News

Editorial: Time for McGee to go

School superintendent's latest blunder is the final straw

The revelation last Friday that top Palo Alto school district administrators never took the necessary steps earlier this year to reopen negotiations with the district's two unions, as directed by the school board in order to cancel a third year of scheduled raises in the face of budget shortfalls, is a shocking and costly display of incompetence and negligence.

It means the district will have to spend as much as $6 million for unbudgeted employee raises and bonuses and make substantial new budget cuts in the months ahead, all because of a missed deadline.

Equally disturbing is the attempt by Superintendent Max McGee, Chief Budget Officer Cathy Mak and the unions to withhold information on how this happened and to explain it away as a simple "misunderstanding" that was quickly resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

The details, as best we could ferret them out over the last five days, are reported today by Weekly education writer Elena Kadvany.

What is clear is that McGee failed to pay attention to the single-most important fiscal issue on his plate this year: the renegotiation of the third year of the union contracts in order to help solve last year's embarrassing crisis — Mak's miscalculation of property-tax revenue.

McGee and his staff missed the March 15 deadline for informing the unions that the district wanted to reopen the final year of contract (this school year), pursuant to a clause McGee himself had earlier heralded as a critical "safety valve" that would allow the district to roll back raises if property-tax revenues fell short, as they did.

His one-paragraph public revelation, buried in last Friday's online "Superintendent's Update," claimed the mistake was a misunderstanding caused by "confusion" over the language in the contract. It was a deliberate effort to obfuscate what had happened, hide it from the public and deflect responsibility.

Even worse, McGee's update initially had no explanation at all, only an announcement that employees would be receiving 3 percent raises. Only when the Weekly asked for an explanation was this opaque statement added: "While we would have preferred to have more flexibility if we reopened the 2017-18 contract, due to some misunderstanding and misinterpretation of contract language, we missed this opportunity. This caused some confusion, but the union and district leadership worked through it and we are moving forward."

This is why properly managed organizations have calendars, tickler files and other procedures for monitoring critically important deadlines.

The Board of Education should be embarrassed and angry that its chief executive has put it in this situation, and the board deserves its own criticism for not issuing a full statement on how and why taxpayers are once again paying millions of dollars due to management failures. The board should also explain why it wasn't asking its own questions about the progress this spring of what should have been negotiations over the third year of the contract, especially when it saw the proposed budget for this year with no salary increases.

And how is it possible that Cathy Mak, who to her credit reminded now-retired Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bowers about the March 15 deadline, failed to report anything further to the board through the entire budget process nor explain why she included no raises in the budget?

And the two employee unions, which were fully aware that the district intended to roll back their raises in the third year of the contract, said nothing before or after the March deadline. Then astonishingly, they remained silent as McGee and the board put together the budget for this year, with no employee raises, knowing full well that because the deadline had been missed those raises would have to be paid.

The last two years of McGee's chaotic leadership, staff turnover, improper handling of sexual harassment cases, lack of transparency and repeated self-inflicted controversies have whipsawed the community with one tumultuous mismanaged issue after another.

This is the last straw. The school board should ask for McGee's resignation or, if necessary, terminate him.

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Comments

159 people like this
Posted by Agreed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:09 am

School board, time to exercise your fiduciary duties and put out this dumpster fire of incompetence now. McGee, please resign immediately, your services are no longer needed.


61 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:38 am

Asking McGee to leave now is irresponsible. The mistake has been made. Bringing in a new superintendent, completely green to the role, after a desperate and rushed recruitment process, would be a huge disservice to our kids. McGee has already announced his retirement at the end of this year, giving the district time to find a new superintendent.

McGee also truly cares about our students and has done much to support them. Yes, this was a big mistake, but let's not make it bigger by throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


144 people like this
Posted by Paly Dad
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:46 am

The idea that he wouldn't get fired for a $6 million mistake is mind-boggling to me. "I'm sorry I spent $6 million that wasn't in the budget, I promise I won't do it again" - seriously? Beside, McGee KEEPS making mistakes - the sexual assault scandal of last year is also on him, so is last year's budget screw-up. Do you honestly think he'll do any better in a "lame duck" year? The chances seem much higher that he'll do something WORSE. Time of go, board do your job.


151 people like this
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 8:48 am

Cathy Mak, Chief Budget Officer, should also resign or be fired. It should happen this week. It is time to make it clear that this type of incompetence will not be glossed over. It is also time to have an administration that acts in the best interest of the students, and the district, not the staff. The unions have proved time and time again that their priority is the pocketbooks of their members. Fair enough, but, it is time for the board and the administration to act in accordance.

As for the board, when it comes to the election, let's remember what they do this week. The district has spent millions of dollars on legal fees, OCR investigations, and now these raises. Any board member who doesn't act swiftly, decisively and transparently, should be voted out.


34 people like this
Posted by dotting i-s
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 9:08 am

I hope someone, other than the Superintendent, is making sure that there won't be any misinterpretations or misunderstandings with his employment contract too.

Say, like the union, the Superintendent stays mum until after a PAUSD deadline in his contract has passed and then announces that he won't be retiring after all.

Does he get another year?


128 people like this
Posted by Regretting my PiE donation
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 1, 2017 at 9:59 am

Not firing Cathy Mak after her first multimillion dollar screwup tells us everything we need to know about McGee's judgement. Now we're paying the price for his inability to hold his staff to even the most basic standards of business competence. If McGee and Mak are not to be held accountable for giant screwups, there is no basis for their ridiculous 200K+ salaries.


81 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:27 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

PiE and PAUSD have been coasting on residual goodwill for a long time, when reality finally catches up, it is going to be a painful adjustment. This incompetence is a major reality check for those faithfully sending money to the district and voting for parcel taxes. Is anyone auditing PiE?


63 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:30 am

This is just terrible. While we have seen many administrators leave the district this last spring, it is clear that more need to go, and soon. We also need new board members that will pay some attention to the contracts and follow up on things.

Last year, when this fiasco began, the board and staff should have been reading the contracts in detail to try to figure out how to rescind as much of the raises and bonuses as possible. The staff raises should simply have been rolled back, period.

One point that I disagree with in this editorial concerns the failure of the unions to raise this issue. Yes, it would be nice to think that the unions have the concerns of the district at heart and would work collaboratively. However, that is not the way that they work, and that is not how they see their jobs.

The unions represent the interests of their employees, period. Associated with my professional life, I have heard many stories about teachers' unions. Their role is to represent the interests of their members, period. They are not concerned with the district, the board, staff, students, parents, taxpayers, or any other "stakeholders".

I have great respect for the leaders of the teachers' union. They know their job and do it very well, obtaining superb results for the membership.

As taxpayers and parents, it is our job to make sure that the board and staff is working as hard, or harder, for us as the teachers' union works for the teachers. They have failed us.


22 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:37 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Serious governance questions: Does the the city have any oversight responsibility or power over the school district? In other words, are they 2 totally separate entities?

I know they have separate budgets but I'm curious about to whom the school officials ultimately report.


