News

Two on school board call for superintendent's removal

Closed-door discussion continues next week on future of Max McGee

After spending several hours discussing Superintendent Max McGee's performance in four separate closed-session meetings this week, including a marathon session that ended at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night with no board action, two Palo Alto school board members are now publicly calling for his removal.

In separate statements provided to the Palo Alto Weekly, school board Vice President Ken Dauber and member Todd Collins said Thursday morning that they do not support retaining McGee through the end of his contract. McGee announced this summer that he plans to retire at the end of the school year.


Palo Alto school board member Ken Dauber. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Palo Alto school board member Todd Collins. Photo by Veronica Weber.
"I believe our students would be best served by a change in leadership as soon as possible," Dauber said, adding he has communicated this to McGee.

"Given the controversy and mistakes that have hindered the district's work the last two years, I think it is time that the district part ways with Dr. McGee and move forward with an interim superintendent, while launching its planned search for a long-term leader," Collins said.

To do so is "in the best interests of students and the community," Collins added, and "will hopefully stop the cycle of distraction and self-inflicted damage and help maintain the community's confidence in the district and the board's ability to oversee its work."

Dauber and Collins declined to comment further.

McGee's employment contract with the district contains a provision stating that board "concerns, criticisms and dissatisfaction with the superintendent's performance shall be addressed through closed session deliberations or via the evaluation process ... to avoid damage to the Board's and the Superintendent's image and credibility." It is not clear whether that contract clause is preventing or limiting the public comments of individual board members.

With board President Terry Godfrey announcing late Wednesday night, as the law requires when closed sessions adjourn, that there was "no reportable action," it suggests that Godfrey, Jennifer DiBrienza and Melissa Baten Caswell are either opposed to terminating McGee or have not yet made up their minds. The board has scheduled another closed-session evaluation for Wednesday, Sept. 20.

Godfrey said Wednesday afternoon that she doesn't "have a strong feeling either way" on terminating McGee and is "not convinced one way or the other yet."

"I know I need to work through all the scenarios and figure out what's the best way to keep the momentum and right the ship," she said in an interview.

In a Thursday email to the Weekly, Godfrey wrote: "There are times when punitive action is faster and more satisfying than corrective action. When dealing with employee evaluation situations in my professional life and in my work here I am committed to treating our employees with respect and careful consideration before we decide on action."

She said that "just swapping out the superintendent" doesn't address the many issues and processes "in desperate need of work" in the district.

"We have added some very strong staff, and we need to make these organizational upgrades so that we move away from a model that's overdependent on a superintendent."

Godfrey said she anticipates that at the end of next week's closed-session evaluation "we will have a way forward."

DiBrienza told the Weekly Thursday that she doesn't "find it appropriate to speak to this issue publicly before we finish the confidential work and make any decisions as a board." She said she will make a public statement after next week's closed-session meeting.

Baten Caswell also said she cannot comment on closed-session employee evaluation discussions.

"However, I will say that my top priorities are (1) doing what is best for our students, (2) making sure we can recruit and hire the best possible next superintendent, and (3) ensuring that the organization is not distracted from focusing on instituting better operational controls and making progress against our goals," she wrote in an email Thursday afternoon.

Dauber's and Collins' statements come on the heels of the district's discovery that senior leadership failed to reopen negotiations with its employee unions, costing the district $6 million in unbudgeted raises and bonuses. Community members have faulted McGee's lack of proper management for contributing to the mistake, with some also calling for his removal at Tuesday's school board meeting. McGee himself acknowledged and apologized at the meeting for his lack of oversight.

The Palo Alto Management Association (PAMA), which represents 75 district administrators, principals and school psychologists, defended McGee in a statement read at Tuesday's board meeting. The group urged the board to retain him to "preserve continuity, consistency, avoid disruption and reduce distraction." Forty out of 41 members who responded to a survey the group conducted over the weekend said they "fully support" McGee staying on as superintendent through the end of the school year, according to PAMA representative Chris Grierson, principal of Duveneck Elementary School.

The public is also awaiting a law firm's report on how McGee and other school leaders handled a report of student sexual assault at Palo Alto High School last year, a case that has sparked uproar in the community over the administration's apparent failures to comply with federal anti-discrimination law Title IX. The report is set to be released at a public meeting now scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 21, from 4-6 p.m.

Two lawyers from the firm, Cozen O'Connor, presented their report to the board in closed session on Wednesday afternoon. The board met with the lawyers from 4 to 6 p.m. and then held an open meeting on board governance before going back into closed session with the lawyers at 8 p.m.

The board also held two closed sessions before and after Tuesday's school board meeting to discuss McGee's performance.

The board took no reportable action in either closed session, Godfrey said.

