HR head named interim superintendent | News | Palo Alto Online |


HR head named interim superintendent

Karen Hendricks served as interim superintendent in previous district

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The Palo Alto school district's new assistant superintendent of human resources, Karen Hendricks, will lead the district on an interim basis after Superintendent Max McGee's resignation this Friday, the school board decided Wednesday night.

Board President Terry Godfrey announced the board's unanimous decision after a special closed-session meeting. McGee submitted his letter of resignation to the board the night before, effective this Friday.

The board selected Hendricks for "her years of leadership, human resources expertise, public education teaching and administrative experience, professionalism, reputation for thoroughness, and recent background as the interim superintendent for (the) Carmel Unified School District," a district press release states.

Hendricks was hired in July to replace Scott Bowers, who retired at the end of the last school year.

Godfrey said that Hendricks' salary terms will have to be discussed at the board's next scheduled meeting on Oct. 10.

The agreement will be publicly available after that discussion, she said.

Who will take over her human-resources responsibilities is "still under discussion," Godfrey wrote in an email to the Weekly on Wednesday night. "However, we don't expect her to cover both roles."

Hendricks most recently worked in the Carmel school district, where she was chief human resources officer for two years before stepping in as interim superintendent after the district superintendent -- former Palo Alto and Gunn high school principal Scott Laurence, the husband of current Gunn High School principal Kathie Laurence -- went on medical leave last January and then resigned.

Carmel Unified is a much smaller K-12 district than Palo Alto, with three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school as well as a continuation high school and adult school. The district enrolled 2,509 students in the 2016-17 school year, according to Ed Data.

In an interview, the current president of the Carmel Unified Board of Education, John Ellison, described Hendricks as a capable people-person skilled at establishing trust during times of instability.

He said Hendricks did not treat her interim position in Carmel as "I'm going to keep a seat warm," but rather saw to it that the district progressed on its goals for the year. He recalled in particular her focus on creating a structure to provide professional development for teachers.

An interim role requires "calming the waters (and) at the same time moving forward," which he said Hendricks accomplished in Carmel.

"She does a really good job of getting to know people at a deep enough level and establishing trust because that's super important — in a situation where things are unsettled to be able to come right in and build trust with staff, with teachers, with parents," Ellison said. "She has a special ability to do that."

There was strong support in the Carmel community, particularly among teachers, for keeping Hendricks in the role permanently, Ellison said, but the board ultimately hired an assistant superintendent from Illinois this January.

He declined to comment on the specifics of the board's decision but said that it's sometimes "easier" to appoint an outside leader with a clean slate.

Ellison said there were no missteps during Hendricks' interim tenure and that she also "didn't shy away from making tough decisions because it might hurt her chances of becoming the permanent superintendent."

"There are still people to this day who say, 'Tell me again why you didn't hire her?'" Ellison added.

Prior to her jobs in Carmel, Hendricks served as assistant superintendent in the Santa Cruz City School district, overseeing human resources. She managed contract negotiations that gave employees their first raise in many years, as well as an investigation into complaints against a former superintendent over his removal of a controversial baseball coach, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported when she resigned in 2014.

Hendricks also worked as an outreach coordinator and director at the New Teacher Center, a national coaching nonprofit in Santa Cruz, according to her LinkedIn profile.

In the early years of her career, Hendricks was an elementary school teacher, assistant principal, principal and program evaluation coordinator in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.

Her promotion in Palo Alto Unified is effective Monday, Oct. 1.

In the news release, the board said it "looks forward to her leadership in advancing the work of staff, addressing outstanding issues, launching the search for our next superintendent, and sustaining PAUSD’s mission: to support all PAUSD students as they prepare themselves to thrive as global citizens in a rapidly changing world."

The board authorized Hendricks on Tuesday to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to find a consultant to lead the search for a permanent superintendent.


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55 people like this
Posted by JobOne
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 27, 2017 at 11:37 pm

Welcome on board.

First task: fire DiOrio.

83 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 11:55 pm

Congratulations Ms. Hendricks! From the couple of times I have seen her, she seems very professional and direct, and focused on getting things done. Seems like just what we need here.