47 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:50 am

This is how I see it.

McGee came into this job thinking it was a nice easy high performing district where he could pad out his career into his retirement. He had no idea of the complexities this job would face and I was wary of his success from the beginning. He should never have been offered the job in the first place because as an outsider he was totally unprepared for even the cost of finding a home in Palo Alto.

The district office is supposed to employ professionals who oversee the education of our kids. This is a professional entity which if it was in the corporate sector would see serious breaches of professional competence as immediate firing and answering to the stockholders. Instead we seem to have a group of individual buffoons disguising themselves as professional educators who have no idea of how to organize a football game let alone a school district. Am I annoyed with them all? Yes I am because they get big bucks to do the work that we trust to them and their qualifications and experience should make them worthy of.

The only body that seems to be able to keep watch over them is a BoE that is made up of members of the community who have taken it on themselves to volunteer as oversight. I respect each board member, regardless of competence, for the willingness to do this onerous task. The majority of us are not willing to do this so I am pleased that some are. Their competence or lack of it says nothing about the fact that they are in charge of a school district that is unable to do the things that are required of them. A few years back, there was a non-election because there were no community members willing to stand for election, so we can't really blame the competency of a board where we suffer from whoever is willing to be elected. The electorate can only choose between what is available, not from the best of the best around the country, as can a superintendent.

Saying all that, we are in dire need of someone with great oversight who can tackle all the responsibilities of leadership. Ever since I started paying attention to PAUSD governance and politics, we appear to have had a string of superintendents who could not or would not be allowed, to do the job of leading.

I am not a Trump supporter, but one thing that is needed at the top is someone who is willing to lead and make the tough decisions. A leader doesn't have to be liked. A leader doesn't have to be the type of person we want as a pal, but a leader has to be seen to lead regardless of what the populace think of him as a person.

I am reminded of Churchill (the Prime Minister not the poet) who made tough decisions in unusual situations.

It is time for a Churchill to be in charge at Churchill.


30 people like this
Posted by Cecilia Willer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2017 at 11:27 am

Please, if you have any comments, include your actual name. We need to be teaching our children to be digitally responsible. Please lead by example. Otherwise, there should be no comments about bullying from those submitting without their actual names.

Please, we need to turn this community around.

Thank you.
Cecilia Willer


63 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 11:41 am

Why is the teacher union holding the District so tightly to the letter of the contract when the District's intention was obviously otherwise?

Can't they acknowledge simple human error (look, everyone has messed up at some point in their lives) and be more flexible for the sake of our kids? We live in a _community_, and it is not "us" vs. "them".

Yes, the District administrators messed up, but the unions perpetuating this stance makes me completely lose sympathy for the teachers union.


31 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Just take the money out of next year's salaries. Start the negotiations now and show the teachers who is boss.

Are there any seniors who are still paying the parcel tax? Time for the rest to opt out until the district shows they can handle the money responsibly.


23 people like this
Posted by Insider
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Thanks for saying what needed to be said. McGee is toxic. And don't think for a minute that even after he departs that will be the last McGee scandal. Believe me other shoes will drop for quite some time. [Portion removed.]


20 people like this
Posted by Old Timer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:20 pm

@Online Name - the city and the district are totally separate. The District is overseen by the County Office of Education (which has its own Superintendent and Board of Education - Grace Mah represents our area), and ultimately by the California Dept. of Education in Sacramento. The district's fiscal blunders tend not to run afoul of either, since unlike most districts, they have healthy reserves and are "community funded" (by local property taxes instead of the state general fund).

The best way to make change is to pressure and/or replace the board. There are only five of them and in our community like ours, we should have better ones.


50 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:27 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Cecilia Willer - I don't know what you teach your kids about digital responsibility, but we start with never use your real name online.


16 people like this
Posted by another board vote?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:27 pm

A few months ago, when the board reported that it had accepted the superintendent's evaluation, it did not mention continuing or terminating his employment contract.

When does the board vote on that?

Superintendent's employment contract: Web Link


17 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:37 pm

@another board vote, McGee announced in the spring (around the time of his performance evaluation, hmm) he was retiring at the end of this school year, which is also the end of his original contract.

The question in front of the board is whether they fire him now. They have plenty of cause to do so. We'll see what they are made of.


14 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2017 at 1:03 pm

McGee was hired as an 'understanding of Palo Alto culture' guy. We PA citizens are not used to worrying about money issues, and so Max didn't put a high priority on it. No need to dump on Max...just look in the mirror.


37 people like this
Posted by No Longer Donating to Pie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 1:14 pm

@john_alderman: Your suggestion for a PiE Audit is a good one.

Our family donated to PiE for multiple students for over ten years, until PiE couldn't be bothered to accurately reflect our donation (along with hundreds of other families) in their 2014-2015 hard copy Annual Report. To make matters worse, PiE was not transparent about it.

In September 2015 PiE screwed up and miscategorized several hundred donations incorrectly in the 2014-2015 Annual Report (a PiE Board member indicated there were over 600 affected families). The donations listed incorrectly were codified in writing and widely distributed to thousands of people in the hard copy Annual Report. (In our case, PiE irresponsibly listed half of what we gave). To address the issue, PiE emailed those donors whose donations were miscategorized and posted a revised version of the annual report, online only. Unfortunately, PiE was not transparent about their mistake. PiE did not alert ALL donors to the errors. They only emailed those families whose donations were listed incorrectly! Everyone else still had the old hard copy version of the Annual Report with no idea about what had happened. The revised electronic version of the Annual Report was only posted via a private link for 30 days, and not available to the general public! It seemed to our family like PiE was trying to keep it a secret.

Our family felt PiE did not value our donation enough to get it right in print, was incompetent, and had untrustworthy leadership since they were not widely transparent about the error. We stopped donating, and so did other families.

Last year's pausd $5m budget screw up sealed the deal for many other families I know who no longer donate to PiE. And this most recent $6m screw up is just another sad data point.

P.S. For verification, here is the email our family received from PiE in September 2014:

"Dear PiE Donor:
We appreciate your support of PiE and your partnership to make our schools stronger. Because we value every gift we receive, it is very important to us to recognize all of our donors correctly. Unfortunately, a section of our donors were mis-categorized in the 2014-2015 Annual Report recently distributed via mail.
We have identified what went wrong, and have corrected the problem so that it will not be repeated. To properly recognize all donors for their contributions, we are reissuing the report. In order to be good stewards of your dollars and our natural resources, we have chosen to distribute the revised version of the Annual Report electronically.
You can access the corrected Annual Report here:
Revised PiE Annual Report 2014-2015
This page is only accessible via the link provided, for the next 30 days, and is not visible to the general public. Again, thank you for your continued support of PiE.
Sincerely,
(name removed)
President"


13 people like this
Posted by Focusing on What Matters
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 1, 2017 at 1:16 pm

@Old Timer and @Online Name, just a quick clarification. According to Article VIII-A of the Palo Alto City Charter, the City does, indeed, grant the charter for the school board and then directs the school board to appoint the school superintendent. Although these items are in the City Charter, at first glance there doesn’t appear to be anything in there regarding what the city could do to intervene in the school district, if anything. For what it’s worth, here’s the link to the city charter in case you have a better understanding of city charters and the law. Web Link


52 people like this
Posted by Irony?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Cecilia Willer,

Are you bullying people to use their real names?

