News

Where the Palo Alto school board candidates stand on innovation

A look at ways the district can better educate students

Eighth graders work on an exercise in their Spanish 1B class at Ellen Fletcher Middle School in Palo Alto on Nov. 17, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In preparation for the Palo Alto Weekly's coverage of the campaigns for Palo Alto Unified Board of Education, we solicited questions from our readers that speak to their topmost concerns about the school district.

From their many excellent responses, we crafted a short questionnaire for the candidates to complete. In response, they discussed their primary concerns and experience in education. They also offer their opinions on student achievement, COVID-19 learning loss, diversity and inclusion, the superintendent and innovations.

The candidates' answers on all these topics will be published as separate articles, one per day, through Sept. 26. Here's what they had to say to the following question: What are innovations you would like to see in Palo Alto Unified as it considers how best to educate students for decades to come?

Shounak Dharap

Shounak Dharap. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

This will not be the last time we are faced with a crisis that threatens to shut down our schools. Whether it is another pandemic, wildfire smoke or rising temperatures, we must have contingency plans in place for hybrid or remote learning. We would do well to continue building on the technical infrastructure we put into place in 2020 and ensure that we are able to seamlessly switch to synchronous remote learning at the touch of a button. This means providing teachers with sufficient technology and training, ensuring that every student has access to a laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot, and building, and adapting current curricula to work over a remote model.

We should also be re-assessing our physical infrastructure to prepare for the contingencies discussed above. Some of these plans have already been discussed in property committee meetings and during board meetings, but they include: modular furniture to allow social distancing and/or transparent barriers in classrooms without disrupting the flow of the teaching and learning; retrofitting filtration and ventilations systems (we retrofitted in 2020 prior to reopening, but we should continue assessing as standards and technology change); and installing air conditioning in all classrooms. (On the last point, I chaired the Bond Oversight Committee when we created the plan to install AC in all classrooms. Phase 1 of the construction (9 different school sites) is under way this fall.)

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

Finally, I support scaling up the current "agile team" working groups of teachers, administrators, and parents to brainstorm new innovative solutions for teaching and learning that can be brought to the board for consideration. This will ensure that ideas coming to the board are formed with real-world context and that various stakeholder perspectives are included in their design.

Shana Segal

Shana Segal. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The "four Cs" of 21st century learning are critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. PAUSD can engage and support students' growth with instructional innovations including:

• Interdisciplinary learning: Connecting ideas and concepts across disciplines engages students, develops critical thinking skills, and fosters deeper learning. For example, when teaching American Literature, I aligned curriculum with US History teachers so students read The Grapes of Wrath while learning about The Great Depression. Interdisciplinary learning is done at Ohlone, JLS Connections, Paly's TEAM and Social Justice Pathway and Gunn's SLC; however, it could be offered more broadly.

• Makerspace: Similar to the Barron Park Maker Studio, dedicated hands-on maker spaces at elementary schools develop creativity and collaboration via STEAM Learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math).

• Mastery Based Learning: Requiring students to demonstrate knowledge and skills before progressing to the next level can prevent education gaps, so fewer students slip through the cracks. It necessitates effective differentiated instruction.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

• Civic engagement projects: When students identify, examine, and collaborate to develop solutions for problems in their own community, there is engagement and growth.

• Online tools: Asynchronous online technology tools, such as Khan Academy, can help differentiated learning.

• Responsive Teaching: Educators are responsive to and build upon all children's abilities, strengths, and interests to ensure engagement, motivation, support, and learning. Teachers' use of the Responsive Classroom approach is associated with greater student achievement in math and reading, regardless of socioeconomic background. It is as important for educators to know the children they teach — individually, culturally and developmentally — as the content they teach.

• Electives: Boost programs that engage and connect students in diverse ways. Ensure funding for collaborative programs such as student clubs, journalism, music, theater, stage tech and studio arts, in addition to traditionally competitive programs like athletics, robotics, debate and student government.

Ingrid Campos. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Ingrid Campos

Most parents need some amount and form of childcare for little ones. Wouldn't it be grand if the school district implemented child care at all the elementary schools campuses? When my kids were little, 1st & 2nd grades, they had an afterschool program that took in as many kids as they could hold, had them play at the same playground they used at lunch, had snacks, played with toys, read books, did art, played games and were kept safe for working parents. The program offered financial aid to parents who needed financial help and the children were happy and cared for while parents had a school community resource.

As the children get older, middle school age, this afterschool care could transition to some physical activity and tutoring to get homework done; to understand school work and to be better students requires effort in the right direction. An emotionally and academically engaged student is a better student all around because they have a strong sense of self.