114 people like this
Posted by Mark T
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2017 at 5:32 am

We have a very out of touch Board of Education. They, along with a minority of vocal parents are driving PAUSD in to the ground. Things are about to get a lot worse. I hope for the sake of the community and it's children, the good, fair minded people that remain in this town, PAUSD can survive and then rebuild. Starting with a brand new Board of Education.

167 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 28, 2017 at 6:02 am

It seems that the vocal minority now have a new victim. Run Ms Hendricks. The vocal minority will stop at nothing.
So glad that my student is almost done. He had such a great experience the whole time in this district. Great
teachers, principals. I hope that the people that work with our children realize that most of us are grateful.

This is my hometown, and I am so ashamed of these smart, outspoken parents and the lengths they will go to

Thank you to all of the teachers, principals and administrators that work so hard for our children. I am really

93 people like this
Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2017 at 8:47 am

Instead of a new Superintendent, could we get rid of Dauber and Collins who are more interested in advancing their own political careers than actually ding what's right for Palo Alto students?

34 people like this
Posted by the truth
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 28, 2017 at 9:06 am

Dauber = Google advancing their agenda.

This guy is destroying PAUSD and most people do not even realize it. Do your research. Today in S.F. chronicle Feds want to make coding part of leaning now. That is fantastic but who will make millions off this: companies like Google.

[Portion removed.]

30 people like this
Posted by A PALY Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2017 at 11:29 am

@ Mark T and @Palo Alto of Downtown North,

If you have different opinions than the so called "vocal minority" and you think you are the "majority", why don't you and the "majority" go to the board meetings to speak up?

If you choose to [portion removed] anonymously bully other community members by calling names here, then enjoy yourself! [Portion removed.]

18 people like this
Posted by Vocal Minority of One
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 28, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Yes, I always love the "ignore the vocal minority!" folks. Hey, guess what, maybe YOU are the vocal minority - in which case you are still welcome to speak up and make your case. Hopefully the school board members focus more on the quality of the arguments than the number, volume, or types of people behind them.

45 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 28, 2017 at 1:11 pm

I don't understand why everyone thinks that there is a vocal minority driving out our "leaders". There has been total complacency and incompetence, so isn't it justified? Skelly was merely a figurehead who even allowed himself to be bullied (I recall a teacher shushing him at an EDM meeting at Nixon and he allowed it). At a PTA Board meeting, I remember everyone politely laughing at his mediocre wit. He didn't even sit down with us to listen to our meeting. McGee was only looking to raise the district reputation and didn't care about the students either. Both had suicides on their watches. We expect someone who sincerely cares about the students, not the district reputation.

Ms. Hendricks sounds like a fantastic choice! The irony is that Max probably had some input about her hiring. She is experienced in human resources so maybe she can clean house, as needed.

Plus, what's with the anti-Dauber sentiment? He seems to really care about students and isn't afraid of vocalizing against the grain.

Baten-Caswell is the one who needs to leave, as she keeps pushing for more rigor when we have had suicides. Her term ends in 2020? God help the students.

29 people like this
Posted by Mary S.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Welcome and good luck. Maybe you can find out what Cathy Mak had to do with the six million mistake and let her go--it's time.

14 people like this
Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2017 at 2:09 pm

[Portion removed.]

Also, if you think that there is total complacency and incompetence, shouldn't the board be held accountable as well? Dauber didn't choose Max and would rather have a puppet.

I don't think Max fully understood what he was stepping into. The suicides are not his fault, nor Skelly's. In my dealings with Max he was what you would want from a superintendent, but he had a board (Dauber) that kept his hands tied.

29 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 28, 2017 at 2:17 pm

So Dauber somehow made McGee put Wade in place as title ix officer and then twice screw up the contract that he voted against? How does that even work?

44 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 28, 2017 at 2:19 pm

"Dauber says he is for students, but I have yet to actually see it."

