News

The $6 million blunder

As school district misses key deadline, unions take full advantage

The Palo Alto school district office at 25 Churchill Ave. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Watch "Behind the Headlines," for a discussion on this issue.

In early August, as Palo Alto Unified administrators prepared for the start of a new school year, an employee walked into the school district office at 25 Churchill Ave. and asked a simple question: "Where's my raise?"

District staff explained to the employee that a 3 percent raise originally promised to teachers and classified staff this school year was no longer happening. The multimillion dollar budget shortfall the district has been grappling with since summer 2016 — when staff members realized they had misestimated property tax revenue to the tune of $3.7 million — had triggered a "safety valve" provision in the unions' contracts that eliminated the salary increase, sources say the employee was told.

Within days, however, district officials discovered an unfathomable screw-up: No one formally notified the unions that the district planned to exercise its option to reopen negotiations, as required by the contracts, with the intent of cancelling the raises.

For the second time in less than a year, an avoidable mistake by top Palo Alto school district administrators will cost taxpayers millions of dollars and force more budget cuts, while employees will receive raises and bonuses that the Board of Education voted months ago to eliminate.

Although Superintendent Max McGee and the unions sought to downplay the issue this week by describing the problem as a "misunderstanding" due to "confusion" over the terms of the union contracts, the mistake was actually shockingly straight-forward: Administrators simply failed to provide the required notification to the unions that the district was invoking its option to reopen negotiations due to budget conditions by a March 15, 2017 deadline.

Under the three-year union contracts, if property tax revenue comes in at more or less than 1.5 percent than the amount the district budgeted for in 2016-17 — as it did, at 5.34 percent compared to the district's projection of 8.67 percent — "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."

The mistake will cost the district $4.4 million in raises for unionized teachers and non-teaching employees, plus almost certainly another $1.5 million for employee bonuses at the end of the school year — an additional contract provision that the board had intended to suspend.

For more than six months, when it was obvious during budget talks that the school board was committed to cancelling the final year of raises, the unions' leadership sat back and said nothing as the March deadline passed, even though they regularly attend board meetings.

The unions similarly made no comments as the board adopted in June its 2017-18 budget, which contains no salary increases and more than $4.37 million in budget cuts to balance the budget. (The unions had a financial motivation not to comment: The board, by being unaware that the contracts had not been renegotiated, unwittingly virtually guaranteed the payment of $1.5 million in bonuses to employees at the end of this school year by adopting a projection so conservative that actual property-tax revenues this year would likely exceed budget by much more than the trigger 1.5 percent, as is turning out to be the case based on early county tax estimates.)

It was not until early August, when the union member went to the payroll office, that McGee first became aware that the district had not notified the union as required, he said.

In interviews with the Weekly, McGee repeatedly characterized the error as a "misinterpretation" and "misunderstanding," but he would not clarify what he meant or whose misunderstanding it had been.

He said that he assumed that references to reopening negotiations and eliminating the third year of raises at numerous public meetings on the budget over the course of the last school year served as sufficient notice to the unions.

"My assumption and the board's assumption was that it was killed and the union's assumption was, 'It's one thing to say "reopening" but if it's not a formal thing in writing....' It was just due to a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the contract language," he said.

All five board members, however, told the Weekly they were under no such assumption; They said they recognized the need for a formal notification to the unions by district management.

McGee said he is frustrated with himself for not paying closer to attention to contracts that had been in place for two years.

McGee's statement that he did not believe notice to the union was necessary was not shared by the district's Chief Budget Officer Cathy Mak, who according to multiple district sources, including McGee, reminded Scott Bowers, then assistant superintendent for human resources, prior to the March 15 deadline to notify the unions. McGee said he was unaware of the reminder at the time and only learned about it a few days ago.

Mak declined to answer any questions about the issue, citing the confidentiality of union negotiations. She refused to acknowledge she was aware of the deadline or that she reminded Bowers about it. Nor would she state whether it was discussed at senior management meetings. (The Weekly has made a Public Records Act request for her emails to Bowers, but the district has yet to respond.)

Bowers, who retired at the end of the school year, told the Weekly that he had "a number of conversations" with Mak about the budget, mostly about reductions and staff — but not the March 15 deadline. He said he did not discuss the deadline or compensation with McGee.

Bowers said he "had no idea there were any issues" with the contract when he retired in June, and assumed that any compensation changes would be negotiated "as we normally did" in August, after the district receives updated property tax projections from the county.

Bowers said he believed conversations he had with the unions at the beginning of the school year about how the budget shortfall triggered the reopening of the contracts constituted notice of the district's intent to do so.

"In hindsight, those conversations should have been followed up with a formal letter to each union to eliminate any possibility for misunderstanding or misinterpreting the district's interest in reopening the compensation article of the contract," he wrote in an email Thursday afternoon.

View a timeline of how the district failed to reopen union contract negotiations here.

A school board unaware

McGee first publicly disclosed the mistake in a weekly message posted on the district website last Friday. Below paragraphs on weighted grading and the previous week's board meeting was a short paragraph that said early property tax estimates (for the 2017-18 fiscal year) from the Santa Clara County Assessor's Office have come in higher than the district's conservative budget projection of 3.73 percent and that the additional $4.4 million would be used to pay for raises for teachers and classified staff. District administrators and managers, including principals, would not be getting raises and will no longer automatically receive the same salary increases as unionized staff, McGee wrote.

Later that day, after inquiries by the Weekly, McGee updated his message, adding two sentences:

"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," he wrote. "This caused some confusion, but the union and district leadership worked through it and we are moving forward."

Board President Terry Godfrey told the Weekly that she was "disappointed" that there was confusion between the district and its unions. She had assumed that there would be no raises this year given that's what was built into the adopted budget.

She was unaware, she said, that the district's lead negotiator at the time, Bowers, had not formally reopened negotiations. She said she did not check in nor ask for an update about how negotiations were proceeding between the March deadline and the board's approval of the budget in June.

Godfrey said her understanding, based on what she learned from McGee, was that Bowers "thought" he had provided notice but there is no documentation of him doing so.

"'I thought I had done it or I had conversations about it' isn't good enough for trying to reopen a contract that is closed," she said.

While Bowers was responsible for the district's adherence to the contracts, McGee also holds responsibility as his manager, Godfrey said.

"While he (McGee) doesn't sit at the negotiating table, I think he's the one closest to the negotiations and responsible for keeping us on track," she said.

Vice President Ken Dauber called it a "serious management failure."

"My assumption as a board member was that district staff was correctly handling this with the union, not that our conversations in board meetings constituted notice in the contract," he said.

Trustee Todd Collins, who centered his 2016 election campaign around the district's response to the budget shortfall, agreed. He has requested the board schedule a closed-session evaluation of the superintendent.

Collins said the failure to reopen negotiations is an "egregious," "self-inflicted error" with broad-reaching implications, financial and otherwise, for the district. He said he had assumed that "the staff had done their job, as they do in every aspect of negotiating the contract, of doing what they needed to do to trigger the out clause related to the 3 percent raise."

"There is no more important date on the calendar from a fiscal management point of view than that date," he said of the March 15 deadline. "This is something that the senior manager in the organization has to be paying close attention to and clearly did not."

"I don't call that a misunderstanding," he said. "I call that a mistake."

Trustee Jennifer DiBrienza said the contract was "clear" and that "the district has to be more proactive in dealing with changes in circumstance."

Trustee Melissa Baten Caswell said she assumed there wouldn't be enough property tax growth to pay the 3 percent raise and deferred further questions to Godfrey and McGee.

McGee would not affirmatively state that he was unaware of the March 15 deadline. He said he "wasn't at the bargaining table" and didn't deal with the contract on a daily basis.

"Obviously if I were aware of it on March 15, we would have said something," McGee said.

He said the district tried to find documentation of any notice to reopen negotiations, and neither Karen Hendricks, the new assistant superintendent for human resources, "nor anyone else currently employed here could find anything definitive."

Union representatives, who would not agree to be interviewed by the Weekly but instead provided statements by email, said their unions were unaware of any dispute about the contract until last month.

Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) said that the teachers union "didn't know there was an issue until August when we returned to work."

Classified School Employee Association (CSEA) President Meb Steiner said CSEA "raised the issue when we became aware of it," also in August.

Baldwin said that "complicating matters," there wasn't an adopted budget until late June, after the school year ended. The board, however, approves the budget around that time every year, preceded by many public budget discussions that union leaders attend. What's more, according to Mak, the first draft of the 2017-18 budget that included no raises for employees was presented publicly on Aug. 23, 2016.

Nonetheless, Baldwin said, "We did not see that adopted budget" -- without explaining why.

On Aug. 14, McGee met with Steiner and Baldwin, he said. The same day, according to Hendricks, the classified union filed a formal grievance against the district but withdrew it the following week "upon working through the situation in a collaborative process with the district," Steiner wrote in an email to the Weekly.

"There was some confusion about the contract language; we were brought into the discussion and were able to work out things out," Baldwin said in a statement on behalf of the PAEA executive board. "We appreciate the collaborative relationship we have with the district and the Board of Education."

She declined to elaborate on what "confusion" there was, stating that "it would be more appropriate for us to let the district office characterize the confusion if they wish to.

"Working through the issue ultimately required only a couple of conversations, and we are all satisfied with the process and results," she said.

A safety valve that wasn't

Before approving the district's first-ever multi-year union contracts last year, several board members and McGee hailed the foresight of a protective provision that would allow the district to eliminate one-time bonuses and to reopen negotiations if property tax revenue came in 1.5 percent lower than expected.

And when that exact situation came to pass in July 2016, they pointed with relief to what McGee called a "safety valve."

"What was key about this contract was that there are triggers that allow our district, our staff, our community to have a second conversation," then-trustee Camille Townsend said on July 27, 2016, when the board convened for a special meeting over the summer to discuss the surprise shortfall. "You try to build in conditions that make it safe for you. What this board did was build in conditions that would trigger a reassessment if the numbers weren't satisfactory."

At the same meeting, board President Heidi Emberling defended the multi-contract as a "bold" decision to change the way the district negotiates with its unions.

"Luckily we built in the trigger language if we were surprised by the numbers," she said in an interview with the Weekly at the time. "There was some forethought there in terms of planning."

In an interview that July, McGee told the Weekly that both sides talked about having the "safety valve language from the get go" of negotiating the new three-year contract.

"It was wise that we did and that's the reason it was there," he said.

Over the next 11 months, in more than a dozen meetings, board members and district staff sought input from the community and eventually cut $4.37 million from the district's $230 million budget to make up for the first year of the ongoing budget gap. The bulk of savings came from personnel changes and alternative revenue sources, but cuts closer to the classroom were also made, like a reduction in the per-student-allocation provided to each school.

Collins said this week he worried that, long-term, the district's failure to comply with the contract could damage its relationships with its employee unions.

"In addition to the straight-up financial consequence, it puts us in a more contentious relationship with our employees, who are essential to the district," he said. "As we go into negotiating a new contract, we'll have this event hanging over us."

Under the current contract, negotiations for a new agreement are set to start by the fall of the 2017-18 school year.

Godfrey said Tuesday that in light of the budget shortfall and the negotiations misstep, the district will likely return to its historic practice of negotiating annual contracts, with retroactive pay increases.

"Maybe keeping it simple is the better thing to do," she said. "We wanted to support our negotiator's and superintendent's desire to have a more predictable look at the future ... but it did not turn out to be that way."

Dauber, who cast the sole dissenting vote against the multi-year contract, said this "mistake" compounds a contract that "already gave unnecessarily high pay increases and neglected the financial health of the district."

"It's unfortunate that the increase in property taxes that we saw for this school year — that we won't be able to use that increase to protect against further cuts and to direct it to educational benefits for students and instead will be devoting it to further pay increases," Dauber said.

From Collins' perspective, the failure to reopen negotiations is indicative of a broader culture of non-compliance in the school district. He points to other issues, from the district's repeated violations of federal anti-discrimination law Title IX in sexual misconduct cases to a failure to post minutes of board meetings in a timely, regular manner, as evidence of this culture.

The school board will soon start the process of searching for a new superintendent to replace McGee, who plans to retire at the end of this school year. Collins' "most important criteria" for this person is a high level of attention to detail and compliance.

"I think one of the most important issues of the district is changing that culture. Having a culture has to start with a board and superintendent that focuses on getting the details right and on complying with laws, policies, regulations," he said. "Until we have that, we will continue to have these kind of mistakes."

The added bonus

In addition to the unbudgeted salary increases, the district will likely also end up paying teachers and classified staff a 2 percent bonus at the end of the school year as a result of ultra-conservative budget projections. Under the contract, if the actual property tax received for the 2017-18 school year is greater than budgeted for by 1.5 percent or more, a 1 percent automatic bonus will be increased to 2 percent.

Early estimates from the county provided to the district indicate property tax growth will be coming in well above that 1.5 percent threshold — 6.52 percent compared to 3.73 percent in the district budget. (Mak said she received this updated amount from the Santa Clara County Assessor's Office and the Controller's Office on Wednesday.)

While this is expected to provide the district with about $4.4 million more than budgeted, it will almost certainly result in the additional one percent bonus being paid at a cost of about $1.5 million — requiring further cuts to school programming or pulling from budget reserves.

The board will next discuss the budget at its Tuesday, Sept. 12, meeting.

