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Letter of complaint and retraction?

Original post made by Parent, Fairmeadow, on Sep 30, 2006

The Weekly and now the San Jose Mercury are both reporting on a letter, sent to Superintendent Callan, from 40 or more of our district administrators, including principles, assistant principles and district coordinators "citing lack of trust and [lack of] productive communication" and other complaints that so far have been reported in somewhat vague terms.

And today's reporting in Palo Alto Online says that 40 were called in to district office today to sign a retraction. Were they being compelled to sign the retraction by the district? Or were they voluntarily signing the retraction?

Can we get more specifics about the letter, the underlying concerns, and what our Board is doing to address the issues? What were the circumstances of the retraction letter? When can we expect the Board to take this out of closed session and explain what's going on to the community?

If the retraction is forced - wow - that would seem rather Big Brother wouldn't it? And how does that help address a culture of mistrust? What's going on here? Does anyone have any more information?

Comments (44)

Posted by Parent
a resident of Addison School
on Sep 30, 2006 at 6:12 pm

My understanding is that a mandatory meeting was called by the administration and a one page retraction letter was distributed to the group for them to sign. Many viewed this as fraught with danger and worried what would happen if they didn't sign. Three school board members went to 25 Churchill and at some point the letters were collected - all unsigned - leaving no copies behind and no one was allowed to keep a copy.

Business as usual?? Has anyone at 25 Churchill been reading up on HP?

Posted by Periwinkle
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2006 at 10:55 pm

Mary Frances Callan, PAUSD's Superintendent, needs to go.

From the very first, she managed to alienate our superb teacher corps, and has now at long last even managed to alienate PAUSD administrators. Is this the kind of leader we want to head up one of the pride and joys of Palo Alto, its heralded school system?

This latest scandal has school board members confiscating 'letters of retraction' - letters that the PAUSD Executive insisted be signed by PAUSD administrators - vice-principals, principals, etc.

'Parent' is right on. What's going on here? Since when is it that *any* PAUSD executive administrator be permitted to engage tactics like this? There is a pattern here.

Perhaps our school board will finally have the courage to take this latest insult to our excellent educators, and use it as a 'final straw' to remove Mary Frances Callan and any other senior administrator who was involved in this overreaching fiasco.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2006 at 12:29 pm

I don't understand these intimidation tactics.

If the Principals and Vice Principals have issues and complaints, shouldn't they be heard and evaluated by the Superintendent and the School Board?

Asking for a retraction seems like a Soviet block tactic. No wonder they feel like they need a Union.

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2006 at 1:57 pm

What's revealing is that this situation must have been festering for quite some time. That 40 administrators reached a level of frustration so severe in their dealings with Callan and her executive staff that they had to resort to this action indicates that even the PAUSD School Board may be out of touch, or in denial.

How does something like this happen right under the nose of the board, under whose direction the Superintendent acts?

This problem goes to the heart of one of the primary *structural* problems that our otherwise excellent school district suffers from. That is, we have let ourselves be fooled into believing that executive level administrators are a necessary part of the local education formula.

Personally, I would like to know exactly what 'leadership' Ms. Callan has actually provided for PAUSD. Others should be asking this same question.

From where I stand it appears that extraordinary effort on the part of teachers, site adminsitrators, PTA's, etc. etc are what make PAUSD hum. Ms. Callan - and to a not insignificant degree - prior PAUSD executives have often been at odds with the people *who do the work* inside and outside the classroom - teachers and administrators. Why should PAUSD continue the early 20th century model of top-down corporate-style management, in *of all places* our SCHOOLS - where social flexibility,new ideas, innovation, new modes of cooperation and communication, and the FUTURE lie.

Our school bboard needs to let teachers and administrators teach, and get the executive administtrators out of the way. It appears we are an excellent school district *in spite of* the management efforts of certain executive school administrators.

Most people aren't aware that the position of School Superintendent is not a mandated one. In other words, there is no legal requirement that PAUSD (or any other California district) even have a Superintendent. This has been pointed out before, and largely ignored.

Posted by School Father
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 1, 2006 at 2:51 pm

As a parent and educator myself, all I can say is "Wow!" I haven't seen nor read about a group of administrators taking on the superintendent and his or her cabinet in my 20 years of service, hence I am dying to know what was in the original submitted letter or what is on the list of complaints. Whatever they may be, they must have been extremely important because supertintendent/board retribution is never far away.

Somebody (a reporter would be nice, but I'd settle for an informed community member) has to post the content of that letter. Unlike many of my fellow parents, I actually need some facts before I can make judgments.

Posted by Just a Dad
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2006 at 3:08 pm

This whole thing smells rotten. A 'Loyalty Oath' to Mary Frances is now mandatory, or so it semms. It is an "open secret" that Mary Frances has terrible relationships with many, if not most of the principals. This most recent tactic, if typical of her management style generally, suggests why.

