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Palo Alto school board to consider divisive English Language Arts curriculum on Tuesday

Some teachers say proposed curriculum is 'subpar' while some parent groups say it's time to make education equitable for underserved students

Palo Alto Unified School District board members from left, Jesse Ladomirak, Jennifer DiBrienza and Shounak Dharap, and Superintendent Don Austin speak during a board meeting on Sept. 14, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Update: The board voted 4-1, with Jennifer DiBrienza dissenting, at a May 10 meeting to adopt the Benchmark Advance/Adelante Curriculum.

---

On Tuesday evening, the Palo Alto school board will vote on a new English Language Arts curriculum that a number of teachers who were on the district's English Language Arts Pilot and Adoption Committee said should be scrapped.

Tuesday's meeting follows a May 4 special listening session during which the board heard from 22 speakers, most of whom opposed the 41-member committee's recommendation to adopt the program. Of the 25 teachers on the committee, 20 chose not to vote at all, they said.

The district has been looking to close education inequities for underserved students and those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

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The committee, which was formed in August, includes parents, teachers, specialists and administrators from all elementary schools and grade levels. Members were tasked with reviewing eight ELA curricula for kindergarten through fifth grade, from which three were piloted for three to four weeks this school year.

The committee recommended the board adopt the Benchmark Advance/Adelante curriculum for reading and the Teachers College units of study for writing. In addition, they recommended a supplemental curriculum, Haggerty Phonetic Awareness, to support students, including those with dyslexia, to become proficient readers. The Haggerty curriculum would complement an existing program, the Orton Gillingham methodology, which focuses on teaching phonetics, according to the committee.

But many teachers who spoke during the May 4 board meeting said the district should pull back and consider additional curricula that might be a better fit for students. Some teachers said the $2.7 million price tag for initial teacher training and supplemental materials for the 2022-2023 school year would be better spent on other programs or bolstering existing programs.

Other committee members, including parents, said although the curriculum isn't perfect, it's time to adopt something rather than to extend the search indefinitely.

Angeline Rodriguez said as a teacher on the ELA adoption committee she didn't vote on the recommendation. She couldn't in good conscience choose between three teacher-centered, one-size-fits-all programs that go against everything she has learned to be effective literacy instruction.

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"Having to choose between three subpar literacy programs is not upholding the PAUSD Promise. How can you as a board in good conscience move forward? Knowing that, I'm asking you tonight for more time, more time to evaluate a rigorous and developmentally appropriate curriculum that is student-centered and grounded in best practices. Making such an important decision in haste will only adversely impact the very students that we are here to serve. … We should not rush and move forward with curriculum that 85% of the committee did not endorse," she said.

Christina Nosek, another teacher on the reading adoption committee, also said she didn't vote.

"My charge always as a teacher is to do what's best for the kids I serve. I couldn't look my colleagues in the eye or myself in the mirror at night, (if I) voted for something that was not good for my students, especially the students in my classroom who are serviced by IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) plans. I had to seek out alternate texts and instructional methods outside of the Benchmark curriculum so they would be able to access learning for each lesson. … I fear (the Benchmark curriculum) it's really going to hurt our kids for years to come. Please make the right decision and give us more time," she said.

The teachers also received support from Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association. A survey of its members found that 49.7% of respondents reported low to very low morale this year and 36.4% said it was "just so-so."

One factor that kept coming up is the lack of or ignoring teacher input into school goals, decisions, curriculum and changes in district policies. The teachers who did not vote had many reasons, Baldwin said.

"Those reasons were gathered at the committee meetings (but) were not included in the board packet," she said.

"They were continually told that their charge as the committee was to pick a curriculum. Shouldn't the charge have been to find the best curriculum for students? And if the vast majority of the teachers on the committee did not feel any of the three were good, shouldn't they be able to recommend extending the process another year and pilot more?" she said.

Many teachers have told the Palo Alto Educators Association they will not serve on district committees in the future because they feel their input doesn't matter, she added.

The Community Advisory Committee for Special Education in Palo Alto (CAC), however, strongly supports the proposed curricula, they said in a May 3 statement to the school board.