- argued for a teacher contract that would leave money for more teachers to reduce class sizes, voted down by his colleagues.
- successfully fought against academic classes in zero period at Gunn to give students more sleep
- led the multi-year battle to get right with OCR for civil rights for students
- keeps advocating to cut homework loads and reduce stress
- fights for higher funding for mental health services
- stuck his neck out on moving past McGee who wasted millions of dollars of money (guess who loses when the district misspends its resources)?


[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

26 people like this
Posted by We are here
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 28, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Max gave the teachers and admins a sweet deal with that three years of raises, and they stabbed him in the back over a technicality and left him holding the bag. I can only hope it finally dawned on him that this is what parents have been subjected to by staff, only the health and safety of their children are at stake.

If this new superintendent knows how to reward honesty and to clear out the dishonesty and the slick and sincere-seeming backbiting against parents and their kids, but instead to encourage trustworthiness and collaboration, she will do us all a great good and prevent things from going this way again.

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm

At least she is familiar with the district and the community. That is at least one thing in her favor.

I wish her all the best and if she proves herself I hope she is considered as a permanent replacement.

13 people like this
Posted by We are here
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 28, 2017 at 2:44 pm

I think it's not a good sign, though, that this thread started with posters who think they are helping things by furthering divisions between families and the new administration, and furthering the sense that those with problems to solve will instead be blamed for speaking up and trying to solve them. We've had enough of that; sweeping everything under the rug eventually creates a mountain of problems. Please support this new super's efforts to restore trust. Max thankfully cleared out some of the worst apples, an advantage he did not start with himself.

11 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I wish Ms. Hendricks good luck as she assumes the reins during this interim period.

Fortunately, from my point of view, she is stepping into a situation in which she has a fair chance of success. There has been a blizzard of personnel changes in the past two years, including Ms. Hendricks' replacement of Scott Bowers, who failed to give the unions formal notice by March 15 of the district's intent to reopen the salary portion of the three-year contract. Charles Young left early on and Holly Wade, the person charged with overseeing Title IX compliance is now gone. This should benefit Mr. Hendricks and the district.

She also benefits from a series of program and policy changes that Dr. McGee and the board instituted. They give a sound basis for moving forward.

Whether follow-up on those programs in what would have been Dr. McGee's last year will be better or worse than if he had remained in place is less important than that the programs remain and succeed in showing how a caring community can realize the dream of educating every student to his/her potential.

We won't be able to properly assess Dr. McGee's superintendency for several years. Whether the values of inclusion and innovation that he espoused become solidly embedded in the district's culture, as I hope, is not assured. But I thank Dr. McGee for his efforts to move PAUSD in that direction.

21 people like this
Posted by LAHscot
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 28, 2017 at 5:01 pm

To "Mary S:"

In my view, Cathy Mak, as Chief Business Officer of PAUSD, is the responsible party for having blown the March 15 deadline for noticing the union. She should have proactively written the first draft of that notice, long before then.

She is also the person (replying to the first "We are here" post) who effectively stabbed the superintendent in the back by that inaction, not the union.

I agree that Cathy should go - the sooner the better.

2 people like this
Posted by check your privelege
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2017 at 6:50 pm

How do you get there? You're only talking about a deadline.

It's appalling that anyone in a position to monitor the contract process didn't even bother to ask "how is the contract re-negotiation going?" or "what was the outcome?". They spent countless months and meetings on the new contract without first finding out what was the result of the old contract!

To put the blame on a deadline is scapegoating. Nothing more, nothing less.

That failure lies in full with the leadership. That is the Superintendent and the Board. That people are still willing to look and support a scapegoat shows how far this district still needs to go.

2 people like this
Posted by Herb
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 28, 2017 at 7:32 pm

@check, The contract was for this year, not last year. Negotiations had not started yet, they would have taken place this year. That's how school contracts work, with pay raises handed out in arrears. Bowers and McGee told everyone that the raise was reopened.

3 people like this
Posted by check your privelege
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2017 at 7:45 pm

The deadline was to re-negotiate. They didn't. No one asked. No re-negotiation happened. Instead they spend months on a new budget without budgeting in the outcome of the re-negotiation.

That's how it "worked" and now Scott wants to blame the clerk.

