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School board members take umbrage at allegations of possible Brown Act violations

Original post made on Jun 1, 2012

Stung by what they view as unfair allegations that they violated California's open-meeting law, Palo Alto school board members Thursday said they are vigilant in observing the law and do not believe any violation occurred.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 1, 2012, 8:01 AM

Comments (123)

Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 1, 2012 at 8:21 am

In my opinion, very few local government agencies are doing as much as they could to utilize the capabilities of the Internet/WEB to make information that is in the public domain available freely, and inexpensively, to the public. One exception is the City of Menlo Park, which provides a log of all emails to its City Council on its web-site:

Most of the work needed to collect, and create the web-pages can be performed with reasonably simple computer programs/scripts. Filtering for objectionable language is also easily done via computer, as is the removal of any identification information in the email headers.

In addition, with a little work, the incoming emails could be categorized by topic, and a weekly report for the Superintendent, and the Board, generated at no extra cost—giving these folks an accurate tally of the volume of email received, and a breakdown of the email, by topics.

It’s difficult to envision any “ramifications” for the PAUSD that are any different than any other local governing agency, where posting public domain information is concerned. So, let’s hope that the PAUSD Board will see the value of operating in a more transparent fashion in the future, and post all of District’s informational matter on-line, as well as the Board’s incoming/outgoing email, too.

Posted by T Tierney
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2012 at 8:28 am

I want the Superintendant to test ideas in public, not through a series of separate meetings or communications. Members of the school board should have ceased this behavior themselves, correcting the action, not waiting to be caught.

Open exchange of ideas and transparency in making decisions is what I expect from the board and Superintendant. To me, the Brown Act and whether it applies is not important, but if legal action is the only way to fix the problem, I support if enthusiastically.

Posted by WhyIgnoreTheParents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2012 at 9:33 am

It is very surprising that the Board and District are under pressure for conducting it's business outside the public eye, and SIMULTANEOUSLY the district is conducting the Gunn counselling committee without any parents or students.

Why are they hiding this?

Really, if they want to retain credibility, they should include the community, not reject it's involvement.

If the Board were serious about giving real evidence of openness, they would demand that the Gunn committee studying guidance be represented with 51% majority parents and students. Allowing this to proceed in secret is just wasting time and money, as they will need to do it over.

Posted by Titan mom
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:28 am

Why is the paly PTA president issuing opinions on whether gunn kids should have TA ? That really burns me. The dauber kids went to gunn at least as did other kids of the we can do better group -- some of them are friends with my kids. This is totally offensive hat that paly PTA wants to stop me from getting what her kids have. Why is the paly PTA even having this issue? Are they worries that their kids will. Be less competitive with ours if Our school get better? Maybe they are worried about how district funds will be spent to improve gunk and they want the Money for their school. What kind of sideshow is this when paly moms come down to tell gunk parents what we should and should not do to get services for our kids? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online due to disrespectful comment.]

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:28 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Before the School Board, the elected representatives of the people, 'take umbrage' they should read out loud the following at their next meeting:

Here is the Preamble to the Brown Act:

“In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards, and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.”

“The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The
people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

The people reconfirmed that intent fifty years later at the November 2004 election by adopting Proposition 59, amending the California Constitution to include a public right of access to government information:

“The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s
business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.”

They and their highly paid attorneys can quibble about the technicalities but the intent is clear - the public's business should be done in public.

Posted by Titan mom
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:38 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff due to repetitive post by same poster.]

Posted by who you know
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:21 am

WhyIgnoreTheParents, you need to talk to the Gunn PTA. If the Gunn PTA wasn't involved in this discussion then I would be worried. However, if it is and isn't communicating that, then therein lies your problem. However, looking at the Gunn bulletin-boards, there is a lot of discussion going on there. So the problem appears to be with you.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The Board Members were caught with their hands in the cookie jar ( actually hands in the till ) and are doing the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) dance.

The quotes from Samuel Clemens surely fits this situation:

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Anther Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:37 am

Titan mom,

Respectfully, Susan Bailey did not in any way offer an opinion on Gunn counseling or even on Paly counseling. As a parent and member of the school district, she spoke (passionately) about the need to retain a civil tone in our public discourse as we move forward with decisions, whatever they may be. Her statement was entirely about setting a good example for our kids, and treating each other and our elected officials with respect and courtesy. The statement had nothing to do with counseling (I heard it, and haven't got a clue what Susan Bailey thinks or doesn't think about counseling at either school).

On another note, I appreciate that Ms. Kenrick has written a thoughtful and accurate article, with perhaps just a few exceptions, She writes that Mr. Thomas wrote that the memo in question "creates the appearance" of a violation. I believe it was clear at the meeting that Mr. Johnson, and the Weekly, rather baldly announced that our board has, in fact, broken the law. Big difference. After hearing all sides, my own thought is that the paper owes the board a very public apology.