"It is simply unrealistic to think that we could select and purchase an off-the-shelf curriculum that perfectly meets our needs without some tailoring. But the products available to teachers are structured to take much of the burden out of planning, giving them time to think about how to teach rather than what to teach and enabling them to focus on the needs of individual children," the CAC said.

Kimberly Eng Lee, the Lucille Nixon Elementary School CAC representative, asked the board on May 4 to approve the ELA adoption committee's recommendations.

"Parents depend on a coherent system. Adopt the new standards and aligned material, reduce haphazard instruction. It's the only way for kids across dozens of rooms and grades to get (them help) and equally instruct with uniformity," she said.

School district board members were also of different opinions.

"I've looked over this carefully, and it looks to me like this adoption process followed the board policy and the statute with fidelity so I don't think we have a process issue, at least in terms of how the process was administered," board President Ken Dauber said.

But he said there has been a compliance issue, which he thinks is critical.

"This curriculum was never adopted by the board, as is required by state law. I frankly am not sure whether this curriculum could have been adopted by the board, had there been an adoption process. But the fact that the district is not in compliance with our own board policies and with the statute I think is a critical issue and contributes to my sense of urgency. … The current curriculum has not served our students well. And that's really the fundamental point. … It's not an acceptable situation for us to have been in for all of these years to use a curriculum that is not serving our students, particularly our struggling students.

"This is to me kind of where the rubber meets the road in terms of equity and systemic racism is ensuring that we have curricula that meet the needs of students. I'm disappointed that we have not lived up to that standard, at least in terms of outcomes. And I'm looking forward to a curriculum discussion that really focuses on how to get to a point where we serve students well."

Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza likened the curricula decision to the pandemic, when 100 teachers called her and asked that the schools not be reopened. They did what they were taught by Superintendent Don Austin: "stay in their lane" and defer to the experts. In that case, they listened to the public health experts, who said it was OK to reopen the schools. In hindsight, it turned out to be a good decision, she said.

But now, the experts regarding the ELA curricula are the teachers. In previous curriculum agendas, DiBrienza said her vote aligned with the position taken by a majority of the teachers.

"I think that that was easy for me because they are the experts in that example. They are the ones with our kids and they are the ones that implement it. Certainly the five of us up here aren't.

"And if we're not going to listen to them, who are we listening to? Who is making this decision? Who are the experts here? I think it's really important that when it is a public health decision, we listen to public health and when it is a law we listen to legal, and when it's a curricular pedagogical decision, we listen to the … people that we asked to spend a year serving on a committee and do the work," she said.

"I can tell my colleagues that there is no way that this can be a successful adoption if these guys aren't on board with it. So I don't know exactly why we're moving ahead now. I appreciate the process. I appreciate the timeline that was put on it. It feels like it's not done yet. … Certainly, if we want to adopt a new curriculum it should be a curriculum that the majority of the pilot committee are on board with and are ready to adopt and are ready to get behind. … Next week, unless I hear some convincing argument from you guys or from staff. I'm a no vote on this," she said.

Board member Shounak Dharap said because the 20 teachers didn't vote and their views aren't all known — at least four were said to have abstained due to feeling intimidated — it's not known if the rejection of the curricula is as wide as it appears to be.

Dauber agreed that the abstentions don't mean the committee didn't reach a recommendation. He also noted that senior staff — Danaé Reynolds, lead principal of literacy instruction, and Anne Brown, assistant superintendent of elementary education — support the recommendation for adopting Benchmark.

"It's very clear to me that Benchmark is imperfect. It's very clear to me that the process was imperfect. But that being said, for all the reasons I said before, I think staff's recommendation to move forward now as opposed to delay is reasonable. I understand that people don't agree with it. I understand that … the process might become more perfect if we waited, but I don't think it's unreasonable to the extent that it means there was something so wrong with the process that the board needs to step in and say 'staff, we are ignoring your recommendation,'" Dauber said.

Reynolds expressed dismay regarding the committee's fractious deliberation.

"I was really disheartened to hear that four of our teachers shared that they were made to feel intimidated by their peers or uncomfortable by their peers, and had decided not to make a recommendation as a result. This is something that we are learning from and we'll work together to ensure that something like this doesn't happen in future pilots. … We want our students to feel safe. We want our teachers to feel safe as professionals in all settings," she said.

