News

Gunn High School principal resigns

Denise Herrmann to take administrator position in large Bay Area district

Denise Herrmann, who has served as principal of Gunn High School for the last three years, announced her resignation on Wednesday evening in a message to students, parents and staff.

Herrmann confirmed to the Weekly that she was appointed associate superintendent for instructional services in the Fremont Unified School District at that district's school board meeting in Fremont on Wednesday evening. Her resignation is effective June 17.

In her message to the Gunn community, she described the move as the "right decision for my professional career and personal well-being." 

She told the Weekly that after 11 years of working as a high school principal — she came to Gunn in 2014 from a suburban high school near Madison, Wisconsin — she was ready to move to a position with a wider, K-12 impact. She said she considered district-level positions in Palo Alto Unified but that none of the available roles fit with that desire. She declined to say what efforts the district made to keep her in Palo Alto.

In her new position, she will oversee curriculum, instruction, assessment and other services for Fremont Unified's 35,000 elementary and secondary school students. This will be the first district-level position for Herrmann, who started her career as a science teacher in Illinois in 1991.

Herrmann's years at Gunn have been marked by both progress and tumult. She oversaw the school's shift to a new, more forgiving block schedule in the 2015-16 school year, helped bring to fruition a long-stalled plan to create a teacher advisory program at the school this year and led a district-level social-emotional learning curriculum committee that will pilot programming at Gunn next fall, among other changes. She also took over the school's recent Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation process and created professional learning communities to increase collaboration among teachers, her message notes.

The accomplishment "dearest to my heart," Herrmann said Wednesday, was progress the school has made in "breaking down the stigma for students seeking help for mental health and wellness support."

Herrmann served as principal when the school lost several current and former students to suicide, bringing an intense spotlight on Gunn's high-pressure academic culture but also sparking impactful student campaigns that have raised awareness about mental health. Gunn also opened a wellness center this fall, has hired additional mental health staff and even repainted the school last summer to make the campus a brighter, happier place.

Her tenure as principal, however, was marred by conflict with her staff, including a formal grievance the teachers' union filed in 2015 accusing her of violating their contract by asking all Gunn teachers to use online management system Schoology to post their homework assignments. Teachers eventually agreed in a new contract to comply with her request.

Students have also criticized the Gunn administration for failing to listen to student voice, particularly after the controversial removal of the school's early morning zero period in 2015.

Herrmann said she prefers to focus on the accomplishments rather than the challenges during her time at Gunn.

"For a school of almost 200 adults and 2,000 students, we really accomplished a lot. Are there things I wished we could have done? Of course," she said. "I really try to look at the glass is half full and reflect on the enormous improvements that we made."

Superintendent Max McGee told the Weekly Wednesday night that he will be meeting with Gunn's instructional council and union representatives Thursday to discuss next steps for filling the position. He declined to say whether the district has identified an internal replacement, but that he has directed the assistant superintendent for human resources to post the position internally.

McGee described Herrmann as a "great systems thinker" who has made a lasting impact on both Gunn and the district. He "would have loved to have her stay" but said the district could not compete with the level of position she secured in a district the size of Fremont Unified.

"She's made enormous contributions, and I wish her all the best," McGee said.

Herrmann's resignation follows several other personnel departures announced recently, including the principals at Terman and Jordan middle schools and Ohlone Elementary School, the district's assistant superintendent for human resources, the director of special education, the chief student services officer, an associate superintendent and the director of student services.

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Comments

33 people like this
Posted by Long Overdue
a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2017 at 11:30 pm

I trust that Fremont Unified will experience her "enormous contributions" with her "great systems thinking," too.


73 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2017 at 11:41 pm

@Long overdue: Hey, she seemed to care more than our current Paly principal, Diorio. Hermann was at least trying to reduce stress for the students. All Diorio has done is stop the streaking and turned a blind eye to everything else. But with the latest fiasco, she will likely be gone by fall. We need a leader who can be productive and she isn't a leader at all.


85 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2017 at 11:44 pm

I think Herrmann was a breathe of fresh air. She seemed to do her best to rise above the pernicious district office politics. I wish her the best.