There are issues, such as retaliation, that lead people not to use their real names. They should be allowed to do as they please.


41 people like this
Posted by Fire hom now
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Fire him now! The Teacher's Union should in good faith let the negotiations go forward for the 3rd year of raises. I also feel Cathy Mak should resign due to incompetence.


9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 1, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Focusing and @Old Timer, thanks for the info and the link to the city charter. One would think there would be more info there as well as some discussion of remedies since our taxes fund both the city and the school district unless people have opted out of paying the parcel tax.

Another question: Are the schools funded only by the parcel tax (besides voluntary contributions)?


49 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 1, 2017 at 2:10 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

To Cecilia Willer, publishing comments under real names would be the shortest route to endless bullying and retribution for both adults and children, and can even result in tragic consequences and horrible tragedies.

Teaching our children digital responsibility? Children who reveal their real name online put themselves under real and present danger, on top of putting a bull'seye target on their back vis-a-vis bullying This is the absolute worst advice you could've given. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Adobe-Meadow

on Sep 1, 2017 at 2:20 pm

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


6 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 1, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Didn't McGee make it clear that he would retire next year?
Or am I the one who is missing some development after?
So I thought we parents would be easy on him this year because it is no use to pour him schools' problems now. He will be gone soon.


21 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Perhaps the Board could terminate McGee due to a "misunderstanding and misinterpretation"?


7 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2017 at 3:30 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by just a question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Is their a difference is pension paid to a superintendent if they are fired vs. "asked to resign"?




7 people like this
Posted by Cecilia Willer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:07 pm

To those who have commented about my post to use your real name, personally, I feel that if you do not use your real name then you are implying you would not say this directly to the person. It is my feeling. If there is something that I want to share with Max or anyone else, I do email them directly. I personally feel it is more respectful and I choose to be accountable for my words and actions. It is what we want our son to do as well.


35 people like this
Posted by Irony?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Cecilia Willer,

Accountability goes both ways, and the district has not exhibited trustworthy levels of accountability in recent years regarding serious issues such as student suicide, sexual assault, and financial mismanagement/scheming.

In many cases, anonymity allows honesty to seep through. And this makes the anonymous postings seem (sometimes) more reliable and credible. You don't have to agree with this point of view. But many of us will continue to read, with interest, the anonymous postings that don't attempt to sweep serious issues under the carpet.



22 people like this
Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2017 at 6:00 pm

To me and some of the parents I have spoken to today, the Superintendent McGee and the district's actions fit the same pattern which we have seen in years past. However, I feel that rather than firing Dr. McGee, the correct course would be to have him serve out the rest of the year without salary. This will save some of the funds to fill in the shortfall which his grossly negligent management of district finances, but also be a much better sign of his good faith than empty apologies.


5 people like this
Posted by careful
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 1, 2017 at 6:33 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:11 pm

[Post removed.]


49 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:39 pm

McGee IS gone and has been gone for some time. However, his body is still with us and collecting a paycheck.

The perennially starstruck PAUSD board has a decades-long history of hiring supes for their glitz and ego, never mind basic competence. Outlook: more of the same, again, and again, and again.


13 people like this
Posted by For What It's Worth
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Pensions are not related to whether an employee is terminated from a position, although obviously not being employed stops the clock on that person's pension.

It's actually worse than this. If a government employee is convicted of a crime, that person's pension rights are not affected.


24 people like this
Posted by Gravy train
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2017 at 8:26 pm

These upscale school districts provide a substantial gravy train to a rotating cast of elite "adminstrators." Where is the oversight, the leadership, the accounting?
OPM = other people's money, with which one can play and be rewarded, over and over again.
What a difference it is compared to the business world.


23 people like this
Posted by jet pilot
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 1, 2017 at 8:55 pm

jet pilot is a registered user.

My sense is this "missed deadline" may be more complicated than presented. Dr. McGee is a decent man who cares deeply about the students in PAUSD. His leadership and response to the competing pressures on our Gunn HS students was thoughtful and strong.


35 people like this
Posted by Agreed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 9:00 pm

@Kristen W -- you are wrong to think that CEO is not responsible for running the business of a company, and the buck stops with him or her. Likewise, McGee is responsible for running the business of the district. He is not a philosopher king paid to sit around and strategize. The buck stops with him. He should own it and resign or be fired along with Mak.


30 people like this
Posted by Silence means more money
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 9:10 pm

Typically there is a "me too" clause so that when the unions get a raise, the administrators also get a raise.

It sounds to me that the administrators KNEW that the proper process was not followed to notify the union by March 15th formally in writing and they let the whole thing play out....so in the end everyone would get raises, including the administrators.


39 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 1, 2017 at 9:43 pm

@Silence - McGee claims the me-too clauses have been taken out, so admins didn't benefit. Given his track record, someone had better double-check that.

@jet pilot - here is the contract language, it is dirt simple - "each party has the option to reopen negotiations on the three percent (3%) increase to the Teachers’ Salary Schedule for 2017-18 by March 15, 2017." They did not "reopen negotiations" by formally notifying the union. Don't kid yourself - they (he) screwed up.

@curmudgeon - I agree, we need a "do-er, not a talker" as superintendent. Our teachers are great, our kids even better - if the senior staff can just be average and avoid screwing up, things would actually be pretty good.


27 people like this
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 11:48 pm

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

A CEO or top executive IS responsible for everything happened with the company/organization! McGee made a decision to keep Mak when she made the first mistake, so he is responsible for Mak's actions. McGee also made a decision to keep PALY Principal Diorio after learning her 25 cases of Title IX violations, so he is responsible for Diorio's later violations.

Now, it's up to the board to decide whether to keep McGee or not. If they do, then the Board is responsible for McGee's actions!


57 people like this
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:00 am

As Palo Alto Weekly Publisher pointed out in the related video (Web Link), the biggest issue here is not that the district office made a mistake again, but is that McGee was trying to cover up the mistake by using vague wordings in his newsletter. The publisher called it "dishonest".

I admire Palo Alto Weekly/Online's courage and integrity in this case. Yes the public needs to know the truth. Bravo, Elena! Hail to the Weekly!


3 people like this
Posted by Ugh
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2017 at 1:13 am

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Self Governance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 1:26 am

@Online Name, @Focusing, @Old Timer,
"Serious governance questions: Does the the city have any oversight responsibility or power over the school district? In other words, are they 2 totally separate entities?
I know they have separate budgets but I'm curious about to whom the school officials ultimately report."

