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Looking for further information on the Board's Action re: Administrators

Original post made by waiting for the light, Charleston Meadows, on Oct 17, 2006

I'm wondering if anyone has heard anything more about the Board's intended action re: the Administrators' letter. Discourse kind of devolved in the last couple of threads, and got off subject, but I'm still left wondering what is going on, when we can expect to hear any comment at all from the Board, and when they will be taking action.

Have the Administrators come back with "clarified" issues (how they could be more clear eludes me, but anyway . . . )?

Have they all agreed on a mediator?

What is the timeline for action or resolution? Is it too much to ask to know that the Board expects to address this issue in a timely manner?

The silence from the Board is disconcerting.

Anyone know anything new?

Comments (14)

Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2006 at 2:23 pm

More resounding silence. Interestingly though, the community aren't the ones who need to be answering these questions.

Light's questions above are completely legitimate and the answering of these questions would in no way be disclosing anything confidential - they are purely about process and timeline. But the questions need to be asked and required of the board.

(I happen to think also that a public disclosure of the clarified issues would also be appropriate.)

Is anybody asking the board directly for accountability to the public on this issue? How? Posting to PA Online won't do it. Needs to be letters to the board. Ask for an open session agenda item at the next board meeting:

You don't need to be an expert on the issue, you just need to be a concerned community member and you have the right to ask.

Posted by Losing patience
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 17, 2006 at 6:13 pm

You don't know any answers because no board member is *giving* any answers, at least not to anyone who can talk about it. I used to pooh pooh the thought that this would just be swept under the rug, but it certainly seems headed for NOTHING. What has it been, a month since this first began to break to the board, according to the Weekly's timetable? And the best they can do is, "We'll look into a mediator?"

They might at least articulate why a mediator, when, to whom to report, what the goals are, what they're trying to do if ANYTHING AT ALL except hoping this goes away.

I'm trying to keep the faith, but it's getting pretty hard. And I am not alone in LOSING PATIENCE....

Posted by waiting for the light
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 17, 2006 at 7:33 pm

Interestingly, just what many speculated the Board (and MFC) were counting on -- namely, that with enough public dialogue and official silence, the discussion would become diluted and the issue disappear -- almost seemed in danger of occurring on the last thread. Specifically, the conversation veered from MFC's record and potential accountability to a discussion of the relative merits of the indivdual Board members. While I am glad that any Board members who read Town Square will be able to find honest reviews of their performance while on the Board and a reminder of whose interests they were elected to serve, still I do want to focus attention back on Mary Frances Callan where it belongs. Regardless of Board action or lack thereof, this entire fiasco would not have come about if not for MFC's widely-known, chilling, abysmal record in this District.

Please, do advise your Board that you care about this issue and are watching what they do. Flout their apparent strategy of waiting until pople are burned out and stop noticing or caring what happens. A slap on the wrist (i.e. verbal warning to improve her communication skills) for MFC would be tantamount to inviting her to abuse her position with even more vindictiveness against opposing voices and an even greater sense of entitlement than she already has demonstrated.

Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2006 at 9:46 pm

Essentially, the Management Group and Board have "closed ranks". Like it or not, there is a tradition of keeping this stuff behind closed doors. The precedent is there, and it's not necessarily a bad prededent, because a public airing of details by one or more administrators or teachers would brand them, and possible cause more district dissention.

It IS important that the letter was written. That was a brilliant tactic on the part of the Management Team, because it brought forward a big problem that wasn't getting attention. It worked, and goave the management team the leverage they needed for the kind of negotiation they want. It will go from there, mostly in silence.

All that said, Mary Frances Callan remains mostly unpopular among PAUSD teachers and administrators. Many of the problems encountered by administrators and teachers remain; a chilling communicatoins environment caused by senior executive actions is VERY hard to repair, because the change has to start at the top. The environment that has been created by Callan remains, and will remain for a long time, no matter her statements, or actions to the contrary.

For anyone who has ever worked in an environment that is infused with random discipline, poor communication, de-motivational tactics, and sheer abuse of administrative power, it's not hard to understand why morale in this district is broken.