Posted by WhyIgnoreTheParents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:41 am

@who - there is quite a difference between 'a lot of discussions', and having a seat at the table. There are no parents on the Guidance Review Workgroup. True fact.

Posted by Titan mom
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:55 am

Another parent

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] If you paly PTA think gunn counseling is so great why not spend your time taking out TA for your kids and put in what we have then you can come lecture us on how we act. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Maybe we're mad for reason reason is that your kids have more than ours. See?

Posted by Corey Levens
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm

So, are we done with our discussion about whether the Brown Act was violated? Can we now focus on the substance of the memo at issue? Especially the part about the superintendent feeling that counseling is only necessary for upperclassmen and that he sees no need for freshmen and sophomores to receive counseling? Surely, my wife and I are not the only ones who were completely aghast at this incredible statement.

Posted by Another Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Corey Levens: Exactly. Here is a link to the "confidential" memo where the superintendent made that statement: Web Link Let's talk about the substance. I read in the Gunn Oracle today that Gunn staff, without any parents at all, are killing TA following the superintendent's direction in the April 20 confidential memo: Web Link

Another Parent: Titan Mom is right. I have noticed that Paly parents are the most outspoken opponents of TA at Gunn. Why is the Paly PTA president telling Gunn parents to shut up and sit down? If it's just about "civility" and "respect" why isn't she complaining about the secret process at Gunn THAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW? Is it civil to leave parents out with confidential memos and secret meetings? Aren't there any Paly problems to pay attention to? I wonder what's going on? Are they just currying favor with Skelly? Are they trying to make sure that Paly kids keep getting better services?
Here is an idea for Susan Bailey to push at Paly. Stop wasting money on TAs at Paly and let Paly kids go without seeing a counselor for the first 2 years, like we have. Or maybe I should come down and tell the school board to take away TA, and call Susan Bailey "uncivil" when she complains?
I want teacher advisory at Gunn. Maybe not all Gunn parents agree. But I am tired of hearing from Paly parents about why we should stop talking about it.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Surely, my wife and I are not the only ones who were completely aghast at this incredible statement."

And if the Superintendent and the School Board had their way you never would have even found out about this statement. Confidentiality has no place in the public's business.

Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

To All:
This should be applied to ALL Board Members that have served since Kevin Skelly became Superintendent.

Maybe this is something the Grand Jury should look into........

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The first comment could have been pulled, but why pull a famous quote from Mark Twain that describes most of the school boards around the nation?

Maybe the school board members have a point when issues are covered by the staff at the Palo Alto Weekly ( covered weakly? )....

Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm

There are significant governance issues which have been exposed by the communications and actions around Guidance.

First, there are no metrics by which to evaluate the efficacy of the Guidance services at either Gunn or Paly. There is no clear measurement system to insure that staff are meeting defined objectives. As a result, Dr. Skelly has opined that since our students are enrolling in top 20 universities, the Guidance departments are doing their jobs. One of the purposes of the Board's investment in the Guidance Survey was to understand how well the Gunn and Paly systems were addressing student needs in three areas - social emotional, academic and college and career counseling. While a side by side comparison of Gunn and Paly was avoided, the analysis completed by WCDBPA,Web Link clearly shows a lower level of student satisfaction at Gunn across all aspects of guidance delivery - academic, social emotional and college and career counseling. Not a surprise given the high student to staff ratio at Gunn.

Second, there is the practice of site based implementation. Schools are free to innovate, but there is no driver to share successes or to audit failing site based programs replacing these with best practices. Schools do collaborate, but this is done on an ad hoc basis vs. implementation of a systemic continuous improvement process.

In addition, the Board is challenged to communicate their direction into action by staff. At the conclusion of the discussion on Guidance at the May 22nd meeting, the Board directed staff to 1) share the WCDBPA data analysis with the Gunn administration and working team 2) instruct the Gunn administration and working team to include consideration of Teacher Advisory in the planning process for Gunn Guidance. Based on the article in the Gunn Oracle, this directive was not carried out.

Lastly, the timing and sense of urgency imparted by the community and by the Board is not respected by the timetable set out by staff. Gunn administration has set a date of March 2013 to return with a plan. The Board had requested a plan for improving Guidance this year as part of its Focus Goals. The district has pushed this deadline out another year.

Keep in mind that these governance issues are delaying systemic changes to Gunn guidance which had been sited in WASC surveys dating back to 2008. On a separate thread today, readers are commenting on the intensity of the competition for UC admission. Just this week, the Gunn community was made aware of a hate crime on campus. Further delays in implementing systemic changes to Gunn Guidance are unacceptable.