I have looked extensively into this issue. You are correct if you said that the district is formed under the City Charter, but that the charter doesn't currently contain any City oversight. (That could be changed, of course.). The county and the state DOE really do not have oversight power over our district, in fact, I believe there was a lawsuit of special ed parents against DOE for not even doing what little they are supposed to do to ensure special ed students are protected. If you want an object lesson in that, spend an afternoon calling both of them to see if they will enforce state records laws in regards to the schools. They will tell you that someone else (the DA?) has authority but if you call that entity, they have no idea what you are talking about if they even return your calls. (In the meantime McGee, who one poster above thinks doesn't deal in the nitty gritty, took the time to insert changes in our board procedures to expunge all kinds of student records - probably so that it's easier to obfuscate when families are trying to resolve problems and then just say the records are gone.).

The City Charter is what says we follow the DOE regulations, but we could change that by changing the City Charter. That is a straightforward process similar to a referendum. Citizens can change the City Charter to grant powers to other entities, reformulate the district, change the rules, you name it, and except where there is federal pre-emption, or example with Civil Rights laws, we can pretty much do what we need to fix things. The way these things work, usually when there is as great a need as we have now, the thing most critically needed to create change is the bold leadership that gets the ball rolling. Parents with kids in school are not necesssarily the best ones to do this - parents whose kids have recently left school probably are.

In some Cities, the school districts do answer to the mayor's office. In others, there are positions representing families, offices of ombudsmen, etc. If we wanted to do any of those things, we could, again, by changing the City Charter (which is a citizen-driven process similar to referendum, or can be done by the board proposing a change, as has happened when the change conveniently added a few more years to the sitting board members' terms).

@Online Name - this is the nature of Charter Cities, we are very lucky to have the power to change things without having to launch a state initiative, for example.. The fact that so much has gone wrong in our district over and over again, without proper checks and balances, and proper accountability to families and the public, is evidence that we should adopt better checks and balances. It really is time for citizens, especially parents, to look into how other districts have solved similar governance problems and created checks and balances. Then propose a change to the City Charter. Again, the process for changing the Charter is spelled out in the Palo Alto code, and it's not to be undertaken lightly, but it's also not nearly as difficult as what we have all been going through. I would love to see parents change the Charter to adopt a template of rules, similar to what the PTA does, that has rules which the members (parents and public) have to review and adapt to their own needs, every few years, and there are rules that directly create safety valves in case of suspicion of malfeasance, for example, embezzlement. (Ask Todd Collins - the oversight committee for the bond never had the duty to ensure the bond funds were spent well, and if they weren't, who was making sure all of those poorly directed dollars ended up being spent on the schools? The answer is no one. I'm not suggesting there is any sign of malfeasance, I am suggesting we have really no good mechanisms to even look for it.)

The City Charter is where the power of oversight rests, it is simply up to civic-minded parents and the public to figure out what will best create the checks and balances we need and change the City Charter. Our population is generally supportive of schools and would respond positively to a thoughtful proposal.



12 people like this
Posted by Self Governance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 2:02 am

Let me be a little more precise there. The City Charter is where the power to create the power of oversight rests. As jphas been pointed out, the Charter currently does not contain any specific oversight roles, but that chan be changed. The whole point if a Charter City is to vest that kind of power if self governance in the local population. You want to create a way for us to solve problems through ordinary checks and balances? Adopting a well-researched charter amendment is the answer.


16 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2017 at 7:50 am

Regarding city oversight, I am afraid that the city council is hardly more competent than the school board. Also, the PAUSD has had a very bad run under McGee. Normally they are only a bit worse than the city council IMHO.

We The People are in charge of the school board. They work for us. It is time for us to exercise some authority. I would support a recall of Godfrey and Caswell on the grounds that they voted for the contract last year. More importantly, we need to get more people with serious business qualifications to run for the board.


1 person likes this
Posted by Golden Parachute
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2017 at 8:37 am

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Self Governance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 9:21 am

@Robert Smith,
While I agree with you that making the City Council responsible for oversight is of dubious benefit, the point of my post is that the power to create an accountable system with checks and balances built in rests in the City Charter, which can be changed by ordinary citizens via a process similar to referendum. That has nothing to do with City oversight.

The people SHOULD BE in charge of the school board, but they are not in fact, because an election every so many years for a volunteer polition like that, does not and has not created the requisite accountability to the public. Elections alone are not enough. It's why on the City and State level, citizens have the power of initiative abd referendum, for example. Just granting parents in the district a kind of similar power like referendum and initiative, and ways to more easily enforce laws and existing board regulations, would create massive change, because then, for example, massive petition drives would be backed up by some actual recourse and not so easy to ignore families anymore.

A change using a City Charter amendment doesn't have to involve putting the district under the Mayor's office, although that has happened in some cities. The change could involve creating a powerful ombudsman position, someone who works for the city (so not at 25 Churchill and drinking the sweetened water there) and is basically the parents' representative, who takes and pursues complaints, has the power and authority to help parents get problems solved short of waiting years for an election and hoping it will indirectly make the district staff follow the rules for their child.

There are various rights and rules with legal implications but in practice they are unenforceable. The board regulations say they are legally binding, but that is meaningless when the district can spend millions in legal fees over some administrator's misplaced ideas of CYA and there is no clear and realistic recourse for parents to enforce the regulation. Just creating some levers that give parents direct power to force the district to comply with existing, clear, necessary laws would help a lot.

Citizens can create such recourse by changing the City Charter. This is not about making the City the oversight party, but about citizens creating mechanisms to give families more direct ways to correct problems as they happen. The beauty of our democracy is checks and balances, so that self-correction can happen as life proceeds, rather than things swinging violently between extremes and nothing ever working that well in between. The strict hierarchical model of our district administration is outdated and functions poorly. Why keep doing things the same way expecting a different outcome?

I believe it might be possible already under state law to set aside contracts or renegotiate through a big reorganization of the district, but that is a massive undertaking citizens here will never do. It'snot possible to reord just to cut salaries, but it woukd allow dumping a lot of unnecessary administration (who can't even do something as simple as this). Making changes to the City Charter to create a more user-friendly, student-centered, responsive administrative structure is not that hard and long overdue. It just takes families willing to realize that "someone else" won't do it for them, it will take citizen involvement.


14 people like this
Posted by lucky
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 2, 2017 at 9:38 am

I know that I never talk with anyone if they have a lawyer standing behind them. That makes me distrust them instantly. There is ed code and board policy and state and federal laws they just need to follow. why do they need a law firm if they just plan on following these. You know the kid on the block who always brought his mommy over with him to settle an argument and you had no representation so the kid got away with stealing or hitting or what have you ? Who remembers the kid whose mommy was on the PTA or had yard duty that always did awful things and than ran to his mommy...knowing he could do whatever he wanted. this whole situation seems like that. If the district office has a law firm it is only fair that the tax money also pays for a law firm for their students. IF they are unclear about laws or code, there are people at the state level they can use for free to explain things and settle disputes. Both sides need representation and it is not fair that only one side funded. It is worse to see there are sides now.


6 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2017 at 9:44 am

@Self Governance,

Thanks for your clarification. That might be a lot of work, but it does sound interesting, especially if we would have the ability to have ballot measures that would be binding on the district.


