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Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 2, 2011

Palo Alto to stick with new school calendar

Despite parent protests, school board indicates it will press ahead with 2012-13 change

by Chris Kenrick

The Palo Alto school board Tuesday (Nov. 29) indicated it will press ahead with a reformed academic calendar for 2012-13, despite emotional pleas from parents who packed the room and begged members to reconsider.

"I don't want to rehash every argument and discussion," board member Barbara Klausner said.

"It was a difficult decision, but the decision was made. There is no calendar that will satisfy all constituents."

Tuesday's discussion came as Superintendent Kevin Skelly unveiled a series of proposed "mitigations" to address concerns about the calendar change, which was approved by a 3-2 board vote in May. Those concerns include uncomfortably hot classrooms when students begin the school year earlier in August, and added stress for some student musicians, dancers and high school seniors who now will face first-semester final exams in December on top of pre-holiday performances and college applications.

The parents, organized under the name Time to Thrive Palo Alto, called Skelly's proposed mitigations wholly inadequate to meet their concerns. Three of the 20 who spoke even suggested the new calendar could lead students to "do the unthinkable," a reference to a string of Palo Alto teen suicides in 2009 and 2010.

"There are lives on the line here," parent Phil Mahoney said.

Board members also said they found Skelly's proposed mitigations wanting, but rather than moving to "freeze the (current) calendar," as the parents had hoped, a majority asked Skelly to refine and improve his proposals to give the new calendar a try.

Under the reformed calendar, the 2012-13 academic year will run from Aug. 16 to May 30, with first-semester finals ending Dec. 21 and a similar structure the following year. The current academic year, by contrast, began Aug. 23 and runs to June 7, with first-semester finals Jan. 17-19.

Skelly said he will return to the board in March with more specific proposals to address calendar concerns, including guidance from students themselves.

Board Vice President Camille Townsend, who opposed the calendar change in May, said the board needs to develop "guiding principles" for the reform.

"Is it to reduce stress? To have more family time? Having principles has served us well in the budget discussion and would serve well in the calendar change discussions."

Klausner characterized the reform as "part of a structure than can be built out in a number of ways," and should dovetail with other district efforts to analyze homework policies and create more supportive school environments.

She noted that 57 out of the 66 public high schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties already have moved to pre-break finals.

Board President Melissa Baten Caswell asked Skelly to return with mitigations that "acknowledge the issues and have some responses that will actually help."

Citing a long history of calendar debates in her six years on the school board, member Barb Mitchell said the community split on the issue is reflected in the 3-2 split on the board.

"It's clear at this point that this community is split," said Mitchell, who consistently has supported the calendar reform.

"Some believe this calendar is going to help, and some believe it's going to make things worse."

Mitchell said she has spoken with more than 60 school board members, parents and teachers from school districts who already have shifted their calendars to pre-break finals.

"I think we have more to learn from those folks," she said.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 9:30 am

I doubt this issue is going away. I suspect it should and will be one of the election issues for the next BoE elections.

This will be an extremely interesting situation for present board members seeking reelection.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2011 at 9:30 am

The parents who are advocating against pre-break finals have crossed the line by saying that having pre-break finals could cause teen suicides. This statement exhibits a breathtaking loss of perspective. There is not a shred of evidence anywhere on this earth that a calendar that has finals before break -- which the majority of districts in this area utilize -- increases student anxiety or stress. On the contrary, all the evidence suggests the opposite.

No calendar is perfect. But on balance this system is likely to reduce student stress. And under no circumstances would it lead to increased suicides and quite frankly that is a ridiculous and cheap effort to capitalize on tragedy in the service of what increasingly looks to me like special pleading. I don't doubt that some parents have good motives and that Mahoney does not speak for all of them. But I have heard more than enough about French vacations and sports tournaments and early decision applications to Yale. It's fine to state your view. All this stomping out of meetings, booing, and door-slamming make you look like petulant children not reasonable adults differing on a question of policy. If you are going to make ridiculous statements that try to leverage the tragic deaths of our kids so that your vacation plans are not disrupted you have crossed the line from reasonable discourse into hysteria.

I commend Mitchell, Tom and Klausner for staying the course despite these antics. All experience of other districts suggests that after a year or two of the new calendar the fear of change will dissipate and people will adjust.

Posted by Well done, Board, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 30, 2011 at 9:45 am

Thank you Ms. Dauber.

This entire discussion and decision the Board made is an attempt to help teens have a real rest over winter break. Not a "pseudo-break" with finals and projects looming.

I applaud the Board for not drawing this out any further. At some point, folks, you have to accept the vote of your representatives, else you become tyrants or bullies. If there had been truly new information, ok..understandable, ..but this was nothing new.

Posted by fitz, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2011 at 9:57 am

Nearly a year ago, Dr. Skelly on December 8, 2010, said the following in a Palo Alto Patch article on the school calendar issue by Jennifer van der Kleut:"People are essentially 'dug in' in terms of how they feel about this, and no amount of additional discussion is really going to change their minds. My strong preference would be to approve a rollover calendar for the next two years, and let staff move on with other important things we need to do." What happened to this idea of delaying implementation? Why does Dr. Skelly himself have to "dig in" when there is such opposition to his "new" plan to simply move forward, ignoring profound community displeasure? What exactly does he expect to gain from this calendar change? He has not put forth any evidence that there is an attainable goal worth addressing, failing to adequately measure "stress" to any degree. No scientific or anecdotal measurements accompany his rather embarrassing report to the board that contained references to spray bottles and fans for August heat. Did he hear the Board's response last night? It is a shame that Dr. Skelly has ignored the very values that are repeatedly being demonstrated to him as being important to the community. He decides that in his view, it is a good idea, and, without any evidence to back up his views, decries all further discussion as moot. He has made up his mind so must we all. I am quite taken aback by this style of leadership. Besides dismissive body language which must be seen to be believed, Dr. Skelly fails to acknowledge that he may be wrong. It takes a big person to admit a mistake. Throwing up the Board protocols on an overhead is not likely to engender much good will when his report is scant and not the kind of thing the community expected when he was hired. By any professional measure of a superintendent, it is an epic failure. Also, when will Dr. Skelly (and some Board members, particularly B. Klausner) stop comparing Palo Alto's situation to other communities? For Dr. Skelly to cite other schools in the area as having this calendar is beyond me. Palo Alto is unique, not to be the subject of simple comparisons. To wit, we are a Basic Aid District, one of only 87 in the State. Does he want PAUSD to join the other 1,000 and revert to ADA funding because that's what they do? Finally, Dr. Milliken's slides were erroneous and contained data that were entirely misleading and downright false. Saying that Palo Alto teachers will simply make this work because they are committed to students' well-being cannot be the justification for a flawed policy that is so far out of alignment with the community wishes that this administration's continued ability to lead for the remainder of Dr. Skelly's tenure is now called into question and severely compromised. Recalling Dr. Skelly would be too dramatic, costly, and unnecessary. But, it would be the right thing to do if he continues to ignore students like Alex Carter, sitting next to him, who was far more articulate than Dr. Skelly in stating the obvious. By the way, a friend of mine who is a teacher was watching the board meeting while writing letters of recommendation that were due on December 1st. She wrote five letters last night, with an average of 13 schools for each student, mailing 65+ letters this morning...but of course, nobody writes letters or has deadlines on December 1st. Wake up.

Posted by Parent of graduates, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:21 am

I applaud the decision to move on to more pressing issues. As the parent of PAUSD graduates I have told my kids about this debate. Both have replied with an incredulous look and a statement such as, "Of course it is better to get finals over with before vacation, would anyone suggest taking spring finals in September so that students can worry about them all summer?" and "The only difference between vacation in June and vacation in August is that June is cheaper..."

The school district is doing a fabulous job. I endorse the new calendar.

Posted by fact checking, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:45 am

Not sure what Barb Klausner was talking about: "57 out of the 66 public high schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties already have moved to pre-break finals".

A later August start was what people seemed to be asking for last night (not to overturn December finals) so the relevant data point to focus on is school district start dates.

There are 11 public high schools districts in those two counties. 8 districts start early in August, 3 don't. Two which started earlier have already moved back to a later start. Ms. Mitchell did not share with the board last night the reasons the early start did not work for those districts.

Ms. Klausner's cherry picking which school districts to compare ourselves to is down to a fine art. Earlier that night when talking about math, she applauded attempts to look to PiE Benchmark districts like Edina, Scarsdale, etc. None start early in August or have pre-break finals for that matter.

When it comes to high test scores, she looks at Saratoga, Monte Vista, Lowell etc. None in that group start early in August either.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:51 am

For those who didn't attend or watch the meeting last night: one parent brought up a chart. In one column were folks who would benefit from calendar change--some unspecified number of high school students who would prefer not to have finals after break. In the second column were listed the many many groups of people who will be hurt by the change. The facts were painfully clear; vastly more people will lose from this than will win, yet board members continued to propogate the myth that the community is evenly split. Not one person spoke personally in favor of the change (one person did say she did have a neighbor in favor of it), yet yeah, sure, the community is evenly split. I don't think so.

I'd also point out that the discussions last night revealed clearly that the process that led to this calendar had severe flaws--it didn't have goals, it didn't have an understanding of what we want a calendar to do, it didn't have guiding values, it didn't have good data (the surveys that bounced around all agree were not statistically valid to show anything), it didn't consider options beyond the traditional two semesters with finals in the middle--I could go on. Point is, everyone agreed the process was bad. Yet board members still said, "I don't see how we could have gotten a better calendar, so this one will stand." So much last night just didn't make sense.

But hey, don't worry about, give the kids water balloons, and all will be well...(oh, wait a minute, we suspend high school kids who throw water balloons....but that's OK, just trust the district that comes up with these irrelevant "mitigations" to come back with real fixes in March, when there will be no consequences for failure to do anything, and all will be well)

Posted by Parent whose been there, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:52 am

I'm happy that the PA School Board upheld their original decision. My only concern is that it is only for 1 school year and not 3. You need this amount of time to really see how it works. The first year is a transition year, the second is where you start feeling comfortable and the third is when it becomes routine and you wonder why it wasn't done before.

Way to go PA School Board. I applaud you....

Posted by Present at the mtg, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:55 am

Thought it was interesting that Dr. Skelly said that he wished they had more time than the November deadline to focus on the deliverable. Now, apply that to our students. I'm sure the students will be wishing the same thing as they crowd out holiday and family time to get all of these things done.