I have been personally unimpressed by her for several years. My understanding is she was run out of her last Superintendent position. Sincerity and integrity are core attribute for a leader in an educational position, especially in a town like Palo Alto.

You do not inspire confidence in your employees, or the parents who pay your salary, if you try and force something like this down peoples throats in an authoritarian manner.

It's too bad. The community has rallied around the school district in the past few years with extraordinary financial support. This is not what is needed at the moment....

Posted by pausd parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 1, 2006 at 4:20 pm

What is really sad is that people:
1. Believe what they read in the press. We should all remember that while there is probably some amount of truth in what is written, there are probably also numerous errors.
2. That a community as intelligent as Palo Alto, can be so consumed by rumor and inuendo.

It sounds like the principals were trying to work through a process behind close doors, and the press (an public) have stepped in to screw it up.

Posted by Jambo
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2006 at 6:33 pm

The most revealing aspect of all of these comments is that not one person has spoken up in support of Mary Frances Callan. All the letters here are cricitisms of her.

Never having worked with her, I don't have an opinion but it sure
looks like Mary Frances does not have alot of friends. This could be the beginning of the end of her realm.

Posted by Hadituptohere
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 1, 2006 at 6:35 pm

Right on, Jambo. We can only hope Ms. Callan's reign will soon come to an end.

Posted by Work in the area
a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2006 at 6:47 pm

From these postings, one would have to believe “the Palo Alto way” of discussion goes on
despite the glaring lack of facts,
without acknowledging the majority of comments made in the articles are being done so anonymously,
without recognizing that threats of unions usually are a smoke screen to hide the real goal – compensation,
without asking about the coincidence that there is new money coming from the state, and
without considering the possibility that those with an agenda don’t care who gets hurt –superintendents, administrators, teachers, parents, or students.

The posting by hadituptohere would prove these points.

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2006 at 7:50 pm

Looks like "Work in the area" is another one of those 'defenders of truth and integrity' who, for instance, complain about people posting anonymously, while doing the very same thing - i.e. posting anonymously. There's an adjective that's usually applied to "Work's" current approach; that adjective begins with an "h"."

"Glaring lack of facts"? Go talk to almost ANY teacher oro administrator in the district; ask them about the current administration - at and near the top. Do it.

"Union threats"? What's wrong with educators being paid the same as other professionals? Looks like "Work" has his own "anti-union" agenda.

"New money from the state"? "New" money? You mean the money that the state took away and is now giving back?

"Don't care who get's hurt"? You mean that human beings who work in organizations, after struggling to communicate with management, and being rebuffed at every turn, shuold just sit passively and let themselves be hurt?

What HASN'T been said on this thread, and remains "the great unsaid" ARE the facts. Facts that would chill anyone who thinks that PAUSD has run like a top under the current Superintendent's reign. The atmosphere here is so chilled that people are not willing to go out on a limb and speak the *truth*. Imagine that?

Someone posted a fact earlier on another- related - thread; a fact that could be easily corroborated over and over again. That fact was deleted by this forum's editor. As this fiasco unfolds, that now-deleted fact will become common knowledge.

I hope ALL the facts come out - from ALL sides. Perhaps once that's accomplished - instead of getting papered over - the taxpayers and parents in this city will realize that their children's education has been *compromised* by some who are at and/or near the top at 25 Churchill.

I and many other people want to know what was in that letter, and we WILL know. Why? Because PAUSD is a PUBLIC entity, supported by taxpayer dollars that is MANDATED FOR TRANSPARENCY.

C'mon, let's have the facts, including a goof look into the way that some senior administrators have been behaving for the last few years.

Let the facts roll!

And once that's over, let's figure out a way to run PAUSD like a 21st century school district, instead of the current top-down retro organization it currently is.

Posted by Works in the area
a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2006 at 10:35 pm

Just to be clear, I said anonymously quoted in the articles, not the postings.

I have talked with people in the district, absolutely have no anit-union agenda, no problem with professional pay for all, and support open negotiations. I agree it isn't helpful that the information is being put out in inflamtory bites. It is even less helpful that the situation is being second guessed and judged without full disclosure.

State money - take away, give back - it's still new to this year. And if discussions are ongoing, it should follow that agreement is still possible.

Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 1, 2006 at 11:05 pm

While I have significant concerns about many aspects of this issue I agree with those who have cautioned that the facts aren't yet available for any of us to draw conclusions. What's been reported and rumored so far is enough for people to have suspicions, but probably not more than that yet. Hopefully, the Board will move quickly to provide an opportunity for the priciples/managers to convey to the Board their grievances in an environment that they would feel is safe from retribution.

I do have some questions:

*Does anyone know more about why the emergency Board meeting was scheduled for today? The noticing by Mandy Lowell claimed that it was to discuss "disciplinary action and dismissal".

*Does anyone know why it was canceled? The online Weekly reported today that it was due to improper noticing in violation of the Brown Act. Was it canceled because of too short of a noticing period or because the topic was not described properly.

