Letters | October 4, 2006 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - October 4, 2006


Rethinking interactions


Last week this paper published portions of an internal document used to shape and articulate discussions among members of the school district's administrative teams. It was with shock that I saw portions of it reprinted, especially as this document was divulged without the knowledge or authorization of the district's Management Team, of which I'm a member.

Rather than discuss the impropriety of this action, or the degree to which this statement may or may not reflect the administrators' experience and attitudes, I believe the more critical issue is the impact of this action and information upon our community, the district's work and how we consequently choose to interact with each other.

To "hijack" a process and "shaft" professional relationships in such a public forum undermines our collective need to trust one another and to support the district's vision and current work. Impacted relationships are fragmented and the trust and ability to engage in real dialogue is lost in the shock and anger of the action.

The school district is in the midst of framing its future work through a collaborative approach to fundraising, attendance boundaries, foreign-language instruction and its daily focus on student achievement. The gossipy revelation of what had been an internal document means that we risk losing our focus upon this future, upon the relationships and values that have created an exceptional educational organization.

We must not manipulate situations by taking them into the public arena. To do so cheats the process, makes a joke of dialogue, ignores the beliefs and experiences of others and sets a devastating precedent of "end runs," entitlement and anger. Such action, in an educational organization, derails our roles as student advocates and instructional leaders and results, instead, in a fragmented, individualized and defensive response to our professional roles and responsibilities.

As the community watches the district work through its communication needs, we have an excellent opportunity to rethink our own interactions. And so I challenge us to protect our right to disagree, to support procedures that are democratic and respectful, and to engage in actions that elicit the best in our community and in each other.

John Lents

Principal, Addison School

Palo Alto

Communication barrier


We were deeply disappointed to read the article regarding the PAUSD principals in the Sept. 29 edition of the Weekly. Collectively, we have several decades of experience in the district, including 10 years working as board members with this superintendent. We can absolutely attest to the high quality of the district's senior cabinet. We have the highest regard for the district administration and the quality of work they produce.

District staff is overworked. Over the years budget cuts have hit those at 25 Churchill disproportionately and many are now covering the responsibilities of what used to be the work of two people. Further, they are continually asked by some board members to work on pet projects or provide reports that at best, tangentially relate to district goals.

Further they are asked to attend too many meetings which last too long. These forces pull staff in multiple directions and ask the superintendent and her staff to choose between supporting board members and supporting the schools and staff.

It's very unfortunate that a few disgruntled folks chose to air their concerns by anonymously planting with a newspaper a memo filled with factual errors. The memo does not even represent the majority viewpoint. Where's the trust and respect in that?

We teach students, parents and teachers to follow proper procedures for addressing concerns and grievances. Shouldn't these same procedures apply to and be modeled by principals and board members? Good communication at all levels is important in any organization.

Superintendent Callan and her senior staff members have open doors. They are always willing to hear and address concerns. However, in no organization does that mean everyone gets their way.

Who leaked this memo to the board? And then, who leaked it to a parent and to the press? Not only was it a cowardly and disrespectful way to handle a problem, it was a glaring model of unethical behavior for our young people. Perhaps there are a few who fear that their work is not up to the caliber expected in PAUSD or a minority that felt they couldn't get their way without a stunt like this.

We sincerely hope the silent majority will speak up and that the senior cabinet members realize that the majority support their work. Mary Frances Callan, Marilyn Cook, Jerry Matranga and Scott Bowers are superb administrators who deserve our complete confidence, respect and support for the work they do.

Cathy Kroymann, John Tuomy and John Barton

Former PAUSD Board Members

Palo Alto

Backing Baskins


For anyone with connections to Hewlett-Packard, past or present, one of the saddest aspects of recent events involving HP was the resignation of the company's senior vice president and general counsel, Ann Baskins.