Nicole Chiu-Wang

Nicole Chiu-Wang. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

PAUSD's schools have created and incubated amazing learning initiatives — from Ohlone to JLS Connections to our dual language immersion programs at Ohlone and Escondido to our high school pathways such as BEAM at Gunn and ECD at Paly. There is high demand for these programs and, although they may not be the right choice for all students, we know they are very good for many students. This is an equity issue and these programs should be expanded districtwide so that more students may benefit from them. These programs were one of the main

reasons we chose PAUSD for our children and I know many families feel the same.

In addition, we should continue to innovate and incubate new learning initiatives. For example, we should work together to expand to universal preschool and we are fortunate to have PreSchool Family from which to learn best practices. Similarly, we can look to Career Pathways to help us innovate age-appropriate ways to encourage our students to own their futures and find their passion. To increase the number of students that have access to bilingual and world language programs, we should consider other ways to implement world language education so that all students have exposure to a second language starting in kindergarten or find a way to expand our highly impacted bilingual immersion programs or (ideally) both.

And importantly, we should take a whole student approach to measuring progress. Test scores should not be the sole determiner of academic achievement and we should work with our teachers and staff to come up with a multi-faceted approach to grading focused on looking at the whole student.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Your support is vital to us continuing to bring you education news. Become a member today.

Where the Palo Alto school board candidates stand on innovation

A look at ways the district can better educate students

by Palo Alto Weekly staff / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 27, 2022, 9:39 pm

In preparation for the Palo Alto Weekly's coverage of the campaigns for Palo Alto Unified Board of Education, we solicited questions from our readers that speak to their topmost concerns about the school district.

From their many excellent responses, we crafted a short questionnaire for the candidates to complete. In response, they discussed their primary concerns and experience in education. They also offer their opinions on student achievement, COVID-19 learning loss, diversity and inclusion, the superintendent and innovations.

The candidates' answers on all these topics will be published as separate articles, one per day, through Sept. 26. Here's what they had to say to the following question: What are innovations you would like to see in Palo Alto Unified as it considers how best to educate students for decades to come?

Shounak Dharap

This will not be the last time we are faced with a crisis that threatens to shut down our schools. Whether it is another pandemic, wildfire smoke or rising temperatures, we must have contingency plans in place for hybrid or remote learning. We would do well to continue building on the technical infrastructure we put into place in 2020 and ensure that we are able to seamlessly switch to synchronous remote learning at the touch of a button. This means providing teachers with sufficient technology and training, ensuring that every student has access to a laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot, and building, and adapting current curricula to work over a remote model.

We should also be re-assessing our physical infrastructure to prepare for the contingencies discussed above. Some of these plans have already been discussed in property committee meetings and during board meetings, but they include: modular furniture to allow social distancing and/or transparent barriers in classrooms without disrupting the flow of the teaching and learning; retrofitting filtration and ventilations systems (we retrofitted in 2020 prior to reopening, but we should continue assessing as standards and technology change); and installing air conditioning in all classrooms. (On the last point, I chaired the Bond Oversight Committee when we created the plan to install AC in all classrooms. Phase 1 of the construction (9 different school sites) is under way this fall.)

Finally, I support scaling up the current "agile team" working groups of teachers, administrators, and parents to brainstorm new innovative solutions for teaching and learning that can be brought to the board for consideration. This will ensure that ideas coming to the board are formed with real-world context and that various stakeholder perspectives are included in their design.

Shana Segal

The "four Cs" of 21st century learning are critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. PAUSD can engage and support students' growth with instructional innovations including:

• Interdisciplinary learning: Connecting ideas and concepts across disciplines engages students, develops critical thinking skills, and fosters deeper learning. For example, when teaching American Literature, I aligned curriculum with US History teachers so students read The Grapes of Wrath while learning about The Great Depression. Interdisciplinary learning is done at Ohlone, JLS Connections, Paly's TEAM and Social Justice Pathway and Gunn's SLC; however, it could be offered more broadly.

• Makerspace: Similar to the Barron Park Maker Studio, dedicated hands-on maker spaces at elementary schools develop creativity and collaboration via STEAM Learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math).

• Mastery Based Learning: Requiring students to demonstrate knowledge and skills before progressing to the next level can prevent education gaps, so fewer students slip through the cracks. It necessitates effective differentiated instruction.

• Civic engagement projects: When students identify, examine, and collaborate to develop solutions for problems in their own community, there is engagement and growth.

• Online tools: Asynchronous online technology tools, such as Khan Academy, can help differentiated learning.