After a series of closed-door evaluations of McGee that the board held this spring in the wake of the sexual-assault allegations, Godfrey announced in open session that the board had unanimously "accepted" McGee's annual evaluation but did not state if it had given him a satisfactory performance review. McGee's contract requires the board to report in public session if the superintendent's evaluation is satisfactory but not if it is unsatisfactory.

Godfrey declined to clarify whether this meant the board had given him a negative review, stating, "We acted in accordance with the contract."

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Comments

66 people like this
Posted by lan
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2017 at 5:30 pm

I understand the frustration with McGee. However, how does terminating him and then replacing him with an interim serve the needs of the students better than allowing McGee to complete his contract and retire? Retaining McGee could allow for quality time focused on the search for a permanent superintendent, rather than an abrupt department by McGee, followed by an interim, who will not have the same level of institutional knowledge as McGee. Given the district resources, streamlining Max's replacement should be efficient and effective and not swayed by distractions.


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Can this be called a call to fire him?


103 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2017 at 6:05 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@lan - For the same reason you fire any incompetent employee: to keep them from doing more damage.


12 people like this
Posted by Community
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2017 at 6:15 pm

[Post removed.]


94 people like this
Posted by About time
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 14, 2017 at 6:38 pm

Two board members with a backbone.


6 people like this
Posted by Community
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2017 at 6:43 pm

[Post removed.]


56 people like this
Posted by Upstanders
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Ken Dauber and Todd Collins are real upstanders kids hear about in school.


100 people like this
Posted by Community
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 14, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Two board members with a backbone. The other three need to join them and do the right thing! McGee’s staying will do more harm than good to the district.


94 people like this
Posted by Keith Ferrell
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 14, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Thank you Dauber and Collins. This is a good first step. Now just need to clean out Paly administration.

How can the Board President state that she doesn't "have a strong feeling either way"? Does she just not care? She is also the one who found it difficult to commit to stopping the $400/month board stipend because she didn't want to take money from her colleagues. But, she can fire the volunteer coordinators due to budget constraints. Doesn't sound like has the ability to separate her feelings from doing the job she was elected to do.

Baten Caswell states that "I will say that my top priorities are (1) doing what is best for our students, (2) making sure we can recruit and hire the best possible next superintendent, and (3) ensuring that the organization is not distracted from focusing on instituting better operational controls and making progress against our goals," All of those can be accomplished with the removal of McGee and Paly administrators.

Don't forget there are still many cases on the UCP log that need to be investigated including some that will be done by the OCR.

How many more mistakes are the other board members willing to accept? A change in leadership at the district and site level, of any magnitude, will not change the quality of the school or the school system. A house cleaning will let the community, students and any future employees know that incompetence will not be tolerated. If the employees do not have the student's (ALL STUDENTS) best interest as a basis for their actions, then they will be held accountable. I think that's the least we can expect from the school district.

If McGee were at another district and PAUSD were looking for a new superintendent, would PAUSD hire him today? If not, why should we keep him around? What about the Paly administrators?


90 people like this
Posted by Kathy Jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2017 at 7:44 pm

To Terry Godfrey (and other Board members):
what about treating our students and taxpayers with respect? We are depending upon your leadership.


68 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 14, 2017 at 7:46 pm

The remaining 3 board members should do their job, and show students that even adult administrators are answerable for their incompetence?


130 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2017 at 7:47 pm

The last two PAUSD Superintendents have not performed to the satisfaction of the community at large. This speaks volumes about the judgement of the Board choosing Superintendents and the community's judgement choosing Board members.


86 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2017 at 8:16 pm

McGee has had plenty of time and warning to improve his management. He is not able or willing to do so. Time to move on and kudos to Dauber and Collins for standing up. [Portion removed.] I am deeply disappointed in Godfrey. She ran as a "finance guy" but she's just a deer in headlights. The fact is that he has to be accountable. This is his fault. He picked a series of total incompetents from Marcus to holly wade who demonstrated a total lack of regard for the law. He did it. No one else.


61 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 14, 2017 at 8:17 pm

McGee should be fired now.

Quickly pick someone (there has to be at least 1 qualified person?) within PAUSD with "institutional knowledge" to act as interim Superintendent.

Only search within Northern California (preferable Bay area) for a new Superintendent for 2018-2019, in case the interim person doesn't fit the job.


64 people like this
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2017 at 9:27 pm

I supported Ms Caswell and Ms Godfrey in their elections. I am very disappointed in their comments to keep Max. They should publicly call for his removal. That is the only way to stand with the students. It is the students who are being harmed by Max's mismanagement. Why Caswell and Godfrey are offering cover for this guy is beyond me.