57 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2017 at 12:03 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@ Parent - I agree, we just lost the wrong principal. Hopefully the teachers will remember her fondly as they enter homework assignments into Schoology.

So much staff turmoil in PAUSD right now, what a mess.


97 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 25, 2017 at 6:52 am

I am very sorry to see Denise leave Gunn. She always remained positive and professional in the very difficult and demanding position of dealing with Palo Alto parents. Fremont district is very fortunate to have her join their district. I wish her all the best!!


109 people like this
Posted by Sorry to See Her Go
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2017 at 7:25 am

Denise Herrmann was the best thing that ever happened to Gunn High School. She was on the right side of every "controversy" listed in this article. She always supported the students' interests. Cajoling the teachers to use Schoology instead of whatever obsure website they preferred made a huge difference in the lives of my students, their organization and their ability to learn. Does any parent at Gunn feel different? That the Teachers Union objected to this critical learning tool shows how out of touch they are. Teachers have the upper hand at the expense of our students on many other issues. Denise was a change agent and I hope (but doubt) the district will find anyone half as good.


60 people like this
Posted by teacher in district
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 25, 2017 at 7:50 am

She will be missed. Best leadership at Gunn we have ever had. Now all the teachers can go back doing exactly what they want at the expense of students......


29 people like this
Posted by Words are hollow
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2017 at 7:55 am

"Systems thinking" = factory mindset in which students are products and teachers are replaceable. She said the right things to the board and some teachers. Ask teachers and students how respected they feel.


38 people like this
Posted by Thomas
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 25, 2017 at 8:27 am

Hopefully we will receive the same good news from the PALY .


47 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2017 at 9:30 am

Dr. Herrmann will be missed. Best leadership at Gunn we have ever had. Sorry to see her leaving Gunn...


47 people like this
Posted by lookintoit
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2017 at 10:23 am

Why is there a mass exodus of staff (especially many outstanding teachers) leaving Palo Alto? Surely this speaks to a larger issue...
Maybe someone should be looking into this?


39 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2017 at 10:30 am

Ms. Herrmann

Thanks for your Great contribution.

Congratulations. We will miss you.

Respectfully


33 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on May 25, 2017 at 10:47 am

Someone asked why there is a mass exodus of teachers from Palo Alto and neighboring districts. Why? Salaries are simply too low. Anywhere else in the United States, save New York and perhaps Boston, PA salaries would be considered excellent.

But not here. Homeownership? Forget it. Renting anything other than a one-bedroom or studio? Not possible. Having children? Sorry, it's not going to work . . . at all.

I worked for Ms. Herrmann as a substitute teacher for several years and she has been excellent, providing a good example to students and staff alike. I wish her all the best.

Now . . . about those salaries . . .


40 people like this
Posted by Well Being
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 25, 2017 at 11:01 am

RE ; she described the move as the "right decision for my professional career and personal well-being." "

For her personal well-being. That says a lot, and worth further understanding.


9 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2017 at 11:05 am

@lookintoit

I'd guess that Fremont is a shorter commute for her and her colleagues. Dumbarton Bridge is a risky proposition during rush hour, one accident or snarl ahead of you and you're stuck.


52 people like this
Posted by missing her
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 25, 2017 at 11:16 am

She was one of the better ones. wish she weren't leaving. Getting all teachers to use schoology and getting the block schedule implemented.... 2 HUGE aspects that have reduced student stress... nuff said...


20 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2017 at 11:30 am

She was a great principal, I wish her much happiness in her new endeavor.


24 people like this
Posted by Schreed
a resident of Stanford
on May 25, 2017 at 11:48 am

A caring and professional educator. She will be difficult to replace.


29 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2017 at 11:54 am

Now if only Diorio and McGee would follow suit.......


52 people like this
Posted by Rajiv Bhateja
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2017 at 11:59 am

Am enormously grateful to Ms. Hermann for taking a stand on Schoology.

That step alone shows her unflinching commitment to student welfare.

She will be sorely missed.