Anyone who has worked closely with Ann is aware of her exceptional energy, skill, self-discipline, professionalism and kindness. No one who has worked with her has doubts about her integrity. Ann Baskins is the straightest of all straight arrows.

In explaining her decision to resign, Ann said she had concluded doing so was a necessary part of the company's way forward through a political and media firestorm. Her decision should be seen as an example of her strong sense of duty to HP and her willingness to put her team's interests ahead of her own.

Among people who had the privilege of working under the leadership of Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett, there can be no higher compliment than saying that someone shares the commitment to honesty, fairness and generosity that Dave and Bill personified. Everyone who knows Ann knows she is committed to those values. We respect her, we admire her and we wish her well.

David Kirby, Roy Verley and Hal Mickelson

Palo Alto

Remembering with pride


I worked in the legal department of Hewlett-Packard during the summer of 1997 and was privileged to report directly to Ann Baskins, one of the most ethical, moral and decent human beings that I have ever met.

I raise my voice in support of Baskins and her beautiful family during this tumultuous period of media scrutiny. I am forever grateful for her powerful example as a business leader, humanitarian, friend and most importantly her unwavering commitment to integrity.

Mark Madsen


Happy to have Spanky


The recent dog-on-dog attack that resulted in the death of a loved one (Aug. 26) is a tragic reminder to all dog owners of their responsibility. As one who cherishes the memory of a dear canine friend, my heart goes out to the families involved in this event. I will not judge the individual nor the dogs, for who am I?

Before adopting our Spanky, we investigated the breed. For anyone who cares to get informed, I recommend www.badrap.org or the book "Pit Bulls for Dummies." Before the Peninsula animal shelter would release him to us we had to undergo an interview and compatibility review. We were given explicit instructions as to the responsibility we were about to shoulder.

Spanky is a pit bull and to our knowledge he has never bitten any person or animal. We know that doesn't mean he never will. So why did we agree to adopt this dog? When we saw him, we could not leave without him. People who know us would not characterize us as fearful, hostile or aggressive. Neither would we wish a dog attack on another.

We are grateful to our neighbors for not asking us to get rid of Spanky.

Marie Ochi-Jacobs

Stockton Place

Palo Alto

Pleased with priority


PAN (Palo Alto Neighborhoods) was pleased when the City Council established disaster and emergency planning as the top council priority for 2006.

PAN formed a committee to design and implement best practices to prepare neighbor-to-neighbor, block-to-block and community-to-community. We have developed a collaborative relationship with the city. In the process, we have achieved key PAN objectives, including defining the role of block coordinators and their hierarchy within the city and conducting a survey to determine resident interest for emergency notifications.

We urged the council to form a mayor's task force to develop a strategic plan to address the needs and concerns of all stakeholders.

We commend Mayor Judy Kleinberg for listening to this request from the Palo Alto Neighborhoods and applaud the formation of the Mayor's "Red Ribbon Task Force on Disaster Planning."

Palo Alto has been recognized as the most prepared city in the state for disaster and emergencies. We look forward to the development of a "collaborative and coordinated" strategic plan to address prevention, preparedness, response and recovery to ensure there are no gaps in the system.

Annette Ashton

Chair, PAN Disasters and Emergency Preparedness Committee

Sheri Furman, Doug Moran and Karen White

Co-Chairs, Palo Alto Neighborhoods

Bryant Street

Palo Alto

Wheelchairs, smiles


I am the advisor for the Palo Alto High School Rotary Interact Club, sponsored by the East Palo Alto Bayshore Rotary Club.

This year one of our goals was to collect donations which could be contributed to the Wheelchair Foundation for the purpose of acquiring wheelchairs to meet the needs of Third World countries. Last June our club collected donations which were in turn sent to the International Rotary Foundation, which matched our club donations.

The monies were sent on to the Wheelchair Foundation, and in combination with additional donations, the foundation purchased 240 wheelchairs for use by Third World countries. The Wheelchair Foundation is a wonderful institution that I understand has been responsible for the acquisition and shipping of several hundred thousand wheelchairs to third-world countries.