7 people like this
Posted by Self Governance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 10:05 am

@Robert Smith,
I would love to see citizen grouos get together and openly explore what better checks and balances through a City Charter amendment could do to change the district and make it function better. Right now, if a parent has an issue, they can go say something at a board meeting with a timer running down a minute or two after which they are promotly ignored (or retaliated against). What if parents want better avenues of public input? What if they want more serious audits? What if they want the district to work with rather than mount politically motivated and expensive campaigns against edicational agencies? They can only ask, and the district can easily say no with no consequence. A charter amendment could change that.


17 people like this
Posted by Time to clear house
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2017 at 10:16 am

"The people SHOULD BE in charge of the school board, but they are not in fact, because an election every so many years for a volunteer polition like that, does not and has not created the requisite accountability to the public. Elections alone are not enough. "

This is so true. It's why we get the sort of people we get on the board who are pretty much useless. They're just there for some single issue policy and don't pay attention to anything else. Just look at this mess. They all just assumed it would get done even with all the failures up to this point.

"I would support a recall of Godfrey and Caswell on the grounds that they voted for the contract last year. "

I would support the recall of everyone on the board. You have members on the board now that didn't vote for something and so somehow think they are no longer required to take an interest in it. So, instead of any sort of follow up, they just assume it will happen.
This is the equivalent to Trumps approach to healthcare. "I don't like it so I'm going to let it implode". That attitude is being reflected by the current board members who are just too uninterested in getting involved.

Caswell, Dauber and Godfrey definitely have to go. They are all completely useless and a recall is definitely an option if they won't resign.

Collins and DiBrenza need to step up. They were voted in on the back of this fiasco and they've just made it worse.

Ideally we should recall the entire board, fire the supe and start again.


24 people like this
Posted by who is at fault
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2017 at 10:17 am

Excellent sleuthing and reporting by Elena Kadvany at the Weekly.

Mr. Smith,

I am not sure where the blame for missing the deadline should be placed but the novel 3 year contract was Max McGee's proposal and he signed the union agreements that had that clause in them.

He thinks that the Board should share the blame ("my assumption and the Board's assumption was that it was killed") but all five board members said that McGee's statement about them is NOT true.

That doesn't answer what responsibility the board has here but remember that all 3 of the board members who voted on this were on notice of the trigger date and OKed it when they signed the union agreements regardless of how they voted.

All 5, including new board members Collins and DiBrienza, became stewards over all of the district's finances the day they were sworn in.

The board's job is vision and policy making though and it only knows what the Superintendent decides to share with it. The Superintendent's job is the day to day operations and compliance, and includes overseeing the work he delegates to others.

My guess is that district office staff were preoccupied replacing mid-year staff departures, negotiating the school calendar, IDing millions in budget cuts, working on the OCR agreement, renaming schools, figuring out GPAs etc.

Too bad.

It would have been so easy to bring up the raises during the calendar meetings staff was having with the union during that February-March trigger window.

Web Link

Web Link


23 people like this
Posted by mom3
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:33 pm

So, we should fire McGee and Mak NOW, FOR INCOMPETENCE. But, how about Scott Bowers? How should his retirement be adjusted? Pretty sly exit.


16 people like this
Posted by Ann
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm

McGee's compensation, including a $750-per-month auto allowance, is set in his contract at $316,000 for this school year, a 2 percent increase. This does not include retirement, health and statutory benefits, nor the $1.5 million interest-free loan the district gave him a year ago to purchase a home in Palo Alto.


16 people like this
Posted by Gravy train
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Ok, we taxpayers are stuck with funding this unjustified raise. Can PAUSD at least refrain from giving favorable reviews as the various administrators move on - whether sooner or later - to their next plum positions? This fiasco should be stated in writing and linked to EACH responsible person. Thank you.


32 people like this
Posted by McGee's pension
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 2, 2017 at 7:10 pm

If McGee is fired, will he still be vested in his large retirement? If not, it makes sense to dump him asap to send the strong message that incompetence will not be tolerated by the district.


Like this comment
Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 3, 2017 at 8:42 am

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by info+
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2017 at 9:01 am

Double dipping ?

Web Link


Contract

Web Link


26 people like this
Posted by pensioneer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2017 at 10:14 am

People are making a lot of speculative comments about McGee's pension. Unless you actually know, this is almost all spurious. It takes a minimum of 5 years of service to vest in CalSTRS. He has been here for 4, so there's a good chance he's not involved in the CA pension system at all. Perhaps he was able to swing a deal buying into California's systems by using all the years he had vested in Illinois, but it's not an open-and-shut case. I don't know all the details of what, if any, reciprocal arrangements can be worked out for employees who want to move between state pension systems, but I'd welcome comment from anyone who actually KNOWS the details of how this could work; otherwise it's just a lot of angry hot air.


12 people like this
Posted by Dangerous Game
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2017 at 10:39 am

[Post removed.]


24 people like this
Posted by Robin
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 3, 2017 at 5:03 pm

Who could have foreseen yet another multimillion dollar PAUSD fiscal blunder? Obviously not the current administrators charged with preventing exactly that, and so it seems, the current school board. Another amazing WTF moment in the Palo Alto School District. Perhaps all of this was planned, default raises by intentional inaction by those in charge, and then, blame it on the 'there is nothing we can do, the contract requires it', thereby avoiding any meetings, discussion, and public input. Brilliant.

We quit PIE donations years ago. This school district is awash in property tax revenues, but cant' get their collective **** together to manage it properly. This is another sad example of their basic inability to treat residents tax dollars with the respect and fiduciary responsibility that it deserves.


21 people like this
Posted by Chris Dewees
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 3, 2017 at 6:40 pm

My God, the reign of incompetency continues! Over and over again we are smacked by, at a minimum, negligence and obfuscation, and at a maximum, outright dissembling, by our Administrators, and fecklessness by our Board, which time and time again is either caught off-guard by the mistakes and machinations of the Administrators or unwilling to exercise proper diligence and push-back regarding Administration proposals -- the last contract negotiation and approval process was one of the largest displays of Board abrogation of duty I have witnessed. (Remember it was our Board which approved the use of funds pledged for class size reduction to pay for salary increases for teachers and administrators, increases approved based on rosy, and faulty, real property revenue expectations.) Don't blame the Union for this, it is an economic animal and it's job is to protect the interests of its members. It was not the job of the Union to notify itself to prevent a raise. Of course the Union would be mum. The direct cause is McGee and his Administration. The indirect cause is a Board that for years has tolerated and even supported abject incompetence by those it has hired.

Of course McGee needs to go immediately, but that is the tip of the iceberg. We Palo Altans need to hold our Board accountable because, at the end of the day, that is where the buck stops.

Folks, it is our kids who are suffering.


15 people like this
Posted by Paul B.
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Please, Board, make him go. This is unconscionable. We give our kids unconditional love;but this a highly paid employee. You can't tolerate this level of incompetence plus trying to hide it from the public.