29 people like this
Posted by StClaireGardensGuy
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 25, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Denise Herrmann did a great job of cleaning up much of the the prior principal's neglect at Gunn. Overall, it's a shame to see her go.
The idea that it was controversial to require teachers to use 1 reporting tool is ludicrous. It points out the district failings of teachers being on differing contracts at the 2 high schools, the district CIO's lack of accountability/capability for campus level implementation, and the failing of the teachers union to get on board with rational improvement to the disparate mess that existed at Gunn previously.
For the good that Denise brought she could also be elitist and not lower herself to individual student and parent-
raised issues. She did little to adequately address accountability for gross failure in her counseling team and simply wouldn't reply on email threads directed to her to look for that accountability and recourse on issues where her inherited staff had failed in ways damaging to students.
And in the end she is bailing out after 3 years. Not the follow through I would expect from someone taking the role of High School Principal. What's up with that?


42 people like this
Posted by Shocker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Is anyone really surprised that Ms. Herrmann and other high ranking educators have left the district? Pressure cooker/rice cooker environment with parents constantly beating on you and breathing down your neck. Lawsuits, suicides, constant scrutiny. This coupled with a salary that only allows you to live in the furthest corners of the Bay Area. Does anyone think this is a recipe for success for our children?


30 people like this
Posted by JLS parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 25, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Thank you Ms. Hermann for everything you have done to make Gunn a better school. I'm sorry to see you go.


35 people like this
Posted by If Only...
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 25, 2017 at 12:29 pm

It seems that all of the best teachers and principals leave.

Yet, the worst teachers, principals and administrators long overstay their welcome.

If only McGee, Diorio and Wade would just leave of their own accord.

But, no, they'll have to be fired, and that may never happen.

Meanwhile, the quality of personnel at all levels in this district declines every year.


19 people like this
Posted by Student response range
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2017 at 12:33 pm

From "who?" to "woohoo!"


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2017 at 12:34 pm

I have no experience with the principal so can't comment.

However, I do question why we keep losing our top administrators in our schools. It takes, particularly an outsider, a couple of years to get to understand the school environment and the nuances of a community. It seems to me that as soon as a principal starts to get the heartbeat of what is expected they then find a way to leave. I am not sure what it is, but I don't like the fact that we keep on changing officials at the top of our secondary schools rather than keep them for 5, 10 or even more years.

Is there something about our community that prevents good administrators from wanting to stay? Is it the community, the faculties, the students, or the parents? Or is it something else.

I think it is worth looking at the bigger question here.


19 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2017 at 12:36 pm

It's Dr. Herrmann. Highly qualified and taking care of personal well-being after doing so much for the community. A telling and sad loss.


40 people like this
Posted by News Flash
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Hey, "If Only",
I suppose you are not a regular reader of this publication because you've missed the news flash that Wade is leaving at the end of this semester. So no more dumb postings about her departure please. She has been a steward for inclusion across the District and made real change here. I experienced it and watched real change happen for my child. It's hard to read all the negative about individuals and is easy to understand how difficult it would be to remain in such a hostile community environment. So best to Denise, Holly, Brenda, and all the others that unfortunately for us will be helping to do their good work for students outside of Palo Alto.


31 people like this
Posted by retired guy who follows the schools
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2017 at 12:58 pm

It's sad and troubling that Ms. Herrmann chose to come to a reeling school, a school with a sorrow-filled history and a need for reassurance, solidarity, and a sense of belonging, and now has remained with us for even fewer years (3) than the average student.

She may speak of her attachment to Gunn's kids, but her actions hardly live up to that, as she is abandoning them amid what is still an anxious time. Some of those who were in class during the suicides of 2014-2015 have not yet even graduated. And in their campus newspaper, our young Titans are still ardently seeking ways to come together, to "remove the masks," to "change the narrative."

The average teacher, thank heavens, sticks it out much longer at a given school and is more devoted to his or her contingent of students, and now Ms. Herrmann's desire to move to an even higher administrative level, even farther from the day to day hopes and worries of kids, shows further an uneasy heart when it comes to the to-and-fro of daily, boisterous, messy teenage life.