Posted by Misha
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Dear Titan Mom ~

I am another Titan Mom and take great issue with your attacks on Susan Bailey. I know Susan and appreciate all the incredible effort she gives to children across the district, not just those at Paly. As someone who was present at the meeting and heard her remarks noted, Susan was not speaking about either the Gunn or Paly guidance systems, so please stop accusing her of trying to deny Gunn students anything.

Even though Susan is a Paly parent and the PTA President her remarks were for the benefit of all. I am thankful for parents like Susan and members of the school board who volunteer their time and energy to serve the public interest, sometimes with little respect and even less appreciation. We need more people to be so generous. We may not agree with them all the time, which is fine, but we can and should remain engaged in a civil manner to positively contribute.

Posted by Terman dad
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Jun 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Thanks soccer mom, for pointing out the governance problem that is at the heart of this debate. None of the comments have noticed the part of the story that strikes me as the biggest problem, that Superintendent Skelly did not follow the School Board's clear direction on counseling at Gunn. Two of the board's defenders, including the district's own lawyer, mentioned that. The district's lawyer says, "there may be a question as to whether the superintendent followed the board's direction." I work with lawyers, and a statement like that usually means, "The superintendent didn't follow the board's direction". Since the School Board knew that but nobody else did, it seems pretty clear that the public was not fully informed.
The Brown act question seems to boil down to whether Skelly telling the School Board that he was going off in a different direction and asking them to meet with him privately is a violation or not. I wouldn't want to defend the Board on that one.
Given that, the reaction of School Board members is pretty shocking. Don't they realize that their lawyer is giving their actions the best possible interpretation? Calling for a retraction and apology with these facts seems really presumptuous. They should instead be apologizing to the public for letting governance get away from them and telling us how they are going to make changes for the better.
Corey Levens is right. We are way past due for some honesty and accountability on counseling at Gunn, given all this.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm

I think there are a couple of things that are unfortunate about the Gunn counseling debate. One is that the PTA leadership and PTAC leaders have chosen to defend the status quo rather than acknowledging that there is a difference of opinion in the parent body about this topic. I think the role played the the PTA leadership in this instance can be usefully contrasted with the role it played during the highly-charged and very emotional calendar debate. In that instance, some of the very same women who are now delivering protocol lessons on proper conduct before the School Board were yelling, demanding, slamming doors and crying at School Board meetings when things did not break their way. I do not recall any sanctimonious PTAC or Paly PTA leadership lectures to those folks on keeping it civil at that time. I think acknowledging that these are emotional issues and that people have strong feelings about the schools all the way around would be more honest than attacking me or other WCDB leaders personally for having strong views.

At least I personally have never yelled, cried, or slammed the door, though I will admit to allowing a bit of sarcasm to creep in from time to time. I will stack Ken's conduct up against the calender folks any time anywhere. I am pretty sure a PRA for the calendar advocate's emails to the Board and district officials would yield more than a few nastygrams of your own. So let's stop calling the kettle black.

Second, it is important to remember when reviewing the data that while most kids are not well-served by the Gunn counseling system, and that the Paly system is demonstrably better, SOME kids are happy. It takes no investigative reported to figure out who those kids are, since their moms helpfully troop down to board meetings to tell us that their kids like Gunn counseling and ask not to have it changed. Unfortunately in the sad, zero sum competitive world of college admissions it may be the case that some parents see anything that improves college counseling for the other 60% of Gunn students will disadvantage their kids. That's not very public spirited, but then I never hear those folks talking about the data and that their own personal experience may not be representative of the typical Gunn student experience. Of course, those moms with the most time to volunteer at PTA are probably the same moms who have the time and resources to advocate for their kids, to make sure that they get served, to volunteer in the school and take on a quasi-staff role, and to hire private college counselors. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that those same moms might not be supportive of the change. They are entitled to their opinion and to fully express their views and I welcome the debate. But I don't think they are uncivil for expressing their views and I am not being uncivil by expressing mine. We just disagree. Just like we disagreed on A-G (I was for it) and the calendar (I was for it). I'm not telling them to stop making their case, and I do not appreciate being told to stop participating in the process myself or other members of my organization. This is a public school and these are public debates.

On the subject of Mrs. Bailey and Paly: I also have found it odd that so many Paly moms (or even Jordan moms like Micaela Presti) have felt that it was their proper role to tell Gunn or incoming Gunn parents like me to that we should not have TA when they do. My explanation for their seemingly incomprehensible stance is to follow the money. It is going to cost money to improve Gunn counseling to the level of Paly and they would prefer that money be spent on their own kids. It's just another variant of "anything your kid gets takes away from the advantages of my kid." It is pretty sad but it is also an old story in Palo Alto of north versus south. I don't feel that way, and have myself advocated for improved math instruction at Paly. But there you have it.