*The "Addison parent" above said that Saturday's meeting was called by the administration and implies that the letter was also distributed by the administration. The Weekly online posting about the meeting didn't clarify who called the meeting and who cretaed the retraction letter. If it is true that it was the administration, then that is even more troubling. If the facts are as reported by the "Addison parent", then the it's very interesting that none of the principles/managers were willing to sign the retraction given the differing opinions reported in the press about what portion of them were in support of the original grievance memo.

I'll save my other questions for later.

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2006 at 11:32 pm

"Hopefully, the Board will move quickly to provide an opportunity for the priciples/managers to convey to the Board their grievances in an environment that they would feel is safe from retribution."
Are you kidding? This is naive. Safe from retribution? Guess who has the power to assign, delete, and modify positions in this district? - that's right, the executive administrative staff at 25 Churchill.

How could you imagine that anyone other than executive staff created the retraction letter? It HAD to be the executive staff (and/or the school board - - if the latter, it's even more troubling). In any case, there is a _lack_ of effective leadership in this district, and there has been for some time. How is that not apparent to you?

Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 1, 2006 at 11:52 pm

I guess that I was naive about at least one thing. I had hoped that we might have a civil and mutually respectful dialogue. It's interesting that online discourse such as this often takes on a tone that is far more personal, judgmental and uncivil than we would probably have in person. Why is that?

BTY, my reference to providing a forum safe from retribution referenced communication with the Board rather than the administration. It may not be achievable, but the Board needs that input and the Board needs to convey clearly that they value the concerns of the principles/managers.

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2006 at 12:44 am

It's unfortunate that you consider direct communication not to be civil. If we were face to face, I would have said the very same thing, with a smiile on my face. Does that help? :)

The Superintendent works at the pleasure of the board. The board is supposed to lead and provide oversight. It should be *assumed* that the board is hearing grievances, and acting to stem conflict.

What astounds me about this situation is that it has been permitted to fester to a point where administrators felt compelled - unaninmously compelled, at that - to take the action that they did; and, that PAUSD administration (with the board's help?? - this is a huge question) insisted that the letter be signed by administrators. This is *wrong*. There is something *wrong, seriously wrong* when the entire administrator corps from one of the finest K-12 systems in the country publicly claim a loss of trust in the persons who are supposed to be leading them, developing them, enhancing their professionalism, etc. etc., - they decide to take action to change a bad situation, and are then called into a room and asked to sign a letter of retraction!?!?? Unreal!

It's fine to have the board hearing grievances, but don't you think that what has already happened indicates a complete breakdown of trust - a breakdown that has evolved over some period of time? Situations like this one don't just pop into existence, overnight; they result from a cumulative accretion of poor communication and dysfunctional leadership.

Will the board have the guts to do what it should have done a long time ago, when this Superintendent caused _great_ dissension in the teacher ranks? We'll see. That situation was also swept under the rug, and largely underreported by the press. As a result, the teacher corp has suffered, needlessly.

That situation should have alerted the Board to take action. It didn't. So here with are with teachers still feeling the sting of past heavy-handed PAUSD executive tactics, and even more dissension from site administrators.

Go ask some teachers and administrators in this district (privately) what they think about PAUSD executive leadership. I have; that's where my felt opinions come from. I know for a fact that the board has been hearing this for quite some time. Now the cork is off the bottle, and there's a mess to clean up. Bring out the broom, and sweep the place clean!

Many Palo Altans are going to be watching this with great interest, _including_ our teacher and administrator corp.

That retraction letter was an _egregious_ act of pure hubris and administrative abuse. All persons in senior administrative and/or board positions who were responsible for it should step down.

Posted by Palo Alto Sucker
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 2, 2006 at 4:36 am

I am shocked to see the negative focus on the Suprintendent.

Here is my solution:

These ADMINISTRATORS are doing a WONDERFUL job the for the schools.
DOUBLE their salaries RIGHT NOW.

PALO ALTANS are suckers of the HIGHEST ORDER !!!!!!

Posted by Harshfest?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2006 at 8:59 am

The Board is elected by its constituency to set policy, budget, and direction. The superintendent reports to the Board and is charged with carrying out their collective goals. Superintendents do not negotiate, but serve as the intermediary between the representative group and the Board. Final approval of all recommendations, including movement of personnel, rests with the Board.

Seems to me any superintendent can easily be crushed between a rock and a hard place of trying to serve both sides well. Hard to believe any of these people would intentionally act in a way that would risk the wrath of the parent, general, and education communities.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Addison School
on Oct 2, 2006 at 9:40 am

Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Trouble has been brewing for some time in Palo Alto. It's unfortunate that there are rumors and innuendo but that's what you get when people are afraid to speak up. People speak to those they trust and from that point on, all is rumor and conjecture. But if you have no place to turn except a small circle of trust (and if the school board has been grossly negligent in its duties to supervise the supervisor) what more do you expect?