Related content:

Editorial: Time for McGee to go

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Comments

218 people like this
Posted by Incompetence
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:04 am

Incompetence on behalf of McGee and his staff. Failure of oversight by the board. Greed by unions who will insist on the money even though they know it will cost our kids dearly. Another day in PA Unified.


38 people like this
Posted by Long view
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:20 am

The district messed up, but the budget drama is consistently overplayed as tax revenues are strong after a dip and reserves are much higher than necessary. Breathless reporting and political posturing aside.....


322 people like this
Posted by Paly Dad
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:39 am

I didn't see anything in the article about "budget drama" - they made a $6 million mistake, spending money that wasn't authorized or in the budget. The fact that revenue also came in high doesn't change the fact it was gross incompetence.

Incompetence is the theme here - bungled sexual assault investigations, missing board minutes, legal settlements - mistake after mistake. This isn't high expectations, this is low performance. There's no defense for it - it's just a question of whether McGee actually gets held accountable.


83 people like this
Posted by wow, just, WOW!
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:47 am

This board is simply incompetent. I'm tired of their "we didn't know" excuses. They did know and did nothing!

Last November they were notified about a sexual incident at Paly and did nothing until it was reported in the media this year. Now we find out that they had absolutely no follow up with the district administration on a salary agreement they negotiated and agree with the union in spite of the budget crisis.

How can you have 3 people on a board that have shown they know absolutely nothing about how to lead a school district? This is the worse board in history by far and that is certainly saying something!

The editorial is saying that "Max needs to go". Three people on this board need to seriously consider their positions. They should no longer be there. They should do the right thing and resign. The 2 new comers may get a pass this time but are definitely on notice!


36 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 8:34 am

+1 to what Incompetence said.


"For more than six months, when it was obvious during budget talks that the school board was committed to cancelling the final year of raises, the unions' leadership sat back and said nothing as the March deadline passed, even though they regularly attend board meetings."

But remember we're all about the kids, because every child deserves a chance. Just see our "Kids Not Profits" campaign aimed at greedy billionaires. Web Link


76 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 8:34 am

And I suppose that they will still go ahead with name changes of middle schools. Financial responsibility is something that PAUSD does not have.


52 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 9:22 am

Amazing, amazing, amazing.
From the teachers union behavior, to McGee's.
Thanks Emberling for setting up this situation.


40 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:11 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

It is so incompetent. it almost seems intentional. What does McGee care if he walks away leaving a truly miserable place to work on the hook for an extra few million? At least he made some teachers happy, no one else was ever going to be.


49 people like this
Posted by Art
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:18 am

No names changes! This is the least of their worries.


49 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:30 am

We are seeing incompetence across the board not only on this school system but the one in Alum Rock - Santa Clara County. Any system supported by tax payer dollars and bonds looks like open season on fraud. Are all of these people thinking that no one will notice or follow the trail of events?
Is there a county level education office which exercises overview of all this activity?
Is there a buddy system here in which all agree to keep quiet when things are blowing up in their faces?
All should be on notice that the school system is key to our children's lives. I would suggest that we stop looking all over the USA for a new administrator who needs loans for a home and focus on local talent who is conversant in California law. The city does not need the "big search" - we have people in this state who should be doing this job.


83 people like this
Posted by cmon now
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 1, 2017 at 11:02 am

there is almost $100 million dollars in a PAUSD surplus fund. Give me a break. PAY TEACHERS! talking bout a 3% raise in a town that teardowns coast $2 million. We talking out $3000/yr in raises on avg and the headline insinuates UNION and teachers are greedy? Be careful to keep attacking teachers or there will be NO ONE qualified to teach them...

[Portion removed.]


39 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 11:13 am

What will McGee's pension - paid for by the people he failed to serve competently -be when he retires?


71 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2017 at 11:14 am

What a pathetic mess;

Just remember that Max was hired from a "nation-wide" search.

That one board member is a self-professed "finance girl"

Another board member is a self-professed "CEO"

That the Administrator who negotiated the contract in the first place had a conflict of interest (whatever raise the teachers received, he would get as well; and his wife works as a teacher for the school district); and this administrator was reminded of the deadline, did nothing, and then retired, and is now collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension benefits.

Measure A, the additional parcel tax that many of us voted for to reduce class sizes, is now being used instead to enrich the administrators.

Max, and the board member who says she is a "CEO" put most of their time and energy into some fancy pants "research program" for students; and just about dropped the ball on the budget, on sexual harassment, etc.


41 people like this
Posted by Cecilia Willer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2017 at 11:26 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


237 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 11:33 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.


66 people like this
Posted by Employee
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 11:54 am

Why does this school district give "bonuses"???!! This is not a business, it's a school district, a very well paid school district. They should cut their gas stipends and bonuses to make up some of the school loss. Palo Alto is only 4 miles long why does anyone need a gas stipend of $500-$800 per month?


22 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Cecilia Willer,
You post here under your own name, but do not make a comment on the substance of the issue. How good we know you are following your own advice.


44 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:31 pm

"I don't call that a misunderstanding," he said. "I call that a mistake."

I would call this incompetence.


71 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Historically this community has not tolerated actions that damage its children in any way. That was a hallmark of Palo Alto. Sadly, that has changed. Paying attention to what goes on at City Hall and with City Council and with PAUSD these days, I am drawn to the conclusion that the wheels are coming off in this town of ours. It is time for some serious accountability and leadership.

Residents: if you got a survey, fill it out and send it in. If you did not get one, write to the entire City Council and let them know that to whom much is given, much is expected. And that is okay. We are repeatedly told that the comp and benefits packages we provide are justified b/c we need to be competitive and must hire the best. A simple math exercise will prove that we significantly over pay our City Manager, for example, who earns well more than our Governor. We cannot change that at this point (although we also should not increase it!) but we can and should expect better results than what we are getting.

Until we see a sustained change in performance, ALL administrative increases and bonuses at PAUSD and City Hall should be postponed. Pay the teachers and treat them with respect (we are lucky to have them)but please do not reward failure of leadership.


35 people like this
Posted by midtown mom
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Do Bowers and McGee benefit financially from this "misunderstanding"?


26 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Cecilia - this stream is not about bullying - it is about financial fraud and incompetence. Maybe you should state where you fit into this picture. I am a parent whose child is graduated from Gunn and am looking at Cubberly being swept away as a resource for future students since we are suppose to increase our housing / occupancy for the city.

Given additional information coming out it looks like we are approaching this problem piece meal. I think the whole budget for the school system should be provided along with the funding trails. I would be more comfortable if the county had a team of auditors who made sure that each city within the county is working with a standard set of legal and financial guidelines so that the individual school systems are not going rogue. It looks like the deck is being stacked here - bonuses? The county is not that big but there are ethical / financial issues popping out all over the place.


34 people like this
Posted by Nobody special
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 1, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Let them know how you feel:

Board Members

Terry Godfrey
President 2017
(650) 387-3210
Term Expires 2018
Contact tgodfrey@pausd.org


Ken Dauber
Vice President 2017
(650) 906-4340
Term Expires 2018
Contact kdauber@pausd.org


Melissa Baten Caswell
(650) 823-1166
Term Expires 2020
Contact mcaswell@pausd.org


Todd Collins
(650) 403-2084
Term Expires 2020
Contact tcollins@pausd.org


Jennifer DiBrienza
Board Member
(917) 501-0930
Term Expires 2020
Contact jdibrienza@pausd.org


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

These union employees love spending other people's money- and since they erroneously perceive Palo Altans as an incredibly rich lot, they just keep passing along the tab. One day the well will run dry and their precious pensions may go unpaid- and then what will happen?
As for he error- hogwash! Bureaucrats know how to meet deadlines and keep track of to-do lists, surely. Besides, those are the skills they teach our children above all others in this school district. How can they possibly use incompetence as an excuse for lining their own pockets. Convenient, no?


31 people like this
Posted by Ralph
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Maybe it wasn't a "mistake" by the administrators... maybe they knew EXACTLY what they were doing. Will the administrators also receive a 3% raise because of their "mistake?"

Moderator's Note: Administrators will not receive these raises, according to McGee, since they are not members of the union and are therefore not affected by the union contract.


47 people like this
Posted by 94306
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 1, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Mr McGee should step down right now and no resign package!!
What a bomb!


47 people like this
Posted by DuvMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Must be nice to spend other peoples money. No accountability or pain. This is the problem with all Gov. Run Programs. Also, while people in the South understandably argue about the removal of statues our city voted to spend $107,000 on changing the name of Jordan Middle School because of his virtually UNKNOWN teaching of eugenics at Stanford. So easy to spend other peoples money...


47 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2017 at 3:18 pm

The term "colossal screw up" comes to mind.

Remember this, the next time the district comes around hat in hand, asking for another parcel tax.


34 people like this
Posted by DuvMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 3:23 pm

I wish I could accidentlely spend $6 million and tell my entire family it was just a "blunder". They would simply clean up my mess. Right?


79 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 3:52 pm

If the greedy teacher's union takes advantage of this and teachers support the union because the supe did not do his homework, I'll be damned if I am guilted by the PTA into paying for teacher funds, class gifts toward teachers, exorbitant latte carts or exotic breakfast spreads all because 'poor' teachers do so much for our kids. We have all become suckers either because we are working hard to give our kids a 'good pausd' education, or because we don't know what is happening and we don't care. I love and respect all our good teachers but we need to get a grip on what is happening with our property taxes and the careless way in which the board has squandered our money away and continues to. This would have been grounds for firing in the corporate world. What a shame!


18 people like this
Posted by Cecilia Willer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Chris and Resident, Thanks for your comments. Where I weigh in is similar to Barron Park Dad. I could not have said it better than that person (wish they provided their own name).
[Portion removed.]

I like being able to address a person by their name to acknowledge their comments versus "Barron Park Dad". It is just more respectful in my book and also using your own name shows that your would say this directly to someone; you are being accountable for what you say.


38 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Beleagured taxpayer here, this sure has proven to be a costly place to be a homeowner. I like the idea of prosperius schools and well-paid educators, they certainly are that. But I do not approve of the actions, behavior, tactics used for personal enrichment used by district employees and the teacher's union. Wow.


60 people like this
Posted by irrate
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:10 pm

This article came out just in time for me to hit "delete" to PiE donation request email that came into my email box.
Why would I give more money to support a fiscally irresponsible organization??



54 people like this
Posted by Leave Now!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Resign now, Max! You do not deserve a golden parachute, and should not get your pension from PAUSD!

You have done nothing but damage! You are very lucky you haven't been personally sued (yet). You've lost a lot of money for this district, between carelessness, negligence and incompetence.


13 people like this
Posted by Shelly Kay
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Mistake - In your dreams!


49 people like this
Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:26 pm

This forum allows anonymous comments. There are other forums which required verified names. I would **never** feel comfortable criticizing PAUSD or its teachers using my real name. It is not a matter of respect, but rather a matter of self-preservation. The district and the teachers hold a tremendous amount of power in this town where we live because we all value education above all else and they know it.


36 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2017 at 5:10 pm

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

It ain't the union's job to run the district. That's the job of the school board and all those well-paid administrators that get remunerated so highly to do their jobs, but apparently don't do their jobs very well.

And when's the last time anybody reading this told their boss they didn't want that next raise? Hmmm?


34 people like this
Posted by for_the_kids
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 1, 2017 at 5:11 pm

This is egregious because because people lost their jobs because of budget shortfall:

Web Link

Since year 2000, the student teacher ratios have been climbing in Palo Alto. As far as I can tell, the main cause of increased student teacher ratios, appears to be increased teacher salaries and the inability to hire more teachers. Teacher assistants, funded by PIE, are hired at a steep discount to reduce the ratios. So effectively, the union funded teachers are taking money from 1) the community through donations to PIE and 2) teachers aids who are effectively non-unionized teachers. I think we need to be tough on the union so that we can increase the number of teachers, and maintain the quality of teaching.


12 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2017 at 5:19 pm

"But I do not approve of the actions, behavior, tactics used for personal enrichment used by district employees and the teacher's union. Wow."

OK, OK I give. It is very mean of those teachers not to make allowances for their bosses' chronic ineptitude.


26 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 1, 2017 at 5:25 pm

I don't have kids in PAUSD so a neighbor asked ME to call PAUSD to complain about a policy/issue because they were very afraid of the consequences for them and their kids.

This was some years ago but it's a concern worth remembering now when you post using your real name on local issues,


55 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2017 at 5:30 pm

I have many problems with teachers' unions but this isn't one of them.

The issue here is the responsibilities of the union. The union represents the teachers, and that is what it is paid to do. The union is not responsible to the district, the parents, the students, or anyone other than the teachers.

This is very similar to the relationship of a lawyer or accountant. Such a professional has an obligation to the person hiring the professional, and of course the law.

This point about unions has been made many times across the country in many different situations.

I am afraid that this problem is entirely on the district. According to the contract (as I understand it), the district had an opportunity to change the raise terms but they had to send a letter by a certain date. The district failed to do so. The contract did not require the union to remind the district, of course.

I have known many situations where organizations had to respond in a certain time frame, with severely negative consequences if they did not. I have seen people fired for missing such a deadline, I am sorry to say.

We need to hold the district responsible and very soon before this incident is forgotten.


18 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Incompetence aside, prop 13 put us all in this spot. Time to repeal!


