Paly principal announces resignation

In wake of discipline letter and rebuttal, Kim Diorio to leave at end of school year

Weekly journalists discuss the resignation of Palo Alto High School Principal Kim Diorio on this week's "Behind the Headlines." Watch the webcast here.

The week began with Kim Diorio objecting to the public release of a letter reprimanding her for her handling of a campus sexual assault case in 2016 and has ended with her resignation as Palo Alto High School principal.

On Friday morning -- two days after she disclosed the letter herself, along with a detailed rebuttal -- she notified staff, students and parents that she will leave Paly at the end of the school year.

"After 11 wonderful years at Paly, I've decided that it's time for me to take the next step in my career," she wrote to staff. "The decision wasn't an easy one, especially given the thought of no longer seeing and working with all of you on a daily basis. Frankly, it's not one I seriously considered before the start of the new year."

Diorio, who announced on Feb. 23 she was going on an immediate medical leave, wrote in a separate message to parents that she plans to return "later this spring to wrap up the school year."

Diorio went on the offensive this week as her role in responding to a female Paly student who said she was sexually assaulted in a campus bathroom in 2016 was again publicly scrutinized. Since the case was publicly reported last May, many in the community have called for Diorio's removal, while Paly teachers and staff rallied in her defense, both publicly and privately.

The Jan. 11 letter of reprimand, from interim Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Anne Brown, states that Diorio failed to provide the female Paly student with the "full range of procedural options" under federal and state law and district policy.

The letter cites the findings of an external law firm the district hired last year to investigate its handling of the sexual-assault report.

The firm, Cozen O'Connor, found that while Paly administrators initially responded promptly to the student, multiple missteps resulted in legal and policy violations "under your leadership," Brown wrote to Diorio.

Diorio's seven-page response argues that district leadership was responsible for failures in the case, particularly former Title IX coordinator Holly Wade, who Diorio said told that her and other Paly staff that no formal district investigation was necessary in the case.

"School staff should not be held personally or professionally responsible for implementing district office directives," Diorio wrote in her response.

Diorio has been principal of Paly since 2013. She replaced Phil Winston, who resigned in 2013, citing health and "work-life balance" reasons. The Weekly later reported, citing documents it obtained through Public Records Act requests, that Winston had been disciplined for sexually harassing and behaving inappropriately with both staff and students.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights later found that Diorio, while assistant principal, was not prompt in reporting sexual-harassment allegations about Winston that she had received from numerous staff over the course of three years. (The district's Jan. 11 letter of reprimand does not mention the federal findings.)

Diorio, who began her counseling and administrative career at schools in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, was hired by Palo Alto Unified in 2005 to work as a counselor at JLS Middle School and Gunn High School. She was promoted to Paly assistant principal in 2007.

Her message to staff notes the school's accomplishments over the last several years, from ending a practice of student streaking and opening a wellness center to the expansion of "innovative" educational programs, such as Paly's Social Justice Pathway and Media Arts programs.

Diorio told staff she is "currently weighing a number of options" for what she'll pursue after leaving Paly, but plans to make her "health a priority," spend time with her family and finish a dissertation.

The district has hired a retired administrator to serve as acting principal in Diorio's absence.

Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks said Saturday morning that the district is working with the acting principal, Frank "Pancho" Rodriguez, to "extend" his time at Paly but that she still expects Diorio to return sometime in the spring.

There has been "no change in assignment or responsibility" for Diorio, Hendricks said.


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136 people like this
Posted by Pay Attention
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 11:12 am

To potential candidates for this position: Do not be tempted by the $$$ or cache of teaching in this district. Until the board/district office gets its proverbial house in order, THIS WILL BE YOU. Until each board member takes personal responsibility for the toxic culture (favoritism, fomenting, inequitable application of ed code) every administrator is on borrowed time. Coupled with PAOnline's clear editorial bias against PAUSD staff, it isn't possible to be a successful principal at a high school in Palo Alto at this time.

59 people like this
Posted by A resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 11:25 am

@Pay Attention, if you are a Paly administrator, I hope you too decide to move on. Most of the administrators are good people who want to do good work. But if they don't own their shortcomings and admit mistakes, they need to move on. Board favoritism? What are you even talking about? Just follow the law, do your job, try to do better, and things will be ok.

