News

Palo Alto High robotics coach resigns after complaints

Teacher had been on paid administrative leave pending district investigation

Palo Alto High School computer science teacher and robotics coach Kathleen Krier, who had been placed on paid leave last week following student and parent complaints about her behavior with the robotics team, has resigned, Superintendent Don Austin confirmed.

Austin accepted her resignation letter on Thursday.

Krier, who was hired this fall, had clashed with students and parents over tightening safety procedures in the campus lab, which has a strong student-led culture. Robotics students felt Krier had created an uncomfortable educational environment through poor, unresponsive communication and called for her immediate removal. The Paly administration maintained that long-needed safety changes were being met with resistance from the students.

Krier was placed on administrative leave last Friday while the district investigated the complaints, which included two formal ones filed under the district-level Uniform Complaint Procedure.

An insurance firm hired by the district visited the robotics lab on Tuesday to conduct a safety review. Keenan and Associates’ report will “dictate and guide all of our next actions,” Austin said. He anticipates having an update on the firm’s report by next week.

Paly had already hired a long-term substitute teacher to serve as the robotics team’s interim coach, Austin said.

The robotics team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Comments

5 people like this
Posted by confused
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2018 at 6:09 pm

I'm really confused about the nature of the complaints: did Krier require unnecessary PPE or did she not require necessary PPE in the robotics lab?


16 people like this
Posted by Dad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2018 at 6:13 pm

Good job to the students for speaking up and to the administration for investigating the claims.


30 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2018 at 6:14 pm

Resigned or forced to resign? There's a big difference between the two.

resign = voluntary

forced to resign = resign or get fired...your choice.


4 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2018 at 6:20 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

They'll also need to hire an AP Computer Science teacher, correct?

Wonder if they paid her to resign.


46 people like this
Posted by PS
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 18, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Someone please help me understand this. So the teacher was trying to keep the students safer with tightening up the safety guidelines. The students didn’t like it, complained to the parents and the teacher got put on administrative leave? How much uproar would have been caused if something happened to one of the students? She should have just given out participation ribbons for all the students....


31 people like this
Posted by Fiasco
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2018 at 6:21 pm

It sounds like they did not hire anyone with the Computer Science qualifications in the original job posting Web Link or the job description that is clearly described here. Web Link

The posting for the original job position clearly states what was required for the position.

The requirements for applying from the Edjoin posting linked above for the Computer Science teacher state "Possession of a valid California Teaching Credential, in appropriate content area, as required by the California Education Code" yet the PAUSD hired someone WITHOUT the appropriate supplementary credential in Computer Science. Since they did this, just how did the administrators and Board think this was going to work out?

With all the talented Java and Python programmers in the community and surrounding area, who at PAUSD was responsible for hiring a teacher without the the Computer Science supplementary credential?

Also why did the previous Paly two computer science teachers decide last year to resign?

And what does PAUSD plan to do to ensure the lost instructional time for the AP Computer Science students is made up so that these kids have some semblance of a chance to catch up in order to take the AP test this spring?


41 people like this
Posted by Dad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2018 at 6:34 pm

@PS

I think you misunderstand the situation. If you go back to read the other articles, you would see that the students are complaining about her behavior. The students completely support the safety changes and are working with the administration to make changes.

The students are unhappy with being constantly intimidated, cornering kids against walls, locking them inside, and discrimination, to name a few of the issues.


18 people like this
Posted by III
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2018 at 6:47 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Reader
a resident of College Terrace

on Oct 18, 2018 at 7:03 pm


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5 people like this
Posted by Good riddance
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2018 at 7:05 pm

I see what people are saying about whiny kids but even a broken clock is right twice a day. Paly has dodged a bullet by getting her out quickly.


6 people like this
Posted by Good riddance
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2018 at 7:07 pm

[Post removed.]


42 people like this
Posted by Fiasco
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2018 at 7:17 pm

The administration gave the students a run around, would not address any concerns, would not allow parents of the students involved to be present in meetings with the administration and canceled the meeting the afternoon prior to the Board meeting.