3 people like this
Posted by action needed
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2017 at 6:59 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by HighSchool Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:01 pm

Are we talking a $6M dollar mistake or a $12M dollar mistake? My understanding is that tax revenue goals for next year were set very low with the expectation that next year's raises would be a slam dunk. So, doesn't the mistake mean that teachers will be getting an extra $6M dollars this year, plus the $6M is now set into the baseline for next year's raises as well?

Please correct me if I'm wrong.


24 people like this
Posted by donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:04 pm

You can blame this on the Superintendent or the School Board, but it really the Business Manager who should be on top of things like this. If you fire the Supe and recall the Board, but don't get rid of the person who is really responsible, then something like this will happen again. Kathy Mak is not a household name, but she is the one who should bear the blame for this. Bob Golton would never have let this slip through.


26 people like this
Posted by just pathetic
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Vice President Ken Dauber called it a "serious management failure."
"My assumption as a board member was that district staff was correctly handling this with the union"

What a pathetic excuse. What is the point of the board except to provide oversight? Instead we get board members that just "assume".

When we have board members like this the district has no chance of clearing up this mess. Time to got.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2017 at 8:16 pm

@Cur,
Read donald's comments.
The Supe is an employee of the district.


16 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2017 at 8:45 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

@Concerned - The issue is NOT Prop 13. Property tax revenue for PAUSD have been growing at a VERY healthy rate. PAUSD has plenty of money.

Cathy Mak and McGee both made huge blunders. But, as is their pattern they'll find a fall guy that has left the district. They'll try to pin this on Scott Bowers since he is no longer around.


18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2017 at 9:24 pm

For those who want to blame the business manager or the VP of HR, remember two things.

1) This is not an isolated incident - they have frequent screw ups in every aspect of the district's management; and

2) the person who hires and supervises all assistant or deputy superintendents is Superintendent McGee.

You can blame Ms Wade, or Ms Mak, or Dr. Bowers, or Mr. Autrey, or any of the others who have come or gone, but the common thread is that they all were "supervised" by Dr. McGee. There's no reason to expect that the next person would do any better if the same person is in charge.


17 people like this
Posted by donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2017 at 9:27 pm

McGee may be superior to Mak, but he didn't hire her. She has been around longer than he has. To blame her failings on him is not correct. I am not saying that McGee is blameless, only that he is not the sole contributor, or even the primary one.


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:08 pm

@donald - if McGee didn't replace or re-assign her after 3 years, he has hired her. He chooses his own staff and can replace anyone he wants. There's no tenure for administrative jobs. If she is so bad, he should have known it and replaced her.


33 people like this
Posted by Lawyers?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:29 am

I wonder if the PAUSD outsourced the union contract bargaining process to one of their shady law firms on contract? Perhaps the district admins never even read the details of the contract?

What is completely bizarre is that in public meeting after public meeting the board said no raises and the budget was passed with no raises, yet no one on the administrative staff at these board meetings had any good sense to say that the district needed to notify the union by March 15th, 2017?

And what about the law firms? No one said anything?

If the law firm is at fault, the PAUSD needs to claw back the $6 million in fees. And all of the administrators including McGee need to be terminated. The passing this off is a 'misunderstanding' is a complete deception. They have tried to bury their mistake and they need to all be fired.


16 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2017 at 7:21 am

@HighSchool Parent,

You ask if this is a $6M or $12M mistake?

The $6M includes a raise plus a one-time bonus. I think the raise is about $4.5M.

Since raises typically set a new baseline "Forever", this would be a
$4.5M * Y mistake, where Y is the number of years you choose to consider. [As an infinite series, it does not converge.]

Over time, a lot of money.


30 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 8:43 am

@Lawyers,

"I wonder if the PAUSD outsourced the union contract bargaining process to one of their shady law firms on contract? Perhaps the district admins never even read the details of the contract?

What is completely bizarre is that in public meeting after public meeting the board said no raises and the budget was passed with no raises, yet no one on the administrative staff at these board meetings had any good sense to say that the district needed to notify the union by March 15th, 2017?

And what about the law firms? No one said anything?"

You bet. In the real world beyond PAUSD, this is called "conniving", especially when on the heels of so much other conniving. The culture of conniving will continue to happen and hurt us until the community wakes up and pulls together to create a powerful culture of honesty, openness, and accountability. I think people should look at what is possible when districts are reorganized. It is possible to hit rest.

The raises, which were based on money from the new tax sold as urgently necessary for our student mental health and avoiding layoffs, in an ultra-expensive special election (i.e., rigged to get the result), were already hush money to teachers who know what administratirs have really done to our students. Teachers may not be contractually culpable but they are morally and the stain on their souls will never go away. They were also a way for all the people who left to ratchet up their salaries before jumping ship. (Not that getting rid of some if them, like Wade and Carrillo, wasn't worth it if that's what it took.) Our teachers are well compensated and sometimes paying too much, as economic research and our overpaid district administrators demonstrate, backfires in performance. If an economic relationship, by making things all about just money, impairs rather than augments intrinsic motivation, higher pay can backfire.

This reminds me for all the world of some of the conniving against special ed students. Interesting how this situation with the union exactly mirrors some of the conniving district staff have involved teachers in against special ed/505 families. District teachers know a lot they aren't telling, For example, administrators creating deception so families believe they are discussing when to schedule a 504 meeting but staff know they are scheming to meet without the parents present and represent in the record that parents didn't bother to be there. Staff might hear repeatedly what parents think about the date not having been decided, but never set them straight, deliberately, and if teachers ask what to do, administrators get them to go along, through fear or even ongoing lies about the family (means to an end they can justify). That can only work for so long since most teachers are basically good people, but who is going to rock the boat with a steady stream of rauses? McGee knows who he really has to answer to to keep his nice setup, and it's not district families.

The district has never had problems following up in writing against parents with official detailed letters rewriting reality to fit their wishes and CYA needs, and backdated where "necessary" or carefully mailed to arrive (signature required) just before weekends and holidays to create maximum stress and minimum recourse - it's an old lawyers' trick and no doubt came from district legal at the time. The district has a long history of itself using timing and deadlines against families to avoid their responsibilities to our most vulnerable children. No, the top administrators in this district are well acquainted with the trickiness of legal details and cannot tell us honestly and with a straight face that this was just a gosh darnit shucks mistake.

McGee just wants his own form of paving his way and keeping a lid on the skeletons in the closet until he leaves. We are not well-served by this kind of expensive, underperforming administrative structure. This is Silicon Valley,where are the disruptive solutions?


28 people like this
Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:02 pm

The blame being heaped on the union and "greedy teachers" here is hilarious. I suggest those who want to blame the teachers and the union go do some basic research on contract law. The union's responsibility is to its constituents, and it is laughable to suggest that the union should have "reminded" the district before the deadline or is somehow responsible for this. (The irony of this all blowing up on Labor Day weekend is pretty rich too.) That The Weekly would infer that the union has some responsibility for this reveals its anti-teacher bias pretty baldly. This is sheer incompetence at the board and admin level. A contract is a contract. Don't blame the union for doing its job and doing it well. And don't blame the teachers (whose pay is only now reaching parity with other comparably affluent local districts) when your board and highly-paid admins make "assumptions" and it results in a problem. Palo Alto has plenty of money, this is not a crisis, nor was there a crisis during the so-called budget "shortfall" in the spring. The district has huge reserves - it is one of the richest districts in the country and I see a lot of crocodile tears being shed.

Then again, if all the keyboard warrior contract experts out there log off and decide to run for the school board and/or get heavily involved in the search for a new superintendent, all the problems will be solved, right? (Well, all of the problems except for The Weekly's anti-teacher bias, that is....)


8 people like this
Posted by Dodgeball
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:21 pm

It is highly amusing to see the school board members squirm, trying to dodge blame.

That tells you a lot about the lack of honor within the PAUSD board.


16 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:33 pm

@Roger Dodger,
Sorry, but you seem to be the one with the blind bias. A contract is a contract and this district is so rich, nevermind things like common decency and putting the interests of kids first. The teachers are impacted by class sizes, too, their interests are not simply to get as much money as possible for doing the least work, and getting it by tricky technicalities rather than honest negotiation. That is IMO an insult to our teaching professionals. That perspective is like the old justification of all unethical behavior in business, saying,"We're in business to make money." Actually, most people are in business to do something: make hats, or iPhones, or sell food, making money is an assumed part of being in business, but it isn't the sole purpose. The only people in business to make money are counterfeiters, which is rightfully illegal. A contract has an intended purpose, and the union's relying on a technicality rather than honoring the spirit of the contract is sickening. The union here once again is showing a disturbing disregard for doing the right thing.

However - you are right in feeling that the administration is where the responsibility really lies. Since it mostly all feels like a setup with this infinitely shake-downable population holding the bag, I can understand where you are coming from - there should be no need to bash the union because district administration isn't exactly the most trustworthy for anyone to deal with, so if they didn't make trouble for themselves, we should understand. I'm surprised we haven't heard from the parent bashing contingent yet, who can be relied on to blame parents for the craters on the moon and liken them to twisted criminal I'm-ready-for-my-close-up-Mr-demille-derangement.

Well, at some point, something's got to give. Palo Alto has a pretty low rate of expenditure directly on students compared to other rich districts, though. I am counting the days to putting in my senior exemption and will never give directly to the schools here again. Your statement was not a convincing defense of the union.


18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Not sure about Government contracts, but in the normal world, I suspect the district might have an arguable case that the union had indeed been notified, given the many months of joint meetings, discussions, and widespread press around the district’s plan to resolve its shortfall. There is an agreed-on procedure to handle an event like this, and everybody was aware of it. Not sure a court would agree, but I bet they could get into one.

Not to excuse the district, which apparently screwed up royally here, but ultimately it isn’t the union against the district. The whole point of all this is the district doesn’t have the money. It’s really the union against the kids, and you.


21 people like this
Posted by Ann
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Teachers salaries are public information, check them out. 70% of teachers in the district earn more than 100K.
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.


21 people like this
Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2017 at 1:54 pm

@We are Bell, CA

It's not a "tricky technicality" to adhere to a contract as it is written. It's how you do things. To imply/insist otherwise is to not grasp how contracts work, nor how collective bargaining works. To imply that the union has done something unethical, sneaky, or "wrong" is just absurd.

You are continuing to blame the union when this is not the union's problem. And doing their job well for the teachers IS standing up for the best possible experience for our kids - teachers who are well-compensated and working in safe conditions are far more effective at their jobs than teachers who are paid poorly and mistreated by admins/school boards. It's pitiful that the union even has to "defend" itself as you (and The Weekly) seem to imply, since it has done absolutely nothing wrong, and is NOT the source of this problem. Shifting the blame will not work, because it's simply not true.


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

attorney is a registered user.

@Roger Dodger

You may want to Google "bad faith" and discover that there is indeed a question of the unions' knowingly remaining silent during the budget process.


21 people like this
Posted by Senior
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 2, 2017 at 2:20 pm

Everyone should respond to this incompetence with their checkbook. DO NOT GIVE TO PIE! DO NOT GIVE TO THE PTA! If you are a senior, opt out of the parcel tax! This district thinks the public will continue to be a pushover for their "mistakes" and come up with the balance. And the best paid teachers in the state are complicit! Make it really painful for the district to find funding to cover their commitment! Stop any future raises and bonuses and start over!!


14 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Roger Dodger is absolutely right.

Unions representatives are like lawyers: they work for a client and are obliged to pursue the interests of the client (while of course obeying applicable laws).

For the union to have reminded the district of the need to send a letter would be like having your lawyer remind your opponent's lawyer of the need to make a court filing. It is malpractice, pure and simple.

The fact is that our union reps are smarter than the district staff. Scott Bowers, as our lead negotiator last year, gave away the candy store, virtually giving the entire "anticipated" tax increase to the teachers. Of course, the anticipation was also wrong. Bowers made multiple mistakes last year.

I assumed, when Bowers announced his retirement, that he had been eased out. We would have been better off if last year had been his last year, rather than keeping him around for another year. [Much the same point can be made of McGee.]

But the union is not responsible for the effectiveness of district employees in negotiation, the district is.


37 people like this
Posted by Erica
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2017 at 2:31 pm

This is very disturbing. One one hand, we, as parents, are asked to generously donate to PTA, PiE, to support our students. On the other hand, PAUSD makes hugely costly blunders one after another. We need to hold whoever responsible countable.


6 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2017 at 2:31 pm

@attorney,

The budget process was after the March 15 cutoff. Had the unions brought up the issue of the raises and bonuses during the budget process, it was still too late for the district to ask for the renegotiation.

It is a question whether the unions actually realized this was happening or not. I have been assuming (since unions actually read contracts!) that they were well aware when the March 15 deadline passed, they were going to get the raises and bonuses (although the amounts were still up in the air). But this doesn't matter very much, the deadline was still passed.

Hard deadlines are used in business all of the time and you have to follow them or this sort of thing happens. It would be rare for the other party to say, "Gee, we are sorry you forgot to write that letter, we'll let you off this time!" unless they had ulterior motives for the kindness. An example: you have an option to buy a property, you let the option expire, then the owner sells to another buyer for more than your option price. Tough luck for you.




15 people like this
Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2017 at 2:47 pm

@attorney:

Here is the top definition from Law.com when you google "bad faith in contract negotiations":

1) n. intentional dishonest act by not fulfilling legal or contractual obligations, misleading another, entering into an agreement without the intention or means to fulfill it, or violating basic standards of honesty in dealing with others.