Amazing to see this firsthand for my first time. All of those proposals, such as help with college apps, should be done regardless of the program. Those were not relevant. That kind of presentation would never stand up in a business context.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:57 am

..... gee and why are people so surprised that private school applications are up?

No matter your view on the calendar, Dr. Skelly's answers to warm classrooms was condescending, unhelpful, and unprofessional. No matter what the calendar, there will be hot days, and a lot of classrooms are boiling. water balloons. Give me a break. Last night was the first I'd heard that Duveneck is putting a second story with NO AIR CONDITIONING..... and the private school applications soar.

Posted by Parent at Walter Hays, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:09 am

Though I don't agree with saying one calendar or another is a source of teen suicide and blood will be on the board's hands, I do believe this board has not done their due diligence, has made a hasty decision under pressure from emotional parents seeking a change to the current post break finals calendar, and is forcing itself to spend time on changes that are not necessary at this time.

The board should be focused on solving budget issues, and working on concerns like mitigating heat in the classrooms regardless of the calendar.

This board has voted to approve a change that they have no clear plan in place to support and clearly stated last night they do not have the resources to address appropriately. There is no plan for how to evaluate the new calendar's success. So I ask you, where will we be in another 2 years? Sitting in the same seats, again with no data is where!

Posted by Mom of 3, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

Completely agree with Michele Dauber's post that the opposers have completely lost their minds and to threaten suicides is irrational.

Castilleja starts only a week later. If opposers want to attend private schools so they can start later, go ahead.

Thank you to the BoE and Skelly for bravely making this positive decision for our high schools.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by who?, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:16 am

If they want a real new plan, they need to appropriate the necessary funds there to support the district and also they should negotiate the enforcing power with the union, that is the way to truly get a realistic plan before themselves from all parties.

Posted by Teacher Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:18 am

I'm thrilled the school board has finally stood their ground. Bravo!

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:19 am

I have mixed views about pre and post break finals, but one thing is very clear. As a District, our administration really cares about the high school students - especially those who produce the impressive AP, SAT and college admission stats. Most decisions will reflect their wish to continue that "success" (starting later might affect AP scores...)

Just as our high schools are mainly in the business of building college resumes, our middle and elementary schools are mainly for preparing kids to do well in high school.

Posted by curious, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:20 am


Cite the evidence you so strongly believe in. Name the author, journal and edition of any refereed academic paper that supports your view. Or, apologize for wasting our time with your unsubstantiated diatribes.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

The board showed an enormous amount of compassion to Dr. Skelly last night by granting an extension on the report he submitted, which was truly an embarrassment. One would hope that struggling students would be granted the same extensions on homework or projects.

I do take exception though with Dr. Skelly's statement that all school boards struggle with the calendar issue. I think it's only in California where we choose to create these problems for ourselves, by going against global business cycles, national and state sports calendars, arts performance schedules (often tied to religious calendars), and good ol' mother nature's weather.

If the board had approved a roll-over calendar with the same action items, they still would have parents holding them accountable. These issues, homework/projects and college apps, are common to both calendars... but they are exacerbated with the new calendar. The board has said as much which is what prompted the action items in the first place.

In fact, students have said repeatedly they don't study for finals over winter break... the student reps reaffirmed that last night. They have said repeatedly that homework and projects are the biggest worries... and, for seniors, add to that college apps. Pierre, Paly rep last year, stated that projects were THE biggest cause of stress for him.... and we're in the midst of a fad to move to MORE projects. These are issues that have existed for years and are now much harder to solve with the new calendar.

However, rather than address the core issues we already had with the roll-over calendar, the board chose an early start calendar that creates a new problem for K-8 students. How wise is that? The children with the littlest voices in the matter, who outnumber high school students by more than 2 to 1, are now swept into the problem.

After hearing that they don't have the resources to really solve these issues, I have little confidence that these (now much harder problems) will be any better under the new calendar.

Posted by time to move on, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

Good job to the majority of the school board. This issue has been studied and discussed to death. It is time to give it a two year trial run. Of the 57 of 66 public schools with pre-break finals, it sounds like 3 (or 5%) are potentially reconsidering....ok so in two years we can reconsider. The arguments against a new calendar sound so much like "we have always done things this way, and therefore it would be terrible to try something new." I would hope the community would now try to make the new calendar work (and not keep trying for "do it my way").

Posted by Stanford mother, a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:31 am

I'd like to point out how small the difference of ONE WEEK is as far as "boiling hot classrooms" is concerned. Seriously, this is Palo Alto, where the average high temperature all summer long is below 80 degrees. SOMETIMES it gets up into the 90s and it is uncomfortably warm inside. Sometimes it is mild and in the 70s. For those of us who live in un-air-conditioned homes, this is a non-issue. Palo Alto residents in general appear to be a bit removed from the reality of some of us who are less privileged than they. The chance that it will be hot for that one extra week that school starts earlier does not seem like a very strong argument for keeping the old calendar.

And to Paly Parent, just because there are several groups for whom the change is negative and only one "unspecified number of students" for whom it is a positive change does not mean there are more people overall for whom the change is negative. For an argument like that to hold any weight, an "unspecified number of students" is not going to fly.

Posted by Fellow parent, a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:33 am

I work in Palo Alto (so I've heard about this issue) but I live in West San Jose/Cupertino where my child is currently a senior at Lynbrook High, another high school of similar caliber and rigor like Paly and Gunn. His school year begins in late August, finals are before Christmas break and school ends in early June. He is applying for colleges now including early decision and early action. He volunteers and also plays a club sport in the fall. For the past four years, it has not been a problem that finals are before Christmas, and in fact, it is much better. I really believe that having some down time with family and resting is an important need for students especially those attending rigorous high schools like Palo Alto's. I can't imagine that he would be worrying about finals throughout the holiday break. I think that the biggest issue right now is that people are so resistant to change. Why not think about the positive aspects of such a change? Once you get used to the new calendar, you might actually like it more than you think. Let the winter break truly be a break! Just my two cents.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:34 am

BTW - According to Pierre, Paly rep last year, all of his AP classes finished their material 1 month OR MORE in advance of their AP exams. I think the current calendar already has enough time built into it for AP students.

Posted by Los Altos Mom, a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:39 am

Our kids attended Palo Alto schools for many years before we moved to Los Altos. While I was not thrilled with making this change of school calendar (LAHS has the early start and finals before the holidays), we adjusted just fine. We take our Tahoe vacation in July instead of August and we are all thrilled to have finals over before the holidays. I am amazed that this issue has caused such drama and anger in Palo Alto. I, too, applaud the board for sticking with the decision. This will most likely be a non-issue in a few years.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:50 am

re "unspecified number": I guess I wasn't clear--by looking in this chart, you could easily put numbers on the folks who wouldn't benefit by the change. There's a theoretical maximum number who could benefit (high school students), subtract all the groups that definitely don't, and you can zero in on the fact that the "unspecified number" we're in a twist about helping is quite small. An even better analysis would be to look at are these the kids that need stress reduction the most, or not. But in spite of the time put in, no one has ever bothered to do any of that.

By absolutely no measure was this a fact-based decision. And that's appalling.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:52 am

oh, on "one week" of weather (even though this is an argument I don't care much about, I would like to keep the facts straight); we're talking about a 12 day shift here, not a one-week shift. Again, the district throws data around with utter disregard to its validity. Shouldn't Palo Alto's process be better than Fox News?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:59 am

Michelle and others

I respect your opinion and yes someone was out of line last night mentioning suicides, but that was one parent, not all of us.

I think that moving finals before winter break is one issue and yes giving it a try is possible.

But what you are not doing is listening to the questions that have not been answered by Skelly and the board.

How are staff going to implement this calendar change in real terms? How are students to get through all the material including homework in less school days and more importantly a lot less homework days? How are school sports going to be affected? How are choir, music and drama performances going to be affected? Are we going to see the end of some of the performing arts traditions such as the Madrigals Banquets? How are AP exams and spring finals going to be affected?
Also, are we going to see absenteeism spike - particularly in elementary schools, during August and December as families decide to take time off school for travel?

This is not just a case of summer vacations being spoiled, but in real terms is a case of interactions with extended family for many of us. This is not a case of boiling hot classrooms (which we will get regardless of the start of the school year), but the mockery of dealing with it in the manner which has been suggested. This is not about dragging up a subject which has already been voted on, but keeping those who make the decisions that affect us all accountable for getting satisfactory answers to the questions they themselves raised.

For the board to state that they have no plan to assess whether this pilot works is ludicrous. At the very least they should know what they are looking for to judge success or failure. At present we can be looking at this again in two years' time and have nothing other than anecdotes to go by.

This may very well be a done deal, but in all honesty you must acknowledge that there are many questions which have not been answered satisfactorily.

Posted by who?, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Skelly's hands are tied. There is this huge limitation as what he can do or suggest to do.

Posted by another mom, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Dear Stanford Mother,

Wait until you get to Jordan - it's an oven.

Posted by Appalled, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 30, 2011 at 12:30 pm

The comment alluding to suicide is absolutely appalling. There is no basis in fact or research to this comment. These people should be ashamed to use this tragedy in a way that is simply WRONG. This is an ideological position being driven by a small number of very vocal people who don't seem to have any sense of responsibility - and they can NEVER adequately answer the data about the extraordinarily low rate of schools that reverse this decision. Tell me, where else would you base your decision on this kind of data? Do you not vaccinate your kids either?

Posted by Checking dates, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm

"we're talking about a 12 day shift here, not a one-week shift."

Where do you get that? The current schedule has the first day of school 13 days before Labor Day. The new schedule would start 18 days before Labor Day. That's actually less than a one-week shift.

Posted by who?, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I am not saying this "s" comment was appropriate last night,but think about those extra activity sports family, would they give up because of tight schedule? If the parents are reasonalbe and have time to pay attention to their struggling kids and do know the limitation, then, it works for them to simply drop it if the board members do not take into account of those outside activities. What if the parents are careless or unreasonable or just simply pay no attention to this new change, and push their kids to the limits with thsoe, would they feel more stressed? Is it right just to simply dismiss the problem like it does not exist for the board? Where is the responsibilities for all?

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I can show you years of calendar history that document the fact that this is nearly a 2 week shift (the calendar doesn't center on Labor Day, because labor day moves around as well); essentially, the calendar moves within a 7 day band, this year was due to be the reset year within the band (band is Aug 22 through 28th, marches forward to 22 then resets to 28). So indeed, it's effectively a 2 week shift over what is standard for our district. The "rollover" calendar reviewed to, also presented by the district in May, reflects the Aug 28 start date. (It may be easier to see this by looking at end dates, May 30th under the changed calendar, June 13th under the rollover calendar. That's two full weeks.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 12:45 pm

sorry, I meant "referred to"

Posted by Parent of Graduates, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Lets talk about the weather:

The Palo Alto schools are said to be too hot for students in August, however the many camps(Science, Sports, Arts...)which use those same schools all summer are filled to overflowing. The students seem to do just fine.