We recently received thank-you notes from wheelchair recipients in Thailand. The notes included beautiful color pictures of the two recipients sitting in their new wheelchairs. Both the young lady and teenage recipients of the wheelchairs had wonderful, happy smiles on their faces.

This year, we hope we can send at least another two wheelchairs to another country to help fulfill the needs of the thousands of people in Third World countries in dire need of wheelchairs.

Jeannette Remmel

Lincoln Avenue

Palo Alto

Tired of hypocrisy


Rep. Tom Foley sending teenage pages sexually explicit messages was finally caught and Republicans in the House put up with his behavior, keeping it secret and telling him to behave himself more carefully, until now.

Suddenly these hypocrites who try to force their moral values on the rest of us are now saying he should be fully prosecuted for his crimes. These Republicans did nothing about protecting the pages until the heat was too high and now before an election are trying to look falsely like they are holding the moral high ground.

Foley sponsored legislation to protect minors from abuse and neglect while he was inappropriately exploiting pages in Congress. In July he introduced legislation designed to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet.

Voters should take into account the hypocrisy of Republicans in Congress who behave immorally and are trying to regulate the country's morality. There is culpability in this sordid revelation about Foley for the entire Republican Party since they did not act to reveal and take appropriate actions (according to newspaper articles) until the scandal became very public.

We need a new Congress with majority of Democrats and a new Democratic leadership in the executive branch starting in November 2006.

Edith Groner

Parkside Drive

Palo Alto

Occupation 101


Phil Smaller (Weekly, Sept. 29) repeats the Israeli official propaganda line that it is the Palestinians who are responsible for the lack of progress in bringing about a peaceful settlement of the Middle East crisis.

Sadly, this is a myth that has been perpetuated with repetition. The Israeli government has repeated the mantra, "the Palestinian Authority, Hamas are terrorists and therefore we have no negotiating partner." Surely, land theft, home demolitions, arbitrary arrests and torture, and killing innocent civilians all constitute acts of terror.

Perhaps Smaller is unaware that Israel is in violation of a staggering 65 U.N. resolutions compared to zero violations by the Palestinians. Gaza has now become the world's largest prison, where freedom of movement is strictly controlled by Israeli military checkpoints -- another example of state-sponsored terrorism.

Israel has stolen millions of dollars of funds belonging to the Palestinians driving up unemployment and exacerbating the suffering. A record number of children are suffering from acute malnourishment and others have committed suicide. A new, Occupation 101, has ignited indignation from Americans of all stripes who are incensed that our tax dollars are being used by Israel to terrorize and subjugate a defenseless people. I urge readers to go to www.occupation101.com to see the trailer.

Jagjit Singh

Louisa Court

Palo Alto

Peace or hatred?


In a recent letter, Rachelle Marshall responds to earlier letters accusing her of various beliefs on the Middle East. Clearly, supporting aims of a Palestinian population that in free elections chose to be governed by a terrorist party makes one a supporter of suicide bombers.

Marshall wrote of Israel's unwillingness to part with land Palestinians sought, although there never was a Palestine and the desired West Bank, along with half of Jerusalem, had been controlled earlier by Jordan, not by Palestine.

Marshall is well aware of the Camp David talks in January 200l where President Clinton, seeking a major legacy, convinced Israelis to offer nearly all of the desired West Bank along with East Jerusalem in exchange for peaceful relations. Marshall has overlooked Yasir Arafat's refusal of the offer and his start of the second Intifada.

Marshall can read conference details in "The Missing Peace" by Dennis Ross, who participated in the meetings and who served as Middle East peace negotiator for the first President Bush and for President Clinton.

Peace will come to the Middle East, as Golda Meir has stated, "when Palestinian mothers love their children more than they hate Jews."

Bud Rubin

Paradise Way

Palo Alto


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