If you can show me how the union is being intentionally dishonest, misleading, or "violating the basic standard of honesty" in this process, I'm all ears. Also, as was pointed out subsequently, the budget process happened after the contract deadline. They are two very different processes. The budgeting process is the responsibility of admin/the board.

If the district had gotten MORE than its expected share of tax dollars and the union had failed to invoke its right to re-open negotiations by the deadline (remember, it works both ways), the union would be out of luck. There would be no going back to the district and saying "Gee, we forgot, we want our raise plus more anyway." That's not how contracts work.

Your argument holds no water, as there is nothing even slightly resembling "bad faith" on the union's part. Continuing to blame the union is an attempt to shift blame away from the responsible party. Your issue is not with the union or the teachers. It is with district leadership.


28 people like this
Posted by attorney
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2017 at 2:47 pm

attorney is a registered user.

@ Robert Smith

The terms of a contract do not always control in a situation where one party engages in bad faith actions. For example, if you've entered into a contract that requires written notice but you have provided repeated verbal notice, a court would look at the underlying intent and behaviors of both parties and determine whether one of the parties engaged in bad faith. In other words, under some circumstances, bad faith actions will trump the failure of an aggrieved party to comply with every specific element of the contract. We don't know enough to speculate about this particular situation because the unions appear to not be talking or explaining why they didn't raise the point that the budget being considered conflicted with the union contract (it budgeted no money for raises.)

And you're wrong about the timing: the budget process began in the fall of 2016 and continued until it was adopted in June.

In this case, my sense is that the union will ultimately suffer more in the future by not having been upfront and would have gained invaluable good will had they not waited until the "gotcha" moment in August.


18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 2, 2017 at 3:01 pm

I am happy the teachers are receiving a 3% raise. This small raise won't keep up with local inflation, but it is a good gesture. I hope the best teachers get a bigger raise than this.
Folks....$100K/yr in this area is not a large salary. Times have changed.

With regards to administrative competence, I don't know enough about it or the issues. I do see instances of over-zealous behavior on the part of residents, which cannot make their job any easier.


7 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2017 at 3:07 pm

@attorney,

Your post illustrates the old saying that you can always find some reason to sue. Whether or not you can prevail is another point.

I would guess that a district suit against the union would not be successful because the union basically did nothing, and doing nothing is generally a pretty safe position to take.

As to the question of the long-term benefit to the union, that is hard to say. Do you think that the public reaction to the union protecting the teachers will be that strong? I doubt it.



41 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 2, 2017 at 3:11 pm

My takeaways:

1) the teacher union knew exactly what was happening. They stayed quiet for a reason ($$$). Zero chance they didn't know.

2) regardless, I'm ok with the teachers getting a 3% raise. Most of them deserve it.

3) And it matters little in the long run as you know the District is going to take out this 3% from any proposed raises over the next three years. Sure, the teachers get it for 17-18 but if they had cancelled the raise, they'd just be getting it in 18-19 based on property taxes coming in higher and what that usually triggers in terms of raises.

4) every administrator knows about March 15. It is when you have to release a new teacher. It is when administrators have to be told they aren't coming back. Bowers knew. McGee knew. Mak knew. Everyone who served on the negotiating team for the district knew. They just dropped the ball. While it is the responsibility of McGee, this is something Bowers let pass. Probably should have just threw him under the bus since he's retired, but McGee couldn't even do that right.

5) this was the first year I was going to donate to PIE. I felt they deserved the funds, especially with the district not giving the raises (as they promoted and championed all summer). Well, McGee just saved me a good chunk of money; I ripped up the check. Sorry but I'll start donating when the district can get things straight.

6) I am not a Dauber fan, didn't vote for him, but I will say this: he knew the three year contract was a bad idea; he knew it would be an issue at some point; he was right. He was absolutely right.

7) I've been a big supporter of the district office on these boards. I'm done. This is a rookie level mistake. If they can't do this right, how can we trust them with their hiring decisions, with public funds, or with our children?

It's pathetic.


22 people like this
Posted by May 2016
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 6:28 pm

May 2016

Elena Kadvany reported that Dr. McGee was in a rush to get this 3 year raise approved:

The unions and the school board had approved the proposal before the public saw it and at its unveiling, "although board policies require two public meetings be held prior to final approval, Superintendent Max McGee is asking the board to waive this rule and approve it."

It gave employees a 5% retroactive raise, a 4% 2016-17 raise, and a 3% 2017-18 raise plus bonuses. McGee proposed that all managers and supervisors receive these increases too and called the trigger an "important element" in case taxes didn't come in as projected.

Ken Dauber proposed a "3+3+3 Plan" - 3% raises each year for 3 years - instead to free up funds to hire 35 teachers.

Two weeks later

The Board voted yes 4-1.

Godfrey prodded the district to open its negotiations to the public next time.

Web Link

Web Link


39 people like this
Posted by Ann
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 2, 2017 at 7:36 pm

$100K/yr in this area is not a large salary? Really? Compared to lawyers and doctors and VCs it is not, but compared to other professions it is, so stop presenting teachers as poor, please! And don't forget retirement benefits, normal work hours and long vacations.


37 people like this
Posted by get real
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2017 at 7:42 pm

@Resudent

$100k annual when you have approx 3 months off is a very good salary !!
Many of them live a good life, and have plenty of $ for vacation travel - HI, Europe, etc - and other perks. It amazes me. And
add to that the teachers who can have their kids educated by PAUSD even though they live outside of te district, pay lower taxes than PA residents etc - it's a sweet deal!!!!!
Not to mention teachers and administrators kids usually get placed with the strongest teachers - it's almost like it's an in written rule .

Now it may not seem like a sweet comp plan to them or others because sadly they are surrounded by uber rich who spend $$ like it grows on trees, vacation in
Africa, Europe, HI etc - all in one year!!

Do not feel teachers and staff are not compted well - - the benefits and pay give them a nice life style - it's just distorted by the community they teach in.

And other patents in PAUSD that don't work as teachers work longer hours, more weeks, similar pay - less perks and no one is screaming for them are they?


23 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 2, 2017 at 9:41 pm

@get real

I employ a large number of people. Here are some data points:
1) technician, no college, lots of experience, ~$65K/yr in total compensation (salary/bonus)
2) engineer, 4yr degree, 10 years experience, ~$150K/yr in total comp (salary/bonus/stock)
3) PhD specialist, 15 years experience, ~$210K/yr in total comp (salary/bonus/stock)

While attending "back to school" nights last week, I found teachers on par with any of these three data points.

Yes, the summers off is a fabulous perk, and the best teachers will enrich their life experience, and share/inspire our kids in unexpected ways. Maybe this perk helps our system find the best teachers (and eliminate the laggards).

I'm in agreement with your concerns about retirement plans. Defined benefit plans need to be abolished across the entire public sector, as they have been in the private sector.

So teachers, like other employees, have a wide range competencies, and our system needs to pay for performance, and set a high bar on who is capable and fortunate enough to guide our next generation.


11 people like this
Posted by wow, just, WOW!
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2017 at 8:02 am

It's not whether they voted for or against it, it's what they did since then in light of the actual information.

When you have board members that don't even bother to ask how the re-negotiation is going, you know they're just phoning it in. It's not like they expected the union to just roll over and accept nothing so what were they thinking not to check?

Even worse, they then pretend to care by demanding a conservative property tax estimate for budget planning purposes that they know will be beaten by more than 1.4%. The result of this carelessness by the board is that not only were bonuses given but they were doubled because they exceeded the 1.4% estimate as demanded in the contract!

All this was in the contract and no board member even bothered to check on the impact of both their property tax estimate and updated budget.

I initially gave the new comers a pass but, in light of the bonus fiasco they have all completely failed in their fiduciary duties and their refusal to accept any responsibility for this, they all need to go.


9 people like this
Posted by OneWordSolution
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2017 at 8:50 am

Charter.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 3, 2017 at 10:11 am

Something has been lost in the translation between the Teacher's Union and the school system. The Teacher's union is one of the biggest in California.
Who is in charge of what responsibilities appears to be missing in action. Do we need more clarification on the roles and responsibilities for this next school year? The more I read here the more confusing it is. But there is still a bottom line - making up the shortfall to cover the discrepancy.
Do not get it into your head that Cubberley will be sold to make up this shortfall. If this is a "set-up" then forget it.


11 people like this
Posted by @Cecilia
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2017 at 11:18 am

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2017 at 11:38 am

@Rodger Dodger,
You can keep saying that the union has done nothing wrong over and over again, but repeating it does not make it so. If you read further, I have not absolved the administration by any means. But violating the spirit of a contract with full knowledge, while relying on being tricky to adhere to the letter of it, is not upright behavior for people who are teaching our children to be upright citizens. Shame on them. Do they encourage our kids to think this way? (Or just set the example for our kids to behave this way because the district encourages, even requires, teachers and staff to act like that by conniving against families in special ed, bullying, or other civil rights cases?) Imagine: "I didn't bring a sheet of answers or use someone else's work, It doesn't specifically say I can't write some reminders on the inside of my sunglasses where it is convenient, I'm still doing the test problems - the student contract just says not to use someone else's work and regardless of our verbal discussions about cheating, a contract is a contract." Or "it doesn't specifically say here that I can't have sex with a teacher if I'm 18 - the handbook doesn't even mention oral sex, it just says touching can't be "unwanted" - it even says here that I can leave campus at any time. A contract is a contract."

As to the three percent, this isn't three percent over ten years, which is what federal judges probably got (and federal judges in San Francisco with 30 years experience already make less than most of our administrators with jobs most people couldn't even describe, even though right now they seem to be linchpins of our democracy - new federal judges are paid a fraction of what we pay our teachers and administrators). No, this is raises on the backs of many other raises.

Can the reporter please account for all of them? It's one thing to say teachers got 3%, it's another to say that with all the raises of recent years, they got, say, 25% versus 22% in five years (just using numbers for example, I hope the reporter will follow through. I thought the upshot was that our poorly performing district bureaucrats got like 20-25% or even more over that last ten years. Many of them aren't exactly breaking a sweat for our kids (frequently out of office, don't return communications if they are trying not to create a paper trail, etc, and of course there are the big scandals financial and otherwise) I do not begrudge teachers a good salary, but comparing their salaries to full year professionals on the highest end of the spectrum is not really appropriate either, and brings in teachers who care more about their salaries than our kids.

I'm not saying it should be desirable to be so strapped teachers have to buy supplies, but how many of ours would make sacrifices to buy supplies for the kids? Now extend that to more serious sacrifices related to safety and being upstanders. I do not see a lot of teachers standing up against unethical behavior that they witness, they are too well compensated to risk it. Like I said, this contract was hush money, or McGee's bribe to keep the teachers on his side as he failed to undo or shed proper light on the messes he inherited. (Some are yet to hit the fan - the sexual harrassment is not the only thing.)

McGee was given an impossible situation - the reason that giant bevy of some of the worst administrative offenders in our district went out to see him before hiring was to ensure his personal sympathy and connection before he got here, essential for ongoing CYA. I don't absolve him of responsibility either - I think the "mistake" excuse is disingenuous - but he was expected to clean up a mess while an ousider in a nest of the mess's architects. Our teachers, instead of standing up to the abuses we have seen over and over again, instead of ensuring they put our kids first and behaved always in every interaction and opportunity as upstanders if something didn't seem right, they usually stay silent because there isn't a specific duty in that exact situation, or hide behind an administrator having told them to do it. I could fill a book with examples. Again, our teachers are mostly good people, but history is full of examples of how bad things can quickly get when ordinary people justify their behavior and stay silent, failing to be the upstanders the exhort our kids to be.

McGee really has no excuse, and should have been let go for turning on a dime and using the tax in ways that made the election look like a shakedown. But then, he's just the figurehead on a rotting mountain. We brought him in and expected him to clean up the mountain without cover. It was never going to end well.

Shame on him, shame on the teachers union, shame on all those staff and employees who witnessed things you should have stood up against and helped make better over the last decade. Now we all know how much your integrity is worth in dollars and cents.


21 people like this
Posted by Maya
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 3, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Question-
How many of you posters, spend all day, every day, in the classroom, teaching the children of this fair and generous city?
How many of you know what really happened with the D.O.'s failure to reopen negotiations?
How many of you know what's it's like spending Sat. and Sun. on prep, grading assessments, answering emails, writing reports, scoring writing, solving all the issues social and emotional and just trying to get a grip before it all starts over again on Monday?
Accepting a raise that was promised, and planned for, and that there is existing money for, right now, currently, in reserves, is not a crime and should not be seen as one. It's not like it's going to send any teacher into the realms of riches. Have you seen where the salary schedule tops out? I'm sure you make a whole lot more!
Imagine if the teachers decided not to do all they do for your children. Then what?


12 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2017 at 12:42 pm

@Maya

As I have posted several times, the union is completely within its rights to accept the raises and bonuses since the district did not follow the procedure specified in the contract to reopen the negotiation. Nothing more needs to be observed about this. It is also not the responsibility of the teachers to make sure that the district has the funds to meet its obligations.

I have no complaint with the union. All of my complaints are with the board and administration for their amazing incompetence in handling this entire matter over the last two years.

As to whether or not the raises are warranted or moral, that is a very different question, one which I take to be beyond this thread really.


3 people like this
Posted by Town Square Moderator
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

Here is a link to the Palo Alto Weekly story on the adoption of the three-year contract last year and the raises and bonuses that it provided for.

