, had warm relationships with teachers, and found extracurriculars that were meaningful to them. Opportunities for all of those things were there for them.

Middle school is a challenging time for kids. Even a good school can't compensate for the life changes young teens struggle with. They need friends and family for that. Nonetheless, JLS was a good place for my kids during that time.

Congratulations, Sharon Ofek. Best wishes in your new position.

8 people like this
Posted by On balance
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 10, 2016 at 4:29 pm

I wouldn't argue with anything you said, except to say that JLS isn't a fine school for everyone, and @PAUSD parent is also speaking truth. While Ofek is a very competent administrator, she also was not particularly good at solving difficult problems (not very analytical) or dealing with kids across the board. The things that filtered down from the district office were implemented without any local filters and tended to hurt connections, deliberately, for those families. She tows the district line, which isn't going to be bad for everyone, but it is bad for those who needed connection and support from within their own school. I saw Ofek very warm and welcoming when it was easy, and when she liked people, but she won't stick her neck out if someone from the district office tells her to do something the little voice inside should be telling her is wrong. I do wish Ofek well, but I think realistically she would be more promising if her organizing skills were headed for a place with a more upstanding culture.

I went to middle school in a difficult social environment yet my education was far superior to what I witnessed at JLS. There are a few standouts, but it's only "fine" if you mean midway between good and bad. Glad yours had a good experience, though.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 10, 2016 at 9:40 pm

Is it true that nearly all of JLS administrative staff is turning over this summer?
Principal – Sharon Ofek (moving to pausd "chief academic officer")
Assistant Principal – Hillary Miller (moving to palo verde as principal)
Dean of Students – Iris Wong (??)

8 people like this
Posted by It's not good
a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 11, 2016 at 5:41 pm

It's not a good thing that JLS administrators are moving to other sites. Palo Verde has fewer PAEA issues, thus an administrator like Hillary Miller can be absorbed there without causing any harm. Same with Sharon Ofek. She is being kicked to the district office in a role that doesn't do much to help kids. It will be perfect stepping stone after a couple of years like other administrators before her.

12 people like this
Posted by Evan Lurie
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2016 at 12:19 pm

This thread has been dormant for several weeks, and I invigorate it at the risk of rousing sleeping dogs.

While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I more often than not find myself questioning the behavior "adults" model for the youth of this community. That behavior is most questionable on these Town Square forums.

Clearly some parents have not been satisfied by Sharon Ofek's resolutions for their JLS students' problems, and they have every right to be dissatisfied IF they have also done what they can to address the issue directly with a teacher, instructional supervisor, coach, etc. However, I do not see this forum as a venue to air grievances that are strictly personal unless these folks are also prepared to acknowledge that their problem should not generalize to Ofek.

I have been a parent of a JLS student for the past four years and an active member of that community as a member of the Connections Board and the editor of the PantherTalks monthly newsletter. I worked closely with PTA leadership and volunteers through the school. I spoke frequently with many parents from JLS, most of whom were very satisfied with Ofek's leadership. Like other posters, I believe she has hired wisely, gives her teachers the support to innovate and grow, and is remarkably conscientious about the climate and culture she has cultivated at JLS. Music and drama at JLS sparkle. The science fair and other school-wide events are well attended and energized. JLS was the first PAUSD middle school to implement a beginning of year orientation camp ("PantherCamp") which Terman and Jordan both copied. While Connections has obviously changed, it has also doubled and is stronger today due in part to Ofek's leadership. For most of the students at JLS, their social-emotional development bloomed alongside their academic skills.

District hires face the dubious honor of being further removed from the results for which they must be held accountable. I have total confidence in Ofek's abilities for a role which right now faces more scrutiny than any other in PAUSD.

2 people like this
Posted by Another parebt
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 31, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Let's not also forget that another administrator, Mr. Melton, left in February when his wife got a new job. We are the parents of an 8th grader and were incredibly sorry to see him go but felt good when he told us that the other administrators were around to look out for our daughter and her friends. We are sorry to see that two other administrators whom we have really like are leaving. I suppose we're thankful that they're leaving at the same time our child is, but it's a loss to the community at JLS.

4 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 6, 2017 at 11:36 pm

Whatever Evan Lurie's perspective is, you may be sure that the reality is 180 degrees from that.

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

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Legends Pizza Co. replaces Palo Alto Pizza Co.
By Elena Kadvany | 10 comments | 2,759 views

What is a "ton" of carbon dioxide anyway?
By Sherry Listgarten | 14 comments | 2,366 views

Do city officials ever consider giving taxpayers a break?
By Diana Diamond | 18 comments | 1,237 views

Living as Roommates? Not Having Much Sex?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,053 views

By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 1,048 views


The holidays are here!

From live music to a visit with Santa, here's a look at some local holiday activities to help you get into the spirit of the season.