The May 10 meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. The public can attend the meeting in person at the district's board room, 25 Churchill Ave., or view a livestream at midpenmedia.org.

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Palo Alto school board to consider divisive English Language Arts curriculum on Tuesday

Some teachers say proposed curriculum is 'subpar' while some parent groups say it's time to make education equitable for underserved students

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, May 10, 2022, 9:50 am
Updated: Thu, Jul 21, 2022, 9:39 am

Update: The board voted 4-1, with Jennifer DiBrienza dissenting, at a May 10 meeting to adopt the Benchmark Advance/Adelante Curriculum.

---

On Tuesday evening, the Palo Alto school board will vote on a new English Language Arts curriculum that a number of teachers who were on the district's English Language Arts Pilot and Adoption Committee said should be scrapped.

Tuesday's meeting follows a May 4 special listening session during which the board heard from 22 speakers, most of whom opposed the 41-member committee's recommendation to adopt the program. Of the 25 teachers on the committee, 20 chose not to vote at all, they said.

The district has been looking to close education inequities for underserved students and those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

The committee, which was formed in August, includes parents, teachers, specialists and administrators from all elementary schools and grade levels. Members were tasked with reviewing eight ELA curricula for kindergarten through fifth grade, from which three were piloted for three to four weeks this school year.

The committee recommended the board adopt the Benchmark Advance/Adelante curriculum for reading and the Teachers College units of study for writing. In addition, they recommended a supplemental curriculum, Haggerty Phonetic Awareness, to support students, including those with dyslexia, to become proficient readers. The Haggerty curriculum would complement an existing program, the Orton Gillingham methodology, which focuses on teaching phonetics, according to the committee.

But many teachers who spoke during the May 4 board meeting said the district should pull back and consider additional curricula that might be a better fit for students. Some teachers said the $2.7 million price tag for initial teacher training and supplemental materials for the 2022-2023 school year would be better spent on other programs or bolstering existing programs.

Other committee members, including parents, said although the curriculum isn't perfect, it's time to adopt something rather than to extend the search indefinitely.

Angeline Rodriguez said as a teacher on the ELA adoption committee she didn't vote on the recommendation. She couldn't in good conscience choose between three teacher-centered, one-size-fits-all programs that go against everything she has learned to be effective literacy instruction.

"Having to choose between three subpar literacy programs is not upholding the PAUSD Promise. How can you as a board in good conscience move forward? Knowing that, I'm asking you tonight for more time, more time to evaluate a rigorous and developmentally appropriate curriculum that is student-centered and grounded in best practices. Making such an important decision in haste will only adversely impact the very students that we are here to serve. … We should not rush and move forward with curriculum that 85% of the committee did not endorse," she said.

Christina Nosek, another teacher on the reading adoption committee, also said she didn't vote.

"My charge always as a teacher is to do what's best for the kids I serve. I couldn't look my colleagues in the eye or myself in the mirror at night, (if I) voted for something that was not good for my students, especially the students in my classroom who are serviced by IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) plans. I had to seek out alternate texts and instructional methods outside of the Benchmark curriculum so they would be able to access learning for each lesson. … I fear (the Benchmark curriculum) it's really going to hurt our kids for years to come. Please make the right decision and give us more time," she said.

The teachers also received support from Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association. A survey of its members found that 49.7% of respondents reported low to very low morale this year and 36.4% said it was "just so-so."

One factor that kept coming up is the lack of or ignoring teacher input into school goals, decisions, curriculum and changes in district policies. The teachers who did not vote had many reasons, Baldwin said.

"Those reasons were gathered at the committee meetings (but) were not included in the board packet," she said.

"They were continually told that their charge as the committee was to pick a curriculum. Shouldn't the charge have been to find the best curriculum for students? And if the vast majority of the teachers on the committee did not feel any of the three were good, shouldn't they be able to recommend extending the process another year and pilot more?" she said.

Many teachers have told the Palo Alto Educators Association they will not serve on district committees in the future because they feel their input doesn't matter, she added.