Posted by Senior at Paly, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm

So we need a student perspective. Great. I'll give you one. This is an excerpt of the email I sent to the school board.

Now, while this is indeed only my opinion, as a student, a senior, and a fall athlete, I fall under several of the student categories that people seem to be concerned about regarding the possible implications of the new calender.

The points that I hear a lot are as follows:

They impact college apps, making them more stressful
They push summer practice further back into summer
They mess up summer camps and vacationing
Incoherent, "I don't like change"

First, college apps. Personally, if you're smart with college apps, then finals in what would be two weeks on the new calender would not be that bad. Even if you do think that's bad, the first regular decision app I have due is on the 1st of January, and most are due on the 15th. You have the time to do that during winter break if you really need to, which shouldn't be the case if you are proactive about writing your essays ahead of time.

Next, sports. Fall sports starting two weeks earlier just makes official practice earlier, which frankly isn't a big deal since every sport save football is out there pretty much all summer anyways (and football which isn't "in practice" would just move hell week, they are benching and whatnot anyways). The weather argument is completely invalid.

The only "valid" point, which imo isn't even that valid is that it messes up summer camps/vacations. This argument comes from k-6th grade parents who haven't yet had a child enter though high school or even the mini finals held for math during middle school. Having finals quickly makes opinion sway. Save these parents the fustration a few years later when their own kids are the ones struggling with finals.

For non-athletes, 60% of Paly, the sports don't even matter, and for the underclassmen, the other 75%, apps are still years away.

The new schedule allows more time for AP classes to study, and an actual winter break that is a winter break for the majority of students. These advantages far outweigh the complaints of a small portion of the community of which I am theoretically in.

I could be a senior with all my college applications submitted and finals done with going into winter break this year if the new calender was in place. I would have official cross country practice moved a few weeks back into the summer, but since we are out there every day during summer running for unofficial practice, it wouldn't make a difference. As part of the "negative group" affected by this new calender change, I urge the board to vote in favor of the change.

Posted by Paly and Jordan mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I totally support the calendar change and I applaud the school board members for making this change. My Paly sophomore is looking forward to prebreak finals next school year and is already dreading this year's winter break, when she will have to drag herself through geometry and chemistry all holiday long just to remember it all until January finals. As for the "hot August" weather: look online at average daily temperature statistics and you'll see the average temp. max. in August is nearly identical to September; some web sites ( even list September as having higher average daily temperatures. Besides, the new calendar has the kids starting school on August 16 (compare to school this year starting on Aug. 23). That's only 5 extra school days in August. Let's role model ways of accepting change and trying something new. That is the real Palo Alto way. Happy Holidays. I hope you enjoy yours (my kids will be studying for finals and working on school projects).

Posted by Checking dates, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm

"this year was due to be the reset year within the band (band is Aug 22 through 28th, marches forward to 22 then resets to 28)."

I don't think so. The school weeks are set to when Thanksgiving occurs (the CIF sports calendars are determined by this). Thus, if the current calendar system remained for next year, school would begin on August 21st. The "rollover" wouldn't be scheduled until 2013-2014.

That said, I just saw the proposed calendar for 2013-14 and it begins on August 15th (as opposed to rolling over to the 22nd). Thus, you are correct that in 2 years it would be significantly earlier.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm

I totally support the calendar change and support the Board. I have a student at Paly who plays sports year round and he is looking forward to the new schedule. As the Paly senior said above, get started on your college essays earlier. 70% of the Juniors at Paly support the change, which is being implemented for the benefit of the STUDENTS not the parents. The vocal minority discounts the wishes of the vast majority of students and clear majority of parents while running around like Chicken Little. The sky is not falling people! To say that Palo Alto is so unique that it can't possibly adjust to this calendar change like other districts have is patently absurd.

Posted by Marty, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:27 pm

What is truly annoying is all the people who think they weren't listened to just because they didn't get their way. For all those who opposed the change, the board heard your arguments (over and over and over again, louder and louder each time) they just were not convinced. There were arguments on each side. Someone had to decide. The board did. It's over, move on. Let's try to make the best of this.

Posted by Sigh... , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Our kids are only in lower grades in elementary school right now, so the topic of finals doesn't apply to us. In terms of starting earlier in August, and ending in May, I imagine we'll eventually adapt to this. Ages ago, I grew up in PAUSD system and remember starting the new school year after labor day -- now that always worked nicely for our family. But, that calendar option seems very unlikely given we keep moving earlier and earlier into August.

What I still don't understand is how the movement to this new calendar is going to help relieve stress. I can only imagine that it's MORE stressful to have many COMPETING deadlines (college applications, finals, projects, papers, performances, games etc) all due or occurring within a few weeks of each other.

Also, the shift to starting earlier in August doesn't give us a longer break in the winter. If this new calendar extended winter break to a 3-week break, then it seems the kids (and staff) would really have significant time to rejuvenate.

Posted by Just Another Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I would like to thank the board for their hard work on this issue. When I read that Barb Mitchell had personally spoken to at least 60 parents, students, teachers and admins from other schools, I wanted to stand up and applaud. That is what we elected her to do. She has spent hours doing what I don't have the time or resources to do myself. I respect the perspective she has gained through that effort.
FWIW, I've had several children go through K-12 in PAUSD, and still have a few there now. Like others in my "parent zone", I've experienced elementary school, middle school and high school. My kids are busy with their sports or sports-equivalent activities which begin in August. We still try to take time to be with family every summer. It's a whole lot harder with older kids than it was with little ones, but we always manage. I know some families who choose not to vacation at all because of their children's commitments - that exists now, even without the calendar change. The demands on our older children's time are extremely high, separate from the academic part of school.
Two other points: Years ago, we had hundreds of angry parents turning up at Board meetings to protest a new PAUSD rule that would effectively necessitate districtwide fundraising. Friends argued with friends, recalls were suggested, doom and gloom was predicted over and over and over. I look at us now and can't even remember why we would ever have done it differently.
And finally, while I appreciate the parents who are working hard to express concern over their firmly held beliefs, I would ask the media and others to not refer anymore to a Facebook group with "over 300 members." First, as a percentage of parents in PAUSD, that is such a tiny number! But more importantly, in an effort to get a message out, a large number of "members" were added by other Facebook users without anyone asking how new "members" feel on the issue. That's fine - I have no problem with Facebook being used like that for outreach. But the media and the board should know that it is not necessarily a group who all agree one way or the other.

Posted by Mom of 3, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Ms. Dauber -

I find your comments and high-handed attitude insulting. While I don't agree with the specific comment made last night, I will say that the pro-pre-break finals side has been using that as an argument in favor of this calendar change which is just as bad!

I am the mother of 2 high school students (PALY), and I can absolutely say without a doubt that this new calendar will add stress WHERE THERE HAS NEVER BEEN STRESS BEFORE. My high school students very much prefer the current calendar (as do all of their friends -- all good students and very involved in sports/extra-curriculars). There is NO stress at all that can be attributed to the current calendar -- and simply because a different calendar fits into your own personal agenda that you are pushing doesn't make it right.

Since the current finals don't start until more than two weeks after Winter Break ends, how exactly does that cause stress? It would be counter-productive to try to study for finals that much ahead of time -- which is why no one does. Instead, preparation for finals starts when students return to school in January. And finals are cushioned between a lovely 3 day weekend to help prepare, and another 3 day weekend to unwind.

Please stop attacking parents (and students!) who truly, honestly believe that this new calendar is a really really bad idea. My high school students and I have just as much right to our opinion as you do.

Posted by abe, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm

The Daubers are a tired act. So is Dr. Skelly for that matter.

His amazingly unprofessional memo is basically asking teachers to ignore the required curricula and drop certain lessons. Just which ones? Will the district specify which lessons by which departments should be dropped? In other words, it's okay to be out of compliance with state standards and the precious state tests for the sake of the calendar?

Not only will the next Board election be welcome, but the next superintendent search. Remember guys, he came from Poway, small potatoes stuff. What was his biggest problem there? He complained last night about Palo Alto and how the parents magnify certain issues "that are not taken as seriously elsewhere." He gets a pretty good salary...let him go elsewhere; it won't be fast enough for me.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm

The BOARD identified these CURRENT issues, homework/projects and college apps, to be WORSE with the new calendar. The board has said as much which is what prompted the action items in the first place. These are issues that have existed for years and are now much harder to solve with the new calendar. The board recognizes this is a problem. They just want to continue with a calendar without any solutions in place.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm

FYI - shared the various reports with a relative who spent 18 years on a school board... they truly think this place is loony... especially with the goal of a "carefree" winter break.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 4:16 pm

re checking dates.
I stand by the analysis I reported, which I was shown by district rep Scott Bowers. Only once in district history did school start on the 21st--that was when the standard start date would have been the 22nd (a Tuesday) but the district tested a Monday start that turned out not to work out. The rollover calendar, presented at the board meeting in May, started school August 28th, matching the previous school start date under a similar calendar lineup (of holidays, etc). This was a two week change, carefully timed to be hidden. And in the survey data the district asked if folks would "support a 5 day change" and still didn't get majority support.

Posted by another parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm

We Can Do Better has been known to the tragedies we had as an implied threat when lobbying for change.

Posted by Paly Student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm

As a Paly student, I much prefer the current schedule. Yes, with the current schedule we have more stress over the break, but we get several weeks to prepare for the finals. I and countless other students feel that giving up some relaxation in exchange for extra preparation for exams is a worthwhile trade.

Many parents have been advocating a lighter load for students, especially since the suicides. As students, we would love to have less stress, but not at the expense of performance. In the competitive academic environment we live in, it is impossible to expect success without putting in adequate effort.

Having an extra few weeks to prepare for our finals allows us to put in this required effort without the sleepless nights that will no doubt become all too frequent with the new schedule.

Posted by anon, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 6:59 pm

As a Paly senior, I'm glad I'm graduating this year. I understand the merits of having finals before break and not having to stress over it, but come on. Teachers assigning projects over break are going against implemented school rules, and we have two weeks to review for finals before we have to take them. Considering how I don't start studying for most of my finals until the week before I take them (which seems to also be the norm with my peers), I don't think that I'm really stressed over break due to them.