You are also likely to see an emotional outburst when people feel they haven't been heard for years. I agree that the ultimate decision should be made by the board after hearing direct testimony from those who have the facts. I think we'd all agree that no action should be taken based on rumor and hearsay. But give a small bit of latitude for emotions. People need to get this off their collective chest - it's been a long time coming. "When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions."

We do need to get to the bottom of the retraction letter fiasco. Although I'm no great fan of our board, I highly doubt they would have been involved in calling the meeting. In fact, some of them went to 25 Churchill at the time of the retraction meeting and might have had a role in stopping it. If that's the case, three cheers for them and let's all hope this heralds the era of a newfound willingness to listen to long festering complaints.

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2006 at 1:27 pm

Perhaps asking the board to poll teachers and adminstrators with a vote of confidence might be in order. Why not? Just asking administrators to "blow off steam" is NOT sufficient. And _egregious_ act of administrative hubris was committed, and it should not be tolerated.

There is something *seriously* wrong with the way that PAUSD (and many other districts) are run. Where else - in what other profession - do we have elected officials, often with NO expertise as professionals, mandated to tell professionals (teachers) how they should do their job, how they shuold teach, what they should teach, etc. etc. etc. That's what happens in the teaching professions. It's absurd.

Then we have the position of "School Superintendent". Someone who comes into town at $240K+ per year, stays for 5 years, just long enough to start a bunch of things that look good on a resume, and then move on to greener pastures, leaving unresolved problems behind. It's absurd.

Who ends up doing all the heavy lifting and "cleaning up the mess" in this absurd scenario? Teachers, site administrators, parents, and students - that's who. Excellence in thsi district is accomplished EVERY DAY by hard working teachers and site administrators and volunteer parents who succeed IN SPITE OF the barriers placed in front of them by "executive administrators", appointed by the school board.

The main problem with the board/supervisor relationship is that there is a built in conflict of interest involved.

First, the board, made up of *elected* officials (who often have further personal political agendas), doing "national searches" to find the "right" person. What happens when they make a mistake? How many elected officials will own up to a mistake like that, especially when it involves one of the most important decisions that the elective body makes?

What happens as a result is that the board doesn't want to lose face, and inefficient or poor executives are tolerated until they leave for a better position. That's what is happening in Palo Alto, as I write this.

There's also the pressure of not wanting to tarnish our EXCELLENT academic reputation with peripheral problems. What's ironic about this is that our excellent system has almost EVERYTHING to do with the EXCELLENCE of site administrators and teachers, and NOTHING to do with the board and executive officers. If you don't believe me, go ask 1000 teachers and 20 site administrators at random. It might surprise you; it might surprise a lot of people around here who have no idea.

So, are we going to have yet another PAUSD whitewash, after yet another group of hard-working educators have been *finally* permitted to express their frustration? A whitewash like the one that occurred right after Supervisor Callan first came, when our entire teaching corps was alienated and insulted (yes, insulted, and there's proof). Dissension from those days is still alive. Teachers in this district largely DO NOT RESPECT PAUSD executive senior executives. What is going on here? Why should't professionals in one of the most important jobs in our culture have the RESPECT they deserve?

Our school board needs to take swift and decisive action to once-and-for-all end the administrative fiasco that our teaching professionals have had to endure for far too long.
Any senior executive that was involved in creating this situaition should be walked out the door, period. No excuses! Let's start treating senior administrators with the same directness that teachers who don't function well have to suffer - outright dismissal.

Following that, if our board decides to hire another superintendent (another question altogether), that person should be CAREFULLY and THOROUGHLY vetted through TEACHER AND SITE ADMINSTRATOR PARTICIPANTS, with this latter group used as the PRIMARY input for who gets hired. We'd better start thinking HARD about this.

To do otherwise will lead to the same problems that we have encountered with the current supervisor, and to some lesser degree with past supervisors.

Boards fire executives all the time. Boards are replaced all the time. It's time to face some facts here in Palo Alto - and muster the courage to do what needs to be done, make some structural changes, and move on in a way that *enables* our educational system, instead of keeping the professionals who run it and work in it in chains, thus reducing the effectiveness of our children's education, AND our tax dollars.

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2006 at 1:50 pm

My advice to the "Management Team" that will go into closed session on Tuesday: DEMAND to form a union. Do it!

If you don't the very same *structural* problem that occurs in this district (and many others) will occur over and over again, with no way to solve it. Again, that structural problem is defined by elected boards whose members are NOT teaching nor education professionals, making decisions about your profession, and your future.

the only way to currently protect yourselves from this unfortunate situation is to organize, or risk being picked off one by one through subtle retribution, or outright bias, when it comes to promotions, reassignment, etc. etc.

Right now, the BIG story is slowly beginning to be swept out from under the rug. That story is WHO (what person or persons) wrote the letter, ,and asked that it be signed.

THAT is the bottom line. After that is dealt with, THEN let's have a discussion about working conditions and communication.