The Community Advisory Committee for Special Education in Palo Alto (CAC), however, strongly supports the proposed curricula, they said in a May 3 statement to the school board.

"It is simply unrealistic to think that we could select and purchase an off-the-shelf curriculum that perfectly meets our needs without some tailoring. But the products available to teachers are structured to take much of the burden out of planning, giving them time to think about how to teach rather than what to teach and enabling them to focus on the needs of individual children," the CAC said.

Kimberly Eng Lee, the Lucille Nixon Elementary School CAC representative, asked the board on May 4 to approve the ELA adoption committee's recommendations.

"Parents depend on a coherent system. Adopt the new standards and aligned material, reduce haphazard instruction. It's the only way for kids across dozens of rooms and grades to get (them help) and equally instruct with uniformity," she said.

School district board members were also of different opinions.

"I've looked over this carefully, and it looks to me like this adoption process followed the board policy and the statute with fidelity so I don't think we have a process issue, at least in terms of how the process was administered," board President Ken Dauber said.

But he said there has been a compliance issue, which he thinks is critical.

"This curriculum was never adopted by the board, as is required by state law. I frankly am not sure whether this curriculum could have been adopted by the board, had there been an adoption process. But the fact that the district is not in compliance with our own board policies and with the statute I think is a critical issue and contributes to my sense of urgency. … The current curriculum has not served our students well. And that's really the fundamental point. … It's not an acceptable situation for us to have been in for all of these years to use a curriculum that is not serving our students, particularly our struggling students.

"This is to me kind of where the rubber meets the road in terms of equity and systemic racism is ensuring that we have curricula that meet the needs of students. I'm disappointed that we have not lived up to that standard, at least in terms of outcomes. And I'm looking forward to a curriculum discussion that really focuses on how to get to a point where we serve students well."

Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza likened the curricula decision to the pandemic, when 100 teachers called her and asked that the schools not be reopened. They did what they were taught by Superintendent Don Austin: "stay in their lane" and defer to the experts. In that case, they listened to the public health experts, who said it was OK to reopen the schools. In hindsight, it turned out to be a good decision, she said.

But now, the experts regarding the ELA curricula are the teachers. In previous curriculum agendas, DiBrienza said her vote aligned with the position taken by a majority of the teachers.

"I think that that was easy for me because they are the experts in that example. They are the ones with our kids and they are the ones that implement it. Certainly the five of us up here aren't.

"And if we're not going to listen to them, who are we listening to? Who is making this decision? Who are the experts here? I think it's really important that when it is a public health decision, we listen to public health and when it is a law we listen to legal, and when it's a curricular pedagogical decision, we listen to the … people that we asked to spend a year serving on a committee and do the work," she said.

"I can tell my colleagues that there is no way that this can be a successful adoption if these guys aren't on board with it. So I don't know exactly why we're moving ahead now. I appreciate the process. I appreciate the timeline that was put on it. It feels like it's not done yet. … Certainly, if we want to adopt a new curriculum it should be a curriculum that the majority of the pilot committee are on board with and are ready to adopt and are ready to get behind. … Next week, unless I hear some convincing argument from you guys or from staff. I'm a no vote on this," she said.

Board member Shounak Dharap said because the 20 teachers didn't vote and their views aren't all known — at least four were said to have abstained due to feeling intimidated — it's not known if the rejection of the curricula is as wide as it appears to be.

Dauber agreed that the abstentions don't mean the committee didn't reach a recommendation. He also noted that senior staff — Danaé Reynolds, lead principal of literacy instruction, and Anne Brown, assistant superintendent of elementary education — support the recommendation for adopting Benchmark.

"It's very clear to me that Benchmark is imperfect. It's very clear to me that the process was imperfect. But that being said, for all the reasons I said before, I think staff's recommendation to move forward now as opposed to delay is reasonable. I understand that people don't agree with it. I understand that … the process might become more perfect if we waited, but I don't think it's unreasonable to the extent that it means there was something so wrong with the process that the board needs to step in and say 'staff, we are ignoring your recommendation,'" Dauber said.

Reynolds expressed dismay regarding the committee's fractious deliberation.