Regarding Callan, there really is only one action that the board can take towards getting an *immediate* trun-around happening - that action is to depose Callan, and reassign or relieve of duty at least two of her senior staff. There has been a clear failure of leadership, leading to a vote of "no confidence". Callan has to go. How that happens is of little import; she can resign, retire, take a permanent sabbatical, etc.

Our professional teachers, administrators, kids, and parents deserve FAR better than they've been getting from the PAUSD senior execs, especially given PAUSD's superb student talent, parent dedication, taxpayer contributions, and sheer pride of accomplishment.

Posted by Interested
a resident of Addison School
on Oct 17, 2006 at 9:59 pm

It seems to me that the School Board is unwilling to change the way they oversee MFC's performance. And the board seems unwilling to acknowledge just how lasting a problem has been created by the breakdown of trust. Some board members insist that the full management group does not subscribe to the Sept 6 memo, therefore the problem isn't so bad. Apparently, MFC has successfully courted the favors of some managers, not others (could that be what they mean by preferential treatment?) As it has evolved, we now have a major trust breakdown between MFC and most of her management team as well as within the management team itself! Great.

We want a superintendent who is in touch with the morale of his/her staff; who will listen as well as lead. A person who is genuinely interested in consulting his/her managers (principals and district staff) and teachers. A person who doesn't rush to solutions before fully understanding a problem. A person who takes collaborative approach to problem-solving and strategic planning, but who is also willing to taking a stand and give their rationale. We don't want someone who will waste time paying lip service to gathering community input when the outcome is already determined and closely guarded. We want a person who attracts a strong, competent cabinet team. This town needs a superintendent with a thick skin, but not so thick that they can't listen and learn. We need a superintendent who earns the trust of her staff, even if they don't agree with all of his/her decisions.

I've heard people ask if MFC is coachable? Apparently she has lead our district in a similar fashion to the way she has lead other districts. She is a known quantity. We've gotten what we asked for...The better question now is "Do we want a superintendent who hasn't earned the trust of her managers and staff?"

Posted by Interested
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2006 at 9:25 am

Anyone know what happened at the Board Meeting last night? There was no announcement beforehand on channel 11 and they showed a rerun of last week's non event (which was shown previously not live) instead. Is someone deliberately trying to keep live meetings off the air until it is deemed OK to broadcast?

Posted by another curious parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2006 at 10:24 am

RWE, can you specify what is meant by "chilling communications environment" - "random discipline" - "poor communication" - I am a parent who doesn't know and can't understand what EXACTLY the complaints are against Ms. C. - the statements/complaints are too vague and I don't know any of the examples. The only story I have read is the confusing departure of Mr. DiSalvo at JLS, which still baffles me. If Ms. C goes, who steps in and how much will it cost?

Posted by MAH
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 18, 2006 at 10:34 am

To waiting for the light re: "Interestingly, just what many speculated the Board (and MFC) were counting on -- namely, that with enough public dialogue and official silence, the discussion would become diluted and the issue disappear -- almost seemed in danger of occurring on the last thread. Specifically, the conversation veered from MFC's record and potential accountability to a discussion of the relative merits of the indivdual Board members."

The Board of Ed. and MFC together represent the leadership of this district. MFC could never have gotten away with some of the things she has over the years without the cooperation of the BOE. MFC actually serves as the 6th ex-officio member of the board as its clerk. It's an arrangement that's a little too cozy for my liking, and I wonder if this is how it's done in other districts.

As an example, when MFC decided to put Joe DiSalvo on paid administrative leave after the end of the school year in 2005, the BOE had to vote to support that, and it would be valuable to know if any members dissented.

So I think a discussion of the merits of current and former BOE members, including who supports MFC and her decisions and who doesn't, is useful. It helps us as a voting community know what to look for and what questions to ask, in terms of their service on the BOE and their future political careers. John Barton is now on City Council, as we all know.

This is pure speculation on my part, but I'm guessing that Barb and Gail are in favor of booting out MFC, Camille and Mandy are for. I have no clue about Dana. It's important for the BOE to know that people trust and respect the ones who support the views of the community.