My view is that the Paly PTA President should refrain from giving Gunn parents advice about how to obtain for our kids what she has for hers already. It does seem a bit out of place since it seems a bit like special pleading. But she is free of course to say her peace.

A final observation I have about the PTA Protocol Officers is that in the lastest release of Kevin Skelly's Confidential Memoranda, it came out that he "recruited" the incoming PTAC President. Like a lot of other Palo Alto PTA members I thought that the PTAC President was elected by PTA members not annointed by the Superintendent. Thus I was a bit surprised to learn this. Nevertheless it does put the intense defense of Kevin and the status quo into perspective since anyone who hopes to become PTAC president in the future would have to evidently meet with his approval to obtain that position.

A prior post criticized me for not calling Kevin "Dr. Skelly." I will note that I am both a Professor and hold a PhD and I do not even make my students call me Professor Dauber. Neither Ken nor I (both of us have PhDs) would be comfortable with the title Doctor which we think should be used only by MDs. And in Palo Alto if we all had to call everyone with a PhD "Dr." then we would all be using that honorific to a silly extent. I do not feel disrespected by Camille calling me "Michele" and calling Ken "Ken" rather than Professor or Dr. Dauber. However, if Kevin chooses to call me Professor Dauber and Ken Dr. Dauber then I would probably feel obligated to return the gesture even though I think it is unnecessary.

Michele Dauber

Posted by hahahaha
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm

> So, are we done with our discussion about whether the Brown Act
> was violated?

Not really. However, with the opinions of two paid lawyers at odds, and the next step being a date in court to see which lawyer needs remedial training, it hardly pays to continue the discussion.

> First, there are no metrics by which to evaluate the efficacy of the
> Guidance services at either Gunn or Paly

Excellent point, but one that has been made a number of times before, by other people. The problem, of course, is that with the most school districts managed under the mantle of “local control”, are there any metrics that are uniformly applied across all of California school districts—other than the STAR tests?

No, there aren’t. Claiming that there is a difference between the Paly and Gunn might be true, but so what? With Gunn being the 71st top-rated school in the US, and Paly the 178th ranked school, and both of the schools APIs/SATs/ACTs very close to each other, and college acceptance about the same—we’re really left trying to understand why there is so much angst here.

Let’s suppose that there was a significant difference in the results of the two schools, in terms of meaningful metrics, then maybe “counseling” might become an issue. But right now—there just isn’t much to go on other than the results of one badly designed opinion survey, demonstrating more the silliness of teenagers than really significant problems with the Counseling program at Gunn.

And this same argument can be applied to every department all of the schools, although the two high schools are likely to get the most focus by the community, and therefore, the staff.

One thing that seems to be missing in some of these discussions is a baseline understanding of what the “counseling/guidance” program should be .. as in what should it provide in terms of “deliverables” to the students, and the parents/families?

It would be a great thing if the PAUSD were to put together something akin to a syllabus, or counseling department offering, so that students/parents/critics could all understand exactly what the District sees its obligations are, relative to rather difficult-to-understand issues like “social/emotional” counseling, and all of the areas that Counseling Department will offer help.

School districts all over the country have been dealing with problems like broken homes, drugs, sexually abusive parents, and student pregnancy. It certainly would be a wise thing for the District to let parents know what the District will do to handle such situations—including referring cases to the police, or child protective services.

> Especially the part about the superintendent feeling that counseling
> is only necessary for upperclassmen and that he sees no need for
> freshmen and sophomores to receive counseling?

Some people have called for “more” counselors. Well, what does that mean in terms of head-count, and cost? Let’s start with the expectation of parents about how many hours a week each student should expect to meet in a one-on-one situation with a highly-trained counselor? If people were to take the time to do the math, the costs soon become very high, and the results questionable.

> social emotional, academic and college and career counseling.

Again, just how much career counseling can a high school be expected to offer? Certainly knowing about resources available to students not intending to go to college that are offered by other sources, such as the military, or trade schools, or agriculture, would not be that difficult to facilitate—but do people really believe that high school counselors are likely to know anything meaningful about all of these aspects of life outside of high school? (Not bloody likely!)

> We are way past due for some honesty and accountability
> on counseling at Gunn, given all this.

What about the PAUSD itself? How about the rest of the package?

Posted by Another Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Michele/Prof. Dauber: Thanks, well said. We don't need nasty comments from the self-appointed civility police, which boiled down basically translate to "Sit down, shut up and be happy with what you have, even if it's not as good as what I have". Susan Bailey has a point of view, but she isn't the Voice of Reason except apparently to a small group. I would rather talk about counseling than about whether Susan Bailey feels happy or not.
Bob: Finding reasons not to listen to our teens, by labeling them "silly" in this case, is not the way to a better counseling system at Gunn. This isn't a theoretical exercise.