Web Link


34 people like this
Posted by @Maya
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2017 at 1:38 pm

As a graduate student, I spent a hell of a lot of time helping university students develop their skills. On top of my own graduate work, I spent many hours devoted to teaching and evaluating student work. Up until 3:00 a.m., then up again before 6:00 a.m. to do more work: typical. There was hardly a weekend I could spend doing anything other than keeping up with teaching issues before doing my own work. Most of the graduate students I knew were in the same boat, but we did not get paid anywhere near what the teachers in Palo Alto get paid.

And here's the brutal truth, which many who taught in graduate school might tell you: We were doing the work that teachers, even teachers in places like Palo Alto, should have been doing beforehand. We could not escape seeing the evidence of sloppy teaching that went on before college. We could not help but recognize the holes in the educational system that led many students to our classrooms where they were simply unprepared for college-level work. There is a lot of remediation that goes on for college freshmen in core subjects like math and English. If teachers were doing such a great job, this would not be the case!

Why do many students in Palo Alto do so well? I doubt it's the teachers. It is more likely the parents and the private tutoring leading to the high grades and scores. If we want to gauge how the public school teachers are doing, we need to look at the results for the kids whose parents are not highly educated and/or whose families cannot afford outside academic help for their kids. Such kids pretty much only have the public school teachers to depend on. It's not a mystery. We know the scores for the underprivileged kids are relatively low here in Palo Alto.




19 people like this
Posted by Some Data
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 3, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Some data:

Avg PAUSD teacher salary 2015-16 = $103.4K.
Avg growth last 5 years = 4.5%
Avg growth last 10 years = 3.1%
(source: 2016-17 Budget Book, p. 296 - Web Link )

CPI SF-Oak-SJ region
Avg growth last 5 years = 2.6%
Avg growth last 10 years = 2.5%
(source BLS Western Info Office - Web Link )

So PAUSD teachers on average the last 5 years have seen their pay go up +1.5% faster than regional inflation; over the last 10 years it has been +0.6%.

I don't know if that seems like a lot or a little, and the market for teachers may have its own dynamics. But generally we are paying a lot, and what we pay goes up consistently faster than inflation.


10 people like this
Posted by Elementary Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Whether we email the board (which I have already), withhold/ stop PiE, PTA contributions, ultimately our kids are the biggest losers in this situation. What are our options if any as parents, citizens and tax payers? Is there anything we can do collectively?


9 people like this
Posted by Old Timer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2017 at 2:41 pm

@elementary parent, The community elects the board - that's pretty much it. The staff members and contracts are overseen by the board. You can lobby the board (in person, email, letter); you can talk at board meetings; at a more extreme level, you could attempt a recall and elect new board members before the scheduled term (two seats up for election in Nov 2018, the other 3 in 2020).

Probably the best bet is to lobby the current board members - email, phone, in person, at meetings - to do what you think is right, and to urge others to do the same. You could write a joint letter and get multiple people to sign on; you could send a email template and urge people to send it. Not that many people actually reach out directly to the board, so it takes a surprising few to make an impact.


10 people like this
Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2017 at 4:08 pm

@We are Bell, CA

Again, your beef here is solely with the district leadership, which clearly dropped the ball in this matter. While I am glad to read that you also hold admin responsible here, continuing to fix blame on the union and teachers over and over again does not make it true. You have an opinion, but you don't have the facts in this case. The union did nothing illegal, unethical, or wrong here. It carried out its obligations exactly as dictated in the contract. (In fact, if union reps HAD discussed this with the district outside of contract negotiations, they would be guilty of malpractice, as has been pointed out elsewhere.)

Like I said before, these are simple facts, this is how a contract works, this is how collective bargaining works. To insinuate that teachers are poor role models for students because they are standing up for their rights as workers is ludicrous and contradictory - in fact an argument could be made that this is an excellent example to students of how to negotiate and exercise one's rights and responsibilities under the law. To further insinuate in the same breath that teachers could/would use similar reasoning to justify cheating and sexual abuse of students is an accusation that is hardly worthy of a response. You are tarring the work and reputations of hundreds of decent and good people with that sort of language - it has no place in this discussion and it is reprehensible.

Happy Labor Day, brought to you by the blood, sweat, and tears of labor unions.


26 people like this
Posted by Kudos to Palo Alto Weekly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2017 at 4:34 pm

I applaud the Weekly uncovering the story and calling for McGee's ouster. Also, I don't believe for a minute that this was some slip up. In fact, I think it was intentional all along.

Why? This reminds me of the $5,850,000 lie / sleight of hand in Pleasanton Unified a few years ago to give teachers and administrators raises.

Instead of the PAUSD method, this was their method. First, they spent all of the school impact fees on lawyers. Next they refinanced a loan they were paying off using the General Fund telling the public they were getting a "net present value savings of $850,000" once the loan was refinanced.

They lied and overstated projected future school impact fees in order to get permission to do the refinancing.

In reality by refinancing the loan they were increasing the loan amount obligation due by $5 million which had to be paid off in a shorter time frame. They weren't saving anyone $850,000. The refinancing was done to re-direct the money that would be use to pay off the loan in annual installment in the short term to the the General Fund where it would be used for, you guessed it, raises!!!

BY the time anyone caught it, the money was gone.

And now they are going to have the public pay off the loan with the increased payoff amount by the taxpayers because they are using bond money to pay off the loan.

I truly believe that PAUSD's blunder was intentional. Your reporters did an excellent job uncovering this. Thank you for a job well done.


7 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Rodger Dodger,
You and I are in agreement here that administrators are mostly to blame and I would go further to point out that administrators have modelled this exact behavior to teachers in strongarming and deceiving special ed families. (What do I tell that parent who seems to think the meeting is on a different date because of admin deception? You can bet the admins didn't say, Be open, honest, and help parents exercise their rights under the law as we are legally required to do, they told teachers to be quiet until they held the meeting without the parents.) Teachers have been coached to do this exact kind of thing by administrators, it seems ludicrous for the admins to complain about it.

That said, you are just morally wrong here that the only obligation the teachers or their union has is to make more money. This isn't about teachers standing up for their rights, regardless they are extremely well paid here and have great working conditions - they knew the intent of that clause, knew what the district intended whether there was a letter ir not. Unions bargain all the time for things that are about the better performance of their work, that may even cost them money, such as better safety for patients, healthier workplaces, limits on shifts so as not to endanger the public.

There is using the letter if the contract to violate the spirit of the contract, which the facts demonstrate quite ckearly happened here. Just because the administrators were worse does not make the behavior ethical or worthy of emulation. What you describe us how contracts work when one side or other is not acting in good faith, hardly a good example for our kids. But then, the administration has taught our teachers that they don't need to act in good faith or can rely on technicalities to avoid following the spirit (and actually, the letter) of the law when it comes to students' rights.

You are right that what they did was self-interested and not strictly illegal. Some if the worst travesties of mankind would fit that bill, though - I'm sure the teachers could name a lot of them if they thought about it - in fact perps of travesties are usually itherwise good people telling themselves they are serving a higher purpose which basically means anything goes and they justify it to themselves by saying it's the law, or a contract is a contract. This is another thing that should make it harder to look themselves in the mirror everyday, especially after the next time one of them goes along with screwing and traumatizing some family or kid who just needed simple accommodations to get an education like everyone else, or looks the other way when a colleague is behaving inappropriately with a student. No one making this kind if money will rock the boat.

They don't morally get off the hook for this, it's the situation the term "slippery slope" was invented to describe. The union were not being upstanders for our district and students. @Maya above shows why, they think families are made of money even though teachers make more than the average, working only 3/4 of the year.

"To further insinuate in the same breath that teachers could/would use similar reasoning to justify cheating and sexual abuse of students " i didn't insinuate, I pointed out a fact of human behavior. "She was 18, I didn't technically break the law" is in fact the same kind of justifying to avoid seeing the bigger picture of morality or consequences. That money was all promised to the community to improve student mental health, reduce class sizes, etc. The teachers already got healthy raises from it. No, they do not get a moral pass on this; but they did make much more clear exactly in dollars and cents what their integrity is worth.





16 people like this
Posted by Chris Dewees
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 3, 2017 at 6:48 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 Local Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 3, 2017 at 7:32 pm

Reading over the comments section and having read past coverage of contract negotiations for nurses at the hospital, leads me to believe that there is a lot of resentment of teachers and others that have a union to advocate for them and to negotiate a contract at all. Many families in this area deal with a lack of job security, expected workaholism, and a very steep cost of living. It can perhaps feel rewarding to some to attack those that have benefited from being organized into a union. In this specific situation, the district clearly failed to follow their own contract terms. It was never the union's responsibility to prompt the district to fulfill its contract obligations/goals. The article has purposefully framed the situation in such a way that casts aspersions on PAEA and teachers in general. Many readers have taken the bait. This is a divisive practice.


17 people like this
Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2017 at 7:34 pm

@We are Bell, CA:

It's pretty clear that you have a major grudge against the district for issues surrounding something that is entirely unrelated to the contract negotiations and how the district has interacted with the union around the most recent contract. While I sympathize and empathize with your plight, it is, as I said, entirely unrelated. Conflating them and further making degrading insinuations about the character of teachers in our district is not a helpful approach.


1 person likes this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2017 at 8:04 pm

@Elementary parent,
There is a lot you can do, but I think we all assume everything will work out without drastic changes. See the other thread on thus issue - It looks like power to change the way the school district runs is in the Code of the Palo Alto City Charter. If you want the district to be run by a couple of dogs named Frodo and Arwen instead of a Superintendent, you would change the City Charter. There is a process: make a proposal, getting signatures, etc, and then an election. The Palo Alto City code spells out how to make a City Charter amendment. It's like referendum or initiatives, but in the case of a Charter change, it may be state law that an election is necessary. (With a referendum, an election is not necessary if the Council decides to accept it.)

If you want to make the district honor the law and their own regulations in the most obvious ways, you could give someone local the power to do that so parents don't have to go to the OCR or whatever other too little too late to help their child.

You could make a charter amendment to create powers and changes to the district short of a Charter amendment for every little thing. Like I said, you could make a rule giving all power to Frodo and Arwen. Or make a position for an ombudsperson mentioned in the other thread, who does not work for the district but the City instead so their salary doesn't depend on the superintendent, and they never get chummy with the district office people, and have the resources to represent families and force district legal to work for the district and not misbehaving administrators. Right now only wealthy people who have lawyers can afford to make the district fulfill its legal obligations to children. Heck you could even make a complaint jar and a rule if any employee gets too many legitimate complaints as decided by the ombudsperson, the employee is on review to get fired or have to pooper scoop Frodo and Arwen. I am being silly because it seems like the Charter isn't hard to change and parents can really do anything they want as long as they can convince the voters it is good for the schools and doesn't break higher laws.

You could make the district set up a way to take feedback from the parent community, so that when decisions come up, parents can vote electronically or even rate administrators and their raises or employment depends on their rating. If you want to make it easy for parent collaboration to fix things, if a certain large percentage of parents disagree with a policy and vote (not through the county but through this process) to overturn a board or admin decision, then the authority to legally make the power to have that ability could be created through a City Charter Amendment.

If you want to reorganize the district because if financial concerns, I think there is a process already in the CA Ed code, which the City Charter says governs our district (which can be amended). Anyway, the right to do that seems to allow communities to start over in a lot of ways including financially. The teacher contract might be moot in a reorg.




18 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2017 at 8:53 pm

@Roger Dodger,
Or I have been around here long enough to know what's what. You have no leg to stand on so you attack me and insinuate off-the-mark things about me instead of dealing with the valid criticisms. I just told you, I'm not insinuating anything, I'm stating things pretty directly. Just because you don't like a criticism, does not make it an "insinuation". They are criticisms. I support our teachers but am willing to call a spade a spade.

As the saying goes, I didn't give 'em hell, I gave 'em the Truth and they just think it's hell.

You are the one with some kind of bias that makes you twist in a knot to justify bad behavior. When children's rights and welfare are the issue, teachers are willing to forget all about the letter of the law (that protects students) because admins (who may even just be getting revenge) tell them that it could be more expensive to follow the law for the district. Hmmm. District bottom line trumps following the law for teachers if children's welfare is the issue, but not when it's a 25% raise over 10 years instead of 22% (just guessing ballpark, can someone please get the exact numbers?)

Look, I keep pointing out that we have good teachers here and that they are mostly good people. But this behavior was beneath good people and in keeping with some of the other worst inclinations; teachers here simply do not have a culture of standing up for students. You don't see them at PTA or CAC meetings trying to learn how they can help families help their kids or make the district honor the law, you don't see them stand up when an admin bullies a child, you don't see them get involved to advocate for families, ever, when there is a dispute with admins, you don't see them volunteer to use a single platform to reduce homework stress when students are killing themselves at unprecedented rates (instead they file a grievance against the principal), you don't see any of them on the side of families in "team" efforts where the district is worried about money or even if not. Over the years, I have heard teachers hundreds of times express grave reservations about things they have witnessed or been asked to do, even involving illegal behavior by admins, unsafe conditions, misuse of funding, bad educational policies with many specific examples of harms, but I have never, not once, seen teachers organize or get involved to fix these things. The T in PTA is Teachers, but the equal involvement for the sake of the kids is long forgotten... by teachers.

Teachers saw staff get cut and students in a mental health crisis that this money was promised to help address, yet still they think the district is made of money so therefore playing games and hoping for a technicality to score a few more dollars over already healthy raises - sorry, not high integrity behavior.