Ms. Herrmann no doubt worked hard, but through her high-handed behavior, almost from day one, she forfeited the trust and affection of her staff [portion removed.] [H]er repeated changes in the bell schedule have left student and teacher heads spinning. Her strict disciplinary approach and her innovations of team-teaching, mandated "collaborative time," and now "alignment" have straitjacketed teachers' creativity and left them feeling voiceless.

We need to learn from our failures. It was probably a mistake to hire, for this very special school, a person from so far away, who had not been here with us to endure and learn from the six suicides of 2009-11. It was probably a mistake to hire someone with so little institutional feel for the school and community, and I'm sure the adjustment was hard for Ms. Herrmann.

Being principal of a high-school, interacting with 2,000 kids, 200 teachers, myriad support staff, and a community full of high-expectations parents must be far from a picnic or a walk in the park. [Portion removed.] [I]n selecting a replacement principal I hope our leaders will do as trustee Ken Dauber often reminds us to do, and "put kids first."


24 people like this
Posted by If Only
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 25, 2017 at 1:34 pm

News Flash: No, I don't read the local news a whole lot, but at least we will be rid of one member of the Gruesome Threesome.

Holly Wade was just AWFUL when my son was in IEP--downright neglectful, actually. Parents called for her departure back then (2013).

More recently, with all the problems of inappropriate touching my daughter has had to suffer at Hoover and then Jordan, Holly Wade was absolutely useless ( and again, neglectful) as a Title IX liaison for the district.

Due to certain uncontrolled, unpunished boys, AND Holly Wade's reticence to do anything about them due to their nationality, we have enrolled our daughter in a private school, beginning in the fall.

If Diorio and McGee leave, we MIGHT consider re-enrolling our daughter at Oaly.


25 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2017 at 2:30 pm

We've been very happy with our student's 9th and 10th grade years at Gunn - thriving and loves learning. The change to schoology was an extremely important change and worth the fight. Ms. Hermann will be missed.


21 people like this
Posted by It's DR. Herrman
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 25, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Please folks, give the woman the respect she deserves. It's "Dr. Herrman," not "Ms. Herrman." So sad to see her go. I agree with the poster above who said she was on the right side of all issues.


7 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 25, 2017 at 3:41 pm

I heard Dr. Herrman, in pursuit of career of advancement, applied for the Associate (or Assistant) Superintendent position a year ago in PAUSD. Is it true? If it were so true, why did her application get rejected? And, by whom?


17 people like this
Posted by Greenmom
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 25, 2017 at 4:22 pm

I am very sorry and very concerned to see Dr. Hermann go. My children are yet to start High school, and I have been following in dismay the history of Gunn. I was finally at peace with the fact that my kids will start going there next year, I was reassured because I saw all the positive changes that Dr. Hermann implemented, against all odds, I have to say. And now I am back to square one. Who will follow in her steps and keep preserving her achievements?
Why so much conflict at this level? This is what this community projects into the very students we want to protect. Adult messes always reflect on our youth. And then we wonder.... Why not learning from JLS? A wonderful working school where students, teachers and parents feel proud to belong?
I already feel the loss of a wonderful solid professional, and whish her well. And back here, who will be the candidates? I propose Sharon Ofek!


26 people like this
Posted by teacher
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2017 at 5:58 pm

I guarantee you the Gunn PEA reps are out celebrating. They can go back to the United Fiefdoms of Gunn High. What a loss.


22 people like this
Posted by Another Gunn parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 25, 2017 at 9:03 pm

I never knew her personally and a couple of emails never got answered, but overall she seemed to set the right tone for Gunn. My son has been there for all 3 of her years and never met her. I know it's a big school though. It's too bad she didn't or couldn't stick it out longer than the kids who actually go to the school. I wish her well. From her email I get the sense it was a tough environment for her. I'm glad she stood up to the teachers on the schoology thing. Hopefully that will continue.


6 people like this
Posted by Student response range
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2017 at 10:36 pm

A company's for-profit flawed education social media platform measures leadership?! What has become of us?


6 people like this
Posted by Student response range
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2017 at 10:38 pm

"Stood up to teachers"! Why aren't people flocking to the profession?