How can this newspaper (the Weekly), or the board, be suggesting anything less?? Unless there is an attempt to keep everything under wraps while this thing is talked to death behind closed doors, with everyone who was involved in this fiasco remaining in place.

It looks like deja vu all over again (relative to the HP fiasco).

Palo Altans are going to be watching this VERY closely.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 2, 2006 at 1:59 pm

George, it sounds like you're in a position to know exactly what's going on, and have the history as well. It would be helpful if you could recap what happened when Callan originally came and how the teachers and administrators were originally alienated and insulted. I am unfortunately without the historical context for what you are describing. Also, I think you might be assuming that people have been following this issue - or that it has ever been clear to the general public. But its not really clear from what you've written so far (and from what the papers have reported) what exactly is going on here now. Can you be more specific? Any examples of what we're talking about? This would help us understand.

By the way, I've been closely following the board, attending the meetings, reading all the written materials that come out, but I don't see any of the district inner workings as a member of the general public, I don't see or hear anything about how the teachers and adminstrators are being treated. (And teachers are generally very careful about speaking poorly of the district.) I can only glean from what's said and written for public consumption. There are hints of mismanagement, and some pretty amazing feats of stupidity in the board sessions. I have been very frustrated by lack of focus, lack of leadership, lack of clear communication, lack of committment to top priorities of our district, even lack of UNDERSTANING of the top priorities of our district, and less than straight forward methods, on most of the issues that I've been following, but my examples will be off topic and may or may have anything to do with what's going on now for the administrators. So if you can help us understand with some more concrete info, that would be most helpful.

As a matter of course, I believe that the site personnel; principles, teachers, and PTA, are the backbone of our district and require our utmost support. I have observed enough of the District level management and the Board to know there's something fishy about what goes on at 25 Churchill.

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2006 at 4:27 pm

I am not going to get into deep detail in this forum. However, it's pretty clear to anyone who asks around, or works within or close to the system, that real, inspirational, operational, competent leadership that inspires has been missing from PAUSD for some time.

Here's one incident that was never reported, and should have been - it's reported here in general detail; it was kept quiet because everyone wanted to "smooth over" early relationships betwen the then-new Supervisor Callan, and the teachers. There are many other things that can be written here, but won't be, to protect the innocent from retribution.

When Callan first met with the main teacher's union rep, she brought her attorney - from a past district - with her. The union rep was told sternly, in no uncertain terms, that the union was not going to prevail in getting waht it wanted, and that it was, essentially, going to be crushed by Callan. That union rep attended a few more meetings with Callan, hearing even more stern invective and threats before deciding not to attend any further meetings without witnesses.

Believe me, the above paragraph is kind in its characterization of the events described. Talk to the actual participant for more.

Is the above-described behavior consistent with someone who has been specifically hired to run one of the best school districts in America, a district so-defined primarily because of the excellence delivered day in and day out by its teaching and site administrative staff, and dedicated parent volunteers?

From that point on, feelings of anger, mistrust, and alienation settled in to our teacher corps. Those feelings remain largely present to this day. Ask around.

Callan has promoted certain people who themselves have also committed the most amateurish mistakes imaginable, causing further consternation and dissension. Could any rational person - watching the events that have transpired over the last three weeks - come to any conclusion other than the fact that a _complete_ breakdown of communication has occurred among some senior PAUSD executives, the PAUSD board, and site adminsitrators/program personnel.

Again, why has this situation been permitted to get to this point. Where has the board BEEN?

WHY are we not hearing more about this most egregious and insulting administrative abuse, as represented by a tactic to scare people into signing what amounts to a loyalty oath. Who do these people think they are?

Even the press is beginning to play down nthe letter, and talk about this situation as one that just needs some "venting". Will that change the _structural_ flaws spoken of earlier? Will that change the everyday, on the ground intimidation tactics that have been used by Callan and some of her senior staff since day one? It won't.

It will take courage and self-examination by the PAUSD board to do the right thing.

Keep in mind that all PAUSD executive staff are not of Callan's ilk. There are just a few, but that few are responsible for the extreme heavy-handededness described above.

Regardless, and again - anyone who had anything to do with the decision to issue that letter, or attempt to compel its signing by sire administrators NEEDS TO GO.

Posted by Keith
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 2, 2006 at 4:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Good Heavens
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Oct 2, 2006 at 5:02 pm

The letter was written by a principal and was intended as place to start a conversation. It did not ask for a retraction. No one was compelled to sign. Don't know who you are George, but given the length of your comments throughout, you appear to be single handedly the judge and jury and fanning the flames. I wonder why.

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2006 at 5:26 pm

Keith - - - wow! talk about innuendo! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online]

And to "good heavens" - - perhaps you might ask a teacher or 100, or an administrator or 20 what they think about current executive management. Seems like you, and most others, are in the dark about what's been going on here since Callan began her reign. Ask around and learn a thing or two.