21 people like this
Posted by where does that buck stop
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2017 at 7:52 am

The two would be better off resigning than passing the buck! They are equally culpable in this fiasco.


23 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 15, 2017 at 8:26 am

While I appreciate board members apologizing, this series of major fiascos is a set of management failures demonstrating a systematic lack of leadership, accountability and oversight by the superintendent.


38 people like this
Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2017 at 9:53 am

I am in agreement with those who are calling for Dr. McGee's firing. However, what I would like to hear is how the poor culture in the top district administration will be changed. The lack of accountability and transparency is not something which came up in the past 12 months. It has been a part of the district's culture for most of the 16 years that I have lived in Palo Alto. While superintendents are changed, it appears that the rest of the top staff continues to act with impunity and disregards both board directives and laws, and the price is borne by the students, parents and other tax payers in the district.

If we really want a change in the district, we need to ask the board to understand repeated "errors" of this magnitude occurred and what (not just who) needs to change to ensure that they do not repeat.

I have suggested this in past, but if the remaining board members do not see the wisdom in firing Dr. McGee, they need to reduce his salary to zero dollars for the rest of his term in lieu of cutting student services.


41 people like this
Posted by Just Do It
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 15, 2017 at 10:01 am

Better late than never...

McGee has not earned his salary and benefits, and seriously, the last straw was nearly a year ago!

The last straw for Diorio was nearly a year ago.....

The last straw for Mak was about two years ago...

The last straw for mist of the School Board ( excepting Dauber and Collins) is NOW!


6 people like this
Posted by time
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2017 at 11:35 am

Is there any help from the SC county and or CA state dept of education in this situation? It seems like a person with a title already that is not on one side or the other might be a consideration to support this district.


23 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 15, 2017 at 11:46 am

McGee and his cohorts have to understand that they DON'T get paid the same whether they screw up or not.
That is the simplest, clearest reason to fire McGee and everyone else responsible for the $6M screw up.


40 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2017 at 12:00 pm

You are all sure quick to criticize. Has anybody even bothered to look at the positive aspects of the job Superintendent McGee has done?

We still have one of the BEST school systems in the WORLD. We're short a few dollars, the result of which was teachers getting a badly needed raise. A budget oversight? Happens all the time in the corporate world - and the CEO doesn't get fired for it!

I still wonder how, with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Palo Alto residents making VERY substantial money off the stock market why not a single sole has stepped up to help out the District. Has the concept of simply helping out been lost on our community folks?


17 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2017 at 12:30 pm

@James Thurber,

You say:
"I still wonder how, with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Palo Alto residents making VERY substantial money off the stock market why not a single sole has stepped up to help out the District. Has the concept of simply helping out been lost on our community folks?"

People have a large number of charities asking for their support. It is really hard to motivate people to contribute to something when you have come to believe that your contribution will be wasted.

Before I can contribute or vote for a bond issue or parcel tax for PAUSD, I am going to have to see new people running things and new practices in place.

We residents/tax payers have very few things that we can do to influence the behavior of our governmental bureaucracies. Denying them funding sends a strong message.


24 people like this
Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2017 at 12:34 pm

@James Thurber
Please list the good things you think McGee has done. I see a repeated history of arrogance and lack of accountability. Please do not confuse the great job most of the teachers do with excellence at the administrative level.

And parents do step up. Look at PiE and PTA donations and all the volunteers who help out in the schools. And they would probably get even more if people were not unhappy about the lack of accountability. Try running this school district without parents and their money/labor and you will find a substantially poorer student experience.


49 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2017 at 12:40 pm

The board members showing true bravery are Godfrey, DiBrienza and Caswell for behaving professionally by honoring McGee's employment contract by not criticizing his job performance outside of "closed session discussions or via the evaluation process."

Collins and Dauber just opened PAUSD to a possible lawsuit for breaching this contract [portion removed.] Godfrey, DiBrienza and Caswell’s restraint shows they care more about our kids than their egos.

Whenever the board votes they've reported on that vote, so it's reasonable to assume there hasn't yet been a vote on whether or not to keep McGee.


28 people like this
Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Thank you, Mr. Collins and Mr. Dauber!
Thank you, again! This is needed.

@ James Thurber
- I actually think it is a problem with our society that the top brass are rarely held accountable for malfeasance in their organizations. Look at Wells Fargo, Equifax etc.
We can correct this at a local level. It is not right that rank and file employees are the only ones who lose their jobs after a serious mismanagement. The higher ups that earn the big bucks because they are "responsible" for supervision and managing should also have consequences when they FAIL at those critical jobs.


21 people like this
Posted by PALO ALTO MOM
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 15, 2017 at 12:57 pm

@James Thurber.