"I was really disheartened to hear that four of our teachers shared that they were made to feel intimidated by their peers or uncomfortable by their peers, and had decided not to make a recommendation as a result. This is something that we are learning from and we'll work together to ensure that something like this doesn't happen in future pilots. … We want our students to feel safe. We want our teachers to feel safe as professionals in all settings," she said.

The May 10 meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. The public can attend the meeting in person at the district's board room, 25 Churchill Ave., or view a livestream at midpenmedia.org.

Comments

Palo Alto Res
Registered user
Downtown North
on May 10, 2022 at 11:40 am
Palo Alto Res, Downtown North
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 11:40 am

How many dyslexic students make up the population of PAUSD students that the PAUSD is devoting such a huge budget of 2.5 million solely to dyslexic learners? Does Kimberly Eng Lee have a child who has dyslexia? Curious what percentage of parents sitting on that committee personally have dyslexia or children who have dyslexia? What was their agenda and motivations? Who picked these parents and how did those particular parents get onto that committee?

I'm all for meeting the needs of the learner. I am not okay with all the budget being hyper-focused into one singular disability group while we squash down the needs of all the other learners out there in PAUSD and dismantle programs and needs of other students.




Marc Vincenti
Registered user
Gunn High School
on May 10, 2022 at 12:21 pm
Marc Vincenti, Gunn High School
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 12:21 pm

The 12th paragraph here packs a real jolt.

Our city's teachers have informed us that, this year, fully half of them have "low to very low morale."

Discouraged teachers in the classroom equals discouraged students.

For all I know, the school board may be feeling discouraged too!—as well as Palo Alto parents. But it is the community's job to look into this problem, think hard about it, and act.

Otherwise we will be adding to the record rates of American youth—as reported from the front page of the NY Times on May 9th—who are now crowding the emergency rooms of our hospitals.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2022 at 12:47 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 12:47 pm

Education is not a one size fits all situation. We cannot dumb down the curriculum for those with faster learning abilities so that the slower learners can keep up. That is not how life works. Every child should be able to reach their full potential but treating them all the same is only going to cause problems for those who are bored with such a slow progress.


panative
Registered user
Midtown
on May 10, 2022 at 3:33 pm
panative, Midtown
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 3:33 pm

I'm a Palo Alto parent and I listened at the board meeting last week. It sounds like these new reading curriculum options would require classes to learn reading in a single group and all at the same speed. I don't think this works for kids below grade level or for kids above grade level. Certainly math would never be taught this way so I don't know why reading should be.


Palo Alto Res
Registered user
Downtown North
on May 10, 2022 at 4:18 pm
Palo Alto Res, Downtown North
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 4:18 pm

Actually math is being taught this way. It is the new way the Dr. Austin has determined PAUSD will be teaching maths. Sounds like they are now including English.
At some point property value will go down as education curriculum at PAUSD gets progressively worse


S. Underwood
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 10, 2022 at 4:40 pm
S. Underwood, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 4:40 pm

Don't worry. Folks will just start doing ELA outside of their PAUSD schools, like they already do in droves for math. That means less to do for the district, so they'll consider it a win-win.

Seriously thought, it takes a LOT for teachers to speak out against what they are being asked to do. All of their incentives argue against it. When that happens, we should take it very seriously.


local gurl
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on May 10, 2022 at 4:48 pm
local gurl, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 4:48 pm

The Palo Alto school district did a terrible job teaching language skills to my mildly learning disabled son. That failure has lifelong consequences. They initially refused to acknowledge that he was having difficulty as early as second grade, and then refused to test him until I forced the issue several years later. Whatever they can do to remedy this mess for future students would be welcomed.


Alice
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 10, 2022 at 5:33 pm
Alice, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 5:33 pm

The district is really clinging to the 4 teachers that wanted to vote but were intimidated. Interesting storyline…I have never met an elementary teacher that I found intimidating, they are usually the exact opposite of intimidating. Do you know what IS intimidating? Being called into the principals office at the bequest of the superintendent to ask why you didn’t vote, and then have that turned into “data”for a board document.