2 people like this
Posted by Herb
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 28, 2017 at 8:24 pm

@Check, the deadline was to reopen negotiations on the last year of the 3 year contract, which is the current year. The negotiations take place during the year, not before. They budgeted no raise because that's what they hoped for, but the outcome would not be determined till the end of this year. It is strange but that's how it works.

4 people like this
Posted by We Are Here
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 28, 2017 at 11:24 pm

I am not going to disagree that McGee's underlings bear a lot of responsibility just as Skelley's did, and neither really knew what hit them. The new super would be well advised to avoid insularity.

McGee should fire Mak before he goes, he would redeem a lot.

38 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2017 at 6:01 am

Why is a teacher raise that amounts to the national cost of living (not Silicon Valley) considered a screw up? Now a teacher might be able to get new tires, and a tune up for the car they use to commute dozens or more miles through gridlock. One thing is for sure, even the highest paid teacher in the district would not qualify today to buy a home within a twenty mile radius of Palo Alto. The raise is for groceries people, not a new set of golf clubs!!!!

6 people like this
Posted by We are here
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 2, 2017 at 12:29 am

You know what? Teachers in this area make salaries that are above average. The majority make six figures. If we're talking a two-earner household, they make a lot more. No one qualifies to buy homes except really really rich people, and yet there are many non-rich people who own homes (the house poor), and who did not buy when it was "cheap" as if it ever was. Not even most of the highly paid tech workers can qualify. This is nothing new. Young engineers in the '80s had exactly the same problems, only interest rates were like 9%.

This is a high demand area, with global demand. Building more will never get ahead of demand. The dirty little secret is that shuttling people into rentals guarantees they will never be able to stay here or get ahead, because of demand.

The only thing that can possibly help is for companies to move away to where their employees can afford the housing. The US is a vast nation with beautiful places everwhere. Cities grew up for historical reasons that no longer hold; what about starting new towns (and building the infrastructure from scratch)? Why should the public have to bear the costs and negative consequences of companies' desires to expand in Palo Alto which has too many workers here already? We have laws to restrict the size of grocery srores, why not corporations whose large worker bases do not pay for their costs and we cannot support? Palo Alto is an island with no business taxes, time to tax corporations for their overly negative impacts. Why should companies get to do whatever they want, but the public have to be on the hook for the costs these corporations' decisions foist on cities, entirely unregulated? The government is making rules forcing the public to build dense housing for these companies workers, with no regulation of what is driving this need in the first place. (Isn't there a law requiring the state to reimburse cities for the cost of laws the state pushes through just like the recent rules on housing. We should be suing the state to make them pay for the cost of these impacts.) meanwhile, housing becomes less and less affordable precisely because these companies bring so many workers here. It affects the traffic, pollution, and liveability of the entire region.

Time to find and move to your own little Shire, Sharkey.

6 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2017 at 6:15 am

So a 3% raise for teachers is outlandish in one of the wealthiest communities in the world because corporations don't pay their fare share. Teachers should pick up and move somewhere else (which many are doing). Why stop there? Let's move all the public schools to Iowa, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and the like where life is cheap and easy. Kind of like the interment camps of WWII. With smartphones, parents would always be close to little Sally and Bobby as they master the 4R's far from the nest. Personally, I'll take Montana. Sharkey likes skiing and fly fishing.

7 people like this
Posted by Teacher compensation is pretty good here
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Teacher compensation is pretty good here is a registered user.

My nextdoor neighbors are homeowners in Palo Alto, and they are both PAUSD teachers. Hmmmm.

Teachers get a pension. That means they don't have to save for retirement in the same way others do. We must stop talking about government salaries separately from benefits. The whole compensation package has a value and that is what should be compared.

Few people in the private sector still get pensions...and most of us pay more for our other benefits.

Like this comment
Posted by Interesting
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2017 at 8:57 pm

@Teacher compensation
Sounds like you think teachers shouldn't be able to live in Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2017 at 2:09 pm

@Interesting, I don't think that is what @Teacher compensation is saying at all. They are saying that teachers CAN and DO live in Palo Alto, so stop claiming they are too underpaid to live here. I know LOTS of teachers that own a home in Palo Alto.

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