"Judge and jury"? hah! Just "reporting" on school affairs in a way that doesn't happen around here, while the PROFESSIONALS who do the grunt work every day suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous management. Perhaps yuo would like to counter what I've been putting out there instead of attacking my motives. I'm waiting for your facts to the contrary of what I've posted - let's have 'em!

btw, if you know so much about the letter, let's hear more. Also, can you please explain why administrators felt compelled to initiate a union? Might that be because executive administration and has a problem with communication.

"Fanning the flames" Well, as a member of othe "Terman School Community", perhaps you might stop assuming less about how things go with the teachers and administrators who teach your kids all day, and ask around to find out what their working conditions and management is really like. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online]

It's about time that SOMEONE pointed out what's been going on at 25 Churchill for years, because TEACHING is being compromised, and TAX dollars are being wasted.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online]

Posted by Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 2, 2006 at 5:30 pm

Thanks. Since you stuck your neck out and shared one, I'll share two that both happened in public meetings - out in the open for anyone who was there... (Again, unfortunately, unrelated to the specific topic of mistreatment of staff, but in some sense related as they pertain poor performance.)

a. In working session on 8/22, a Board member asked for a confirmation that Callan and Cook would include their Staff and Superintendent recommendations on the Mandarin Immersion proposal when it was finally completed in (apprx) Feb 2007. They both said flat out No. They were both only going to give 'pros and cons' but would not give a yes/no recommendation because the subject is too controversial, and THEY shouldn't be put in the position to take sides. They thought their jobs should be limited just to putting together the best program they could come up with. This discussion got VERY heated, with a couple board members arguing that it indeed is their job to make recommendations on proposals. In fact everything that comes in front of the board, comes with a Staff/Superintendent Recommendation. When finally pressed to the mat, Callan said she would tack a recommendation onto the feasibility study (not Cook though) - Callan said she could ALREADY tell us that her recommendation would be that the program they put forth in Feb '07, would be the best program they could offer ~if~ the Board wanted a Mandarin Immersion program. So in other words Callan has already stated she is not going to do her job to make recommendations to the board for the efficient, effective operation of the district, as to whether the program would fit the educational and adminstrative objectives of the district, and be within policy, within strategic fit, within staffing, within budget, etc. Instead, she promised to say "We did some research and I confirm we did our research." Since when does the highest level executive in an organization bow out of making definititive qualitative and quantitative directional policy recommendations to their Board because to do so would be too controversial?

The second example was reported by the Weekly on 9/1 as follows:
"The district did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), as required by the No Child Left Behind act, because it only tested 93 percent of its special-needs students in math last school year. The federal government requires 95 percent of all students be tested in both English-language arts and math...The district also failed to make AYP in 2004 for not testing enoughspecial-needs or African-American students overall or enough Hispanic students at Escondido Elementary School. That put educators on high alert, and in 2005, the district cleared all the federal hurdles. But, the district is on shaky ground again. If schools fail to test enough special-needs students next spring, it will be the second consecutive year of missing the same mark, putting the district at risk of becoming a Program Improvement district. Such districts are at risk of state takeover. "

When a citizen asked about this in the following board meeting, Callan said this happened because the state and federal requirements are different. And smiled around the Board table, as if this were a perfect answer. So WHAT? Its her JOB to make sure the laws and regulations are followed. Did they not get followed because someone made a mistake (too busy, district staff spending too much time on low priority stuff?), someone didn't understand the laws (their job) or because they didn't like the requirements and singlehandedly decided they shouldn't have to follow the rules? Someone didn't do their job, and is putting this district at risk of not following the federal law, and I haven't heard YET of anyone being held accountable for this. Will the board address this matter as it pertains to Superintendent performance?

Having said this, these are just trivial examples relative to what's at stake here. The issues you are discussing related to alienating our teacher core are far more serious.

Posted by Good Heavens
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Oct 2, 2006 at 7:13 pm

I reread what has been said and the facts are: The lawyer represents the Board, not the superintendent. There was no unanimous vote by administrators. Principals are part of a small percentage of non-represented employees not covered by PAEA or CSEA. The original direction of the Board on Mandarin Immersion was to do a feasibility study, not provide a recommendation. Callan agreed to make recommendation(s). AYP requirements are missed because families are allowed to opt out of the testing. The students, parents, teachers, principals, anonymous donors, PTA, PAPIE, and other business and civic leaders are consistently recognized and thanked for their work. The only slings and arrows are on this site.

Posted by My Goodneess
a resident of Barron Park School
on Oct 2, 2006 at 8:27 pm

Yet Callan and her attorney, together, went on immediate attack with the union rep, to the point where he refused to go into a meeting alone? And the attorney was the same person who stood by her while she busted or tried toi bust unions in her last gig? Good heavens, are you writing from 25 Churchill? The board at the time knew about this, and let it continue. Why? What was the agenda?