• Responsive Teaching: Educators are responsive to and build upon all children's abilities, strengths, and interests to ensure engagement, motivation, support, and learning. Teachers' use of the Responsive Classroom approach is associated with greater student achievement in math and reading, regardless of socioeconomic background. It is as important for educators to know the children they teach — individually, culturally and developmentally — as the content they teach.

• Electives: Boost programs that engage and connect students in diverse ways. Ensure funding for collaborative programs such as student clubs, journalism, music, theater, stage tech and studio arts, in addition to traditionally competitive programs like athletics, robotics, debate and student government.

Ingrid Campos

Most parents need some amount and form of childcare for little ones. Wouldn't it be grand if the school district implemented child care at all the elementary schools campuses? When my kids were little, 1st & 2nd grades, they had an afterschool program that took in as many kids as they could hold, had them play at the same playground they used at lunch, had snacks, played with toys, read books, did art, played games and were kept safe for working parents. The program offered financial aid to parents who needed financial help and the children were happy and cared for while parents had a school community resource.

As the children get older, middle school age, this afterschool care could transition to some physical activity and tutoring to get homework done; to understand school work and to be better students requires effort in the right direction. An emotionally and academically engaged student is a better student all around because they have a strong sense of self.

Nicole Chiu-Wang

PAUSD's schools have created and incubated amazing learning initiatives — from Ohlone to JLS Connections to our dual language immersion programs at Ohlone and Escondido to our high school pathways such as BEAM at Gunn and ECD at Paly. There is high demand for these programs and, although they may not be the right choice for all students, we know they are very good for many students. This is an equity issue and these programs should be expanded districtwide so that more students may benefit from them. These programs were one of the main

reasons we chose PAUSD for our children and I know many families feel the same.

In addition, we should continue to innovate and incubate new learning initiatives. For example, we should work together to expand to universal preschool and we are fortunate to have PreSchool Family from which to learn best practices. Similarly, we can look to Career Pathways to help us innovate age-appropriate ways to encourage our students to own their futures and find their passion. To increase the number of students that have access to bilingual and world language programs, we should consider other ways to implement world language education so that all students have exposure to a second language starting in kindergarten or find a way to expand our highly impacted bilingual immersion programs or (ideally) both.

And importantly, we should take a whole student approach to measuring progress. Test scores should not be the sole determiner of academic achievement and we should work with our teachers and staff to come up with a multi-faceted approach to grading focused on looking at the whole student.

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2022 at 9:21 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2022 at 9:21 am

Over the years, parents have put forward many innovative ideas around the hot topics about PAUSD at the time.

FLES (foreign language in elementary school) was discussed in passing at the time of the discussions about Mandarin Immersion. We were told that PAUSD would look into it. Absolutely nothing happened. Now we have two immersion programs for lucky lottery winners and zilch for the rest. It would have been innovative to bring some type of foreign language programs into the elementary schools since these are the best ages to start learning a new language. But no, the innovative idea was ignored.

Likewise, when moving the end of the semester to December rather than January as previously done, it was suggested by many to start becoming leaders rather than sheep and instituting a quarter system rather than a semester system. This would have been an innovative way to keep school starting after Labor Day an aligned ourselves with the rest of the Northern Hemisphere in school year start times which is extremely useful to those with international families as well as those who are unable to take annual leave until after the end of June. There were a lot of ideas put forward but PAUSD ignored them and were pressured by high school parents who were worried that they might have to put pressure on their kids to study through winter break, regardless of the fact that finals would be right in the middle of the holiday season with many holiday celebrations, events, parties and family traditions coming in the middle of what is now finals season.

Innovation can come from the community in very well thought through ideas which deserve consideration, but the board tends to ignore them. I am pleased to see that the one board member running sees the Covid lockdowns as a learning lesson for preparedness. This is good in my opinion.

But I see very little innovation from PAUSD over the years and I would like to see new board member willing to lead not follow like sheep.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2022 at 1:17 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2022 at 1:17 pm

So far, the gaps in Ms. Chiu-Wang's knowledge about PAUSD appear greater than her knowledge. [Portion removed.] I would like to see her at work as a volunteer in our district--either in the PTAs or on citizen-advisory committees in order to understand how she applies her stated values in decision-making. I want to understand how she makes choices when she is confronted with facts that may not conform with her world view [portion removed.] Public education experience and deep understanding of local needs and constraints matter. Public education is a very different arena from the business world. Business experience applies less than one might think. I'd rather candidates did not do this foundational learning while serving on the Board of Education and making decisions that affect our children. Please get involved as a volunteer and show us your stuff, Ms. Chiu-Wang. If you still want to run after that, you seem like you might be someone I'd consider... after you have worked to gain experience and knowledge of our district. [Portion removed.]


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.