Posted by mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Michelle, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Your last post has sexism written all over it, with your snide comments about crying and door slamming and so much vitriol towards moms who are and have been incredibly dedicated on behalf of students across the district.You and your husband and a VERY small number of people have been deciding issues for all of our children, by your relentless haranguing of the school board and district officials for the last couple of years. It seems like because you won on the calendar, you now want to drive your bullet train through every aspect of the district and because you are louder, squeakier and more relentless than the rest of us, you can win. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I really do not have a vested interest in any of your topics (I didn't care one way or the other about the calendar), but you have got to find a better way to communicate your message as everything I see from you is full of hostility and entitlement. The world is not your enemy, please lighten up.

Posted by Another Gunn parent who disagrees but not as focal as WCDBPA
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Oh my goodness, Midtown Mom. I was going to write something and you beat me to the punch. You captured EXACTLY what I am feeling too. So hard-working Palo Alto parents, just read the post above mind.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by One more Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Midtown mom and Gun parent who disagress ....

Kudos to both of you and your posts.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Wynn Hausser
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Midtown Mom - On what do you base your comment that "a VERY" small number of people have been deciding issues for all of our children?" First of all, the only people deciding are the superintendent, school board members and school administrators. Parents have absolutely no power to decide district policies. In fact, other than a small cadre of insiders, we often have to fight hard and speak loud to even get our voices heard at all.

Second, your statement that there is a small number of people driving this is simply not supported by the facts. No one rammed the calendar through - the discussion had been going on for at least three years, dozens and dozens of people weighed in on top of the district-wide survey that was done, and the community was by every measure evenly divided. And I've spoken to dozens of parents who are outraged when they learn about the counseling differences between the two schools and think there should be change.

Finally, it is difficult to take someone seriously who says the other person should "lighten up" after they themselves have hurled invectives and personal attacks. I will also note that you, and the other attackers on this site consistently refuse to identify who you are so you can be held accountable for your words while those of us speaking for change consistently identify ourselves. I think this is telling.

Regarding other people's comments, on the Brown Act question, I think the phrase "thou dost protesteth too much" is appropriate here. Board members could have put this largely to rest simply by saying: "We didn't knowingly violate the Brown Act but if we did violate it, we are sorry and will take steps to ensure it won't happen again." But instead of diffusing it, they are further escalating the discussion. Their choice but then they have to face the consequences.

On the counseling question there are two issues: equity between the high schools, and whether kids are getting the support they need. On the first, it seems odd to me as well how many Paly parents seem to think Gunn students shouldn't have the resources their students do. On the second, I've yet to find a person who, after reviewing the data and the facts of the situation, haven't reached the conclusion that common sense dictates that Gunn adopt some sort of advisory guidance model.

If the board does the right thing on June 12th and insists that district and Gunn staff follow its policy directive and come back with a plan that implements a Gunn-flavored advisory system, we can move forward with a renewed focus on how to best serve our students. If they choose to punt, then the heated debate will no doubt continue through the upcoming school board elections. We'll see which direction the board members in their wisdom choose to go.

Posted by Junior high?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 1, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Ever wondered what mean girls in middle school grow up to be? Moms who accuse other parents of entitlement and incivility while dishing out nastiness and personal insults. All that anger is because other parents are participating in the schools without joining their clique. Grow up. Wcdb is being listened to because they have facts. If you want to play in that game quit talking about how saintly you are and show up with your own facts. Yes, I know thats not how junior high worked. Get over it.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by One more Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2012 at 6:24 pm

I completely agree that both high schools should have the same resources, and if Gunn's counseling system needs improvement, of course it should be improved. HOWEVER, equal resources also means, first and foremost, that each high school should receive the same funding (number of dollars) per student.

After all, Gunn is ranked higher than Paly, has arguably better college admission results than Paly, no matter how bad Gunn's counseling system is. So, I don't believe that Paly should receive less money to help a school that already has stellar results. It is a fairness issue.

If Gunn wants to beef up its counseling system, it should definitely look at reallocating some of the money it receives. Plain and simple.

Posted by One more Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm

@ Junior high?

And you are not engaging in the behavior you are denouncing right now?

Posted by Junior high?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm

@one more mom
You got me. Once a mean girl, always a mean girl, I guess.