Additionally, having finals before break means that seniors will have to take time out of applying to colleges to study for them. With many application deadlines at the beginning of January, I'm sure moving the finals will put an additional crunch on them. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I don't want to do my applications over the break. I'm trying to finish them beforehand, and frankly, that would be near impossible if I had finals to prepare for.

Posted by Sick of this all, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 8:07 pm

The decision has been made. Let's make it work and show our kids that even if we don't like a decision, we will make it work and it is not a big deal. We don't want to teach our kids that something like this is a big huge deal - something to stress over. As a working mom, I am sure I will find camps/care for the time off, my kids can deal with the heat, and, when they are in high school, they better just get their apps in early as I did.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm

My daughter is academically conscientious and usually stresses during the Winter Break, knowing final exams are looming over her head. No, she does not study during the break, but feels she should be studying. End result? No relaxing, no studying. This new calendar will allow her to relax for a full two weeks!

The School Board should enforce the no homework/projects rule during Winter Break or this new anti-stress calendar will be irrelevent.

Posted by district teacher, a resident of Woodside
on Nov 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I feel very lucky not only to have a job but also to love my job. I'll show up for the start of the year whenever I am told; it's not the end of the world. However, this whole *process* has been a complete embarrassment.

As I understand it, the District Admin was supposed to present calendar options to help with student stress and the only one was an earlier start date. Why was there no thinking outside the box? For example, why not trimesters? no finals at all, or maybe ongoing portfolio assessment? What do comparable school districts do - not just nearby, convenient districts - but others to whom PAUSD has been compared in the past, e.g., Scarsdale, NY; Lake Forest, IL; Newton, MA? What about holding accountable those teachers who assign project work over winter break despite admonition (requirement?) against it? Why not be the city upon the hill and come up with something pioneering? There are *so* many innovative ways to look at these issues, but, to me -- and many others, the District took the easy way and messed it up beyond belief. If they had shown more creative thinking and rigor in their research, I would have more confidence in their decisions to present the options they did.

Yes, the PA parent community is a force to be reckoned with; I'd happily rather work with this than a disinterested or uninvolved community. If the District had done a better job of presenting thoughtful options and a better PR job, I suspect that there would have been more support and faith from the start. Yes, of course, the parents are experts with their children and knowing what is best for their kids, but the educators are supposed to be education experts. It *appears* that the District rested on their laurels thinking that since they have the jobs they do, we are to assume they are the experts just because of what they say. Well, the Emperor is not wearing new clothes.

Also, I don't understand why the board voted to support the calendar with caveats. They should have voted 'no' until a better, more sound case for the calendar was presented - or other options altogether. Instead, they voted 'yes' and the options presented by Skelly are water balloons at PE, teaming up with buddy classrooms with air-conditioning, and sitting under trees teaching lessons. (At my school, what trees??) I felt like I woke up in Wonderland when I read those comments in the paper. For me, this made a mockery of my profession and the education of precious children.

Again, I love my job and where I work. The students are wonderful; I only want what is best for them. It is a pity to me to see how the adult community has let them down with this, again, embarrassing process.

I take responsibility for perhaps being wrong about the process; I have tried to be an informed stakeholder during this saga, but it has been too frustratingly convoluted and brain cell-consuming. (A person more cynical than I could suggest that this was a tactic employed to distract?) I *really wish* I could post my real name with this or even have a thoughtful, respectful conversation with the 'powers' that be, but I am of little faith that there would be no reprisals.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 9:51 pm

After reading all these comments, and reading the board packet, I'm pretty sure Mr. Skelley was tongue in cheek with his comments about water balloons. I can't believe that parents are using the weather to fight the new calendar. September is usually warmer than August. Right now, when finals end, the kids get one one school day off and then a weekend. Finals before breaks really allow them to decompress. If they have put off college essays, too bad. Teachers have said that the kids currently start second semester at an incredibly low point because they don't have time to decompress. Please don't make this all about family vacations. Those are alway subject to change and not just from school schedules. It's not a crisis. A crisis is losing your home to foreclosure or having a child or parent die. Not a change in vacation plans.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2011 at 9:57 pm

district teacher,
Thanks for your candor. It's refreshing to see someone actually read the materials from the district.

Posted by PIE Donator, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Our family is considered one of PIe's larger donators- that will now stop. I think the whole board needs to be voted out, they are not listening to the majority of parents. I'm only sorry that our children will be robbed of more carefree summer days/nights, family vacations, sleep away camp friendships, august internships that will go to the children of private schools for the next two years.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:07 pm

PIE Donator - please post how much you give, I will be sure to make it up. We can't have our school policy held hostage to people who think that their money entitles them to throw their weight around to get their way. Someone posted the other day about why PIE didn't go after really big gifts from the mega-wealthy - this is a good example of why money comes with strings. Thanks for sharing - it is a good lesson for the kids about how money doesn't make you right, important, or classy. Sorry you didn't get your way.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Besides death and taxes, one more absolute is "there will be change". Parents need to set an example of be an adult and not whining cry baby. By continuing to disagree and fight set a poor example for you children. Grow up! You are only making a fool of yourself.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:22 pm

The board asked for a detailed report from staff. The report did not come close to providing any of the specifics the board requested. The board knows there are significant issues with the new calendar. If the board doesn't hold staff accountable to provide solutions they asked for, who does? This is not whining, it's called demanding answers to the questions from the board. An example is being set by holding people accountable to their responsibilities and not letting them weasel away as if there isn't an issue.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Kudos to "Senior at Paly"! The voice of reason!! I agree with you on every point.

Posted by Lost resolve and urgency, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:09 am

Tuesday's meeting was about holding the district's feet to the fire to respond to the concerns the school board expressed last May.

Concerns that relate to our students' emotional well-being which the board worried would be undermined by the unbalanced semesters created by and conflicts (sports, college applications, etc) caused by the new pre-break finals calendar if safeguards were not put in place.

Concerns parents at that meeting shared.

The Board's own words last May were crystal clear Web Link:

Barb Klausner:

“[I want to] make sure that the new calendar doesn't create more stress for our students."

"There is some level of workload that needs to be modified significantly...I would like assurance that teachers will reduce the students' work load to reflect this reduction in instructional days and days available to catch up and study for exams.”

"Piling on those additional hours on our already overburdened high school students is not going to reduce stress... I would like to know that our teachers have carefully considered this impact on our high school students and made accommodations.”

"I expect reductions in homework, projects, reading assignments. Then update re college application process, support to seniors writing college essays in English classes in fall semester. Third—effects on elementary and middle schools."

"I really am asking for a specific commitment . . . for some process that is very clear that says that yes every teacher in our high schools will consider the impact from the student perspective."

"Dr. Skelly, I can't vote for this calendar if I don't have a sense of the commitment, accommodations will be put in place before the start of the 2012-13 calendar year. I ask for that report this year, in just a few months, because I would like to reserve the option, brace yourself, of re-considering the calendar change depending on the outcome of that report.”

Barb Mitchell:

"It would also be helpful to add how yearlong courses would address the carefree break that’s been described and whether there would or would not be homework assigned over the break. That to me is the most important question. It significantly erodes my interest if we are not securing a work free break, particularly given the amount of disruption that would be involved in making this change. "

Melissa Caswell:

"There are three things here we are particularly worried about, and I’d like to know we have a plan for those three things: what is workload going to be for first semester in this calendar and how are we going to make it acceptable, what are we going to do to better support students going through college process, and how are we going to deal with really hot classrooms."

Camille Townsend:

"Do we have solutions to these? Because, if not, we’re creating chaos."

Dana Tom:

“I support Miss Klausner’s request for updates in the fall."

People who care about kids might consider thanking the parents who spoke Tuesday for amplifying the board's voice which apparently wasn't loud enough last May to get a serious, studied report out of the district in the intervening 6-1/2 months.

Parents on Tuesday asked for a "freeze" - not a re-vote, not a different calendar - just a hold until the calendar mitigations were figured out. Once they are and our kids' needs are being addressed, instead of dismissed, everyone gets their new calendar back.

If you approach it the other way around (get the new calendar in place and then ask what the district can do to support it) the district has no incentive to work on it and so there is a real risk that it will not take this March's mitigation report any more seriously than it did this November's, leaving us with a calendar roll out in August with no meaningful safeguards in place for our kids.

Unfortunately, the two Barbs (Klausner and Mitchell), who were very unhappy with the report they had waited 6 months to receive, lost their resolve and sense of urgency Tuesday night for reasons they did not share.

So now all we are left with is the hope that March's mitigation plan won't read as follows: "kids, just adjust."

Posted by Tired, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:11 am

Lost resolve and sense of urgency? Perhaps they are just physically worn down and exhausted from the constant barrage of desperate parents filibustering their meetings - not to mention their email boxes, voicemail and lines at Starbucks (last one's only a guess).

Emails and posts so long they have chapters and direct quotes... "Charts".... Booing, weeping and door slamming...the organized flash mob of parents at Board meetings...and the constant harangue of old and settled arguments...fear and threats...and YEARS of this... that's where their energy went.

I'll grant you if they were also disappointed by the District's report - of course they'd be exhausted. Smack dab in the middle of that proverbial rock and a hard place.

I don't think they've lost their resolve at all - and I'm very proud of their handling of this extremely difficult situation.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:31 am

Tired: Hilarious posting! So true!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:33 am

Tired and others

Yes, you won and are sitting in your glory expecting miracles. These miracles don't happen without hard work. The new calendar has not been studied or planned through properly. At present it sounds like a fiasco.

I do not want my upcoming senior to have a fiasco for senior year!

Posted by Lost resolve and urgency, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:09 am

Tired and Mom,

Just curious, would you have left the district's November report stand as is because this has gone on too long? If not, what would you suggest the board do to get the district to pay attention to their pointed but ignored requests when the district didn't listen to them the first time other than having parents and teachers speak out too?

It's hard to be empathetic if the board's May requests aren't your issues but do try to see it through another lens when you answer those questions.

The irrefutable stress that the calendar will cause if unmitigated, which ALL 5 of the board members noted, may not be of concern to you but is also a real, tangible and compelling concern for many families with balanced, hard-working children in high school.

Please, don't belittle parents who attend a public meeting because they are concerned about a report which is on the Board's agenda that night. Board meetings are public so that the public can be involved.