At the end of Open Forum section of the Board meeting, I thought that the Superintendent's discussion of him discussing viewing Robotics competitions and attempting to bring in a justification for this fiasco of "when you are new" was out of line. He also made some comment that the teacher must have been successful in the last job, or PAUSD would not have hired the teacher. Given the dismal reviews on the Monte Vista students on Rate My Teachers, it is apparent that this could not have been the case, could it?

It is not acceptable for teachers, new or not, to swear at students and have repeated emotional breakdowns in front of students and parents for 2 1/2 months and be given the run around by the administration.

The administration and superintendent need to apologize to the students and community for their lack of due diligence in hiring the AP Computer Science teacher and inform the students and community what procedures they plan to put in place so that this is not repeated once again.


44 people like this
Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2018 at 7:37 pm

From this article, it doesn't seem that either Paly or the district intervened, but rather that the pressure of the situation led the coach to resign on her own will. None of the administrators have spoken to the robotics team yet, so time will tell what actually happened.

Operating under the assumption she resigned on her own will: While the result is beneficial for the robotics team, it's unfortunate that the procedures to handle this sort of situation in a controlled manner failed (yet again). Long story short—when the complaints were reported, they went ignored by administrators. After a few weeks, the students and parents didn't have any other options except to speak at the board meeting. IMO, through their inaction, Paly and PAUSD failed their students, and they also failed their employee.


21 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2018 at 8:10 pm

The district is so messed up. But they still ask for more money with Measure Z.

I remember when Max McGee was hired he pushed Measure A with lots of scare tactics. Once Measure A passed they announce that the district in fact had a surprising surplus, which of course is used to raise teachers' salary very generously. Shortly after they said the surplus is a mistake! No surplus anymore.

Now new superintendent, new Measure Z. What a coincidence! Bait-and-switch, then more bait-and-switch.


10 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2018 at 8:14 pm

A fair number of commentators have jumped to conclusions based on very incomplete information. Eventually, the full story will emerge.


4 people like this
Posted by Bill Smith
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 18, 2018 at 8:23 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2018 at 8:40 pm

I'm probably coming late to this, but I can't help feeling it is a she said/they said situation.

I know that there are times parents do need to intervene in a situation but I am not sure that this is one.

It sounds very much like washing the dirty laundry in public to me. I get the impression that the local media need to dig up a PAUSD story every now and then for reasons unknown. Is this something the community should be weighing in on or should it be kept as a Paly issue. I am only taking note now not because of previous threads on the matter but because a Paly parent started discussing this and I tried to find out more. I wish I hadn't bothered.


Posted by Another Paulson botch?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Oct 18, 2018 at 10:05 pm


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45 people like this
Posted by Nurturing PTA Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2018 at 10:25 pm

[Portion removed.] I have volunteered a lot in PAUSD throughout 15 years, most recently at a Paly event and these are good, polite kids, one of the positives about Palo Alto schools. [Portion removed.] Robotics students are not generally loud-mouthed students. We have enough unfortunate tenured teachers who can't be fired, it's good that they spoke up now, helping the future students.

This is definitely not a he said/she said, there were many witnesses [portion removed]. And if you look at the ratemyteacher reviews from her past school, you will wonder why Paly even hired her in the first place: Web Link The blame here should not be on the students but on the math department and human resources for hiring her. Surely, there is some retired person who made it big in tech who would enjoy taking the position.

Tip to Paly: find someone off wyzant.com, there are many teachers: Web Link


25 people like this
Posted by Christine C
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2018 at 10:38 pm

Christine C is a registered user.