Posted by Barbara Slone
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 1, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Thank you Wynn Hausser for stating everything that needs to be stated so concisely. I, too, find it telling that so many people refuse to identify themselves on these boards. Thanks also to a dedicated group of parents (WCDBPA) who have had the ability to digest and present the survey data and comments in a way that leaves no other conclusion other than that Gunn is being short changed in the counseling department. I, like so many parents who have taken the time to read the memo, am really appalled with Superintendent Kevin Skelly's memo stating that kids don't need to see counselors their first two years of high school. I am disappointed with the Board for not calling Superintendent Skelly on this memo's content frankly. I think the jury will be out on this for a long time but I certainly don't feel that the attorney at the meeting on Thursday convinced me that something hadn't occurred that could be viewed as a Brown Act violation. Neither was I convinced that it was a violation. I don't think anyone wants to spend a bunch of money to make that determination. I like what Wynn said in his previous posting, Regarding other people's comments, on the Brown Act question, I think the phrase "thou dost protesteth too much" is appropriate here. Board members could have put this largely to rest simply by saying: "We didn't knowingly violate the Brown Act but if we did violate it, we are sorry and will take steps to ensure it won't happen again." But instead of diffusing it, they are further escalating the discussion. Their choice but then they have to face the consequences.

This whole discussion is so off the hook! Can we just all agree that each and every one of us wants the very best for all of our students and that this would include equal counseling at both schools? I will agree with Susan Bailey on the need to model respect and courtesy. How about some of you negative posters who do nothing to move things toward a better outcome for our students try looking at the facts and come together where we all have common ground? Perhaps you don't agree that our students deserve equal counseling at both schools. Just say so and make some constructive suggestions for how to change things instead of only criticizing those who are really trying to make life better for our kids........all of our kids!

We all want the best for all of our kids, right? I know that change is hard but I also know that We Can Do Better Palo Alto. Thanks for everyone who is doing their part keeping the PAUSD Board focused on securing a better future for all of our students. Our kids deserve better!

Posted by Wynn Hausser
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2012 at 7:44 pm

One More Mom - Yes, equity should go both ways. But since Paly spends $300,000 more than Gunn on counseling services, it is possible that Gunn will need additional funds. And it is also possible that improving improving counseling will require some tradeoffs in Gunn's budget. But I haven't heard anyone say anything to the contrary, so I don't understand your "gotcha" tone.

Regarding your point about Gunn being ranked higher, that's a false equivalency. Good rankings and college admissions are far from the only endgame in regards to counseling. Maybe some research on the issue is warranted.

My guess is that the fact that Gunn has better academics and Paly better sports has more to do with demographics than policy. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking mental health and well-being, and supporting our kids. Plain and simple.

Posted by One more Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm

@ Wynn Hauser

Michelle Dauber said: " It is going to cost money to improve Gunn counseling to the level of Paly and they would prefer that money be spent on their own kids."...

This too me seems to imply that she wants the district to spend extra money on Gunn kids, ie more money than is spent on Paly kids. Each school has its problems, and I repeat that it would not be fair to spend more on each Gunn student than is spent on each Paly student. If Gunn gets extra money for counseling, then maybe Paly should get extra money for class size reduction.

Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 1, 2012 at 8:46 pm

@One more Mom
The question of where the money for additional counseling services at Gunn should come from is a good question though probably not the most important one. In terms of magnitude, based on the counseling report the difference in district funds expended on guidance at the two schools is about $200k. I'll note that Dr. Skelly, in his April 20 memo, proposed hiring two more guidance counselors at Gunn, and the Gunn Oracle story also mentioned the same increment. Since the fully loaded cost of two counselors isn't much less than $200k, all the options on the table have a similar cost. In fact, at the May 22 school board meeting the board members agreed that there would almost certainly have to be an increase in spending on counseling at Gunn, and that the first task is to determine the right guidance model.
In terms of equity in spending between Paly and Gunn, if the board's decision is to shift funds to Gunn rather than within Gunn's budget, it seems reasonable to me that a similar amount be shifted to Paly, though whether it should be used for class size reductions is a question for the board and staff. The only caveat I would make is that that should apply to permanent increases in funding. There may be costs associated specifically with the transition to teacher advisory at Gunn (e.g., consulting costs, curriculum transition costs) that are temporary in nature and that need not be matched elsewhere. A possible source for such transition funding is a $500k gift to the district that so far as I know has not yet been obligated.

Posted by Process please
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 2, 2012 at 9:32 am

Why does the Gunn committee in the oracle story have no parents or students only staff? They have already decided not to so TA and just to stick with their original plan to get an additional counselor and push one of the current counselors out because Dr. Skelly thinks that only college counseling matters and it's the counselors fault that the reviews are so bad. If there was yelp for counseling paly would have 4 stars and gunn would have 1 yet he thinks one more counselor will fix it. Many parents want advisory not just Wynn Hausser. There are a ton of Gunn parents who want TA as at paly. For some reason the school has kept parents out of the process and had a committee for months without the relevant stakeholders of parents and students. Why are we excluding parents? Why are we excluding students? Why is the principal saying that she won't look at or use the data showing gunn is worse than paly? Why is the PTSA ok with being left out of the discussion? Maybe they should change the PTSA name to just teacher association since they aren't represent ting students or parents on this. It is very shocking that there is a committee that is all teachers and staff. How does that work?

