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Escondido principal to move to Fairmeadow

Original post made on Apr 20, 2011

Escondido School in Palo Alto was searching for a new principal Tuesday after the announcement that 15-year Principal Gary Prehn will become principal of Fairmeadow School this fall.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 9:53 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by Parent at Escondido
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:03 am

As an Escondido parent I am saddened to lose our awesome Principal. Fairmeadow is gaining a great leader.

Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:11 am

As a former Escondido Parent, I am very happy he is leaving. But good luck to the Meadow students and parents. A Jorad child still has a bad memory of his experience at Escondido. He used to drag students to his office to punish them. Sad, Sad.

Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:17 am

Do not blame palo alto principals and teachers,it is your job to teach your kid discipline.He was nice enough to correct your child's behavior for you.

Posted by Fairmeadow Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:28 am

I heard the good news last night at an event and am so excited to get another good principal to replace Eric Goddard. I have been a parent at Fairmeadow for 9 years now and we have had 4 principals in that time. Fairmeadow deserves another experienced well liked principal. We are so sorry to say goodbye to Eric Goddard. He was a wonderful principal at Fairmeadow for 3 years now. Goodbye Eric Goddard and welcome Gary Prehn to Fairmeadow Elementary School. We have a wonderful community at Fairmeadow so I am sure you will love it here!

Posted by Dr. W
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:43 am

On a tour of the school a couple of years ago, I asked why the school gives so much homework to the students - starting in kindergarten no less. Mr. Prehn replied, "Because that's what the parents want." Wrong answer. Luckily, we got into a different school with a more humane attitude toward education.

I hope the parents at Fairmeadow will ask for LESS homework for their children. They might just get what they ask for AND what's best for everyone.

Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:50 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by JGT
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:58 am

As an Escondido parent this is such upsetting news. Gary Prehn is the best! Fairmeadow is very lucky to have him.

We will miss you Gary.

Posted by Susan
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2011 at 12:34 pm

As a former Escondido parent, I can say that I liked Gary Prehn, with one BIG exception: He installed Spanish Immersion (SI) at the school, thus turning it into a boutique mega-school. Esconcdido used to be a neighborhood school, but it is now an overcrowded campus with tons of portables. The main casue of this is SI. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

On the other hand, Gary ruled with appropriate discipline, and he stood up to parents who wanted "feel good" lower expectations.

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Just wonder why principals move withing same district, what are the benefits and/or motivation? Prehn moves to Fairmeadow, John Lents moved to Duverneck last year.

Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Maybe their experiences are best match for a larger or a smaller school now?

Posted by Jessica Roth
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I am saddened by the News that we will loose Gary Prehn as Principle at Escondido. I have a 4th and 3rd grader that absolutely adore him. He is an amazing leader and I couldn't have asked for a better person to start our educational experience with. Fairmeadow is receiving a great gift this Fall and Escondido a great loss.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Sarah - Principal's often move because they would like a new challenge. It also seems like an experienced principal will end up at a school that has recently experienced a lot of turnover of principals and will be a stabilizing influence.

From a business standpoint, it makes sense to keep your good employees and provide them opportunities for growth instead of loosing them.

Posted by College Terrace parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm

My two kids graduated from Escondido. We still remember the smiles from Gary Prehn.
Sorry Escondido lost this great leader!

Posted by Susan
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2011 at 6:20 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Gaston Olvera
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm

The Fairmeadow community is very lucky to be in such good hands.

We will miss Mr. Prehn a lot at Escondido. Best of luck in your new adventures.

Posted by Palo Verde
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Sarah, Principals move to another school because they are in hot water already and Gary is not an exception. There are parents who do not like the way he handles discipline. Some parents already took their kids out and are threatening with suiting the district for not protecting the kids. They did not just decided to leave for no reason. Hopefully once he is at Meadow he changes the way he disciplines children.

Posted by Liberal Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 12:28 am

Fairmeadow asking for less homework for their children? Doubtful.

I disagree that principals are all in hot water when they leave. Mr. Goddard, Ms. Meagher, Mr. Lents, Mr. Garcia, to name a few, were well-liked. Ms. Howard however. . .

I am unaware of Mr. Prehn's disciplining but must say that some children do need harsh discipline - usually the ones who have the parents who are too permissive and try to reason with their children too much. If an authority can scare a child into behaving, I'm all for it.

Posted by IN THE KNOW mother
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Apr 21, 2011 at 1:55 am

There HAS been teachers in our Palo Alto schools who deserve to be disciplined for mentally abusing students. I for one did not realize what what going on in one of the classrooms until another parent (who observed the behavior) related it to me regarding my son. I should have had this teacher removed~
I did go to the district office for a meeting with a few other parents regarding the accusations of this same teacher~ nothing was done and he was allowed to continue to teach at the same school for a few more years until he retired. SAD.
You will only hear much about the "squeeky clean PA school system" in the news......BE CAREFUL, it's only a misnomer.. LISTEN TO YOUR CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2011 at 7:15 am

It seems to me that it is obvious that the district listened even though they did not fire him right away,(law forbids it),but they managed to make him retired early or at least he did not feel comfortable staying in there forever.I have encountered a teacher with same problems also in other school district, my kid is very good always listens to the teachers, but this teacher puninshed everyone in a class for a mistake other kid made.She was scared came back home telling me about this, I told her that we need to deal with all kinds of people later in our working life, the teacher did this also means he/she wants to teach more to the class under more organized environment.We have to adjust to all kinds of different people and style. My kid listened, now she told me she thinks he taught her a lot even though he was strict.

Posted by Liberal Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:55 am

"Mentally abusing" children is unacceptable.