Samuel L
Registered user
Meadow Park
on May 10, 2022 at 7:34 pm
Samuel L, Meadow Park
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 7:34 pm

This highlights the issue with this board. The story quotes Jennifer DiBrienza in the story regarding reopening schools, "They did what they were taught by Superintendent Don Austin: "stay in their lane" and defer to the experts."

Why is the Superintendent teaching the board? Don Austin works FOR the board. Why is a board member letting the Superintendent tell her how to do her job? Is she that weak-minded that she can't speak up for what she believes is right?

Get a backbone Jennifer!


Samuel L
Registered user
Meadow Park
on May 10, 2022 at 7:39 pm
Samuel L, Meadow Park
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 7:39 pm

@Palo Alto Res - Yes, Don Austin needs to dumb down the curriculum so that he is able to understand it himself!

Ken Dauber says that the process wasn't perfect and the material isn't perfect, but let's go ahead anyway and see how it goes. Good thing he's not a pilot, or a doctor...

Dharap says that 20 teachers didn't vote so maybe they DID want to approve it. That's what I call high quality data analysis.


Amy
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 10, 2022 at 8:13 pm
Amy , Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 8:13 pm

Palo Alto Res:
Pausd did a study released in 2020 that found that 26% of kinders were at risk of dyslexia. You can Google “pausd dyslexia study” and find more information.


Forever Name
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2022 at 8:46 pm
Forever Name, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 8:46 pm

Re: Jennifer DiBrienza " listened to the public health experts, who said it was OK to reopen the schools. In hindsight, it turned out to be a good decision, she said."

How intereseting that PAUSD School Board member Jennifer DiBrienza gives herself and the rest of the School Board credit for "listening to the public health experts" and "reopening schools" for in person learning even though teachers wanted to stay closed in Aug 2020. DiBrienza's statement is FALSE. DiBrienza and the ENTIRE School Board UNANIMOUSLY voted in Aug 2020 to keep the secondary schools 7-12th closed based on histrionics of the Teachers Unions!!! The School Board voted to keep secondary 7-12th fully online in Aug 2020 in spite of parents/students voicing they wanted to return in person, who spoke at endless zoom Board Meetings, who created an organization to advocate for 7-12 in person along with Stanford/UCSF doctors, and even a parent/student protest. Board dismissed relevant data!

Now there is clear data that the PA Board's decision, including DiBrienza, to keep 7-12th schools closed for in person learning in Aug 2020 was wrong, destructive, and created life long learning gaps especially for students of color. A travesty!

How can DiBrienza who was part of that Board vote in the fall of 2020 to keep 7-12th schools closed for in person learning for at least SIX months (which turned into EIGHT months!), now claim she ignored teachers and opened schools??? TOTALLY False. Secondary schools were closed for in person learning March 2020 until March 2021! ONE YEAR!!!

NYT, 5/5/2022, by David Leonhardt, Pulitzer Prize Winner
"New research is showing the high costs of long school closures"
Web Link
"Academic researchers have since been studying the subject, and they have come to a consistent conclusion: Remote learning was a failure."."A generational loss." "school closures widened both economic and racial inequality".


ML Kyle
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 11, 2022 at 8:48 am
ML Kyle, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 11, 2022 at 8:48 am

Horseshoe theory strikes again. Ultra left and ultra right both seem to agree that minorities are incapable of achievement. Black and hispanics are not allergic to being held to a high standard and it benefits everyone. Enough of this bigotry of low expectations from these liberal white saviors. Educate our kids.


AP
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 11, 2022 at 5:59 pm
AP, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 11, 2022 at 5:59 pm

Congrats JDB on voting on behalf of our students.
Mr. Dauber while
I whole heartedly disagree with your need to treat education like a Silicon Valley Company at least you are consistent. You also did a great job saving Ms. Ladomirak from the embarrassment of her self created double standard. She loves to follow the rules and be in compliance, except for when she doesn’t. Like suggesting we just adopt Benchmark Workshop since they’re “basically the same” no need for teachers to pilot. If that isn’t a position of privilege and arrogance I don’t know what is.
Congratulations to the high school reps that presented a well thought out perspective without being “emotional”.
Ms. Ladomirak tried to “teach” them that differentiation is not a curriculum thing, but a how you teach reading thing. She clearly doesn’t understand what Direct Instruction is, it doesn’t build in differentiation by it’s very design. She is not an educator and she should not be speaking as if she is.
Two groups spoke last night parents upset about an after school care decision Don Austin made, and teachers on a pilot committee. There was a clear and common theme.
This administration will do what he wants and how he wants. He is not interested in parents or teachers. But no one is surprised by this outcome. The board got exactly who they wanted. He was known in Palos Verdes for this leadership style.