"Principals are a small percentage of non-represented employees"? So what? That the management group is rebelling against its senior executive team says more about the executive team than the administrators. yup, you're writing from 25 Churchill...:)

I thought the Superintendent's gig was to lead. Why else is she getting $240K+? She didn't have a recommendation about Mandarin immersion? Why not? You mean her senior staff had no opinion on curriculum? Why is there a highly paid Assoc. Sup oif Curriculum and Instruction? C'mon, get real...:)

Why are families permitted to opt out of testing? Shouldn't there be determined pleas coming from executives that explain the case for why its important for students to do this, instead of losing our independence and becoming a Program Inprovement district? Boy, you are out of touch :)

Yes, people are regularly recognized for their contributions; I go to almost every school board meeting, and it's very gratifying to see public displays of appreciation. Are those displays of appreciation continued in spirit, and embedded in the districts treatment of its teachers and administrators? nope...

uh, Good heavens, it's time to fess're a district executive, right?

Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 2, 2006 at 10:29 pm

In my capacity as a parent volunteer for a couple of years, I too have heard rumblings of dissatisfaction with Ms Callan's leadership, and I suspect the principals, etc. (and teachers) have some valid grievances. However, I am disturbed by the stridency of George's postings and a few others. It appears some of you have more personal grievances. I have read this entire thread, and I must admit that IF that were the entire body of information I had, my sympathy would be with Ms. Callan. As one or two other posts have suggested, let's have a more civil discussion, rather than continue with the mean-spirited accusations and name calling, which unfortunately are all too commonplace on this Forum. And please lay off the school board members; the ones I know are intelligent and dedicated (to Palo Alto school children, parents, & teachers) people, who have a difficult and unpaid(?) job, and they seem to be doing it quite professionally. I don't believe their past actions on this general issue warrant the attacks I have seen from some. And unless I'm really blind, I don't think this district is about to collapse or explode - as one would be led to expect from this discussion.

Posted by anon
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2006 at 10:56 pm

oh, please! how self-righteous! If you can't accept clear, direct, uncompromising reportage, then perhaps you might stay away from this thread.

How about the stridency of Ms. Callan's delivery to teacher's union representatives, and others in the district?

Let's be clear, Ms. Callan is NOT the devil, but she is supposed to be running this district in a way that inspires those under her, and leads them forward. She's not being paid to create dissatisfaction and dissention that cause inefficiency and wasted tax dollars in the classroom and in site administration.

byw, who's calling names? Not George, or Periwinkle. The one post that was deleted from this thread was not one of their posts.

There have already been too many abuses papered over in this district, at great cost to teacher and administrator morale, and effectiveness on the job. Doesn't that concern you?

Doesn't it concern you that suddenly, the "letter of retraction" is suddenly no longer mentioned (was there ever a "letter of retraction"? did one ever exist? we should have the truth soon).

Doesn't it concern you that the people who spend all day with your children are largely unhappy with theior leadership, and crave someone who has the vision and operational chops to take this district forward?

Doesn't it concern you that Ms. Callan is spinning this away from the real problem - HER performance?

Does it concern you that the board knew about some of this and let it get to such an inflammatory place?

Does it concern you that your tax dollars are being compromised when teachers and administrators aren't working at peak efficiency, and happy in their jobs.

If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

I frankly don't think you know what mean-spirited is. If yuo want to see that, go to a few Craig's List forums, where anything goes.

Posted by Beth
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2006 at 11:43 pm

brian, who said the district is about to 'collapse, or explode'? The district has some of the best teachers and site administrators in the nation. they're like a fine tuned orchestra that could run fine on their own. When will Palo Alto hire a superintendent that's the equal of our excellent staff? We need to support our teachers.

Posted by Good Heavens
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Oct 3, 2006 at 7:19 am

The letter was written by a principal and was intended as place to start a conversation. It did not ask for a retraction. No one was compelled to sign. This was posted above already. And George has been edited. Five years of a district running well, with the efforts of great students, parents, teachers, and administrators, and then suddenly a confidential document is given anonymously to the press? This forum reads like a hit piece and could just as likely be an attempt to push a personal agenda.

Posted by My Goodness
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Oct 3, 2006 at 10:16 am

Think again. Perhaps you might poll school districts across the nation to find out how many school site administrative groups rebel in this way against their senior executive group.

For your information, it's virtually *unheard* of. Think hard about what you're saying, and then ask around, so that you might appear less naive on this issue. This is a problem that has been festering for YEARS, and it comes from the top.

Callan and some of her executive team need to go.

You are showing a lot of naivete about the seriousness of this situation, and the need to restructure this district from the top. Do you really think that the executive team at PAUSD is indispensible? That's almost laughable, as executive teams come and go, while teachers and administrators do the day in and day out that brings excellence, or not, to a district.

George couldn't be more right.

Posted by Former Teacher
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 3, 2006 at 10:46 am

As a former PAUSD employee, I've had nothing but positive experiences with my administrators, the 25 churchill staff, and Mary Francis Callan.

Posted by Good Heavens
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Oct 3, 2006 at 10:48 am

Have you read Jay's posting on the other forum? It it pasted intact below. I am not naive.