20 people like this
Posted by Simple fix
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 4, 2017 at 7:42 am

Just set raises to zero for the next five years or -7% next year. Done and done.


13 people like this
Posted by To CECILIA
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 4, 2017 at 8:24 am

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2017 at 9:14 am

@Bell

I'm on the board of my school's PTA. I've been quite impressed at how involved multiple teachers and the principal have been with our PTA. Perhaps it varies by school?


3 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2017 at 11:14 am

@ChrisC,
I had a great experience with collaborating on the usual uncontroversial, easy things that schools do, especially at the elementary level. Do you mean putting together a school fundraising fair or a dance or getting a shiny new Maker Space, or do you mean teachers getting together to advocate for a family against the administration for a child whose accommodations the teachers recommended but were denied or recorded as having been given when they weren't? The usual easy things don't take teachers to advocate or be upstanders as I described. Teachers have long made recommendations every year about whether certain children belong in Young Fives, yet they have never made any attempt to organize to prioritize enrollment for kids who teachers see most need it rather than those who choose by lottery and their siblings. I am describing upstander involvement, not the easy stuff. PTA was founded as an advocacy organization, in fact there are many big issues the California PTA studies and passes resolutions so that local PTAs have cover to advocate in difficult and controversial issues. Teachers not only haven't displayed advocacy behavior here, they are known to discourage and tamp it down when it pops up in parents.

I would LOVE to hear of an exception. When you talk about "involvement", what do you mean? I'm speaking specifically of advocacy and standing up when things are really hard or controversial, showing backbone for the sake of our kids, not letting things slide that are clearly wrong but standing up to make things right even when it is hard or lonely. I am descibing when someone might have to break a sweat or even risk something to be an upstander and do the right thing, or speak publicly against management when management chronically isn't behaving in accordance with laws that protect kids, or speaking out against using overlegalizing of school relationships in an unnecessary way that hurts families, which is just not something our teachers have been doing. I haven't seen a peep from teachers about the district suing families in special ed cases and the damage that does. They have mainly been silent and not stuck their necks out in virtually every major controversy. Bringing EpiPens to campuses? Even a few hundred doctors were willing to sign on, where were the teachers to help gather signatures to protect their students, I heard that was a huge amount if effort. I would be glad to know of an exception, but when you speak of involvement, can you say what kind of advocacy? What difficult local issues have they worked on behalf of the PTA to advocate for, really stood up about?

As I said, I haven't witnessed that kind of upstander behavior among teachers, and particularly no organizing to be upstanders, but if your teachers are, please share the details, they deserve to be supported and applauded and at least known about more broadly as an example to their peers who are generally just not willing to be the kind of upstanders in risky situations that they tell our kids to be.


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 4, 2017 at 5:53 pm

"...therefore playing games and hoping for a technicality to score a few more dollars over already healthy raises..."

So have you informed your boss you are foregoing your next raise for the good of the company? Hmmm?

Thot not.

You can give the teachers hell after you've done that. Until then, kindly hold the hypocrisy.


7 people like this
Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2017 at 10:39 pm

Some misinformation was posted about Young Fives. Please allow for a correction. Although Young Fives used to have placement done through a lottery system, that has not been the case for at least eight years. If parents are interested in having their child attend Young Fives, their children are scheduled for a one hour screening to see if Young Fives will best meet the student's needs.
There are no recommendations from PAUSD teachers because these children have not entered school yet.


38 people like this
Posted by expert from another district
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2017 at 9:19 am

Clearly, the Superintendent and his staff made a technical mistake, and this on top of the other significant blunders since he became Superintendent will likely result in the Board considering whether he has the right skills to lead PAUSD going forward. The union is within its technical rights to take advantage of this mistake, however, doing so is a terrible error in judgement by union leadership. The union needs to remember that PAUSD relies on parcel taxes, which are optional additional taxes voted in by the community, as a crucial piece of the funding for PAUSD schools. The union is coming across looking greedy and self-interested, damaging trust with the community, and potentially damaging PAUSD's ability to renew, let alone increase, the existing parcel taxes when they expire. Parcel taxes require a 2/3rds approval by the voters, so any lack of trust in the district staff, and this includes the teachers, could result in failure to win the necessary 2/3rds of the vote. The union can and should be willing to reopen salary negotiations immediately and rectify the situation. I hope that the Weekly will get the union president on record as to why this is not occurring.


2 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2017 at 9:45 am

@PA Parent,
You are making my point for me, though. Every year in September and October - this went on for as long as I remember since the program began - the teachers recognize students who would be better off transferred to Young Fives. To my knowledge, over decades, the teachers never advocated with the administration to change the system to ensure kids who needed it got moved to the more appropriate program if the family wished it. They would complain but never mounted any kind of advocacy. They never truly went out of their way to ensure every student got what they needed as appropriate. How long was that system a lottery? Did you see teachers mount an advocacy campaign to change that? The lottery system went on for way too long, and if your message is correct, there is still no system to move kids who need and want the program that the teachers identify after school starts, because we have teachers who do not advocate, they do not want to make waves.

Are you saying the lottery system changed because of longstanding teacher advocacy? I think not. Did not happen. Teachers in this district are big chickens not upstanders. I say that because I love our teachers and believe they are people who COULD be upstanders. But that only makes worse the fact that they witness what they witness in our district and never stand up against it, advocate against it, and that they swallow the bs the district shovels at them because it's easier. I have never once seen a teacher or staff member go out of their way to do the right thing and stand up against even children getting bullied by adults in school or taking out a district personnel's grudge against the parents on the child. We have had this sexual assault scandal - where were the teachers going against what happened to protect the assaulted girl when the offender was known to have a conviction in another similar assault?

Again, you have not addressed my point, which is that teachers here do not advocate, they do not stick up to do the right thing, they do not go out of their way to make sure a wrong they witness is set right, they are more likely to tell themselves a line so they don't have to get involved. They get paid a lot, and they don't rock the boat to be upstanders.

@Curmudgeon,
That's not an appropriate analogy and you know it. A closer analogy would be if your child's lunch program accidentally refunded you a ton of money, and the head of the program was talking to parents about how the program was in financial difficulty and some kids might not get to eat, but you knew that if 60 days passed and they didn't catch the error, you could keep the money, so you stay silent because a contract is a contract. Teachers got huge raises over the past decade and this was a final one with a lot of conditions that were in fact triggered -- the intent if that clause was clear and the leadership had been saying publicly that they wanted to renegotiate last year. Again, now we know the price of their integrity.

This brings to mind a conversation I had with a teacher in another district some years ago. Even though our interaction meant funding for her barebones program, ahe made a point of telling me that there were other programs that had more to offer. She said honestly that she hoped it didn't change our association but that she felt she had to let us know. That kind of honesty characterized our relationship, and was one of the things I most prized about it. I never saw that kind of honesty in PAUSD, I saw a lot of game playing, and definitely NO upstanding behavior, even though the teachers are by and large good people. They just sit down, shut up, and take their above average paychecks, and don't rock the boat.

But then, when I buy something and catch an error, even if the error was in my favor, and even when correcting the error is a pain, I say something. Not everyone does this, but it's also not rare. What is the price of your integrity? That's a small example, but I have in fact sacrificed a lot in my life to do the right thing and stand up for others who could not protect themselves.

I am still waiting for examples of teachers joining the PTA to be upstanders and advocate, especially of any significant teacher advocay, and doing the right thing when it's hard. They mostly, systematically, don't here. But it would be nice to support and give due recognition to anyone who has.

It would also be nice if we could pivot this conversation back to who is really at fault, McGee and the once-again bigtime blundering Mak (why is she still here)? Both should have been sent packing for lying about what the tax would be used for in order to get the money.


5 people like this
Posted by Lazlo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 5, 2017 at 10:02 am

Unfortunately the $6 million is only the tip of this iceberg..... Stay tuned for more financial misuse and corruption by Palo Alto school administrators. The best is yet to come!


4 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2017 at 10:04 am

@expert from another district,

The union leadership works for the members of the bargaining unit. They must work to the benefit and according to the will of those members. So it is the will of the members that counts here.

It does sometimes happen that union members vote to give back raises and other terms of the union contract. This is almost always in cases where the company is nearly bankrupt and is working on a restructuring plant. While stressed and annoyed, the PAUSD is not in this bad of condition financially.

I very much doubt that the membership of our unions has a lot of interest in renegotiating the deal (which they clearly do not have to do). The teachers I know feel that the district is creating its own problems and they see no reason to help them out.

We have no control over the union, so I am focusing on the district, where we citizens have some possibility of influence.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 5, 2017 at 10:25 am

I doubt the union leadership could make such a decision on their own. They'd need to poll, or maybe even take a vote, of their members. In some ways, that could make things worse - if they voted to just take the raise, it puts an exclamation point on the sad problem.

Thanks Dr. McGee for yet another unique and awful problem.


31 people like this
Posted by PIE and A Giver
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 5, 2017 at 11:07 am

@ Curmudgeon: "So have you informed your boss you are foregoing your next raise for the good of the company? Hmmm?"

My salary went up $1,600.00 per year last year (I got a 1.35% raise and no bonus where I work). We gave $1,200.00 to PIE ($400 per child) and we also voted for Measure A a few years ago, which extended the property tax Special Assessment currently at $773.00/year (that number would have been zero if A was not approved). So "Yes". I gave up my raise for the good of the schools.

I agree with the other posters. The Teachers Union has no moral fiber. There are too many people today taking advantage of "technicalities" to their own benefit. The schools are worse off today thanks to the Teachers Union and their selfish reliance on a technicality. The Union and teachers knew the intent was to rescind the raises per the previous agreement. They took advantage of the situation at the expense of the taxpayers and the children. Really great message to send our students - Thanks Teachers !.

I will no longer give to PIE and I will vote "No" on any future special assessments for the schools.


19 people like this
Posted by Why, oh, Why??
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 5, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Why in the universe did the Board of Education use the same " head hunters" that were used to hire Kevin Skelly??

Obviously, they used the same faulty criteria to find a new Superintendent, and now we are even worse off than we were under Skelly's tenure.

For heaven's sake, there are a lot of hiring agencies out there! Certainly a better one can be found.

Don't make the same mistake three times in a row, hoping " there's a charm". Remember instead the old adage, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!!!"


77 people like this
Posted by greedisnotgood
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2017 at 1:59 pm

As a father of three children I greatly value the service of our teachers. Unfortunately it seems teachers in CA, especially in Palo Alto, are disconnected from reality . It was only recently that they pushed through prop 55, extending the "temporary and emergency" income tax hike with an outrageous 13.3% bracket (the highest in the nation). As with local campaigns in Palo Alto the pitch is always about class size reduction and better facilities. It's clear that these campaigns are nothing more than bail outs for the underfunded pensions and boosting personal paychecks. The relatively recent ballot measure to rake in new funds for class size reduction in Palo Alto didn't deliver on the promise. We all know where the tax money ended up. BTW, the math behind the $6M headline is misleading. Teachers will pocket the 3% raise from now to perpetuity. It's a cost that gets charged to tax payers every year. In addition, the new raises in subsequent years will be compounded on top of the raise from this year. This is significantly more expensive than a one time payment.

Some teachers work hard and people deserve remuneration comensurate with their contribution. What I despise the mentality of entitlement that's so pervasive in the public sector. There was a recent incident at my company that ended up costing about $2M to remedy. There was a detailed inquiry into the matter that would put Mueller's investigation of Russia to shame. Many people were fired. There was immediate accountability. As a private institution we can't simply go to the tax payers to extort more money as needed. Especially egregious is when those funds are used for personal paychecks. BTW, 3% to 4% annual increases may seem like a right for teachers but in private industry many employees had raises frozen for many years despite inflation marching on.

The argument I ofen see advanced in these forums is that teachers deserve to live in or close to Palo Alto. Either housing needs to be subsidized or incomes need to be increased. I recently sold our SFR in Palo Alto because the $40K per year property tax was crushing for us. I commute close to 4 hours, every day, for work. We pay for pre-school for three toddlers at $2600 per child. We get no child tax credit to help offset the monthly $7800 post tax pre-school tuition because it's phased out for us "wealthy" people. Most of our mortage interest deduction is phased out due to income level and AMT. We have a household annual income within the 13.3% CA tax bracket and we cannot afford live in Palo Alto or any place close to it while supporting children. We're considering leaving CA to get away from a toxic environment of ever increasing taxes. This is before entitlements are forced to adjust their expected discount rate from the current (impossible) 7.5% to a more realistic 2% due to overvaluation of every asset class due to three rounds of QE. When that happens the magnitude of entitlement insolvency will be obvious and there will be even more malicious extortions through taxation. As a final thought it's interesting to follow the constant complaints from teachers, and Palantir employees, regarding the "right" to live in Palo Alto or close by. Many people close to seven figure household incomes can't afford it due to outrageous taxes and property values.


34 people like this
Posted by Fed up
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2017 at 6:19 pm

I am fuming over the recent management & administrative failures at PAUSD. Trying to get my head around the long term cost of this unintentional 3% raise I googled and found the 2016-2017 PAUSD "Budget Book" which contains this absolute gem of a comment by Kathy Mak:

"Palo Alto Unified School District’s mission to strive for academic excellence is
mirrored in its commitment to achieve the highest standards of school budgeting. The
District has received several Meritorious Budget Awards from the Association of School Business (ASBO), and it is our hope that this year’s documents will merit the award as well."