Posted by Another Wining Crybaby, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I don't love the discussion turning to winners and losers (or "whining crybabies") but OK, let's talk about exactly what was won:

The "prize" was a free pass for the district to snow the board with irrelevant and incorrect information that it calls data, for the board to make decisions with no goals or values on the table to guide them, and for both to be able to admit that their actions create problems but not to be held accountable for them. So if there are "winners" and "losers" in this, I'm proud to be a "loser". And winners should really sit back and think about exactly what it is they've won. (Hint, it's not stress reduction--the district actually took that off the table as a possible goal quite early in the process)

Posted by Sundial Dad, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm

A compelling argument does not consist of showing up at one Board Meeting and making an emotional scene of yourself.

I was there. The Board, District Staff, Teachers and Engaged Parents put the schedule together through a detailed and critically considered process.

The VAST majority of stakeholders who developed the revised calendar backed the final results without reservation.

I applaud the Board and District staff for honoring the process and not caving into a small vocal minority. I also thank all the engaged parents and teachers who participated in the process. These volunteers put their personal time and energies to create a better calendar.

Now, lets move forward with the new calendar and give it every opportunity to help make the High School experience less stressful on our kids.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 4:05 pm

@sundial dad. the process? the stakeholders who developed the calendar? The engaged parents who participated? Excuse me, but along with attending all the board meetings at which the calendar was discussed I personally observed every calendar committee meeting since October (didn't see you there) and I didn't see a detailed and critically considered process, with input from stakeholders, etc etc. What you described would have been a process we could honor, no matter what the outcome, but it just didn't happen.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm

A precedent was set some years ago when the MI supporters blackmailed the board into changing their vote to allow MI to get passed.

This is a completely different scenario, but I am sure that those MI supporters were treated with a great deal more respect for what they did than the parents who spoke up last Tuesday.

All the parents who spoke up want is to see the plan on how to make this work and suggest freezing the calendar until such a detailed plan has been presented. This is what would happen in a business, why should we expect less in our schools?

I am amazed that those who support this calendar change are not also looking to see the details of how this is being implemented. Are you not concerned to see how this will work? Or is it just blind trust on your part?

Posted by Tired, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Happy to answer your questions:
"... would you have left the district's November report stand as is because this has gone on too long?"

I have been disappointed too many times to expect that the District Administration would have come through with anything substantive or concrete. I would have asked the high schools to furnish a specific report on their planning to date.

" If not, what would you suggest the board do to get the district to pay attention to their pointed but ignored requests when the district didn't listen to them the first time other than having parents and teachers speak out too?"

I think it's fine for parents and teachers to speak out about the District's incomplete homework. However, I don't think the calendar decision should be frozen or reversed based on a weak report. I think the answers are with the schools.

"It's hard to be empathetic if the board's May requests aren't your issues but do try to see it through another lens when you answer those questions."

I would like to know the schools and teachers are making accommodations. My experience with my children's high school is that they do come through on these types of structural changes - with block scheduling and late start as excellent examples. Teachers from other districts have said that block scheduling presented more of a transition challenge than the switch to a pre-break finals calendar. Paly has a great track record. I'm not worried about Paly or Gunn's ability to do this. But yes. I'd like to hear from them.

"The irrefutable stress that the calendar will cause if unmitigated, which ALL 5 of the board members noted, may not be of concern to you but is also a real, tangible and compelling concern for many families with balanced, hard-working children in high school."

The reason I have supported the pre-break finals calendar is that I am very concerned about student stress. I believe pre-Break finals is but one of many structural changes - like block schedules and late start - that, with one decision (followed by the necessary planning and follow-through), help relieve the stress of thousands of students - not just my own.

"Please, don't belittle parents who attend a public meeting because they are concerned about a report which is on the Board's agenda that night."

I believe my post accurately described the tactics employed and behavior exhibited by the organized group that opposed the pre-Break finals calendar. But I'm willing to hear which of what I noted did not happen.

So here are my sincere questions for you:

What degree of "mitigation" - specific to your concerns - would actually satisfy you enough to accept this calendar decision? (AC in most classrooms, staff devt. for teaching unequal semesters, a revised timeline and curriculum plans for working on college apps and junior/senior workshops, etc.?? Would that be enough? If not, what would?)

Is your strategy to claim the district report as weak (no matter what) and use it as leverage to keep this debate going?

Posted by Correct me if I am wrong, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:40 pm

The people who like the decision of moving the start of school earlier in August say the issue should not be revisited. OK. However, correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that at one point the decision was made to keep the current calendar, but then was revisited because supporters of the change vehemently demanded it.

As it is, I have my last child of will be a junior and a senior in high school under the new calendar. We think it totally stinks. We may have to live with it but I will be sooooo relieved to be done with this school district and its large number of very obnoxious parents.

Posted by Correct me if I am wrong, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:44 pm

-Above post edited. I apologize for all the mistakes.-

The people who like the decision to move the start of school to earlier in August say the issue should not be revisited. OK. However, correct me if I am wrong, it seems to me that at one point the decision was made to keep the current calendar, but then the decision was revisited because supporters of the change vehemently demanded it.

As it is, I have my last child who will be a junior and a senior in high school under the new calendar. We think it totally stinks and that he is being "screwed". We may have to live with it but I will be sooooo relieved to be done with this school district, its dysfunction, and its large number of very obnoxious parents.

Posted by Tired, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm

"Correct Me...": You've mixed up which decision was revisited and which calendar vehemently demanding parties were supporting...

The VDPs were successful in getting the school board to postpone - for one year - their decision to move to a pre-Break Finals calendar.

Posted by Correct me if I am wrong, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:41 pm

OK, Tired, correction accepted. However, the rest of my post stands.

Posted by Tired, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:08 pm

"Correct Me": It is my sincere belief that your son will enjoy a true winter break and relief on par with the kind he experienced with the later start to school and, if at PALY, the remarkable relief block scheduling has delivered.

Posted by Correct me if I am wrong, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:51 pm


We have been in this school district for 20 years so I know what I am talking about regarding my family. My children have ALWAYS enjoyed their winter breaks with the current and past calendars, including when school started after Labor Day! Post break finals have never been a problem. They have always studied AFTER the break. Projects ato do during break may still exist with the new calendar. In the past, they never took up more than a day or 2 of my kids's winter vacation, never a big deal.

What is a big deal is the truncated summer. Less possibilities for internships, because summer internships usually run in July and August, rather than June and July. Less opportunities to get together with faraway friends and relatives who don't have this strange schedule.

Finally, I am very worried about senior year and having finals and working on college applications at the same time.

As I said we'll have to live with it but we won't like it.

And we are fed up with all those holier than though PAUSD parents who have the gumption the tell us what works best for our OWN kids. Again, I will celebrate in May or June 2014 when we no longer have to deal with all the strident PAUSD parents.

Posted by Senior at Paly, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm

First of all, I applaud the board for sticking to their guns. Next, a few comments.

These boards are extremely amusing. Now, I've lurked a day, and have come back to comment once again. First of all, thank you to those who agreed with me, namely Lurker. Also, we really should have PA Online make people use their real names for this mess of a forum, it would cut down on the massive amount of trolls.

Now, three things that I would like to see gone when I leave PAUSD.

One, student input. More of it. Plenty of my friends don't support the calender change, and plenty do. This hasn't come across in meetings due to the influx of parent involvement.

Two, teacher input. Teacher Jack Bungarden of APUSH fame had an excellent compromise between the two calenders, as did many other teachers in the district. They didn't get heard during the debate like they should have.

Three, and the uhhhh, what's the third one there? Let's see.... uhhhh, student input, teacher input, and uhhhh, the third thing I would like to see... I can't, the third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops.

Do you mean parent input? NO. For the record, the parents have stifled the voices of those who actually matter.

Offhand Republican humor aside, justly noted in Palo Alto, I'm completely serious. Just look at the board here. I count few places where students have commented by themselves, and most of them approve of the change.

The ramblings of how stress will increase because the weather will cause classrooms to be too warm? Is that seriously what Ph.D's, LD's and MBA's have to say about the "causes of stress" in PAUSD?

The whole process of stress comes directly from you, Mr. I-want-my-children-to-get-straight-A's-or-else, and Mrs. If-they-don't-get-into-a-top-10-college-something-is-horribly-wrong-and-reflects-poorly-on-my-raising-of-my-child. While I also realize this is overblown in number, these students exist. Some of them are good friends of mine. Don't pretend that the stress of high school originates with the superintendent or our school board, which both do an excellent job considering the cage they live in. It doesn't come from those english books (although essays at 2 a.m. are another topic...) or that math test. It comes from the unrealistic and absolute expectations you place on teenagers that are 14-18 years of age. Stop condescending to teenagers. Most of us try our best already, respect us, and you won't see so many of us acting out.

So please, take a few potshots at me, make an argument that you hold your child's best interest at heart and not your legacy as a successful adult. Please change my cynical view of you for the better, I beg of you. Prove me wrong. I would like nothing more than that to happen. We're grateful for the sacrifices that you have made for us, let is show you without the constant hovering. Even if you are a perfect parent, which is quite possible, reason with the parents around you, they add stress not only to their own children, but to the friends that surround them.

Posted by Senior at Paly, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Hmmm, fairly evident typo that actually matters. Like to see gone. That should be like to see. It reads correctly if you gloss over it but that correction needs to be there.

Best wishes.

Posted by Paly Junior, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2011 at 12:17 am

As a Paly junior I am so thrilled our districted has finally moved to pre-break finals! The past two years in high school I have watched my friends at local schools with pre-break finals. They enjoyed a full two weeks of relaxation. I compared this to my classmates. Although students may not be studying for finals this early, a lot of students have homework and projects they have to do over break. I've commonly heard that the 3 day weekend after finals have been the only time my classmates didn't have homework. I don't believe that just because we are academically rigorous high schools the students should have to give up their winter break; my friends at Monta Vista High School do not. Personally I don't feel I will be more stressed due to pre-break finals, if anything I will be less stressed. As someone who has lots of holiday commitments I will just have to learn to balance my time better. My friends at schools with pre-break finals have no problem with this and couldn't imagine having finals after break.

Addressing the hot classroom problem and summer plans being messed up, as someone who's attended elementary, middle, and high school in PAUSD I don't recall ever having a huge problem with over heated classes. Palo Alto weather is typically pretty nice and we also experience an indian summer weeks after the start of the school year. If you're worried about your summer plans being messed up, send your kids to camp in June instead of August! Start new traditions. If you're worried your high schooler won't get that job, many of my friends with earlier school year starts had summer jobs.