I'm all for keeping the discussion civil but at this point we aren't even invited to the discussion and after reading the oracle story I can see why teachers wanted to set the outcome first without any scrutiny and only after the decision is predetermined by teachers can parents be allowed in to work on implementing and ratifying teacher and district decisions.

This is hardly the transparency we were promised by this board. I think we should throw the bums out in November maybe then well get TA.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 2, 2012 at 10:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Hopefully all of the posters on this topic will realize that the unwanted, undesirable, and inappropriate outcomes being discussed are all the result of a fundamentally flawed process that systematically excludes the public from participation in the decision making process.

Unless the School Board and the Superintendent abandon confidential communication and publicly commit to complete transparency there will be no trust and the outcomes will continue to be unwanted, undesirable, and inappropriate.

Public boards which have embraced total transparency and a commitment to the spirit of the Brown Act “The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny” have found that both the process and outcomes are better.

For those who are accustomed to secrecy the transition of openness is scary. Which model do we want to set for our children?

Posted by Gunn sophomore parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I know two of the school board members and they are good people who spend a ridiculous amount of time on their "jobs". I'm sure that none of them had bad intentions but the truth is that they are in a bad spot that they are probably making worse by being so defensive. I hate to say it but they are probably used to Skelly doing what he likes and didn't really read his memos that carefully. Nobody thought they would get out in public, that never happened before. The whole "team" idea has left them feeling like they don't have much control.
Now it turns out that its even worse because Katya put together a committee with no parents that is coming out against advisory for no reason that is going to make sense to parents. I don't agree with process please to throw the bums out but it is a real mess. I hope that parents don't blame the school board for admin mistakes. I don't know what they are supposed to do now? They meet every 2 or 3 weeks. They don't really control what the staff members do. Its the students who are really losing out here though.

Posted by gunn parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Parents are going on the committee in the fall. You can't change a whole 1900 student guidance system around over the summer anyway. Paly's was not put in place overnight. also, there are lots of people who say that paly's system is just another way for teachers to get an extra prep. students do not use it the way it was intended.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I have no horse in this race...but some observations:

- there are no saints in the finger pointing from both sides (or more sides?) when it comes to civil discourse. Glad to see that the last few posts have been positive, no matter the POV.

- Budget. I believe Paly developed & implemented their counseling model while working within their given yearly budgets (let's assume about equal to the Gunn (per student) budget). While everyone wants change *now*, the reality is that both the PAUSD and State education budgets are getting hit hard. My opinion (please don't flame me) is that if migration is going to happen at Gunn, they are going to have to live within their means...transition on similar path/timeline as Paly. The benefit here is that there is already one model up and running. So the best practices (and the practices to avoid) can be employed to shorten the timeline. Perhaps through the Gunn development phase, there might be some new ideas that could help/improve the Paly model? Just a thought.

- PR. Yes, I agree with Wynn. The BoD blew it - they could have just as easily gone "mea culpa" and the whole thing would have been smoothed over by now. I'm having a tough time believing that they were purposely trying to break the law.

- Do we have too many chefs in the kitchen? I think that everyone would agree that we all want what's best for kids. And I think that everyone would also agree that we are both blessed & cursed with so many outstanding and involved parents --- many who have held leadership positions, managers, PhD's, etc. In our private lives, we are used to leading and setting the course for our organizations, business, start ups, households, etc. With that in mind, and I may be completely off-base here, it seems that everyone wants to do the BoE's job without getting elected...or no one has any faith in the elected group at this time. I don't have the answer - just have the observation.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I'm sure that none of them had bad intentions but the truth is that they are in a bad spot that they are probably making worse by being so defensive."

What we see here is a classic case of 'group think' - all of the board members and admin believe that they are doing the right thing and nobody wants to rock the boat. The fact is that secrecy has no place in the conduct of the public's business. That secrecy leads to a lack of public trust and to undesirable and unsupported policy decisions.

Changing secretive cultures is very difficult and requires either great leadership or overwhelming public pressure. Absent a change to an open and transparent culture the same outcomes will continue to occur. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Posted by Give em a chance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm

June 12th will be the opportunity to quiet down any doubters. This is Gunn's opportunity to show leadership and commitment to excellence, and they will come through. I fully expect we will see a Gunn report that absolutely responds to the Board's directives and the student comments, reflects a high standard of study and planning, and most likely reveals a timeline for periodic public updates between now and March 2013.

At the end, Gunn will propose a guidance program at least as good as PALY's advisory program (or better). (And I am sure we will hear that the intent is to include students and parents along the way).

I believe the confidence you hear from PTSA, PTAC leaders and other supporters comes from this belief as well. I'm looking forward to June 12th when Gunn leadership has its chance to show not only their substance but their commitment to student wellbeing as well.