The individual complaints don’t sound so bad until you look at them and add them up. Yelling at a student happens in classrooms sometimes, but this is a club and she was an advisor not a teacher or coach (like a sports coach), so why is she creating conflict and contention. Calling someone Honey might be friendly, but not so much if there isn’t a good environment established and especially if it makes the student uncomfortable. The students had good safety record and practices and are very willing to work for even better safety, so this is not the crux of the trouble.
The big problem—-this teacher was inadequate for both the classroom and this Robotics advising role. A bad hire. Check on Rate My Teachers Monte Vista Danville and also Paly. Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by ParentExpert
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2018 at 3:39 am

ParentExpert is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by Parent86
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 19, 2018 at 5:39 am

Parent86 is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] Does it really make sense to anyone that students and their own parents would resist improved safety measures - for the benefit of students, to such an extent as to file formal complaints and go to a PAUSD board meeting? This does not pass the test of common sense! The students and their own parents don't want safety measures that badly? [Portion removed.]
The article above completely fails to reference what led to the current situation.

Paly hired a new coach and CS teacher this past summer.
Students began complaining about the coach's behavior to Paly Admin but nothing was done.
Students documented specific incidents of intimidation and harassment and gave that to Paly Admin who said they would investigate.
Students filed a formal complaint about the bullying and harassing behavior with District and nothing was done.
Students went to PAUSD board meeting and presented the Board with a petition for the removal of the coach because of her bullying behavior. The petition was signed by 22 students.
When it became public, more students came forward to say they experienced intimidation in the CS classroom
Students came forward to say they have been complaining about her teaching as well
It became public that complaints about the coach/teacher's behavior - [portion removed] she was clearly not vetted well before hiring.

[Portion removed.] It was a terrible hire and the situation was handled poorly by Paly Admin and also the District people. They had weeks to listen and really investigate and they did nothing. [Portion removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by iii
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2018 at 8:46 am

iii is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]
I coached 10yrs/seasons Palo Alto system, myself on 4 yrs sports Palo Alto High, college varsity D1 sports, and 10yrs D1 Men's sports after college. So I know well the emotions of the athletes and coaches, both sides.
I saw nothing of this coach being a bully. Shocked and emotional at
the mutiny yes. In hind site, what she should have done is quit
coaching them FIRST DAY, these children and parents started to complain. IMO it is nothing but an after school baby sit them club.


25 people like this
Posted by Affluent parents must be a nightmare
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 19, 2018 at 10:21 am

Affluent parents must be a nightmare is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names.]


17 people like this
Posted by honest parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 19, 2018 at 12:36 pm

honest parent is a registered user.

The last major safety infraction was in 2010.


Like this comment
Posted by @honest parent
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 20, 2018 at 7:25 am

@honest parent is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names.]


Like this comment
Posted by Safety infractions?
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 20, 2018 at 7:27 am

Safety infractions? is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names.]


12 people like this
Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 20, 2018 at 10:10 am

Alum is a registered user.

The lathe accident in 2010 happened when a student was in the robotics lab alone and unsupervised. There haven't been any injuries besides minor cuts and scrapes since.

There was obviously a lot wrong with that situation. However, the robotics team has been through two new coaches since then, and a number of safety improvements have been made:

- Students are never allowed in the robotics lab alone or unsupervised
- There is a strict set of shop rules, including PPE related policies
- There is a certification process for each machine that includes lessons and an assessment
- The old lathe has been replaced by a new machine with modern safety guards

As this hopefully demonstrates, there's quite a bit in place to ensure students aren't "going rogue and injuring themselves". While there are always things that can be done to further improve safety, to quote a previous post of mine, I would not call the culture around safety "casual".


10 people like this
Posted by Christine C
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2018 at 10:13 am

Christine C is a registered user.

@safety

Are all of our kids going to live in bubble wrap and not have the need for a small band aid now and again? Kids get hurt in sports, ordinary classrooms, playing with friends and just life. These kids in this club are being taught safety and have knowledge how to use tools with care and consideration. Learning these skills is such a valuable asset to the student’s future. These students choose this (it’s not an assignment), they are trained,they are certified to know the rules and how to safely operate all the tools and machines.

Should we close down all the sports teams because of the possibility of injuries?


2 people like this
Posted by film jedi
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2018 at 11:59 am

film jedi is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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

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