171 people like this
Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 12:09 pm

I am a Paly teacher and I am very saddened that Kim decided to resign. She was very supportive of teachers AND of students. She always made the best decision possible and I think it’s a grave shame that is not enough for this community.

The problem with making her job so unbearable and impossible to succeed in is who of quality and competence is going to want to subject themselves to such vitriol and callousness. Kim gave her heart to this school and the community stepped all over it. I dare the board and district office to find someone more caring and passionate to improve the lives of our students.

15 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 9, 2018 at 12:20 pm

This is a clear case of administration failures.

Where is the legal team? It suppose to protect and relieve principles from missteps in litigation.

If the principal did not follow the instruction gave by the legal team then you can blame principals on it.

Our principal need to focus on academic excellence and student safety and not get
tie up on legal ramifications.

We are need to worry more on overall performance and safety of the school and not
getting bogged down by each individual legal cases. Hired competent legal team is the key.

126 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Thank you Ms Diorio for all of your work at Paly. My child is graduating this year, after a great run at Paly. Please know that most of us parents are grateful, and feel awful that this paper and this district continue to skewer the very people that take such good care of our kids. I grew up in Palo Alto, and this horrifies me. Again, thank you for all you have done for our kids. I am sure, you will find great success in your future.

93 people like this
Posted by Fire 2 Success
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 12:41 pm

[Portion removed.] Anyone that has worked with this woman knows that Paly just lost, big time. So glad there are infallible community members who have all the time in the world to try to make a name for themselves while trying to get people fired. This work is filled with ethical dilemmas. The very idea that she was incompetent, or worse, indifferent to the well-being of her students is abhorrent and ignorant. You do not work here or know the work that this woman has done. I'd like to see these vocal critics sit in her seat for a week. You've hurt this school and the students who attend it. [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by oneanddone
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 1:47 pm

oneanddone is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

73 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

This school board has done the entire community a huge disservice by forcing out the most student-centered, thoughtful, progressive, competent, and conscientious principal we have had in the 20 years I have been here. This was the failure of a much larger system and of the school board, not of Kim Diorio.

It is the SCHOOL BOARD's responsibility to vet the attorneys they hire, and they hired attorneys that repeatedly failed to provide accurate information about the laws. Administrators can only follow the advice they are given.

It is the SCHOOL BOARD's responsibility to make sure its administrators are trained in Title IX compliance, which is something they did not do until it after it was too late.

It is the SCHOOL BOARD's responsibility to set policies and procedures for parents and for administrators, and their policies were unlawful.

But instead of taking responsibility for their own mistakes they, in true PAUSD fashion, forced out the superintendent, the principal, and perhaps others still yet to get let go, in order to keep their elected positions and to cowtow to this community's punitive mentality.

The fact that this SCHOOL BOARD actually believes that these students are "safer" or better off without Kim Diorio is absurd. Instead of evaluating their own shortcomings in creating the system that failed here, they instead left our school without leadership a week after the 2nd deadliest school shooting in US history and a week before our WASC review. Unforgivable.

58 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 3:23 pm

cmarg is a registered user.

I am so saddened by Kim Diorio leaving. Our son is a freshman at Paly and it seems like every year he has gotten a new principal since 5th grade. I can understand 100% why Kim is leaving and I support her in the decision. Who wants to work endless hours and then get blamed for items where she followed the districts guidelines?

I am also extremely disappointed in PAUSD. It is just churning out the leadership at such an amazing rate. It is a very unstable place to be sending our children and I question the district's ability to attract and retain top leadership and teachers. Perhaps the district and community will see that money cannot buy quality administration and teachers; there comes a point when quality of life surpasses the financial rewards. Hopefully realizing that compassion, kindness, collaboration, and caring are what really matter. Maybe learning about Bhutan and Gross National Happiness would be a wise next step for PAUSD and the Palo Alto Community.