You live in Mountain View. You have no idea. You have no kids in the district. You don't live here. He has been been failing for years. [Portion removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Who is responsible for this fiasco? How irresponsible to not be aware of legal contracts, that a 6 million dollar deficit that is NOT PART OF THE BUDGET is suddenly upon the PAUSD Board?

Are the trustees and board members responsible? The Superintendent only? What about the legal law firm that oversees contracts for the board? Are they liable for this HUGE MESS OF A MISTAKE that led to a 6 MILLION DOLLAR BUDGET SHORTFALL that is not part of the budget?

Without having making the students pay..... or the future students of PAUSD pay (ie. taking monies out of funds meant for opening of new schools in PAUSD)..... who is liable and responsible?

I think the lawyers who oversaw this process and read the legal contract is also liable.

There is a 6 million dollar UNEXPECTED an UNBUDGETED SHORTFALL.. from an "oops" mistake.

Try going into work on Monday, and saying, "oops" I misread the contract (as a lawyer, as the Board member, as the Superintendent)... and I cost our company 6 million dollars that is not even part of this BUDGET. Sorry folks. My bad. My oversight. We'll have to pull the funds from somewhere.

Let's rob Peter to pay Paul. The students won't be affected.
We're responsible. We should keep our jobs. We should keep our salaries. We should keep our bonuses. HECK YEAH... we deserve a raise!!!!! We rock. We should be trusted with more budgets, more legal contracts and more responsibilities.
Is incompetence that costs 6 million dollars acceptable now???


18 people like this
Posted by a civics teacher
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:03 pm

If mistakes are made because of gaps in the administration, does the district have the in-house leadership to fill the gap? An interim may distract the district from the more important goal of doing the search for their permanent replacement, that should be their focus right now, finding the permanent, not searching for an interim.

Firing McGee who set to retire in June is politics not pragmatism. A permanent search takes all year, and that's without distractions.


8 people like this
Posted by From the world
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:07 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


20 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:12 pm

what is worse? Expending time and resources to look for an interim superintendent? Or keeping an incompetent one because he will retire within the year. Bear with unbelievable incompetence?

When there is a pattern of ongoing mistakes and incompetence, should we continue to keep them, for fear that we will expend energy and time in fixing a mistake?

Hasn't history shown us, to fix a mistake... it DOES take energy and time and effort but it's worth the effort in the end?

What if .. given the pattern of mistakes.... we keep the incompetent people around for just ONE more year.. and during that time.. MORE MISTAKES are made. Who is responsible then? The people who argued that incompetent people should be kept around?

Why do corporations FIRE incompetent employees (esp. the kind that makes 6 million dollars in errors)? What is the risk? What is the cost-benefit analysis here? I think the RISK of keeping one more year, such an incompetent set of people.... puts our children and clearly our budget further at risk.

What about ANOTHER "oops" I didn't read THAT contract either mistake?


24 people like this
Posted by Upstanders
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:12 pm

@PAUSD Parent,

It's hard to imagine Godfrey, Caswell, and DiBrienza showing "true bravery" when they have not stood up for the district's kids. The money at the center of this latest scandal was funneled away from kid-supporting programs and initiatives vs. giving raises to teachers and administrators.

DiBrienza was/is a teacher, and so it's hard not to wonder if she has a vested interest in letting things stand.

You bring up the threat of lawsuits . . .

It seems as though numerous lawsuits have been filed during McGee's time stemming from his and others' incompetence. Letting him go might be one step closer to preventing future lawsuits.

There is no "lynch mob," a phrase that might offend due to racial and historical reasons. We don't have that here in Palo Alto. Instead, we have many parents and community members who expect accountability from those in public positions of trust.


11 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:23 pm

@Upstanders

I do not know enough about Jennifer DiBrenza to comment. But you raise some very good points. We should be voting in people who will do what is best for our children.

I am not asking for a lynch mob. You are preaching to the choir about expecting "accountability from those in public positions of trust."

That is exactly my point. When that trust is violated by incompetence, or negligence or corruption..... at what point is enough enough? Time for those people to lose their jobs. For audits to happen. For accountability. Bring an outside third party in to go over the paperwork.

The board has clearly demonstrated they have no clue about finances or how to handle huge sums of monies.


1 person likes this
Posted by Upstanders
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:41 pm

There is "PAUSD Parent" (capital letter) and "PAUSD parent" (small letter). Same poster?

I'm not trying to "preach" to anyone. There are many of us in this community who share similar ideas about how things should/could move forward. I don't think we're preaching to each other. Many of us are simply in agreement.

Moderator's Note: "PAUSD Parent" and "PAUSD parent" are comments from two different IP addresses.