5 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2017 at 10:51 pm

As a four year Gunn parent, I never had a positive interaction with Dr. Hermann even though I agree with her on block scheduling, zero period, schoology and wellness. She made positive contributions in reducing stress but she was not as interested in academic achievement and was not good at personal interactions.


10 people like this
Posted by Thank you, PAEA
a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 26, 2017 at 1:06 am

First Katya Villalobos, then Denise Herrman, can't you get along with principals?


41 people like this
Posted by Concerned Mom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 26, 2017 at 9:30 am

I do agree with many comments. Dr. Herrman was a breath of fresh air, and she did try to right many things.
However, staying at such a high-level position for less than even four years? She definitely was not very popular with kids, and perhaps had a heavy-handed approach with staff. I do thank her for her efforts, but am heartsick by this lack of dedication and longevity...maybe it is the high price of living in this area, but I KNOW that a principle (at any level in PAUSD) does make a very comfortable living...
Here is an idea: Bring Tom Jacoubowsky (currently at Barron park elementary I believe) back to Gunn as principle. He has lived in Palo Alto for the last 17 years. He has been at a high level at Gunn for 14 years. He cares about our kids, he is an educator's educator. Many Gunn kids like him a lot which is a good start. We need somebody we can trust to stick around. He knows Gunn inside out. PAUSD should stop bringing people from outside the area and invest in people who know the system here and have been around Palo Alto for some time.


1 person likes this
Posted by Suggestion
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2017 at 9:54 am

How about Chuck Merritt for a high school principal. He was VP at Paly for several years and has since been principal at El Carmelo and Escondido. He knows the district and understands the problems and has stayed around long enough to show dedication.


21 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on May 26, 2017 at 11:15 am

I agree that Tom Jacoubowsky would be a good fit for Gunn and he's unlikely to leave in a year or two. But hiring principals is a very difficult thing to do and with the pressures of the job - teachers - parents - student issues - administration - state education board and, of course, the Federal Government sticking its nose into every aspect of an educator's life . . . it's a lot to expect of anyone, much less a principal.

Have we ever considered a different course of action? How about simply "appointing" a teacher to be principal for a year and then returning to the classroom? An extra $20 grand for the year they're stuck in the office might be acceptable. Give the school secretaries more administrative power, likewise the custodial staff (they've always run schools anyway) and a fat raise to go with it.

One thing I've noted after spending two decades in the business of elementary education is that a good principal must first (and foremost) be an educator. Many principals tried teaching, didn't like it, and because they had an education focused degree entered school administration. I believe that a good principal must be anxious (nay desperate) to get back into the classroom and do what they love . . . teach.

So choose a senior teacher to be the principal, albeit for one year only, and watch what happens. It couldn't hurt and as Harry Truman might have said, "Well, if it doesn't work we'll try something else."


6 people like this
Posted by ThinkingAhead
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2017 at 12:10 pm


@Suggestion

Yes it is a great idea to start thinking about the next chapter of our schools, with so many principals leaving.

Chuck Merritt is a politician himself, clueless about caring for students. He sent truancy letters to elementary school families, threatening disciplinary actions against the little toddlers for being tardy. LOL. What he forgot is that those little legs got walked by their parents...


27 people like this
Posted by supporter
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 26, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Sharon Ofek! She was the principal at JLS, and run a wonderful career there. Students, parents and teachers liked her, she has been in PAUSD for a long time too, and her administration of JLS was wonderful. She is committed to the job, beyond her work hours. She is open minded and really supports the well being of the students with concrete actions. She understands the history of the problems at Gunn and she has the stamina to take the challenge.


26 people like this
Posted by Concerned mom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 26, 2017 at 1:57 pm

I agree that Sharon Ofek is WONDERFUL! she was amazing, has a vision, hard worker, empathic, just an amazing all-around educator. I don't know much about Paly people, but know that Jacoubowsky is well-liked by kids.
I think teachers becoming principles for a year is a good idea except that in this district you need all kinds of special degrees and training to get into the administrative track...and I hate for kids to lose a senior and wonderful teacher to the thankless job of being a principle...and please weigh in the teachers' input in the selection. They are the ones in the trenches.