Yes Kathy, by all means this latest blunder surely confirms the PAUSD committment to the highest standards of school budgeting!

I am sooo tired of the escapades at PAUSD, heads should roll for this one.


24 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 5, 2017 at 7:22 pm

McGee must go. That this was is 'mistake' is just hard to believe. If deliberate, an investigation is warranted.

The attitude of some that this is easily absorbed by the rich Palo Altans or justified because the teachers deserve it is just more of the rules don't matter. Palo Alto's financial bubble can't keep expanding beyond affordable without serious consequences. McGee needs to go.

PAUSD is it's own empire, control needs to get back to the people of PA.


6 people like this
Posted by about that "bonus"
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 5, 2017 at 9:52 pm

Someone was wondering about the teachers getting a bonus and why in a public sector job such a thing would exist. It's actually fairly simple and not sinister. The "bonus" is a way for the district and union to negotiate pay that doesn't go on the salary scale for every year. Typically if you see a "bonus" scheduled for a given year think of it as a good thing it won't be paid every year or factor into pensions.


8 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2017 at 12:18 am

The Palo Alto School Board should let the citizens of Palo Alto decide if Jordan Middle School should change its name.


10 people like this
Posted by Walter Hays Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2017 at 12:42 am

@We are Bell
Interesting take on the PTA and the T portion of it. I suggest you look into the history of this dyslexia resolution that was passed by the California PTA
Web Link

The PTA tried to get this passed into law in CA, especially that part of testing each child by the end of third grade. You can also read a history of AB 1369 here:
Web Link

The strong push to test every child got watered down to almost nothing. When you read the history of the law, you see that the State Teachers' Union strong-armed legislators to remove the testing requirement. The most important task an elementary school can do is have its students reading by the end of 3rd grade. AB 1369, as originally drafted, would have mandated testing of those students who were not reading by the end of 3rd grade so as to determine if they had an underlying disability. The Union saw the testing and the increase in reading support as likely pulling funds away from teacher pay.


21 people like this
Posted by Me Penumbra
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2017 at 12:32 pm

We simply got sick and tired of being up to our noses in PAUSD b.s. And shenanigans ( I am using euphemisms here). The self-serving greed and dishonesty are so u believable, I would not doubt if embezzlement is involved here.

Last fall, I put my son and daughter in elementary school in a local Catholic School. The school hours are longer, fewer holidays, AND the cafeteria serves healthy, nutritious food very low in fillers, sugars and fat. No more expensive than a public school lunch, either. Only half the amount of home work, and if the older kids are in extended care, homework help is FREE!

Best of all, NO scandals, no backbiting, no drama.


19 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2017 at 1:38 pm

I'll never forget the first time I saw a teachers' union strike a public school system during an academic year. Just as I don't expect police and fire to strike while on duty, I consider teachers, utility workers and hospital workers to be paid to do essential public service jobs like serving in the military. Such contract workers can walk if their contracts are not renewed to their satisfaction but not beforehand.

What have children and taxpayers gotten in return for allowing teachers to strike during academic years? Lower test scores, larger classes, more "come and pay" to the parents and taxpayers while teachers with low testing scores but with tenure are rarely fired and most teachers rely ever more on unpaid classroom parent-guardian volunteers, unpaid student teachers, and PiE-style begging.

12 years ago, I sat at a banquet table in San Francsico with a retired lawyer who used to work for the California teachers' biggest union. He laughed and laughed as he bragged how as teachers were allowed to strike during academic sessions shortly thereafter school districts started baulking at the ever higher salaries to prevent strikes and keep them in the classroom at all costs. So, he got districts to start agreeing to higher future benefits such as more generous retirement benefits - pushing deliberately the day of fiscal reckoning on future district boards. He joked how his own compensation was what teachers get as part of his own employment contract, Here are 2 examples of what he thought was hysterically funny benefits he and his spouse got:
- two new pairs of prescription eyeglasses annually even if not needed medically
- such gold-plated medicals his wife had a co-pay of just 26 cents for her long final cancer treatments.

I refuse to vote for any incumbant PAUSD board candidate until the district stops having these budget disaters preventable with better accountabiliy. Negotiation 101: be willing to let the teachers unhappy with a contract to walk and hire all new teachers. PAUSD's long substitute list could fill every slot tomorrow. Given the high pay PAUSD offers, it would have candidates beating the door down for full and part time slots if it allowed monetarily unsatisfied teachers to walk away instead of walk a picket pine during school terms.


7 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2017 at 1:49 pm

@Walter Hays Dad,

And your point about local PAUSD teachers willing to advocate is...?

I wrote:
"I am describing upstander involvement, not the easy stuff. PTA was founded as an advocacy organization, in fact there are many big issues the California PTA studies and passes resolutions so that local PTAs have cover to advocate in difficult and controversial issues. Teachers not only haven't displayed advocacy behavior here, they are known to discourage and tamp it down when it pops up in parents. I would LOVE to hear of an exception."

Thanks for sharing that state PTA resolution. Are you saying that this is an exception where local teachers stood up and advocated? Because you only mentioned what I mentioned, that the state PTA studies and passes resolutions so that local PTAs have permission to advocate or even be activists for the sake of our kids. Are you saying this resolution was PTA-teacher-led and that there are PAUSD teachers standing up for it? Are you saying PAUSD teachers are currently advocating for this in a way that requires courage and at least some personal risk/upstander behavior, to help our kids and/or all CA kids? (Although if so, why are they so utterly silent over the district special ed problems?)

I haven't seen Palo Alto teachers being leaders or upstanders on this or any other Statewide Califormia PTA resolution or anything else. My point still stands and you are only underscoring it. However, I would LOVE to hear of an exception, and if this is, we should all hear about, i.e., our local normally teachers being upstanders, I would like to hear it and celebrate it. A few good examples might be all we need to show the rest of the chickens not to be so cowardly about doing the right thing.

I mean, the district has been displaying the worst management for years - where are the teachers in collectively trying to restore a well-functioning, collaborative, open, honest leadership? Silent, because it serves their small self-interests when they are already paid so well, even relative to the average of the families they serve (according to the data).


61 people like this
Posted by shortchange
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 6, 2017 at 3:02 pm

@resident

Let's talk about livable wage: Teacher's aides make $21 to $25/hour. They get 19 hours per week (max). They don't get paid for summers. They don't get a pension. They don't get to have their children educated in PAUSD. They don't have any form of tenure.

My kids have been in school for a few years now, and it looks like there's a teacher's aide in every classroom for at least 10 hours a week. Are we not concerned about getting good teacher's aides when they spend so much time with our kids? It very much looks like the we're in the model of 'rockstar' highly compensated educators, teaching a large number of students, while an underclass of of contractors/hourly teaching aides are doing the grunge work, with no hope of advancement. How silicon valley.


23 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2017 at 4:33 pm

@shortchange,
You are spot on. Aides and substitutes needed and deserved better pay - esp substitutes.


63 people like this
Posted by HighSchool Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2017 at 5:46 pm

@George
>McGee must go. That this was is 'mistake' is just hard to believe. If deliberate, an investigation is warranted.

Be careful what you wish for. The last time there was this much outrage was with the sexual assault investigation at the end of last year. After the community demanded an investigation, the district's response was to spend $500K (and still counting) of our money to hire an outside firm to investigate.

Regardless of whether it is legal for the teachers to take the raise this year, I do think it is immoral. It is not a corporation that the teachers are taking advantage of, it is the community and it is our kids. I don't think our district has an extra $6M/year to throw away so we are going to see cuts elsewhere.

I'd love to see our middle school and high school teachers pose this scenario as a writing assignment on ethics to our students.


12 people like this
Posted by 2 for 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 6, 2017 at 7:30 pm

@HighSchool Parent - maybe we can get a "2 for 1 special" from the lawyers for investigations! Heck, maybe we can just pre-buy investigations at a discount - we seem to have a steady need.


5 people like this
Posted by Walter Hays Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2017 at 8:57 pm

@We are Bell

Sorry I wasn't quite so clear. I was stating an example of the state PTA advocating for students, bringing real change (and I do not know to what level teachers were involved), and then the state teachers' union cutting the legs out from under the PTA resolution. A change in state law that would have made a great difference in the ability of many struggling students to finally succeed in academics by getting the support they needed for their dyslexia (which about 20% of students have) was torpedoed by the state teachers' union as the union feared it would have reduced resources available for teacher salaries.

I have not read any articles where teachers are standing up to their union on this issue and advocating for students who need help. And, the kicker, if you give a student help to read in the first 3 years of school, you will have fewer behavior problems and better test scores for the next 9 years of school. It really is a win-win.


14 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Teachers should be paid more. The parents in this community want a private school education paid by the taxpayers. The teachers in this school district teach, counsel, sometimes parent, due to the negligence of some parents, and teachers take the high road. This community needs a reality check.


7 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2017 at 9:48 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

McGee was interviewed by the Paly Voice, and asked about the 6 million dollar blunder.

"The way we learned about this was a 12-month employee did not get a three percent raise in July, which was the first month of the 2017-2018, and said “why not”? And everybody, including his own union and others, said it’s off the table. And they looked at the contract, and there was a date in there whereby either the union or the administration had to formally reopen the contract. So the individual, who is no longer employed by the district, who was in charge of managing the contract, did not send a formal letter to reopen it. As superintendent, the buck stops with me. I was not made aware that there was not a reopener, but, again, I’m the boss, so certainly I will share the blame. But it was really a misunderstanding on everybody’s part, and a mistake."

Web Link


19 people like this
Posted by Please fire him
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 6, 2017 at 11:23 pm

Good heavens what a spaghetti brain. Yes, Max misunderstood how to manage his employees, who misunderstood how to do their jobs. In the real world, we call that kind of misunderstanding "incompetence." And then he tries to pass it off as no problem, since we had more money anyway. Please fire him!


5 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2017 at 12:27 am

@Walter Hays Dad,
My apologies, I misunderstood. That is a sad and emblematic example of how the T in PTA has been lost. Wow, that's realky made my point to a depressing degree. I am going to take a closer look. Wow, that's awful.

PTA resolutions come about from lengthy study of all sides of an issue, debate, revisions, and then votes by thousands of members who attend the statewide conventions. The state PTA only passes a few every year, if that many, and they are typically very well thought out. Unfortunately, it's not really a partnership anymore, at least here, parents do all the heavy lifting.

Money doesn't buy upstanding, that's for sure. Too bad preaching it from the classroom doesn't either.


9 people like this
Posted by Sean
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 7, 2017 at 8:12 am

Web Link

This Paly Voice interview is a good view of how weak Max is - his attitude and perspective just makes me angry.


10 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 7, 2017 at 1:10 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

To put it bluntly, My retired Assistant Administrator would NEVER work for a district with without proper oversight and support of the school board of the PAUSD. Fish stink from the head downward is all that needs to be said of the PAUSD. The PAUSD is now TOXIC to anyone who wants to keep their professional standing. The school board needs to retire IMMEDIATELY EN MASS and other professionals step in, ones that truly care about Education. Playing with the OCR is no joke! Playing with unions is no joke! Both are RED FLAG WARNINGS that have to be taken care of NOW.


16 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm

I think it is going to be difficult year for everyone and focus will be taken off the daily energy needed for students. Try to look for and talk about positive things kids are doing.


87 people like this
Posted by another_parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 7, 2017 at 3:30 pm

To Observer,

You wrote, "Parents in this community want a private school education paid by taxpayers". Parents themselves are taxpayers here.

Secondly, teachers do get paid well. The pay may not be as much as private sector, but imagine getting the pay that the teachers are getting, and assuming that employer is matching 401K at 100%. I would take it. Additionally, there's an automatic 3% raise and job security. When was the last time anyone in private sector had these? I think that the teachers are getting taken care of, really well, by the community.

Besides, when we compare the pay of a teacher with a private sector employee, who do we compare with? CEO's and executive management? Or rank and file? Many rank and file tech employees work their tails off, without getting paid overtime, and get paid about the same as the teachers, therefore please stop this rant of "teachers need to get paid more". Teachers are getting paid well.


151 people like this
Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 7, 2017 at 7:43 pm

How maddening. Mak and McGee (and [portion removed] Bowers) should face consequences for this!


26 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2017 at 11:26 pm

For fun, let's apply Milton Friedman's famous spending theory 4 cell matrix to the Liberal Progressive Palo Alto Government and School District:

Cell #1 - Spending their money on themselves: exploit generous benefit plans, retire early and then double dip to come back as a consultant or work in a different department, pocket housing allowances and then still live out of district in a better lifestyle than most PA residents. Use any remainder to travel ubiquitously in order to garnish their Facebook pages with lots of gratuitous virtue signalling selfies from the Sierra Club bucket list of top 10 destination hot spots.

Cell #2 - Spending their money on others - donate lavishly in time and resources to unions and the Democratic party in the hopes of increasing Cell #1.

Cell #3 - Spending other people's money on themselves: In a slight of hand that would make David Copperfield jealous, take parcel tax funds and PIE donations targeted at reducing class sizes and improving school services and give themselves raises. In audience amazement, levitate the budget from a surplus, to a $4M deficit and then finally to a $6M deficit. Use a metal hoop to prove there are no safety wires in the contract. For the grand finale, use the secret magic word for golden parachute to escape the straight jacket of incompetence and force the viewers of the spectacle to buy out the employment agreement to make the illusionist leave the stage.