I think a solution that would solve a lot of the problems people have brought up is moving to trimesters. My cousins in Farmington Hills, MI start school after labor day and end in mid June. They have pre-break finals. They have a 5 period day so they earn 15 semester credits a year vs the 14 semester credits a year you can earn for a regular school day at PAUSD high schools. With a few modifications I believe that a trimester calendar would be a good fit for PAUSD.

Posted by Vote, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2011 at 6:15 am

Remember this when you vote for school bond next time. Make your vote count!

Posted by To Vote, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 2, 2011 at 7:08 am

VOTE: Yup..I will vote for the ones who had the good sense to give the kids a REAL break over winter. Too late for my family, but I am happy for the upcoming kids.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 8:18 am

Having two Paly grads, I can say my kids always had a real winter break.

This was because I didn't stress them, and they didn't stress out. We had activities at home and away and school was the last thing on their minds.

They did however find it difficult to hang out with their schoolfriends. Many were away for most of the break and many were getting extra tutoring or doing SAT prep classes arranged by their parents and nothing to do with school.

I tend to think that this real break is a red herring. If the parents who really want their kids to have a real break didn't sign them up for tutoring or classes, they would get their break.

Paly Senior is right, the stresses come from the parents and from the teachers who expect the kids to work on long term projects over break.

Posted by History buff, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 2, 2011 at 8:21 am

Correct me and Tired,

The pro pre-break finals folks were part of an organized group (called SHARE) which held closed meetings and pressed the board for years to get a pre-break finals calendar adopted.

In case you don’t recall:

2006: “SHARE … presented information on student stress with a request to complete finals before Winter Break” Web Link

September 2010: PAUSD reports that “Student Health Awareness through Resources and Education (SHARE) have strongly advocated for the pre-break finals”. Web Link

April 2011: SHARE members spoke at the April 2011 board meeting in favor of pre-break finals.

Tired, perhaps you are a member of SHARE (no one knows who all is part of it since its membership list is apparently a secret too).

If you are, don’t you think it is disingenuous for you to call parents names just because they saw your success and emulated it to ensure that their message - promote policies that support students' having healthy and balanced lives and oppose those that don't - got heard too.

The differences between SHARE and Time to Thrive Palo Alto are that Time to Thrive (i) just formed a month or so ago, (ii) is not calling you names, and (iii) is a public group whose purpose, discussions and membership are open for everyone, members or otherwise, on Facebook to see.

So look in the mirror before accusing others of the "constant barrage of desperate parents filibustering their meetings" and “YEARS of” the “constant harangue of old and settled arguments...fear and threats.”

A bit of history: It's SHARE which sold the board on the promise that calendars will relieve stress. Remember Ski Week, which SHARE successfully pushed for in 2004? Not only did the Ski Week calendar experiment fail to address student stress, it was hated by working families who had to work instead of vacation. Sounds like what parents Tuesday night were unhappy about the new calendar doing too. During the anti-stress ski week experiment, families were more stressed out finding and having their children in child care than they would have been had their kids been in school.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2011 at 9:24 am

Why aren't parents who want a *carefree break* attending school board meetings and insisting that the no homework policy over break be enforced right now? Why weren't they insisting on it in the years past?

The new calendar in no way guarantees that year-long classes will have no homework.... like advance reading to prepare for the next unit... which seems to be the norm for AP classes.

Imagine for a moment two scenarios - no midyear exams for seniors applying to college. And the ability to enforce a no homework policy over break.

Posted by not the end of the world, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 2, 2011 at 9:36 am

It's only for two years, it will then be changed back.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2011 at 9:54 am

I have to interject here that SHARE, the Student Health Awareness Resources and Education Committee, is not, contrary to the post above by the inaptly monikered "History Buff" secret. SHARE was founded by Becky Beacom, Health Education manager for PAMF. It included, during its more active phase a few years ago, "collaboration of home, school, and community groups", which included "members from the city of Palo Alto, PAUSD, Adolescent Counseling Services and several other groups."

These quotes, by the way, are from the semi-secret shadowy internet resource for clandestine, hidden groups such as SHARE: paloaltoonline, which if you use the handy search box at the top of this page and type in "SHARE Committee" you can find a wealth of articles about the activities of this group which was basically a forerunner or predecessor of Project Safety Net.

SHARE had the support of Board member John Barton (who supported SHARE's "Ready Set Relax" homework holiday), PTA member Andrea Saliba who was the PTA's representative to SHARE, and a host of other individuals. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

This is the kind of overreaching that I am personally tired of. If this forum is any indication a lot of other folks are tired of it too. We Can Do Better did not have a strong view on the calendar. We would have been happy to see any compromise that led to pre-break finals, including the trimester proposal and the others. But the behavior and comments of the parents at Tuesday's meeting, particularly the comments of Mahoney and others who told the Board that there would be "blood on their hands" because the new calendar would cause teen suicide, and posts like this one alleging that SHARE was some kind of secret conspiracy -- this has pushed us toward greater support for the new calendar. To be blunt, I can't support people who do this kind of crying, foot-stomping-marching out of the meeting-slamming the door behavior.

Besmirching Becky Beacom's incredible service to our community is just another sign that you all have lost it. It's fine with me if you want to lobby respectfully, write editorials, come to board meetings and talk respectfully. But this stuff has got to stop.

Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm

This debate is hilarious. As someone who grew up in a school district back that had finals before the winter break, it always seemed silly to me that finals were after winter break.

To hear all this nonsensical controversy tells me there are a lot of people in Palo Alto with entirely too much time on their hands.

Posted by History buff, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm


No one is naming names or besmirching anyone's character.

Read the post again. It didn't say anything about SHARE other than it's being emulated (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery isn't it) and it's meetings and membership are not public.

I've been around Palo Alto quite a few years and never, ever, in all the schools my kids have attended, have I seen any meeting notice from SHARE.

To confirm that others might have been clueless too, I did search for SHARE on the district's site, on Palo Alto online and even on Google. No website. No meeting notices. No membership lists. No Facebook page either.

The few mentions of SHARE were about a few programs (in 2003 and 2010) and when Project Safety went live a few years ago. And if you search for it and "calendar" nothing pops up other than news reports of its attempts to influence a change.

So it effectively operated behind closed doors. That doesn't mean no one was there, just that the vast unwashed weren't aware of it.

Before you go ballistic, that in no way means SHARE's work is not important either. It just means that its approach is different from Time to Thrive's.

The main point of my post was to point out that SHARE has been trying to influence a PAUSD calendar change for years and so if someone (Tired) wants to point at the group which keeps pressing for a calendar change, Tired should point at SHARE.

Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm

It is difficult to avoid hearing current "controversies," however silly, in PAUSD. As a parent of young adults I can assure you that the move to pre-break finals is an excellent idea. Kudos to the PAUSD Board of Education for their reasonable decision. I followed the discussion and believe there was plenty of investigation into options and ideas.
To the wailers" stop being so selfish AND Palo Alto-centric.
There are a wide variety of schedules and education plans out there and change is part of life. Your child will NOT be too hot (I graduated from this district and had kids in the district and experienced some schedule/calendar changes)and your child WILL be ok.
Seriously, door-slamming parents at a board meeting?! How awful. My sympathies to the reasonable adults and students engaged on this topic in a thoughtful way.
Change IS good.

Posted by Andrea , a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Explain to me how the schools in CO are able to start after we do and finish before June and fit everything in but somehow we cant do the same?? They have real weeks, holidays..and somehow their students do just fine. I grew up in PA and had this type of schedule and I remember what a huge relief it was to finish that last final before winter break so I could relax and enjoy my vacation. Are children now not allowed to relax and rest..?? Do they have to go go go go 24-7 like their parents?? Really?? I support this schedule but I think there should be a way to start school later in the year...I think the board needs to get off their kiesters and really put some effort into this. Check out Parker Co school calendar. They dont waste time going back and forth about stupid stuff like this over and over again..what a waste of time. We need a new school board and whoever else is making these decisions!

Posted by laaaz, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm

If it does not fit/ are not suitable,then it does not work, no matter how you twist it or how you explain it,it does not fit.

Posted by Becky Beacom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Dear Palo Alto Online,

The purpose of my post is to correct or clarify a few points made about the group SHARE, its origins, membership, mission and support for a Finals before Winter Break Calendar. I'll try to be brief.

SHARE was a school and community-based committee established in the early 2000's by PAUSD's Carol Zepecki. It was created due to a rising concern within the District that increasing numbers of students were showing up on the District's Special Ed rolls with a diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety. The District invited a number of health and community organization leaders to meet, investigate and respond. Over the years the committee invited and included representatives of PAMF, Parents Place, LPCH, ACS, City of Palo Alto Family Resources, Presidents of the PTA Council, PTA presidents, Parent Ed chairs from school sites and PTA Council, parent volunteers, counselors from middle and high schools, Director of PreSchool Family and Assistant principals.

SHARE came about at around the same time as Stanford's SOS (now Challenge Success) program - and much of the thinking and compelling strategies put forward by SOS/Challenge Success was also embraced by SHARE. SHARE's mission statement: "The mission of SHARE is to foster a collaboration of home, school and community to ensure for our youth a sense of wholeness and well-being, and a clear understanding of the many avenues towards happiness and success.

SHARE believes that there is a connection between the pressure to achieve a narrow definition of success and the growing risk to the health and well-being of our youth."

In particular, SHARE embraced the ideas and strategies of influencing the environments within which children live (their homes through parent education; their schools by supporting and encouraging environmental changes like block schedules, later starts, organized test and project calendars, alternatives to finals and/or finals before winter break, etc.; and the greater community mainly through the partnerships of SHARE. This is a very general but limited statement, as SHARE convened many important meetings, sponsored outstanding parent ed events with national experts, worked directly with some of PA schools and students on these issues and more).

SHARE researched Finals before Winter Break, comparing various district calendars, etc. and on each of 3 calendar cycles formally petitioned the District to put forward and pass such a calendar for PAUSD. Our efforts failed on the first 2 cycles and, ironically, by last year's 3rd calendar cycle (when the District itself was formally endorsing such a calendar) SHARE barely existed. With Carol Zepecki's retirement, SHARE meetings had been cancelled until further notice.

Former SHARE members came together, immediately before the December Board meeting, to discuss and measure whether there was support for the calendar the District had put forth. Although there was concern expressed for the start date of this particular calendar, ultimately the SHARE members voted to support the District's recommendation, and appeared before the Board asking them to simply vote up or down on the calendar. They voted to roll it over.