All that being said, I'm in complete agreement with the initial premise of this thread, that parents and concerned citizens of this community must keep the pressure on the BOE to resolve this issue, and not let it fade away like so many other concerns we've expressed in the past.

We need to keep sending emails to the BOE, letters to the editors of the Weekly, Merc and Daily, participating in this online forum, showing up at BOE meetings, and not letting up until some substantive steps are taken to address this crisis. Tell everyone you know to do the same.

Posted by Kathleen
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2006 at 11:11 am

To respond to "Interested," there was no Board meeting on October 17. Reruns are shown routinely by the Media Center on those evenings when there is not a live broacast. All meetings of the Board are posted as required by the Brown Act. Closed Sessions are limitied by the Brown Act in scope and are not open to the public or televised. Study Sessions also are posted and open to the public, but are not always televised. If I can be of any further help, my email at the district office is

Posted by Father
a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 18, 2006 at 11:23 pm

I agree that MFC was and is a known quantity, and not known for her relationship skills with either teachers or administrators. Quite frankly, many despise her. However, it really comes down to the will of the people and how much pressure they exert on the BOE. I don't really know what year of MFC's contract it is, but if she has some years on that contract, she's entitled to at least a year's pay and more likely 18 months. That's literally hundreds of thousands of dollars for a buyout. The BOE may receive some intial heat in this debacle, but they may thinking that they would receive a lot more heat if they have to buyout her contract.

Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2006 at 11:34 pm


The BOE has to weigh how much is lost in terms of human capital, real capital (from inefficiencies resulting from operations), lost forward progress (which has a real cost), lost innovations, and other negatives weigh against a few hundred thousand dollars.

Just the first item - human capital - is huge. How much does it cost PAUSD to have administrators and teachers working at less than full efficiency because of operational roadblocks? How much does it cost students (in the long term) to be part of a system wher ethe people responsible for their care are NOT ABLE to do what they think is best, because adminsitrative roadblocks are in the way.

If the BOE considers _only_ your objection (one that shuold be considered only as PART of the cost of firing Callan), they will be making a misguided judgment that fails to see the big picture.

There are many paths forward, but the key to accessing those facts is to break free from a system of administration that has seeped into PAUSD's pores, and created geberal dissatisfaction, dissention, and displeasure from many staffers and parents. Kids are the biggest losers in all this - If for no one else, let's get a new beginning at PAUSD for our kids.

Posted by More Info
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 20, 2006 at 6:52 am

As said in an earlier thread, this has quickly become a "non-news" item. We now have the same 4 people posting the exact same stuff.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound?

Welcome to the woods, my fellow trees.

Posted by ann
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2006 at 8:58 am

"More Info,"
On the contrary, all the PAUSD parents I know are very concerned about this issue. The lack of trust, communication, and leadership at the top levels of PAUSD affect our children directly. When teachers and administrators are disgruntled, it affects the students too. If you personally are not interested, fine--don't bother to read about it. But many of us are interested and recognize the seriousness of this situation.

Posted by Periwinkle
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2006 at 12:57 pm

"More Info" - - Stay tuned, walk inthe forest, and notice everything that's going on. There's more going on in a quiet forest on an autumn afternoon than you think. Issue like this shouldn't require a headline everyday to keep them alive. Aren't you curious about solving what has become a vexing problem in our schools? Or do you need a "USA TODAY" headline to keep you going?

You might look into your own statement for a clue about what's going on, and how keeping something like this "quiet" tends to let it - and other important issues that effect the lives of you (and our children) - dissipate into the vapors.

That's the PR strategy at HP, where Mark Hurd has preseded over crimes he won't accept responsibility for, and has spun into a "call for change", with Hurd as HP's personal savior.

That's also - in a different way, for different reasons - why the PAUSD issue is being held back. If you're not looking inot spin and PR tactics used by those whose backs are to the wall, you're being played. Look deeper.

btw, if you think people don't care about this issue, just wait and see what happens during the next PAUSD BOE elections if this board doesn't do something to right a situation that has caused us (inlcuding you) real TAX DOLLARS, and inefficiencies in the classrooms that our kids (and yours, if you have any) live in several hours a day.

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