22 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2017 at 2:19 pm

There is a reason why the top dog gets the big bucks. It is because they are the ones who have to take the responsibility when a mistake is made. The mistake has been made. McGee as top dog has to take responsibility regardless. That is why he is paid the big bucks. When the mistakes are made the top dog is the first to go plus those who made the oops. At least that's the way it goes when for profit corporations have to report back to stockholders, investors and customers/clients!


39 people like this
Posted by Cecilia Willer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 15, 2017 at 2:29 pm

As a parent of a Paly student, I feel that Max McGee should remain. In my opinion, Max showed what a true leader does: he took responsibility and stated ownership for an action that one of his staff neglected to complete. I feel that he never indicated who the true owner was of the communication to the teachers union instead he apologized for the error and has owned it himself.

I appreciate what Max has done for our schools as I have personally experienced times when he assisted my family with school challenges.


24 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2017 at 2:54 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Thurber "not a single sole has stepped up to help out the District"

That's obviously and demonstrably false. PiE raised $5.5million from the community, which shows many generous soles[sic] in the community.

As for being one of the best in the world, it isn't even though it should be given the wealth and education of the parents. PAUSD succeeds in spite of itself.

@Cecilia Willer - Max didn't do a particularly good job at being up front and taking responsibility, and even if he did, it doesn't repair the $6 million mistake. We can do better, and the sooner the better.


23 people like this
Posted by Barron Parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2017 at 3:51 pm

I have little doubt that McGee should have been fired a year ago.

But he should also take personal responsibility for the $6 million error. If we can't claw it back from the union, perhaps it can be taken out of his pension, say, over the next 25 years.


18 people like this
Posted by Chris Dewees
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 15, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Well done, Ken and Todd.


19 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm

I live in Mountain View but I work in Palo Alto and know the district QUITE well. I also know the school district - exceptionally well. Trust me when I say you've got an excellent superintendent in Max McGee. I've worked for a variety of 'em and Max is, simply put, one of the best.


24 people like this
Posted by Keith Ferrell
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2017 at 5:07 pm

@ James Thurber - If McGee is "one of the best" then we're setting our standards too low for the person chosen to lead our school districts.


43 people like this
Posted by Very disappointed
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 15, 2017 at 5:09 pm

I completely agree with James Thurber's comments. McGee has been a very good superintendent and as anyone who has spent any time with him will attest, he is a very good person. He has announced his retirement at the end of the school year; firing him now is neither warranted nor wise. It seems like calling for the superintendent to be fired is just something Ken Dauber does every few years (he did so with respect to the prior superintendent, Kevin Skelly). And, unfortunately, Todd Collins is following in his footsteps. Very disappointing. Since McGee has announced his retirement, they would be far better off spending their time and energy searching for the next superintendent and not issuing statements that are likely to make any qualified candidate for the position think twice about even applying to be the PAUSD superintendent.


9 people like this
Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2017 at 7:00 pm

To me, it seems that there are deep frustrations with the District and calls for firing McGee are a means for airing the frustration. It might be more productive for PA parents to find a way to address the issues underlying their unhappiness with the status quo. I realize that can be a difficult task to accomplish in light of many parents' fears of speaking out against their children's teachers.


24 people like this
Posted by Paly Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2017 at 7:58 pm

@PA Mom, I think most people are pretty happy with the schools and teachers (though there are always rough spots), but very unhappy with the way the district is managed - budget screw-ups in consecutive years, years of OCR investigations (with new scandals coming out as the old ones are resolved), ongoing transparency and honesty issues, and it seems to be getting worse. The education part is really good; it's the administration that's awful.


2 people like this
Posted by old white males
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2017 at 8:16 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


1 person likes this
Posted by Chutzpah
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2017 at 8:47 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Sue McGee
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2017 at 8:50 pm

Fire and sue him.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 16, 2017 at 10:22 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed due to inaccurate information.]

Moderator's note: The school board spent more than three hours meeting with Cozen O'Conner attorneys in closed session Wednesday regarding the district's handling of sexual assault allegations at Palo Alto High School.


29 people like this
Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2017 at 3:47 am

I guess Dr. McGee has many distractions, and these distractions caused by parents, for example, he spent too much times and efforts on WGPA issues, and no time to look at the budget books. -)


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2017 at 6:50 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed due to inaccurate information.]]


19 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 17, 2017 at 9:28 am

The Post on Friday had an article on this subject. It's quote from the superintendent was illuminating and indicative. McGee spoke about his ongoing commitment to serving the students, staff and community. He cited his day's schedule which included three direct engagement meetings with students and one administrative matter for his day.
While his enjoyment and interest in individuals is admirable and genuine, spending three fourths of his day on non administrative functions seems consistent with why we have witnessed such significant administrative failures under his tenure. Most of our teachers and parents share the fulfillment he derives from one on one engagement with students, but that is not the primary and critical role of a superintendent. The district needs strong and effective management aligned with good values, vision and leadership.