3 people like this
Posted by Cassidy Kidd
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 5, 2017 at 10:42 am

Oh well... money blown, money gone. Residents and online commenters will continue to wring their hands and place blame with no answers. Where were all the online experts commenting on this page when the district was holding budget talks and asking for public input regarding the budget in question. Come to think of it, I don't remember the Weekly ever being at any public input sessions. If the Weekly had knowledge of any deadline for contract negotiations and did not report it, well......
Let's continue to wring our hands, hold our heads in disbelief, point our fingers and accuse others, and do nothing.


68 people like this
Posted by children
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 5, 2017 at 11:01 am

Pretty sad business. I hope this year goes by without kids getting hurt with further negligence. Let's all hope for that and also start thinking of kids' safety. With this climate, things are still not safe for kids. Without a bottom line and with disjointed fighting adults, kidland becomes a free for all and that is when bad things happen. Be careful and know where they are and who they are with and tell them only to call police directly if they need help. There is no point in reporting anything to people who misunderstand.


47 people like this
Posted by Why, oh, Why
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 5, 2017 at 1:20 pm

It's time for the Board to stop using the same hiring agency they used to find both McGee and Skelly. They've been fooled into hiring unsuitable leaders twice.

There are more and better hiring agencies out there! The Board needs to do more research on head hunters before choosing one similar to the current one.


106 people like this
Posted by Two kids at Gunn
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 5, 2017 at 6:01 pm

I cannot bear the though that we as tax payers are going to keep finance Dr. McGee's retirement after his a dishonest behavior of trying to cover up his $6 million mistake. Firing Dr. McGee at minimum can recover a portion of financial damage through his post retirement benefit. He needs to be hold responsible and accountable. It is like a lawless land here at Palo Alto first sexual assault issues and now this. Palo Altans need to be tough on issues like such.


29 people like this
Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 5, 2017 at 8:31 pm

I saw that today, on CBS channel 5, Dr. McGee said that "the money is not lost; it’s going to teacher compensation.”

I found it enlightening, and it brought a question to my mind.

-- Does Dr. McGee think that teachers would teach significantly better with the extra money they will now be getting? If the answer is yes, then it seems Dr. McGee thinks they are not doing as well as they can do now. If the answer is no, then it seems to fit the definition of "money lost," in the sense of "money spent w/o producing an observable benefit." Which one is it?

--


345 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2017 at 10:55 pm

Watching this from the "outside"...I don't have a dog in the fight.

If McGee isn't fired for this (on top of the other issues mentioned during his tenure), then explain this to me: if he's not fired for THIS, what on earth are the circumstances where the Palo Alto school board WOULD fire a superintendent?


81 people like this
Posted by arrgh
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2017 at 8:01 am

I do not think the issue is teacher compensation. It is more one of people not doing their jobs, saying they did not understand their job as an excuse and then , because there was no consequence for them, they continue and do whatever they want. Is that the role model we want for kids here?


104 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2017 at 9:46 am

@Ze-ev Wurman,

Hi Ze-ev,

I am sure that you know that there is no evidence that across-the-board teachers' raises will improve the quality of teaching.

Reformers hope that merit pay would see improvements. Do you know if there is any proof of this?


On another note, there is a similar situation that has been unfolding. The College of San Mateo was going to sell their obsolete TV station KCSM for $114M in an FCC auction, but the administrator failed to click the button on the FCC's website at the appropriate time last November. The college district has tried very hard to keep this all under wraps; no one has been fired. Today's Daily Post reports that they have scheduled a sale for their board meeting tonight but have not provided details. It is always interesting how government will endeavor to hide their failures and protect their incompetent staff.


12 people like this
Posted by @PAFreePress
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2017 at 11:50 am

One of the best editorials I've read coming from the Weekly in years. We still object to your censorship of community voices. "Post Reoved" Portion removed" Cencorship is best served in North Korea. The behavior displayed by the PAUSD is really no different from acting Palo Alto city council members. Complete absent of transparency and accountability. Critical business / decisions conducted behind closed door. City attorney Molly Stump is the responsible party lending and leading all efforts in this regard.


15 people like this
Posted by Illinois
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2017 at 11:28 pm


It is like watching a corruption movie reading what's going on with this guy that you all are dealing with right now.

Before he was hired, did anyone ever talk to your fellow people from the Illinois Math and Science Academy? Ever curious why he left for the Princeton Math and Science Academy, and stayed for just one year?

He used the IMSA money to travel freely internationally, and later on commented how easily your community pours money into the schools, like it is free.

Hard not to rake in. The question is, why are you people letting him? Like he said, free?


23 people like this
Posted by Sean
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 7, 2017 at 6:14 am

This interview infuriates me - he really does think the 6 mill blunder is a non issue; proudest achievement for elementary is full day kinder? I half expected him to say his biggest accomplishment for the middle schools was name changes!! Can't wait till this imbecile rides his donkey out of here.

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by answers who and what
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 7, 2017 at 9:14 am

McGee told the Paly student journalists who is at fault - "As superintendent, the buck stops with me."

He explained that the teachers "certainly would've gotten a salary increase" anyway though, calling the 3% raise they inadvertently got "hard earned." Perhaps, but isn't that for the board and community to decide and their money to give?

Superintendent McGee acknowledges what this means: this year there may be a hiring freeze and open spots left unfilled and next year there will be budget cuts. Web Link


18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 7, 2017 at 10:19 am

I want to know what the class sizes are. We voted for a parcel tax, and we were promised class size reductions.

Where are the voices from the PTA and PIE on this $6 million blunder? I don't have high expectations from the PTA leadership based on their behavior from the sexual predator cases that was bought to light in the Spring of 2017.


16 people like this
Posted by A PALY mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm

@resident,

The truth is: at least at PALY, the current PTSA functions more like a propaganda agent. They only deliver one way messages from the school admin and the district to the parents, and gather free labors for the school at various events.

They do not have their own voice, nor function as a channel of feedbacks from the majority of the parents voice to the admin.

If any PTSA member dares to raise an issue, he/she will be accused 'splitting the school'! A technique that school admin and PTSA executives use all the time!

Hey, sounds like North Korea, right? But it IS happening right at our school district!

And that is exactly why we have so many issues and no accountability at all!


4 people like this
Posted by Self Governance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2017 at 2:32 pm

You have to realize that after people complained online about the tax and the importance of sending a message and made warnings before the special election that proved all too true, Palo Altans still approved the tax this time.

Skelly had that advice, that this community would just keep paying if asked (said so in a board meeting.) Because of that, McGee decided the complaints of the public and parents were easy to ignore. His misusing the tax and and ignoring what the community was promised when we voted for it was directly because the community failed to hold the administration to account even in a tax election. We have a lot of old people who are willing to vote for taxes others will pay and think support for schools falls along traditional ideological lines, so they always believe the ask and vote for it. Many others believe the complaints can be ignored because of the election results, just as McGee does, and thus there is zero leverage to fix things.