That was the last time SHARE officially met. 3 individual members of SHARE spoke at last Spring's meeting and submitted a letter to the Board - again, in support of Finals before Winter Break. Around the same time, the District decided that it would no longer serve as the lead for SHARE or have school representatives attend meetings. Although SHARE members from the community were encouraged to meet on their own and and attend monthly District Health Council meetings, the consensus was that such a model could not be effective. In essence SHARE has met only once since the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

I appreciate the opportunity to share a bit of SHARE history! And clarify and correct some of the misperceptions about SHARE. I was an original member and am proud of the work we have done together - in parent education, on the calendar and other environmental approaches to reduce student stress. Perhaps some of the other members will chime in on their own as my post is already unwieldy.

I am genuinely sorry and surprised to read that we were perceived as a secret group. We had new members each year as PTA Council leaders changed and were quite visible in our parent education efforts. It is true we did not post meeting dates.

The only other clarification is regarding Ski Week. SHARE had no involvement with the Ski Week calendar whatsoever! It's been years and getting more and more difficult to remember exact sequences of all these items. But THAT one I remember coming out of nowhere! Thank you again for the opportunity to clarify things a bit.

Posted by Correct me if I am wrong, a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2011 at 7:35 pm

So, I was right after all that the supporters of changing the PAUSD school calendar came back TWICE after being defeated the first time, and kept pushing their calendar idea. (See Ms Beacom's post above).

It would behoove the supporters of the early August start to stop complaining, then, that we should not revisit a decision that they themselves foisted on us not one time, but three.

It is dishonest to say that we should not request to revisit a decision that they themselves took years and several attempts to impose on the rest of us.

Posted by Becky Beacom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I think I need to clarify my own post one last little bit as to SHARE's approach to endorsing Finals Before Break calendars.

By calendar cycles I was referring to the every two year process whereby the District puts forth calendar options, teachers vote and the Board approves.

In 2006, SHARE saw that year's calendar cycle (for school year calendars 2007-08 and 2008 - 09) as an opportunity to request the Calendar committee present one option that had Finals before Winter Break. We sent a letter. One of the two options the Calendar Committee put forward in 2006 did have finals prior to Winter Break. According to my old records, the Calendar Committee attributed their inclusion of such an option to growing requests from teachers.

2006 was the calendar cycle where SHARE was most involved and when our public advocacy was the most visible (researching and providing mainly written arguments and support for this calendar option to the School Board).

In the 2008 and 2010 cycles however, the District put forth calendar options that included finals before winter break without any prompting by SHARE. We assumed it was due to growing awareness and the increasing number of surrounding districts who were adopting, and by all accounts, enjoying the results of this type of calendar.

So SHARE's visibility and advocacy during the last 2 calendar cycles was quite minimal, as we felt the main arguments had already been been made in 2006. At each calendar opportunity we sent a single endorsement letter and 3 or four SHARE members typically spoke up at Board meetings just prior to their voting.

I am sure former SHARE members would want me to emphasize that in its 8 year history, "the calendar" took up a very small piece of SHARE's focus and effort. While it would be accurate to say that SHARE initially requested it and endorsed it at every opportunity, it would not be accurate to characterize how we supported it as pushing or imposing.

We considered ourselves partners with the District and community and, in spite of our disappointments, quietly and professionally accepted the process and the Board's decisions. Thanks again for the opportunity to clarify my post.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Hmmm. Quietly and professionally is not how I would characterize previous efforts to change the calendar, because I do recall a lot of griping on both sides. And neither side can claim they were quiet this time around. However, the process is being followed.

In fact, the process set up by the board includes a set of action plans to make this calendar work. Whether those plans ever materialize remains to be seen. You may not like it when flaws with the new calendar are recognized by the board, but the process is being followed.

Posted by a parent not affiliated with any particular group, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm

from Becky Beacom

"....a rising concern within the District that increasing numbers of students were showing up on the District's Special Ed rolls with a diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety. "

in 2000?

While SHARE may not be clandestine, I wish these types of issues would be dealt with more openly and had already back then involved broader community involvement and input.

The problem with calendar is precisely that it did not start out by engaging broader input, and it's been sloppily handled by the board.

M. Dauber,

I've found some of your comments surprising, like "have heard more than enough about French vacations and sports tournaments...." because you and your husband are masters of saying doing better doesn't need to be a zero sum game.

I recall a Paly teacher proposing an alternative calendar solution that still allowed for a work free break, supported by various departments but was rejected because it would cause problems with the English department electives, not enough students signing up for Spring electives. A teacher union issue that apparently rejected this alternative.

While I can personally accept a calendar experiment for two years. I'm concerned for the families who have serious issues about stress on their families and students. And I don't think we should be in the business of distinguishing the pain of stress for a student that vacations in France from any other.

I'm glad the parents spoke up, slammed doors, and are losing it.

Posted by Correct me if I am wrong, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm

@ parent not affiliated...

As you know if you read my prior posts, I am opposed to the new calendar. However, I also want the debate to be factual, which is why I first brought up the prior attempts to change the calendar (I've been a parent in PAUSD for quite a long time and still am).

So, to be factual, the unfortunate truth is that Ms. Beacom is right when she states that there was "....a rising concern within the District that increasing numbers of students were showing up on the District's Special Ed rolls with a diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety. " in 2000.

I had a child in high school at that time and there were several Paly suicides one year in the late 90s. Stress and emotional problems were already an issue.

While I am at it, SHARE came up with some very good suggestions. The block schedule instituted last year at Paly, with its later morning start, was one absolutely excellent initiative. It is a great change that does make a difference in the kids' lives.

However, the calendar change, as it is, is appalling, and I agree with you that summer vacations are essential to the kids' well-being, including if they are losing their vacation in France, Kazakhstan, Angola or anywhere, if that is where they have relatives, friends or other things awaiting them. It is pretty narrow-minded to not grant that IMO.

Also, for high school seniors, it will definitely force them to spend their winter break working on their college applications. Saying that they should be doing it during the summer is wishful thinking. They are not even ready to do it over the summer for many of them. At that age, a few months make a big difference. So, they will be doing it either while studying for their December finals or during winter break, which is terrible stress wise, in an already very stressful senior year.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm

@Correct me if I am wrong: yes, you are wrong. The UC deadline is November 1. That means that almost every PAUSD senior has a very solid draft of their essays completed by November 1 (conveniently, the same deadline for many early decision applications). The UC essays are able to be quite easily repurposed to be Common Application essays which are due in January.

@unaffiliated: I would have supported virtually any compromise that included pre-break finals and so would have many of the members of SHARE. We all concluded that this was our chance to get pre-break finals and that value was more important than the others. Not everyone agreed, the vote was 3-2, but that was the vote. Your position, that other values were more important than pre-break finals, did not prevail. One reason you did not prevail is that the community was in the midst of a suicide epidemic, and it was important to take real, concrete action to reduce academic stress -- which most people believe that pre-break finals will do for the majority of high school students.

Is this perfect? No. It's by definition a compromise. That is what "compromise" means. It means you don't get everything you want. I personally would like a calendar that starts after Labor Day, ends the first week in June and has pre-break finals. I would also like a big rock candy mountain. [Bill, don't edit that out, I am making a point]. Complaining about losing things like your particular family trip to France just sounds entitled, particularly when weighed against the common good of the whole community and the overwhelming community support for pre-break finals for the high schoolers. That sense of overweening entitlement, combined with over-the-top comments about suicide and blood and the tantrum-like behavior has not done your group any favors. Which I think is evident from the majority of the comments in this forum.

The real problem is that no one really believes that you support pre-break finals, as an important stand-alone value. The fact that some of you guys didn't even really know what SHARE was or thought it was clandestine or whatever tends to show that you haven't really been involved in the issues of student stress over the past decade. So you come off as people who don't really care about stress, you are just cynically manipulating the language of "stress reduction" in order to preserve your own trip to France, or your own kid's early action applications, or your elite athletic competition for your child, all of which may matter to you but don't outweigh the common good.

My suggestion to you is that you stop making this out to be such a calamity. Stop posting snarky comments, you just sound like sore losers. I have been saying that to you all for a while but it is worth repeating. This is not end times and you sound hysterical. The Board is not the Four Horsemen. We don't agree with Kevin about a lot of stuff but the guy is not the devil. You should work constructively to send the message you can be resilient and gracious even in defeat and even about things we care passionately. Then if you still don't like it in 2 years try again to push back the start date while preserving pre-break finals. Sometimes change comes incrementally.

Posted by Correct me if I am wrong, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm

@ Michelle Dauber:

You say that I am wrong and then are forced to admit that I am not wrong when you mention that non early decision and non UC applications are due in January.

You know, you are unnecessarily aggressive with people you don't agree with. You should really soften your language because its aggressiveness does a disservice to the points you are trying to make.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of University South
on Dec 4, 2011 at 7:47 pm

@Michelle Dauber. You are fortunate that you have a number of years before you have a senior in a Palo Alto high school, so this mess of a calendar will certainly be corrected by then. Those of us with seniors next year, children who are going to be, as one parent speaking at the board meeting (I don't recall whom), the "lab rats", do not have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for it all to sort out. It's us parents of lab rats who are the most upset.

I'd also like to point out that this calendar, which you call a compromise, shows little evidence of compromise (unless I should be thankful we're not starting school in July)--it starts nearly 2 weeks earlier and has pre break finals, neither of which helps my kids. How is that a compromise? A compromise might have tested pre break finals within our typical late-August start. Or gone with the teachers' idea of prebreak finals and then a stand alone unit in January. Or something that would have make us "losers" not lose on every calendar-related issue.

@Becky. I understand how, from the share perspective, you saw this as one of many things (and many of the things share advocated were great). The problem is that the district latched onto it as the "easy solution" from your list of items to address. And then didn't give it up--having you folks come and repeatedly speak in favor of change kept it going. If just once, you all had said, "hey, we have a long list of things we think would really help, this is not by any means the number one item, and given how much disruption it appears it's going to cause in the community, maybe we should take it off the list for now and think a bit more about its overall effects in this particular community." In fact, I think pre-break finals work against some of your other suggestions, like test and project spacing. Had you publicly spoken up and said this wasn't the main or only thing the district could do, I think, we would have the old calendar and a community uniformally working for some of the other things on Share's list.

So Becky, I do thank Share for the block schedule, but I am not thanking it for its contribution to making a mess of the calendar and my child's upcoming senior year.

Posted by And we wonder about stress?, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 4, 2011 at 9:09 pm

We can blame the schools for stress, but look at this dialog. When we model this kind of stress about a fairly insignificant change, we say to our kids that they can't possibly deal with change or anything different.