24 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2017 at 10:17 am

The above two posters make a great point - it is not that McGee doesn't work hard or care, he just doesn't spend time on the things only he can and needs to do. He's not a high school principal (which he was right before coming here, for many years) - he is the head of a $200+ million, 1500 employee organization. You can't run it like a high school, but he has tried to, and failed miserably.

The GPA thing was a great example - he personally did the research, ran town halls, met with parents/students/teachers, wrote up a long, long report. He did a good job - but who was managing the district while he was doing that for 3+ months? No one, and we got a thoughtful GPA reporting policy while our finances and sexual assault investigations were screwed up.

Sitting in the big chair and getting the big bucks means you have to do what needs to be done, not what you feel like doing. He's proven that he won't.


14 people like this
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 17, 2017 at 11:28 am

Do the board members not understand that they have direct responsibility for the egregious errors and should terminate the administrators involved, including HR and Budget, and then appologize to the community and then resign themselves?

The community cannot accept anything less.

Stewardship of a public trust is the board's primary responsibility and the members all get an "F" for the unacceptable outcome.

We appreciate your service, however your results are subject to termination. -- if not personal liabilty for damages. Any efforts to distance the board members from personal responsibility is disingenuous. Any delay in terminating several administrators only adds to board member's personal culpability.

Respectfully,

Tim Gray


18 people like this
Posted by Walter Hays Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Agree with @PalyParent

Dr. McGee is a very nice man, very inspirational. I believe he is personally well liked and has started the district on many good projects, some of which were sorely needed.

Nonetheless, he does not have all the skills needed for the job. In fact, I wonder if any person really could have the skills. In essence, what this district is seeing is what many companies see: you need a CEO who can inspire and be creative, yet you also need a CEO who can execute. This combination sounds simple, but is very rarely found in just one person. Many companies who have excelled have generally excelled because they are able to split these roles among two people. For example, Facebook has Zuckerberg and Sandberg. Zuckerberg does the visionary, creative things; Sandberg executes on the vision. A famous example from another era was Disney: Eisner was the creative, inspirational leader, and Frank Wells ran the ship. After Wells tragically died, Disney went sideways for many years.

A second thread is that the Board is responsible for the miss on the notice to the Union. That to me is just wrong. The whole point of a Board, whether for the PAUSD or for a company, is to hire the CEO (and perhaps other senior management), review the CEO's performance, and set the budget and policy of the organization. The Board is not supposed to perform the day-to-day operations of the organization. The Board delegates operations to management. Nonetheless, if management is not performing, the Board must step in and change management.

I think McGee's greatest mistake is that when he came to PAUSD, he did not put his people in place. Many new CEO's, when they come into a company, clean house and change out the rest of management. McGee failed to do this, and holdovers from the prior administration (e.g., Wade, Bowers, Mak) have caused lots of trouble. Ultimately, McGee is responsible because he is the CEO of PAUSD.

I believe McGee in this, his final year, has finally brought in good people. It is too late for him. There is more McGee could do: for example, why is Cathy Mak still in her job? I could see the Board firing McGee because McGee refuses to fire Mak.

I don't know if the Board should fire McGee now or not. He is gone in 9 months. The question the Board should ask is whether McGee should hire a COO as soon as possible to run the day-to-day operations while McGee continues doing what he is best at, inspiring and supporting our students. Then the Board should seriously consider the role of superintendent and who they hire next. As it is doubtful they will find an inspirational leader who is also an excellent manager, the Board should consider formally bifurcating the role.


33 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2017 at 2:10 pm

You make a good point, McGee needed a good COO. In fact, he was told that by pretty much everybody when he showed up - it was clear he was a "vision guy" and needed support on execution, given how weak the team was. The board members told him; the board watchers told him; probably the staff itself told him. He didn't do it. After a while he brought in a very weak person (now gone) who probably made things worse. So, as in so many other things, he failed to do what needed to be done, even though he was clearly warned in advance. Why? That's probably between him and his therapist. But at this point, there is no arguing that he waits for crisis before taking action.

McGee leaving now would hurt nothing. What do people think he actually does? What McGee-flagship initiative will fail in the next six months without him? The truth is he is much more likely to screw up something new - how about the difficult upcoming union negotiations? How about special ed reform/repair? How about [fill in what you worry about]?

Dave Price argues in his paper today that firing McGee would hurt recruiting, so they should keep him. The logic that they should keep proven incompetent leadership around so as to help them find better leadership is upside down - it is short-termism at its worst. ("Yes, let's recruit somebody so dumb we can fool them! And then watch their faces when they learn what its really like!") They need to do what they should have done earlier - face up to the problem, take action, and move on. Then they can start getting better.