25 people like this
Posted by Reason why
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 26, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Administrators leave Palo Alto because it is a thankless job ina community that smiles as they stab you repeatedly (often on this very forum) and excuses their misbehaving kids every chance they kid.

Being a principal in Palo Alto is one of the worst jobs anyone could have. I don't blame everyone leaving for greener, nicer pastures.


17 people like this
Posted by Wishing
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 26, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Wish Dr Herrmann could be the Superintendent of PAUSD when McGee is fired!


20 people like this
Posted by teacher in the school
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2017 at 8:40 pm

It is disheartening to hear of all the trash talk about Hermann among the self-righteous minions.....it has been proven that she serves in the interests of students however all the hens can talk about is how she "inconvenienced" them with Schoology and perhaps roping some at risk students in the new SEL schedule. How dare she think of students above well payed Gunn teachers! We look like tired and bored squeezing out principals- perhaps if more of us concentrated on doing our jobs better rather than griping we would not be despised so much. Good luck in your endeavors Hermann and thank you!


14 people like this
Posted by teacher
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2017 at 8:44 pm

@Words Are Hollow-

The interactions I had with her I felt respected. As well as a true professional. Don't speak for all of us please.


18 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Stanford
on May 26, 2017 at 10:23 pm

She showed real courage in siding with the kids against the teachers unions. Kids 1 Teachers Unions 0.

Thank you


24 people like this
Posted by More than one school
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 26, 2017 at 10:36 pm

I have been at Gunn for the past 4 years. One year with Villalobos and 3 yrs. with Herrmann. In my experience, Villalobos did nothing for the parents or kids...it felt very teacher-centric (they can do what they want, when they want, however they want). I feel the changes implemented by Dr. Herrmann have only been positive. Prior to these changes, some Gunn teachers did run little fiefdoms (last minute homework change posted at 10pm but still due the next day, grading on a scale vs. no scale even if 75% of the class didn't do well on an exam instead of reteaching the unit, etc.). Some still do some variation, but much less. This has made a huge change in my children's lives.

Herrmann implemented change. Change is hard for everyone. Change is going to tick off some parents, some students, some teachers. You're not going to please everyone. Even though there were some changes I wasn't happy with, overall, Dr. Herrmann's efforts made impactful, positive changes.

PAEA: Please understand that change is necessary. If the changes help to reduce student stress but requires an adjustment on the teacher's part without too much burden, it's a good thing. Obviously balance is necessary for both groups, but students need representation in your contract negotiations (student needs aren't always represented well IF there is representation at all). I can't tell you how often during my child's freshman year at Gunn, I felt no one represented the student, student homework load, or the students' perspective of unreasonable demands and expectations from teachers, inconsistent teachers' use of district purchased software (Infinite Campus/Schoology (imperfect as they may be for everyone - parents included)), inconsistent grading and curriculum content (everything depended on which teacher you got to get the most out of a subject). That being said, you as a teachers' union obviously have your own challenges dealing with so many kids and administration demands. That does not go unnoticed. I just want to emphasize there HAS to be a balance.

I wish Dr. Herrmann well and success in her future endeavors. Thank you for what you have done. I hope the new principal that gets assigned to Gunn doesn't allow teacher fiefdoms to return, can balance the demands of stakeholders, and implement OVERALL positive change for all parties...not just one.


13 people like this
Posted by Having trouble posting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2017 at 7:02 pm

No, not Sharon Ofek. She definitely has strengths as an administrator especially organizational skills, but she's definitely not the person with the backbone, strength of character, and sorry to say, intelligence, to get our district out of this place where favoritism leaves the most vulnerable behind and secrecy and a coverup culture keeps leading us into the ditch. Ofek is in the district office now precisely because she won't rock the boat and will do what she's told, and she's good at justifying NOT doing the right thing in difficult situations and feeling good about it. She makes decisions similarly to Caswell, that is, not based on an impartial review of facts and all sides, but on a mix of favoritism, reputation according to colleagues (who may have agendas), and justifications she is prone to make to herself. She's not someone I would ever trust with my life, much less my students. She's really personable, and I like her, and it's clear she has great org skills and has gone out of her way for a few, but that does not make her a good candidate for super, that's the Peter Principle in action. Give her an elementary, she would be great at it, or just keep her where having a good soldier is an advantage. Herrmann was head and shoulders better - I would have considered us lucky if Herrmann went into the district office.