Cell #4 - Spending other people's money on others: Orchestrate a $55M and soon expected to rise to $70M deal to purchase a dilapidated mobile home park for a special interest group of about 400 people. Take bond money ear-marked for a new school and redirect it to renaming a school that had just been re-opened in 2003 with the same name. Funnel undisclosed amounts of money to consultants that moon light as academics for un-proven pet theories on Social Emotional Learning and in return lay off part time school support staff that actually make the schools run better for the students.

A pretty good Liberal Progressive performance so far but the competition for the title of Monarchy of Malfeasance from Berkeley, Baltimore and Detroit is tough this year. Fortunately, there is still several more months to go and we have not even started on Title IX yet.


8 people like this
Posted by Thats It. It's Over.
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 8, 2017 at 10:16 am

@resident

Yes, it is necessary to keep your eye on the good - but this cannot be ignored.
There is much that has been ignored that can no longer be and all the positivity in the world isn't going to get us on the right path.


7 people like this
Posted by Required reading
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Taking a page (or 2) from a text well-known to (admired and often touted by) teachers and administrators – “The Students are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract” - Theodore and Nancy Faust Sizer

“…Schools are necessarily afloat in a soup of ambiguity, one which is accompanied by strong feelings and, often, paralyzing confrontation.

…To find the core of a school, don’t look at its rule book or even its mission statement. Look at the way people in it spend their time – how they relate to each other, how they tangle with ideas. Look for the contradictions between words and practice, with the fewer the better. Try to estimate the frequency and the honesty of its deliberations. Though it will always want to spruce up for visitors, its hour by hour functioning is what is important. Judge the school not on what it says but on how it keeps.

…How we adults live and work together provides a lesson. How a school functions insistently teaches.

If we care about our children’s values – how as a matter of HABIT they treat others and how aware they are of why they do what they do – we must look into a mirror.

… All of this does not mean that each of us consistently must be a paragon. “There is never an instant’s truce between virtue and vice.” As Thoreau realized, the struggle within the human heart to do what is right and avoid what is wrong is never-ending. It pops up in unexpected places. It makes us human; in that sense it is our challenge but also our delight. Teachers and administrators are caught up in that struggle as anyone else. We get angry, cut corners when things are tight, get exasperated. However, if we are honest with them, young people can watch us deal with that and learn (and, we hope, learn worthy things) from the way we regroup and rebuild.

What the young people should not experience is sustained hypocrisy. …No message is more corrosive, especially for teenagers.

…A school is prizeworthy if inside every single head – adult and child, producer and consumer - there is a clear reference to principle in every decision and a determination to do the best thing. This is an active process.”

Would love to hear what students are thinking and what they are learning about "us" - and the principle(s) they believe we are adhering to most in this current struggle "between virtue and vice".


57 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Yes, anybody that disagrees with the Liberal Progressive Orthodoxy please post your real name. It makes it so much easier for the party machinery to swing into the following action:

- Fire you from your job (particularly if you work in high tech, academia or the government)
- Add you, your spouse and any distant but vaguely identifiable social contacts on secret black lists to prevent employment or promotion
- If you have kids, mysteriously reduce their grades by two letters as a reparation for privilege and prevent them from applying to elite schools or internships
- Censor you on all Liberal controlled "open" forums by arbitrarily closing your accounts, demonitizing your content and labeling every disagreement no matter how small or well meaning as hate speech
- Place you on fake Liberal funded web site maps of Nazis, racists, homophobes, xenophobes and jingoists like found at the Southern Poverty Law Center
- Send mobs of thugs wearing black clothes and masks to shout you down, beat you up, throw urine on you, douse you with pepper spray, slash your tires and destroy your property

Finally, once you have been properly ruined or coerced into place, the oppressors will smugly announce that you were silenced in the name of inclusion and diversity and all threats to free speech, free thought or free will have been vanquished.


Like this comment
Posted by Sad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 8, 2017 at 10:06 pm

WOW - everyone assumed... that's real good. Not sure if blaming everyone and wanting everyone fired is helping anything. What can proactively be done? How can we help our district? We are all in this together, we should not be working against each other, drawing enemy lines. Lets get involved, make it better!


8 people like this
Posted by a new beginning
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 8, 2017 at 10:20 pm

What can we proactively do? Remove the current board. They're useless, each and every one of them. A complete embarrassment. Time to clean house then we can move forward.


7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 9, 2017 at 2:32 pm

McGee is often absent from 25 Churchill and the staff doesn't seem to know where he is. Does anyone know what is up with this?


6 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm

McGee would not be alone. The denizens of 25 Churchill often seem to take bankers' weeks (as opposed to hours). McGee did us all a huge favor by turning over staff, except for Denise Hermann. Is this really true that he goes away? Perhaps it's grounds for termination...

I feel bad for the guy. 25 Churchill was a swamp and they didn't tell him he was going to have to clean it up with no support. On the other hand, he seemed to have felt the best course was to hide things up rather than risking going to the community, so I can't feel that bad for him. Right when he bought the house, he could have, but after awhile, he owns whatever the last guy swept under the rug.


13 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 9, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Just as Skelly was the ultimate in "site-based management," letting the individual school sites run amok, McGee is the ultimate in "hands-off management." No one knows what he does, and everyone knows he is never there and does not exercise oversight over his staff. It's sad - we assuming someone is minding the store, but they just aren't bothering. It's sadly laughable that some people think it would be disruptive if McGee is terminated (here's hoping) - the fact is, he would hardly be missed.


16 people like this
Posted by I want my money spent on kids
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Have you seen the Board Packet for next Tuesday's meeting? Now I'm "confused". Seems as if there was a General Fund balance of $35.4 million at the END of 16-17. And there is a reserve fund of $15.7 million. That totals $51.1 million, or 22% of the General Fund expenditures!

As a tax payer, I am now asking why my money isn't being spent on adding teachers and other things that will make the education of our children better? I understand having money for a rainy day...but 22% is way too much! Why isn't PAUSD the highest paying district in the state so that we are attracting and keeping the best teachers? Why don't we have the smallest class sizes?

This seems like a budget "priority" issue...not a "we don't have enough money" issue.


10 people like this
Posted by Budget Tuesday
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 9, 2017 at 5:36 pm

The budget package Tuesday proposes $175,000 to hire a Special Education Coordinator to work with families. The District already hired 2 - two - Directors of Special Education. We now have 2 Co-Directors of Special Education. We are double paying for the job.
With a new Assistant Superintendent on the job, surely we must now have enough senior administrators in place to manage Special Education. This person must approve all vital budget expenses anyway, having 2 Co-Directors to do it also is duplication. With the hiring of a compliance officer, this functions is now removed from their responsibly. 2 Co-Directors are not needed if one of them is doing their job.


8 people like this
Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 9, 2017 at 9:21 pm

Write to the board:

Board@pausd.org

superintendent@pausd.org


6 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Make your voice heard at the board meetings!

Board meetings schedule:
September 12, 6:30pm to 10:00pm: 2017-2018 Budget (including the "mistake")
September 13, 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.: Special Board Meeting (Closed Session) regarding confidential student and personnel matters in the Cozen O’Connor report that investigated the handling of alleged student sexual misconduct at Palo Alto High School
September 13, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.: Board Workshop on Governance (protocols, meeting management, etc.)
September 15, 8:30 - 10:00 a.m.: Board Policy Review Committee
September 20, 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.: Special Board Meeting to share the Cozen O’Connor report


7 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent and Taxpayer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 10, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Although Max McGee is, with good reason, being blamed for this fiasco, not many are also pointing the finger at Scott Bowers, whose job was to ensure that the PAUSD/union contracts were being managed correctly. That's probably because he conveniently retired last year and is no doubt raking in a very nice pension, given his age (66), salary ($219k in his final year) and years teaching in California schools (26 years)--all of this information was in the interview in the PA Weekly last January when he announced his retirement. The STRS retirement calculator indicates that he's getting at least $150k in per year in retirement. Got out in the knick of time!


8 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Raises based upon performance are one thing - an across the board raise no matter the performance makes this 'blunder" worse.


9 people like this
Posted by Fact matter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2017 at 7:38 pm

Here are some well articulated points that deserve serious consideration. In particular, those (including The Weekly) who would blame the union for this oversight would do well to look carefully at #2.

Web Link

Facts do matter. Hysteria and hyperbole do not help. Lots of the latter two on this board, just a bit of the former.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Barron Park

on Sep 12, 2017 at 7:47 pm

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


12 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2017 at 8:07 pm

@ Fact matter - So are you saying that the only way to protect the interests of the PAEA members is to get them as much money as possible this year?

Would it not serve the long term interests of the teachers (and the students) to work WITH the district. The story would have played out a lot better and given the healthy property tax revenue, the teachers would have, most likely, received a raise or a bonus.

As it stands, the community is now calling for no raises until the money is recovered. That does not serve anyone's interests.


5 people like this
Posted by Facts Matter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2017 at 8:31 pm

@Jim H:

Did you read the #2 point? The district WAS aware. Union leadership has a fiduciary and legal responsibility to its constituents. For union leadership to act otherwise would constitute malfeasance/malpractice. What you refer to pejoratively as "getting them as much money as possible this year" is actually adhering legally to the terms of the contract. The money is not going to be "recovered" because it is not missing. It is being allocated in a different way. No one's taxes are going up. No one is "losing" here, despite the unreasonable and ignorant insistence otherwise and the relentless union blaming.

These are simple facts. Not alternative facts.


6 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2017 at 9:46 pm

@ Facts Matter,
Let's just see how the raises look for the teachers over the next couple years. If you're watching the school board meeting, you'll have noticed that, so far 3 of the board members have already planted the seed for no raises over the next couple years.

How does forcing the board's hand doing what's best for the union constituents? Would it not have been more beneficial to the union members to have smaller raises each year?

No, taxes are not going up specifically due to this. But, unbudgeted expenses have to come from somewhere. If you watch the board meeting, you'll see that there are definite costs.


5 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:37 am

Re Facts: "No one's taxes are going up."

My taxes rise every single year. Someone must have their thumb on the scale.


7 people like this
Posted by A Parent of 2
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 13, 2017 at 1:02 am

On the board meeting tonight, one of them said something along the lines of, if we had that $6 million, we could have hired 40 (?) more teachers, and dramatically reduce high school class sizes. If that's true, then I guess this screw up isn't making my taxes go up - but my kids are getting a less good education.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2017 at 4:25 am

Do we have 40 serviceable classrooms currently sitting empty?


1 person likes this
Posted by phew
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 13, 2017 at 8:39 am

I would hate to see a kid get a less good education.


7 people like this
Posted by A Parent of 2
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 13, 2017 at 9:03 am

@phew - good point, I guess we pay those huge taxes so our kids can have a just ok education and the teachers can get paid more. Why I am so selfish!


3 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 14, 2017 at 7:53 am

The teachers unions (and the public employee unions for that matter) will suck the life out of the taxpayer until we are nothing more than a pile of bones. It's important for teachers that only work 6 months out of the year to receive massive salaries, pensions, and benefits so they can retire at 50. Hang in there folks, it's only going to get worse.


2 people like this
Posted by We are Bell, CA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2017 at 9:55 am

@musical,
"Do we have 40 serviceable classrooms currently sitting empty?"

You bring up a good point, there. Palo Altans were taxed to the tune of about $400million give or take, to ensure we could dramatically expand the school capacity. Gunn and Palo funds, we were told, were prioritized for making Gunn and Palo take up to 2500 students each, and more in a pinch since the plan was in part sold because the money would mean new spaces allowing us to get rid of all the portables. (Remembering the disagreement between those who wanted to renovate or rebuild Cubberly rather than expand Gunn and Paly to take all those extra students which was less cost effective. Also remembering the subsequent backtracking of Caswell and her then board cabal who backtracked on the capacity AFTER money had been spent at the high schools.)

Gunn and Paly aren't nearly at those expanded capacities (good thing, as lots of bad things happen when schools get beyond, some number in the 2000s), and they got their new buildings, plus a bunch of portables are still there. JLS got a new two-story building and also did not take down the portables. Ohlone expanded, but they took on an extra school program. Jordan got new buildings, Fairmeadow. That probably reasonably accounts for $70 milllion. (We were told the big new building at Gunn would be 20 M, and one-story bldgs about 8M. The gym at Gunn was about 11 or 12 M, as a benchmark.)

I think if you look carefully at where $400 million, give or take, was spent, we must have gotten more than just a lot of new paint and landscape and a few shiny new buildings (some of which was donor money). Oh wait...

That's right, while the district is talking about lack of stewardship relative to annual budgeting, we forget that there quite literally never was any stewardship ensuring the community got the most for its money and priorities in the bond (ask Todd Collins, that's not what the oversight committee was commissioned with), and there never has been the kind of audit that looks for potential fraud. Given what we witnessed here, what do you think are the odds everything worked out for our kids with no oversight?

This is an extremely trusting community, with leadership on record as basically saying we will pony up for school asks no matter what. It's almost like McGee gets to be the fall guy, except that he's not really been held to account yet.


7 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 16, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Here's the report from the Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee Web Link and the Bond Project Update from June 2017 Web Link.

Page 7 of the Monthly Report (second link) has a detailed list of every bond project and what has been budgeted and spent on it.

The bond program also has an annual financial and performance audit by outside accountants, the latest is here: Web Link The audits have been clean.

Whether you got what you expected is a fair question, and one only you can answer. But in my view the bond program has done a lot and the process and finances have been transparent.


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