49 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2017 at 9:31 am

@Paly Parent

Yes, you are absolutely right. We got a thoughtful GPA reporting policy while our finances and sexual assault investigations were screwed up. School board and Dr. McGee should focus on big picture. Did the distraction cause by the same group of people and board member? Now the same group of people is recalling Dr. McGee. Very interesting...


14 people like this
Posted by Different Perspective
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 19, 2017 at 11:11 am

I agree with "Yes, you are absolutely right. We got a thoughtful GPA reporting policy while our finances and sexual assault investigations were screwed up.". However, I agree this statement from another perspective. We (Gunn) have have a thoughtful and established wGPA reporting policy for SO long. Why change in the first place? It appears that our superintendent got "distracted" because he liked to introduce a change for the sake of change. According to the district survey, overwhelmingly super majority at Gunn community (students, staff and parents) shows their support for wGPA reporting. Yes, our superintendent got so "distracted" to even conduct the surveys, despite he, prior to the survey, had already heard strong voices from Gunn community that they wanted to keep their thoughtful GPA reporting practice. So, I agree that the superintendent and school board should focus on the big picture, but I think the "distraction" was NOT caused by the same group of people and board members. Instead, the "distraction" was caused by the superintendent himself, because he personally and strongly dislikes wGPA reporting and tries to defend his personal belief without regards to those "big pictures". BTW, I am moved by watching those brave "same group of people" - a genuinely caring and concerned group of people in our community who care for each and every student that reflects NOT ONLY in the then GPA reporting issue, BUT ALSO in these RECENT issues such as school district budget BLUNDER and the alleged mishandling issues on sexual misconduct / Title IX etc.. I think any different opinion should be respected, but please stop labeling or accusing them if they are holding different views from yours.


10 people like this
Posted by Gunn Dad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

It is ridiculous that the superintendent spent some much energy on wGPA issue. He conducted survey after survey every few weeks during that time, trying in vain to have data to support his strong opposition of wGPA. To make matters worse, one board member (KD) proposed a new, more complex approach based on UC wGPA, which caused even more confusion and distraction among the communities. In this respect, I think both the superintendent and the board member (KD) were responsible for the distraction. As many people in the community pointed out, GUNN already had a thoughtful and established wGPA policy and why wasting so much energy on the issue trying to change it?


45 people like this
Posted by Palymom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm

@Gunn Dad @Different Perspective

Are you a couple? Calm down, relax, Sounds like Gunn has too many anxious GPA parents. No problem, our wonderful Ms. Laurence will fix your problem. -)


10 people like this
Posted by Different Perspective
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 19, 2017 at 12:22 pm

I think we'd better stay focused here. We are calmly talking about the budget issue. And, we are calmly talking about the Title IX investigation and sexual assault issue at Paly. Why relate to GPA to distract and cause intended / un-intended consequence, ie., labeling people as "anxious GPA parents"? BTW, thanks, "Gunn Dad", for your comment, although I don't know who you are.


11 people like this
Posted by PLEASE!
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 19, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Please, please, please do NOT leave this district with the incompetent and deceitful McGee, Diorio OR Mak-- not even for another week!

These three have tarnished the PAUSD name and brand, as well as damaging students and parents!

McGee can do a LOT of damage in even a week-- don't let him continue another DAY!


5 people like this
Posted by Another PALY Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2017 at 5:47 pm

@ PALY Mom,

If not due to PALY admin's strong objective and unethical partial truth techniques to misguide the community, the GPA issue should have been solved quickly based on just a couple thorough surveys.

All it showed is that McGee is not a strong leader that our district needs. He was trying to please all parties. He did not want to take the blame of adopting WGPA so he had to arrange so many meetings and surveys to show that he was "forced" into adopting WGPA.

If this small GPA issue can lead him to ignore the important Budget and Sexual Harassment issues, it only showed how incompetent he is!


11 people like this
Posted by Another PALY Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Oh, by the way, if "incompetence" does not disqualify MvGee to be the superintendent, then "DISHONEST" should be!

The issues here are not only that McGee did a lousy job to supervise his staffs, but also that he tried to "cover it up". And just like the Palo Alto Weekly published said in his video forum that "dishonest" ... "is serious in any non profit or for profit organization."


22 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2017 at 6:15 pm

@Another PALY Mom

"if "incompetence" does not disqualify MvGee to be the superintendent..."

Who hired Dr. McGee? Who approved and adopted the budget? I guess the school board holds responsibility. One of Todd Conlins's campaign statement to resolve budget deficit. Now we have $6M deficit...