Especially since there had been a tax election for the schools that the community first voted down during the Skelly years, but then later approved with changes, the fact that the district got a pass here is as much responsibke for McGee's feeling the only group he needs to care about (bribe) are his admins and the teachers. If the only way we have to leverage change and checks and balances is these rare elections (that have only indirect relationship to the issues we need addressed), then of course perpetual incompetence is what we get.

Parents, you must consider how to change the City Charter to give the community more direct leverage and authority to fix problems. Not every City has the power to make our own rules as we do since we are a charter city. We have all this ability to create systems that make our district function so much better. Use it! You can change the City charter. You could remove the position of superintendent and put in something less hierarchical - seriously, it is a blank slate limited only by what you can convince the public is good for our schools. If you wanted to invalidate the super's contract, it might be possible in a reorg under current ed code, too. That's a more tenuous contention, you absolutely have the right to change the City Charter that establishes the powers and rules of our school district.


15 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Breathtaking lack of introspection. Cowardly attempt to evade reasonability. Shameful failure to model leadership. Sadly, this explains why PAUSD tolerates a staggering number of like minded leaders.


3 people like this
Posted by PTA Member
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 7, 2017 at 3:11 pm

I'm a new member of a (elementary school) PTA board. But as far as I can tell (and I'm new here, I may be wrong), for the PTA to take an official position on anything they first have to meet and discuss that position, and there are tons of rules which make it hard to have an impromptu meeting for this purpose. (You need to give advance notice of meetings, publish agendas, have quorums, etc. etc. etc.) So it could take weeks to months for individual school PTAs to officially respond to any new problems. By which point there may not be any point, as the problem may be resolved without official PTA input.

I have no idea if the PTAC's rules let them be more nimble. But this may explain why you don't see the PTA as an organization taking positions on tactical (as opposed to strategic) issues, as they do not seem to be set up organizationally in a way which lets them react quickly.

Instead, you'll see some of their members advocating personally (as opposed to "on behalf of the organization") when they care about an issue.


7 people like this
Posted by Self Governance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2017 at 5:45 pm

@PTA member,
Get a copy if your own PTA rules and read them carefully. In fact, the PTA organization requires that the rules be reviewed and adapted as allowed and approved, every two years. You have more discretion that you think. You can in fact call meetings on much shorter time scales for some urgent matters, and ordinary members can do this. The PTA rules are written to encourage, not hamper, advocacy, because it is an advocacy organization. Teachers don't engage in any advocacy here, but that has been pointed out above, and I am still hoping for an example or two goes against the vast majority of teacher behavior here that never ever advocates for our kids when it's hard.

The CA PTA resolutions get passed specifically to allow local PTAs the permission guidance, and information to act nationally AND locally on a plethora of germaine issues (and the resolutions will usually differentiate between the actions to take locally and the national advocacy ones). You do not have to reinvent the wheel. Somehow what you describe is how local PTAC interprets it in order to discourage advocacy, which in recent years a few have regarded as distasteful, but call the state PTA if you want to understand what a real PTA can do. Expect the usual suspects here to actively discourage advocacy though. If you want that to change, you need to understand the rules yourself, understand where the do-nothings are wrong, and what you can do to create something effective that involves your fellow parents.

One purpose of the CA PTA resolutions is to give units the permission, tools, and understanding to apply in their own schools (it's not about remote issues in Washington). From their site: "All of our advocacy efforts center around our core values and resolutions, which are submitted by units, councils, districts or California State PTA’s Board of Managers. The resolutions offer official guidance on issues as wide ranging as school-finance topics, health and safety issues, community concerns and more."

Perhaps you could help clarify the rules between the state and local leaders, to help give members an understanding of how the PTA supports rather than squashes advocacy.

You can also organize parents separately from the PTA if you find the PTA too straight-jecketed and disinterested in advocacy for our children. Right now, general parent organizing accomplishes little for lack of codified leverage. You can propose City charter amendments that would make parent power more effective. You could propose adding a kind of referendum and initiative capability to the school district, something that doesn't require an official election but rather a large segment of parents in agreement. You could change the City Charter to create an ombudsman position, someone who does not work in or answer to the superintendant or district office, but who can hear complaints from individuals, and would have the power to force the district to do the right thing or follow the law, or address a UPC issue. You do not have to have the PTAs help for that. In fact, in light of such changes, they will either have to start caring about advocating again themselves, or they may just want to be clear that they exist only to be boosters for raising funds, and other noncontroversial no advocacy-related things, as they effectively do now.

You could start parent communications lists where advocacy and openness are the point rather than censored. You could start a platform that makes it easier for parents to do this. You are not limited in your own life, just what you take a position on officially as PTA leadership, and even there, the depth of resolutions covered by the state PTA probably covers what you want to do locally if you want official PTA involvement.


5 people like this
Posted by family
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 7, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Here is the big question. Is anyone ever going to make this group happy? what would it take exactly? What skill or personality is needed. Do any of you think there is a superhuman that can do this job? You may not just keep saying what you do not like.


17 people like this
Posted by Self Governance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:51 am

@family,
It's really very simple to anyone who understands the elements of honesty, decency, and competence. This is a badly managed rich district that hasn't had those things probably since Bill Packard - and even he outed some embezzlement, didn't he?

A culture of honesty and openness. That would help a lot. Things like, don't lie and say manipulative things to get a tax approved then proceed to do something completely different - stop doing stuff like that. When parents ask questions, give them honest answers, don't make everything into layers of subterfuge. Investigate when parents complain about retaliation, especially if the retaliation comes after a complaint, don't turn over control to the employee being complained about as having retaliated, it should be obvious why. This has been going on for years.

I have worked with teachers in other, poorer districts who laid everything out on the table and just worked in partnership with parents. That would make such a difference in every way.

A culture of following the laws and rules that the district itself has written for itself to follow. Really, is it too much to ask for staff to not pretend there aren't laws, for staff to avoid following the laws - even the Weekly wrote about how this administration won't answer information requests, we had the same experience.

Simple competence among administrators. Mechanisms to require accountability and checks and balances.

Putting kids first. Upstanding behavior.

Most of the above flow from honesty and integrity which has been so shockingly absent from a school district.

Truth and reconciliation would be nice, but I'll settle for homesty and earnestness.

If the above is too hard, I'll settle for competence and the Golden Rule.


10 people like this
Posted by retired from pausd
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2017 at 8:06 am

It seems there has been a lack of passionate and ethical leadership in the district for at least the last 10 years.

When I worked in the district, there were wonderful administrators...and I am wondering if, instead of trying to find "new" people, if we could entice some retired administrators that we know love pausd (and are inspiring and ethical)to return to turn things around.

I hesitate to name people because I am sure that no administrator has made everyone happy...but I am thinking of people like Susan Charles, Irv Rollins, Candace Simpson, Burton Cohen, Lupe Garcia, Marilyn Cook, Noreen Lykins, etc...

Just a thought....