Anony Mouse
Registered user
Community Center
on May 11, 2022 at 6:20 pm
Anony Mouse, Community Center
Registered user
on May 11, 2022 at 6:20 pm

So true, @AP. This leadership style was well known to anyone doing a cursory look at Austin's history. We parents are the ones who can influence this the most. I urge you all to reach out to Board members and tell them what you think. If you think a leader with plummeting morale in his midst, a bullying style who is only interested in "good news" is a problem, the Board needs to know your opinion. If any of you have seen the video of his unguarded comments to that for-profit childcare provider where he savaged PACCC, and mocked their work; you should shudder because this is the way he talks in private about us parents, teachers and who knows, maybe even students. We can do better.


Roy M
Registered user
Downtown North
on May 12, 2022 at 9:38 am
Roy M, Downtown North
Registered user
on May 12, 2022 at 9:38 am

Sorry, but what was the result of the discussion at the School Board meeting? @AP references it, but I can't understand the comments without the context since I wasn't there. I was hoping that there would be a follow-up story reporting on the meeting.

It seems that since Elena left, Palo Alto Online doesn't regularly report on school board meetings. I miss that since I am interested, but I don't have the time or patience to sit through the meetings.


Anony Mouse
Registered user
Esther Clark Park
on Jul 28, 2022 at 10:44 pm
Anony Mouse, Esther Clark Park
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2022 at 10:44 pm

Well, @Roy M, it's a little complicated. They voted to adopt the curriculum that Mr.Don and his administration were pushing - although one wonders if the decision was pre-ordained. Teachers made quite a few substantive comments about their misgivings with the adopted curriculum. They were summarily dismissed without adressing the substance of the comments. Mr.Don and his team put up some slides showing how everything will be amazing. Some of the trustees said some things- but Ms. Ladomirak's comments were particularly hectoring. All in all it was a demonstration of how a strong bureaucrat like Mr. Don can ram through whatever he wants. The trustees have bought the whole narrative. If this adoption is "successful" then it all redounds to the glory of Mr. Don. If the adoption is not "successful" then he has a ready excuse. All those pesky women teachers who complained. Either way, mr. don wins. Finally, in an incredibly rare moment (like this never happens) the trustees actually were not unanimous! Democracy! Trustee Jennifer voted against.


S. Underwood
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2022 at 6:28 am
S. Underwood, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jul 29, 2022 at 6:28 am

"Many teachers have told the Palo Alto Educators Association they will not serve on district committees in the future because they feel their input doesn't matter, [T Baldwin] said." Wow.

Imagine how parents feel, because teachers (collectively) have way more sway than individual parents. If teachers are ignored by this district management and leadership, just imagine the parents' experience.


Anony Mouse
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jul 29, 2022 at 2:23 pm
Anony Mouse, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jul 29, 2022 at 2:23 pm

Quite right, @underwood. Parents and teachers have been put at arms length by this administration. This article is prime evidence that teachers do not hold the power you think they do. Mr.Don and his team were accidently contemptuous toward teachers at times in this process- they are usually more careful. Parents really hold all the cards here through the democratic process. Some of out trustees are more closed off than others. Many don't want to hear from us voters at all, except at election time. Evidence of that is the trustee debate over Zoom commenting. It's very clear that several trustees are walking a tightrope of wanting to end Zoom participation forever, while appearing to support it. This is an institution that needs to redouble its efforts toward positive, honest relationships with stakeholders - parents, voters, teachers and many more. We are all being "managed" using the crude tools of the stiff arm, the relentless positive spin, and the labelling of disagreement as something to be squelched, rather than engaging on the merits. We can do better.


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