I do hope that the district and the community can begin to understand that every time a finger is pointed, 3 fingers point back. It is vital that we all reflect on why there is so much anger and bitterness. I hope that the community can work together and help each other take our responsibilities seriously. Maybe we can all explore why there is such a focus on expecting the schools to be responsible for parenting and teaching our children values and other topics that need to be taught in the home.

As I write this, I myself am looking at what I am doing and reflecting on what I can do better as a parent and community member. I hope and pray others will do the same.

45 people like this
Posted by Teacher2
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Teacher2 is a registered user.

I don't see how the report can blame her for not speaking up sooner about Phil Winston -- Let's remember that he was a personal friend of Kevin Skelley, and that all of the Superintendents were male at that time. To blame her for not wanting to go up against her boss and the entire Boys Club that was in power without first collecting overwhelming evidence is absurd.

And the report says that Holly Wade forged a document to conceal that she was consulting with an attorney she had specifically been told not to use? But then following the advice of that attorney is somehow Kim's fault?

This place is nuts. Good luck finding a decent replacement -

33 people like this
Posted by Calsildia
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 9, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Calsildia is a registered user.

I'd like to offer perspective from victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and bullying within PAUSD.

Not only did each of them had to endure every second of the incidents, they also suffer from PTSD, subsequent humiliation and retaliation, after they gathered the courage to report. Their families supported them, but school and district did not, even after repeated pleads. Many of them could no longer bear stepping on the grounds of what's called their school. They left PAUSD in silence, carrying the physical and emotional scars with them.

Let's not forget the victims!

Let's ask ourselves what it takes to end sexual assault, sexual harassment, and bullying.

Let's develop the courage to take care of the victims, even if it means to go against the norm.

Civil War did not come at a cheap price - but it was necessary.

#metoo will not be easy, but it is worth it!

4 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 6:10 pm

iSez is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

22 people like this
Posted by Helen Does
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 9, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Helen Does is a registered user.

The district is getting its house in order. [Portion removed.] Now the school board needs to reflect on their failings. No more finger pointing. Get your own act together.

6 people like this
Posted by Responsibility
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 10, 2018 at 9:29 pm

Responsibility is a registered user.

@Teacher - While I Agree with you in general, I am not sure we can blame the attorney for bad advice. We don't know what information was presented to her. What we have heard is that Dioro reported information to Holly Wade, then Holly Wade either rejected a UCC or reported it to the attorney, Dora Dome. We can't know for certain exactly what or how that information was reported to her. At the same time, it all seems to show and incredible lack of common sense, and acts of carelessness lacking compassion for the injured students.

The School Board is a policy making body. It is responsible for overall policy. It is the Superintendent and the people who work for him or her who are responsible for caring out policy. PAUSD's Superintendent didn't do this. He promoted a subordinate and continued using attorney(s) who did not train or comply with Title IX. Unfortunately, the Board at the time attached every and anyone who tried to show them not to, including children, the disabled, and other Board Members. But most of the members except Baten Caswell who caused the hurt are gone.

The Superintendent's subordinate, Holly Wade, told him and the Board she did a lot, and achieved a lot with 100% compliance. Where the Board failed was buying this incredible story that was too good to be true, year after year, even in the face of OCR findings, Special Education reports of failure, protesting parents, and budget crises. [Portion removed.] Then they approved a reorganization with massive hiring expenditures putting no controls over Wade's power. Just bad leadership.

@ Teacher - so the more I think about it, the more I agree with you.

Principals also had a choice about how to behave and whom to support during this regime or terror, and they choose Holly Wade and her hand picked attorneys. They choose Administrators and careers over the best interests of children. Again, no matter what proof the former Board was shown of this, they attacked the messengers and promoted the problem creators. [Portion removed.]

Holly Wade didn't actually resign as keeps being reported. She was told her position was being eliminated. Yes, she is gone, but if she altered documents, why wasn't this reported to an Administrative Teaching Credential Board? Parents could have told you of suspect practices for years. Was Phil Winston reported? Was child protective services notified? When so many girls were attacked, was the County or CPS told? Are there mandatory reporting requirements for these things? Are parents or teachers given any rights or procedures to report to the County or State when children are endangered?

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

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