7 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:53 pm

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Stay retired please
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 9, 2017 at 4:29 pm

What a nostalgic world the retired poster lives in. Susan Charles, Irv Rollins, Candace Simpson, Burton Cohen, Lupe Garcia, Marilyn Cook, and Noreen Lykins were in no way better than the current crop. All the above did was whine their way to ousting the superintendent and bring in Skelly who did nothing against them, essentially a non-leader,except then the suicides happened in 2009,and Solely and most of the administrators named above did nothing effective. Noreen Lykins left when the going got tough. And don't forget rape culture. Remember the poor girl who was raped by the P. E. Teacher when those administrators were in PAUSD. I feel bad about bursting the bubble but I remember the facts.


6 people like this
Posted by kids
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 9, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Kim has put some really nice things in place for the kids and staff. Lots of things are running well at paly and lots of teachers and parents work with her nicely. sorry to burst the bubble there, but she is earnest about wellness . kids know this and she had to weather some pretty bad storms last year and still is , after being beaten up pretty well still is there wanting to serve her families. I know this group hates this but she gets cred for showing up this year with plans and energy to tackle another year.


9 people like this
Posted by If only
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2017 at 10:28 pm

If only she knew how to follow those pesky Title ix laws!


14 people like this
Posted by A Paly Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 10, 2017 at 12:16 am

Oh, yes, the kids know. They know better than some parents and the PTSA.

One Paly student recently told her mom not to go to the principal's coffee, She said 'Don't go. You are not going to learn anything from her. She is too fake!'

McGee and Diorio demonstrated the WORST behaviors to our students. They showed our kids: "when you made a few or a lot of mistakes, never apologize, just tried your best to cover it up, or move the attentions by citing lots of achievements that are not really yours, and eventually people will get brainwashed and you will get away with the punishments. Sometimes, you can even get extra rewards." Well, Kim did get promotion from Vice Principal to Principal.

I would like to see if our education board can finally take some action!


4 people like this
Posted by kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 10, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Well, the problem is that people do make assumptions bases on "one student" or "one teacher' This job is dynamic and no one can make predictions, judgements, plan on something happening based on one childs experience. Children are scary and they should not be treated like a business with monetary profits and sometimes, sadly all the adults doing everything perfectly and following every rule will still not prevent every problem. Police work is the same. THey are human. One human one day is going to be different even than themselves. Looking for a person that is kind and has taken a whole class through 4 years of some pretty hard times and is still standing there with them smiling should be embraced and treasured.


9 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 10, 2017 at 5:16 pm

@kids- Seriously?? Maybe you should talk to some of the children and families that have been harmed by the inactions of this principal. She shouldn't be smiling. She should be apologizing and taking ownership of her and her administration's mistakes. What type of leadership is she modelling?


3 people like this
Posted by kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2017 at 8:38 am

I am serious that they are all human. The things that happened were caused by horrible actions, not her inactions and if she is still standing there after petitions against her, and kids booing her, ready to look at situations with her knowledge of the past, I seriously think she will become one of the better leaders. I can not place all the blame on one person, based on a few incidents. There were hundreds and hundreds of things that went well last year and she is earnest about fixing the ones that did not. She is modeling tenacity and change with a better knowledge of her staff and students and parents. This is a large public school, not a small private one.


4 people like this
Posted by Why is IEP a warzone?
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 12, 2017 at 12:22 am

Time for the special ed team to fully clean house too! Dishonorable to pretend the paltry offerings provided helps the child. More like handicapping them for life and many years of therapy. You can have any independent service your child needs as long as it's "the only widge we offer". Oh, same goals as last year? Of course, we haven't met any of them yet.


3 people like this
Posted by Self governance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2017 at 12:46 am

Our special ed problems begin with district legal, who get employees to do and say things that are destructive of trust and keep the legal fees flowing from the district. Since our district has so many employees who are happy to just go along with questionable behavior or engage in it with gusto, that's all you need to know about why we are in this pickle.

PAUSD did indeed once have a great reputation for special ed.

We need a commitment to ethics, honesty, problem solving. No more boat-payment lawers. This will not happen by itself. Parents can finally wise up and make things happen by reorganizing our district or through creating checks and balances via a City Charter amendment.


10 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2017 at 1:16 am

@kids - You're incorrect. She knew what her responsibility was and she didn't act according to the law and students have been harmed because she didn't want to properly report. This is inexcusable, especially given her three years of hiding allegations and allowing staff and students to get harrassed while she did nothing

There's plenty of blame to go around. I don't want it to end with her either.

Maybe she should have tried modelling proper behavior when she was obligated to and not wait until AFTER it all became public. A true leader thinks of others before themselves.


18 people like this
Posted by A PALY Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2017 at 10:37 am

@kid - I have to agree with Jim H!

I don't understand your logic. Just because someone can stand there smiling after making serious mistakes, then it makes her a good potential leader?

Well, maybe it makes her a good politician, but definitely not a good education leader!

I first found out about her dishonest in handling the weighted GPA issue. She used misleading and false information to influence the PTSA and students. Then came the OCR report that reveal she covered up [portion removed] cases of Title IX violations in order to protect her own interests. (Well, she did get a promotion to her current position.)

Did she learn from previous mistakes and do better? NO, otherwise we won't have last year's two Title IX violations again!

Like Mc Gee, she is very good at claiming credits and bringing good news. Just couple weeks ago in principal's message, she said the new Gym, weight room, and dance studio are open to students at recess as part of the wellness program. The truth is students are NOT allowed to use the facilities except during a class or sports team activities.

If she is new to PALY and PAUSD, I can get that she needs time to understand staff, the students, and the parents, and her jobs. But she has been an assistant principal for several years and before that a counselor at Gunn for 6 years. I wonder why she does not have enough knowledge of the community? Incompetence?

Yes, no one is perfect. I can even understand if there are only 3-5 cases of Title IX violations in OCR report. You do need guts to report your supervisor. However, if you were given [portion removed] chances to do the right thing and you chose to cover them up [portion removed], and never apologize for your actions, I am sorry to say that I don't see any hope this person will become a good leader (even if she is good at smiling.)


2 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2017 at 2:38 pm

What really drives the nail deeper is the very leaders and staff we are complaining about stand to get an across the board raise - regardless of performance!!!! This is a huge issue.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 12, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I hope the editorial board of the Weekly has by now taken a deep breath and reconsidered its call for Dr. McGee to be severed posthaste from the district.

Buying out a contract isn't cheap. Big-time college football programs do it all the time, but it can cost millions--from the sports department budget I hope, though I'm not sure. It's become frequent in education, too, but those dollars come out of the general budget. Ouch!

Why would you do that to a district that badly needs to pull itself together now, with all the new programs and personnel that have been brought into the district in recent months? A nine-month interim superintendent is not what the district needs. The board should not heed the Weekly's call and should, rather, work with the superintendent we've got to make as much progress as possible in addressing the many needs of the district so the next superintendent won't be stepping into a hot mess from Day 1, the way Dr. McGee did.


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 12, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Palo Alto. Who'd want to live here.
What a mess !!!


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

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