Disciplining children for disruptive behavior is another and should be allowed.

There was a Duveneck elementary school teacher who yelled at all students and traumatized at least 3 years of classes. She left "temporarily" but my guess is there won't be an opening for her if she tries to return. There was another teacher who was had issues who left. The principal was Kathleen Meagher who was promoted to the district office and is now runs the curriculum and professional development for elementaries. Speak to her if you have issues with elementary teachers: [email protected]

Good principals are a treasure to keep.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2011 at 11:10 am

@ Susan: The district made the decision to install SI at Escondido, not Prehn. His job was to implement it - he did not have a choice. Your criticism is aimed at the wrong person.

Posted by Susan
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm


Since my posts are being removed, how I can I challenge what you think you know? I happen to know that Prehn was directly involved in pushing the SI thing to Escondido. If I say any more, my message will become instantly evaporated.

Gary Prehn is very proud of SI. Perhaps you can ask him directly.

Posted by Abusive Teachers
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Yes, my children had a lot of experiences with bad teachers who abuse them emotionally. We complained with the principal, superintendent and nothing was done. Their response was to one of the complains is that the teacher was just joking. The also abuses physically, not just emotionally. This specific teacher does not teach in one classroom only. I assume that event though she has been teaching for a long time they do not want to give her a class. Instead she teaches in two schools and three different classrooms. Wrong thing to do because the gets to abuse physically and emotionally a lot more students in one year. I do not understand why the district tries to deny the problem, and they always try to blame the child by saying that he or she misunderstood and that it was a joke or that the teacher did not really pulled the hair, but it got stock on the teacher's clothing.
by doing this, they are collaborating to the abuse of the children.

Posted by Liberal Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Re Abusive Teachers' posting. Barron Park will have a new principal this fall. Hopefully, things will improve there. Our superintendent is just a figurehead.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm

The grammar errors are very similar for "IN THE KNOW," "parent" and "Abusive Teachers" wonders if those comments are from the same person?

In any case, principals move for enrichment of all. Anyone in a job for a very long time knows that it's beneficial to make a change, re-pot, and try something different. I applaud Gary, John, and the other principals who have the courage to make a change, shake things up, and grow themselves and their schools in the process. Good luck at Fairmeadow, Gary!

Posted by ef
a resident of Escondido School
on Apr 23, 2011 at 7:38 am

Susan of CT is correct - Gary Prehn was involved with the decision to move SI to Escondido. I was active in Escondido's PTA & council back when the decision was made, and therefore was able to observe how he helped make the transition from Fairmeadow to Escondido happen. Most - not all - teachers were against moving SI at the time. It was a contentious issue that split the PTA as well.

The district took a vote, true, but the move had to have the support and lobbying, if you will, of the principal to tip them in favor.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

SI decisions aside, Gary's a good, solid principal. I wish him well.

Posted by ef
a resident of Escondido School
on Apr 23, 2011 at 3:11 pm

The censor is heavy-handed today. Why so adamant to hide factual information?

Posted by Barron Park Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2011 at 11:37 am

SI is a great program. It had to go someplace so why blame Gary Prehn for agreeing to house the program.

Gary Prehn is not perfect, but here are some examples of great things that he did:

Took a personal interest in a child that was way behind. Asked him how he was doing when he would go to pull out. Offered to take him out as a reward for progress. Encouraged the child when the child had a hard time with behavior as well as academics. Allowed the family to keep the child in mainstream for a very long time because this is what the family wanted. Made a real point of trying to get good teacher matches for the child.

Excused special education kids from STAR testing, even though the state wants everyone to test, because he felt it was best for them. He didn't care what the state wanted, he wanted what was best for the kids.

Created a great school culture with school assemblies that were really fun. He worked hard at making the them fun and interesting even if that involved him dressing up in silly outfits and working the assembly like a comedian.

Great lunchtime programs such as jogging club, track and field day, flag football, and water balloon fights at the end of the year, and
the end of year fair. Something fun and exciting every couple of months. Something the kids look forward to. Also, a way to participate for kids who might feel excluded.

Giving the teachers the freedom to do things like plan extensive field trips to great places like Angel Island, Redwood Shores, Hidden Villa, Bay Lands and the list could go on and on. Also, the freedom to create real innovations such as plays that teach science concepts, and plays that teach history. Encouraging the use of the arts to promote learning. Almost too many trips and plays .. when I describe them people always say .. sounds like a private school .. certainly not too many dull moments.

Encouraging excellence in test preparation by giving teacher's extra test prep books. Now, not all the teachers made use of the stuff. Some just ignored them, but he did try.

Allowing the parents to plan and raise money for the school without getting in the way.

Knowing the name of each and every child (really). That makes a kid feel great. When kids leave Escondido school they realize that chances are, unless they are some kind of trouble maker or super star, that no other principal is going to know their name ever again.

Kind friendly manner. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is no fun to be greeted by a grumpy principal.

Common sense approach to special situations ... finding solutions without making too big a deal about the problem.

Hiring better teachers. Slowly but surely he has made Escondido better in this way. I don't always agree with who stays and who goes, but overall he has brought in some good people over the last two years. He has taken advantage of the economic downturn to get experienced teachers by jumping on the opportunity very early in the cycle.

Being sensitive to everyone's needs. Some principals feel that they are there to give special help only to certain people (only the disadvantaged, only kids learning to speak English, only minority students). Of course it is important that these people get help and feel heard, but everyone should feel that the school is about them. He creates this feeling without making a big deal out of it.

I am not saying the guy is perfect. No one can do a job for 15 years and please everyone all the time. However, overall he HAS done a fantastic job.

Posted by Former Escondido parents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2011 at 6:53 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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