School board to reflect on its own function, effectiveness | News | Palo Alto Online |


School board to reflect on its own function, effectiveness

Special meeting also includes mid-year evaluation of Superintendent Don Austin

The Palo Alto school board will hold a special meeting on Thursday to reflect on its own performance and effectiveness. Afterwards, the board will evaluate the superintendent in closed session.

First on the agenda will be a discussion about the length and focus of board meetings. While the average length of a board meeting has dropped from over four hours in 2015 to three-and-a-half hours in 2019, the members will discuss how they can make the meetings more efficient.

District staff are also looking for the board to clarify their expectations for length and detail of presentations at meetings, according to a report prepared primarily by President Todd Collins. He suggested they consider asking staff to limit presentations to a certain number of minutes and to focus on written narratives instead of reading from bullet point presentations. He also proposed bringing more bond project items to the board on the consent agenda, meaning they are only discussed if requested by a board member.

For board members, the report suggests submitting written questions to staff in advance when possible. Having clearer conventions around how board members respond to agenda items from the dais could also help them "be efficient with their time," it states.

The board will also discuss the possibility of creating an audit or budget committee that could be made up of only board members, or a combination of them and others.

The five board members will also take time to reflect on the district's main goals, the role of the board in achieving those goals, the superintendent's relationship to the board and whether they interact effectively as a board.

Also on the agenda are proposals for how the district should manage and set expectations for its own performance.

Open session will take place from 5-7 p.m. In closed session from 7-8 p.m., the board will conduct Austin's mid-year performance evaluation. View the full agenda here.


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This story has been corrected to state that President Todd Collins, not Superintendent Don Austin, primarily prepared the agenda documents for this board meeting.

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9 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 23, 2020 at 12:25 pm

If the board actually knew there was board policy and they were responsible for enforcing it and knowing it, that would be a good start. They seem to like to hold silly meetings stating that they are holding silly meetings and the meeting time is not productive. Kind of like saying you are going to fix the math program, but with no plan and then giving yourself 3 years to have silly meeting about it.

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2020 at 1:13 pm

From the first times I started taking an interest in school matters, I have seen so many times that one board institutes a policy on things like the size of elementary schools, the class sizes, taking money as gifts from wealthy families to benefit just one school, etc. etc. and a new board subsequently ignores these policies without discussion, I am totally put off anything the school board does nowadays.

4 people like this
Posted by Mindful
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 23, 2020 at 2:22 pm

Please. As an involved public school parent, I ask that the PAUSD Board, staff and public behave as Don Austin has — as the adult in the room, in my opinion. From day one and from the lowest rung up, he has been a fantastic, intelligent, mindful leader in an often self serving, narcissistic community that looks to one and not all. I beg of you not to throw the baby out w the bathwater. This area desperately needs strong leaders and role models who humanize daily, all what our children most will benefit from a one-of-its kind education striving forward emotional maturity in highly charged and challenging environment. To be human is to err . Let’s show it now . We are still healing from the last “odd” superintendent vacancy.

8 people like this
Posted by Captainsleadwellwagoodcrew
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Mr. Austin is an exceptional public servant who has steered an unsteady, damaged ship into calmer waters for repair - PAUSD Board, you should be nothing but proud of your choice for hire. Don’t bumble a gem who very well may get us through human grief and loss. As well move us beyond data points, an algorithm, and really help prepare our children for a life we may not be around to see.

9 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 23, 2020 at 4:35 pm

@resident + hahahahahahaha Don Austin is not the adult in the room. He's just a teacher's union advocate who also has his hand out. Has he improved student academic performance? Has he made sure public records requests were fulfilled? He sought to get rid of the two meeting rule to reduce public input. He's seeking to increase blended learning, which reduces instructional time for students. Ha ha ha. He's no different than the others who don't care to serve students.

5 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 23, 2020 at 4:36 pm

Hahaha what a joke. Palos Verdes couldn't stand him and we're thrilled Pausd hired him

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