13 people like this
Posted by Old Timer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2017 at 7:08 pm

"Who hired McGee?" - Current board member Melissa Baten Caswell and past members Barb Mitchell, Camille Townsend, Dana Tom, and Heidi Emberling.

"Who approved the budget?" - the current board, though the problem isn't the budget, it is that McGee failed to honor it, instead delivering $6 million in unauthorized contractual pay raises (partially offset by windfall revenue).

The board's job at this point is clear - they need to fire McGee. If they don't, I agree that they then own the whole sloppy mess.


11 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 19, 2017 at 7:15 pm

@ Paly Mom:

If this is your understanding, then you have a lot of homework to do...please go borrow a corporate governance book and STUDY hard to comprehend the roles and responsibilities of the Board and CEO, in this case CEO is the Superintendent. PAUSD is one of the top district in the nation long before McGee came on board. The brand and reputation were established as the results of the hard works done by teachers, students and parents, not superintendent and admins !

PAUSD does not need a superintendent preaching the theory of the Manifesto of Communist Party. PAUSD only needs a Superintendent knows how to Count the Numbers and our district will thrive for years to come!!


15 people like this
Posted by what
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 20, 2017 at 7:43 am

Gunn parent..

What?!! It makes me so sad to see there is parent that thinks counting numbers is the important thing, or that parents think of the worth of a brand as if school is a business and their kids are widgets. Looking at the administration as business leaders will only lead to problems. TIme to shift back. School is not a business and kids are not products and the district is not a company with a brand. He is not a CEO and business models should not be applied to children. The pace of change and pulling old rules into this world today is not easy. Support the staff and stop acting like each group is separate.


6 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent 2
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 20, 2017 at 7:55 am

@what, if the administrators can't count numbers, and follow the rules/laws, they will fail. If they can, we'll probably be fine. Our students are great, our teachers also very good. If our administrators are at least average, things will be good. Sub-par administrators (and board members) have been terrible for us. Back to basics for administrators, please


6 people like this
Posted by History repeats itself
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2017 at 8:53 am

The PAUSD board needs to fire the superintendent and bring in or appoint an interim who has the full backing of the board to clean house and if need be, hire interims in their place.

The lame duck superintendent has no role in PAUSD and will do nothing in the next few months.

Callan should have been fired too rather than have her announce her retirement then stick around for months and months.

McGee did exactly what Callan did when the Board tried to fire her. She announced her forthcoming retirement.

McGee needs to be terminated today.


16 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2017 at 9:30 am

@Gunn Parent,

Looks like you don't know US public school system. Are you new to PAUSD? Are you trying to put PAUSD in private school setting? Agree with others, public School is very different from business world, and kids are not products and the district is not a company with a brand. Tax $ is not tuition fee.


4 people like this
Posted by Confused
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2017 at 9:35 am

People say "schools are different" but they don't say HOW or what it means. Sure the aims and some of the methods are of schools/public agencies/non-profits different - there are multiple goals and various stakeholders.

But what human organization above trivial size, made up of unrelated parties, doesn't benefit from transparency and accountability for actions? Doesn't require management and governance?

For this situation, where the senior leaders have screwed up badly, how are schools "different"? And what should people do differently as a result?


14 people like this
Posted by History repeats itself
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2017 at 10:57 am

What the board needs to do is fire McGee. Then instead of hiring the same old tired school superintendent search firms (made up mostly of retired school superintendents), the board needs to reach out hire the search firm that the Silicon Valley boards hire to find CEOs of private sector firms in the Silicon Valley - namely John Thompson of Heidrick and Struggles. Heidrick and Struggles and John Thompson even if they cost much more can bring in much more talented individuals that can multitask and have vision and can execute.

There is no difference when it comes to accountability between the public and private sector--private sector corporations have boards of directors and public sector government entities have boards. The bottom line is though that the boards of directors of private sector corporations are usually seasoned management professionals, some CEOs of their own companies, that don't buy the sob stories and lame excuses that people invariably make when they screw up.

The boards of private sector corporations in the Silicon Valley would have fired McGee long ago.

The public sector - management included - attempts to absolve themselves of any responsibility concerning their mistakes. They will point fingers at anyone but themselves - the public, the children, the consultants, the phases of the moon, the weather, whatever.

But the fact is that most of the management in districts is made up of ex-principals that were "promoted" to the District Office because they were not successful in the principal role. This means that an army load of unmanaged and mismanaged consultants and lawyers ends up actually doing the day to day operations of most school districts.


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Posted by Copy
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2017 at 11:56 am

"In separate statements provided to the Palo Alto Weekly, school board Vice President Ken Dauber and member Todd Collins said Thursday morning"

Where is there a copy of this statement?


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

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