"Yes, George, there does seem to have been a draft of a letter expressing disagreement with the Sept. 6 document. We are not sure that "retraction" is the correct description of its content, however. It was drafted by Gunn High School Principal Noreen Likens and handed out at the 1 p.m. Friday meeting of about 30 members of the Management Team, according to reports from some of those at the meeting. The group had asked Superintendent Mary Frances Callan to leave the room, which she did.

After lengthy discussion, the group agreed to "set the letter aside," as one person there described it, for three reasons: (1) there was not agreement of all parties about its content; (2) there is a tradition in the district of "not airing dirty laundry in public," and (3) there was concern about implications of some signing and others not signing. So there was a group decision not to sign the letter, and reportedly all copies were collected and returned to Likens to be shredded.

Also, confusion about who called the Friday meeting has been cleared up. The Management Team had been called together for a Thursday-afternoon meeting by Callan, but the group agreed at the Thursday meeting that it would meet again on Friday afternoon, according to the best information we have at present. They were not "summoned back to sign a letter," as some posts have asserted.

Posted by Jay Thorwaldson, editor of the Palo Alto Weekly, 3 hours ago"

Posted by My Goodness
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Oct 3, 2006 at 3:57 pm

I'm afraid you are naive about the fact that district administrators almost *never* rebel against their own administrative management. This is almost UNHEARD of - nationally. I invite you to check that fact out.

38-41 of 48 administrators approved the letter of complaint. Sure doesn't look like a well managed, motivated group to me. You? PLease do tell me why and how this is a well-managed group, instead of just disagreeing on principle.

Hey, I'm paying TAXES, and I want the teachers and administrators that have daily contact with my kids to be happy, and not disgruntled. We need respnsive, motivational, operationally efficient management in this district - something we haven't had in quite some time.

I don't see a wellspring of support from anyone in the district for Callan - why not? (finally, one FORMER teacher weighs in, and that person is even afriad to identigy herself/himself - why? what's to lose?

Ms. Callan has alienated teachers and administrators. Keep believing your own spin, if it makes you feel better.

You'll note again that Callan said something to the effect that "this isn't good for the district" (paraphrasing).

Gee, no kidding! This is VERY similar to the kind of spin we've been seeing from Mark Hurd, at HP - trying to point a serious problem, identifying it as a problem, promising to "claen it up", without admitting that HE was at the helm and was responsible. THis is Callan's current spin, in a nutshell.

Here's hoping the board does the right thing. It's a GOOD thing this is being aired, instead of having our teacher and administrative corps suffer in silence. They don't deserve that. We need to clean out 25 Churchill, so that this district CAN begin to run like the top that Callan and some of her senior executives say it is, and isn't.

Posted by Richard C. Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 3, 2006 at 6:02 pm

I'm coming late to this issue, but I want to comment on the statement signed by "Just A Dad - a resident in Old Palo Alto", posted October 1. "Dad" comments that "Sincerety and integrity are core attitude (sic) for a leader in an educational position, especially in a town like Palo Alto."

This elitist attitude of some of my fellow residents often becomes unbearable. This values are core to any leadership positon educational or othrwise, and certainly for any community, town or governmental jusrisdiction. Is Palo Alto so high and mighty that it has special call on sincerety and integrity as core attitudes?

I hope not.

Richard Placone
Palo Alto/Barron Park

Posted by Beth
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 3, 2006 at 9:40 pm

Did the school board meeting take place? I looked for it on TV, and it wasn't broadcast. Does anyone know what transpired?

Posted by Retired PAUSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2006 at 10:08 pm

Before anyone jumps on the bandwagon about terminating Dr. Callan, be very aware of the language in her contract. She does need to go now, but her contract will likely have PAUSD paying for years. As a former teacher, the mere fact that a large group of 'those' administrators stepped forward to voice concern and discontent is a major and highly significant move. They have much to lose. They are not secure in their present roles, as are most teachers. Note Bene!

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2006 at 10:25 pm

noted! gratias ago vos!

Send her packing! And, send her packing with a bad recommendation from a district that she has caused more consternation and dissension in than the last three Sups put together.

How much is our kids education, and the TRUE excellence of our teachers and administrators worth? Pay up, learn a hard lesson, and move on...

Posted by George
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2006 at 10:26 pm

and while we're at it, send Cook and Bowers packing, too

Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 3, 2006 at 10:47 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

We've decided to experiment on this particular topic with a feature we built into Town Square but haven't yet used: limiting posts to those who register. Registering is very quick, but does require posters to provide their e-mail address (which doesn't appear in the actual post.) The idea is to create a little more accountability. Let us know whether you think this is a good or bad idea.

Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 4, 2006 at 3:17 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

Sorry everyone. Apparently there was a glitch in the system that was keeping some from completing the registration process and thus not being able to continue this discussion.
While we fix it, we've taken off the restriction described in the above post.
Sorry for the inconvenience. Please try to stay focused on the issue and not on attacking characterizing other posters and their motivations.

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