The majority of the administrators leaving is a good thing and we need to hope this board gives direction to get us honest earnest brokers in their place, which we have not had. Good riddance to Wade, Young, Carrillo, Lenoir, I only wish Golton and Mak would leave and make it a clean slate. Just getting rid of them makes McGee worth it, but we shall see what an administrator inclined to secrecy and failing to make right on past wrongs will bring us now.


12 people like this
Posted by Wow. That was ugly.
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 30, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Dr. Herrmann,

It has been a pleasure working with you. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Gunn HS Parent


7 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2017 at 8:43 pm

@Having Trouble. Indeed. Your input illustrates how very difficult the environment is. Such a self-satisfied and thorough analysis of Ms. Ofek. Administrators aren't products purchased online for you to dissect, berate, and rate. And so publicly. These are people working for our children.


10 people like this
Posted by Having trouble posting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2017 at 8:18 am

@Palo Alto Mom,
I was providing an honest answer to calls for Ofek to be put into a position in which she does not have the skills and character needed to bring our district out if this mire. Your post illustrates why we have so much trouble: we rate and grade our kids at every turn, but the higher we go in our district, the more people are paid and the more insular they are. For you to suggest that people serving the public should be exempt from any public comment or scrutiny, and to attack the inclination to be open and objective about it, is just misguided and part of what got us these difficulties in the first place.

Herrmann would, IMO, be a better super than McGee. I suspect that's part of why she isn't seeing an opportunity here like she is getting in Fremont. Ofek on the other hand is doing work that she is well suited for, according to this administrations needs - she is highly organized, and not someone who would ever rock the boat if she saw something really wrong. She does what she's told from above and is inclined to justify what someone she likes in a position of power above her tells her. This makes her no different than so many other people. But it's not a way to solve the current difficullt environment. Attacking people who speak openly isn't, either, and is downright chilling in the current broader political environment. Just because you like someone personally does not make them suitable for a particulat job, we have had too much of that already.

Take away your self-serving negative slant, and actually, an administrator in a public school district does serve the public and is a public figure who should be subject to public scrutiny. Part of the reason we are in this mess is almost no effective means to remind them of that if they are inclined to be insular and cover up rather than to solve problems with integrity, the difficult environment is mostly of their own making. [Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2017 at 5:38 am

@Having Trouble. "Speaking openly?" Most of us here are hiding behind aliases. I guess my comment is also about the bravado one can feel when doing so. We can agree that the departure of Dr. Herrmann is a significant loss.


5 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 1, 2017 at 9:52 pm

I am very sorry to see Dr. Hermann leave the position of Gunn High School Principal and leave our school district. I hope she will come back to be our district superintendent after Dr. McGee retires.

I agree with the comments that Dr. Hermann is on the right side of all controversial issues. This is not by accident. It shows her intelligence, integrity, strong leadership and good common sense.

I worked with her as a parent representative on the WSAC accreditation of Gunn High School in 2014-2015 school year (this is a once-every-6-year event), when she was fresh on the job as Gunn principal. I personally witnessed her dedication, professionalism and experience (she had led a school accreditation before) in leading and collaborating with many stakeholders to deliver a robust and outstanding product to the WSAC Accrediting Commission and, in doing so, also to have identified and resolved many tough issues facing our school.

I and other caring parents wrote Dr. Hermann after the loss of a Gunn High student to suicide within the first semester of her coming to Gunn High, and we wanted to lend her support and assurance, and to keep her with Gunn as our entire community underwent grievance and reflection. She did stay with us through the toughest time in recent years, but we wish she could stay longer.

I will miss you Dr. Hermann. Please come back.


7 people like this
Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 1, 2017 at 10:14 pm

@Parent, umm, McGee is about to get canned for incompetence, so she better hurry back.


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

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