Posted by a parent not affiliated with any particular group, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2011 at 12:06 am

Michelle Dauber,

My post was about wishing for broader community input on matters like calendar, and you asked me to stop posting.

And while I made it clear I really am unaffiliated, you kept referring to, why "my group" lost.

Anyway, thanks for explaining that vacationing in France sounds entitled to you. I suggest that in France, being from California probably sounds entitled too.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2011 at 8:44 am


You say that most families want pre-break finals? I respectfully ask where you get that information from?

If you quote a survey from one of our high schools, then that is from high schoolers, not from families. The kids may say they do, but they haven't thought it through and they haven't experienced it. Speaking without the experience or aforethought is typical of how a teenagers mind works.

I actually went to a high school with December exams. I would gladly have switched to mid January exams. I did not study as I was too busy in December and those that studied missed out on all the fun Christmas activities that the rest of us had. Even the teachers didn't like them as most knew they wouldn't grade anything until January. Looking back, they were just a waste of time as far as my education went.

Our family has a very busy December this year, just like every year. My kids are excited about so many activities. School is very low on their list of priorities at present and homework is being squeezed in. I hate having to make them come home in high spirits and force (not my words but theirs, I say encourage) them to do homework. We have good grades but this next two weeks is going to be very hard for all of us. I dread to think what it will be like next year when we have finals and finish nearer Christmas.

I can't stop Christmas happening. I can't stop parties and parades, the need for them to be busy. If I tried I would be doing them a disservice.

Please realise that it is not all families who want prebreak finals.

Posted by That "h" word, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 5, 2011 at 8:58 am

"One reason you did not prevail is that the community was in the midst of a suicide epidemic, and it was important to take real, concrete action to reduce academic stress -- which most people believe that pre-break finals will do for the majority of high school students."

WOW! You actually wrote that after writing this:

"The parents who are advocating against pre-break finals have crossed the line by saying that having pre-break finals could cause teen suicides."

Posted by Mom of 3, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 5, 2011 at 9:47 am

Yes, everyone who has high school students DOES want pre-break finals! It's going to be great!

All these long postings are a waste of your time. The decision is made. Get a life! Quit the tantrums! Hasn't your mom ever told you "no"? Life is about change. Those who are unhappy with the decision can send their children elsewhere, if they can find a school that has post-break finals.

Posted by Correct me if I am wrong, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2011 at 11:15 am

Not everyone in high school wants pre break finals, far from it. I've had high school students, and have one right now, and mid-January finals have always worked very well for us. No one, or next to no one, studies for finals weeks ahead of time. My kids never have.

As to the condescending calls to "get of life" or what have you, it's just that, very condescending, especially coming from a crowd of people who did not try just once to change the calendar but came back twice after losing the first time. What a fine crowd we are dealing with here.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2011 at 11:41 am

Stupid question - Why are there finals in the middle of the year when the school year isn't over until June?

I went to many schools (so we moved a lot) where the first semester ended on a Friday in January and the second semester started on the following Monday. Finals happened at the end of the course in June. If you had a one semester elective, then there was a final in January and it was no big deal.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 5, 2011 at 12:11 pm


I know that not everyone is happy about this (obviously), and I respect your opinion as expressed in posts that are generally well reasoned and engaging (even though I have no idea who you are). I can seee that you are disappointed about this. I didn't mean to imply that "all families" wanted pre-break finals. What I sad was that the majority wanted pre-break finals because most people believe that it will reduce academic stress for the majority of teens. That does not mean, and I do not mean to imply, that it will be better or preferred for every family. It means that the opinions of all stakeholders were considered and this compromise was struck that is intended to be the best outcome for the most people.

That does not mean that you are not genuinely disappointed, only that in crafting a compromise that worked for the greatest number there are necessarily some who are not well-served or happy. You may well be worse off under the compromise. But that is what compromise means -- some will be better off and some worse off. It is not possible to make everyone better off all the time.

Whatever may be said of this compromise I think you will agree with me that the Board heard and considered all the arguments made by opponents who had every opportunity to comment (and did), as well as to conduct individual lobbying. 3 of the 5 members did not agree. So the fact that the opponents of pre-break finals did not prevail does not mean that the democracy broke down or that the result was unfair, only that it was negative from your vantage point.

This is really intended as friendly advice: If you can stop people on your "side" from sounding so entitled and overwrought about this I think it will help any later efforts (which I might support) to push the start date later in August. I can only speak for myself but I feel very alienated by the tone of the opponents. That's all I'm saying.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2011 at 2:40 pm

The new calendar is not the "best outcome for the most people" if you consider that the calendar is intended to benefit only high school students... and not all ~3800 high school students agree that this is what they want. The surveys done at Paly and Gunn were quite different, but even if you say that combined 65% want the new calendar (highly debatable because the questions in those surveys were so poorly phrased)... that's about 2470 students who claim they want to have the same curriculum taught in fewer days... with even less time to do the homework.

So, ~8500 K-8 students plus the ~1330 remaining high school students gives ~9830 students who liked the old calendar for their own various reasons. Roughly 2500 students vs 10,000 does not make it the best outcome for the most people.

The board appeared to give greater weight to voices from the Gunn community and the results from a poor survey. Teachers from Gunn also have stated that they cannot cut curriculum. We are left with a new calendar, fewer teaching days and even fewer study days. Pierre, former Paly board rep, stated the obvious (at the May meeting) when he said he was concerned that the calendar doesn't alleviate stress, it only moves it around.

Posted by Data & Stress, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 5, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Surveys about the calendar were done. Many of them. None showed majority support for the early start pre-break finals calendar:

The City of Palo Alto's Youth Council surveyed our high school students. Only 4% thought that pre-break finals might help.

The district surveyed parents. A majority opposed the early start pre-break finals calendar and that was when asked about school starting 5-6 days earlier in August instead of 12 days earlier, the calendar that the school board approved.

Surveyed teachers were evenly split when asked about a 5-6 day earlier start calendar. They were not asked about a calendar that had them returning to their classrooms 12 days earlier in August though, putting them in classrooms as early as August 10th just a few years from now.

Paly students surveyed themselves. The majority opposed the early start calendar.

The only survey which showed support for pre-break finals was one Gunn students gave and which Board Member Barb Klausner based her vote on. The validity of that survey was questioned the night it was presented to the board. The flaw mentioned, which biases all the responses, was recently confirmed:

Web Link

As for the new calendar reducing stress, that argument fails on multiple levels:

* According to Challenge Success, no studies have been done that show pre-break finals reduces stress.

* Once all the problems the new calendar poses started to surface, PAUSD quickly dropped its initial claim that this calendar will alleviate stress and replaced it with arguments about how the new calendar optimizes instruction in the classroom instead.

* This calendar CREATES stress, hence the board's insistence on the stress mitigation plan that is now needed and the public concern expressed at the board meeting last week.

By Ms. Beacom's post above it sounds like SHARE too has lost interest in the calendar as an anti-stress measure ("'the calendar' took up a very small piece of SHARE's focus and efforts"), focusing instead on things that have been proven to have an immediate, positive effect on our students like later school day starts.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of Professorville
on Dec 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm

@ M Dauber -
The deadline for CSU and UC is Nov. 30 (not Nov. 1).

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2011 at 8:38 am

@Lurker -- actually we're both right. The submission period opens November 1 and closes November 30. So kids can apply as early as November 1 but in any event, will have final drafts of essays completed long before Christmas break, that they can easily repurpose for the common app. So it is not the case that they will be racing to do them from scratch over the break -- most will already have complete drafts from the UC apps.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 6, 2011 at 10:16 am

Last time around we didn't find that the UC essay fulfilled the requirements for another 20 or so supplemental essays for the other handful of schools being applied to.

the board, the students, everyone was pretty much in agreement that college essays are a crunch, and senior fall is a crunch. Where we disagreed was whether the goal (moving finals) was worth paying this price. I get that for some students it is, and some it isn't. It just amazed me, though, that we didn't have one attempt to make an accurate assessment of how many fall into each group before the change was made.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm

@Paly Parent

Yeah, you are right about all those supplemental essays. That's one reason that I think it's a good idea to stop the "over-applying" and have a pretty realistic list of colleges, 1 safety, 3 regular, 1 reach -- not the 20 colleges that many kids apply to. Of course, I know you agree with that. But still, it's a good reason to counsel our kids not to overdo it.

I don't mean to suggest that the 2 UC essays would do the entire trick but they definitely are the bulk of the work, or at least they were in our kids cases. The supplementals were pretty short, and for some schools there were quite a few but none was particularly long.

That said, I do think that paring down the list of colleges to a reasonable number and then starting early is the key, but that is just common sense. I think my last kid to apply was done by Thanksgiving with all of them because she started right away in fall during the part of the semester when it is a lot of review. And yes she played a varsity fall sport.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I agree that 20 is insane, but 1 reach pretty much means forget the idea of a reach, unless you have an alumni or sports boost.

and your child must have taken different classes than all of mine, because in my experience fall starts fast and furious and my kids have to swim hard from day one (and didn't have time to work on college apps until things started smoothing out a bit as they got used to the teacher and the new material), there wasn't an easy entry or period of review.

Posted by Yikes, a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Just reading all of these posts makes me realize how crazy of a place Palo Alto is and how nutty you Palo Alto parents are.

Life goes on. This is not an urgent matter.

Posted by anon, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

With one read-through of the comments it is clear the majority prefers the existing calendar. Isn't this the third year the District has fervently pushed this issue? Now it is being ramrodded. What a dramatic change the new calendar brings.

Not all change is good.

In comments by Paly senior "anon" on Nov. 30 at 6:59 pm, the student concisely states how it would negatively impact their college application process, as many application deadlines are at the beginning of January. That is important!

Here is yet another con to add to the long list: The new calendar is entirely out of synch with the calendar of Stanford University, our big neighbor at the heart of our community.

Posted by Funny, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 9, 2011 at 10:34 am

Anon, if you think the postings here, on this issue or any issue, are representative of the community as a whole you got another think comin' ;-)

Posted by Not Funny, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Funny is a troller.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm


Freaking at high school dances.

Parents: Have you seen this YouTube video?

Web Link

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Concerned Parent: Start a new thread for your posting. This is irrelevent to this thread about the school calendar. And are you a prude? What's wrong with the video? Kids don't have to engage.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm

You're right, Parent resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, it was irrelevant to the school calendar. Thank you for the suggestion. By the way, are you a floozy?

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