Posted by Wynn Hausser
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm

@ Crescent Park Dad - very astute observations

@ Give me a chance - I truly hope what you say is true about the report you expect from Gunn. And I do know the Gunn administration plans parent involvement starting in the fall. If what they come up with provides multiple adult touch-points, comparable to what the students at Paly have, redundancy and overlap in services, multiple adults in guidance roles, etc. I will be happy to support it.

But color me skeptical after reading the Oracle article:
Web Link

would be the best possible outcome

Posted by Process please
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 2, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Dear give chance or should I say gunn PTSA and PTAC leader posting anon, I don't want a process that is only open after the outcome has been decided without parent and student input. That's not a plan that's a sham. The end result is being determined by teachers only. Didn't you read the oracle? Just because your small group of insiders personally hand picked by dr skelly as stated above agreed doesn't mean the rest of parents agreed. You are so condescending. Just wait parents you'll see it's going to be great what you are getting! Better than paly even! I prose! And if it isn't then it's too late I'm not an accountable official just a PTA snob and you can sit down and shut up. I want accountable open transparent democratic government in which best practices are considered in the light of day. Jeez.

Posted by Reality check
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Jun 2, 2012 at 3:47 pm

@Wynn many thanks for the link I didn't know what oracle story meant. After reading it you can color me dumbfounded. Teacher adviser won't work because of "culture"? They won't look at comparisons with data because some report made the same mistake? Teacher adviser works best in small schools? What about Paly? This is a classic case of cooking the evidence to fit the desired conclusion. If this is their actual reasoning they have no business teaching high school, that's for sure.
Bringing parents in after this is like inviting friends over to cook and handing them TV dinners. Sure you get to peel off the plastic and stick it in the oven but the decision is already made. If the school board lets them get away with this I will happily work for their opponents. Its scary enough to be going to Gunn in a year without this craziness.
Where is the PTA and site council in all this? Are they totally coopted like some say?

Posted by Give em a chance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Process please, Gunn's report on June 12th will be telling either way. Right now, those who are vehement defenders of the District leadership (and who are angry at WCDBPA) believe that Gunn will come through with a solid plan. We all shall see. On June 12th.

There are those in (and outside) of WCDBPA who believe there will be very little of a plan or just more study with little chance for a substantive outcome.

On June 12th Gunn will have its chance to show substance or lack thereof.

The community will either celebrate that progress has been made for our young people or it will have objective evidence for what you currently believe.

It would be nice to see an end to the fighting. But if on June 12th Gunn disappoints, you may find you have new supporters on June 13th.

Posted by Curious
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 2, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Interesting. As I read the Oracle story Gunn will propose keeping its current guidance system with incremental changes including 2 more counselors, tweaking Titan 101 for freshmen, some communication changes, and perhaps a few more minor changes. It will reject a change to a teacher advisory model. There will be a process involving parents ending in March 2013, with an unclear mandate as yet.
I don't think such a response meets the boards request for a plan to provide comparable services with urgency, along with Mr Hausser I think.

I am more interested in what you think though. You may not agree with my prediction, but if that were the response from Gunn would you regard that as a success or a failure?

Posted by Curious
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm

@chance, sorry I meant that question for you.

Posted by lawyers
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Just a note...

The fact that the PA Weekly asks for donations and then spends the money on attorneys is not a very positive sign. Can we get some clarifications on the cost of the attorney they hired to dispute Lozano/Smith on these memos?

Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Jun 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

Mr. Olsen charged $1,500 for all his time on this matter, which was probably about six hours. To enable the school board and the community to have more than one legal perspective (the board's attorney) on the Brown Act and their actions I hope you agree that this was money well spent. By the way, Mr. Olsen's participation was coordinated with the school district in advance.

Posted by Give em a chance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2012 at 10:09 am

So far the debate has been based on what various groups believe Gunn will do or say. Informed but speculative on both sides.

It's not constructive or necessary to argue over whose prediction will be correct. Curious, ask me (as did Mr. Hausser) if I agree that students should have the same or better components as the best of what PALY guidance has to offer. And whether I think Gunn should comply with Board directives. There we agree. I am listening, believe me. But I'm trying to stay disciplined and fair and will base my opinion of success or failure on what Gunn actually says and does.
It is their voice that I need to hear right now. Not their proxies' or individuals' interpretations of the meaning of memos or even the content of student newspaper articles. I want to hear from Gunn.

On June 12th Gunn will have their chance to present their best effort and will interact with the Board making clear their rationale and planning. I hope for the best and think we should give them their chance. I'll answer Curious' question on the 13th - but it will be based on fact, not prediction.

Posted by Can't see the woods for the trees
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 10:14 am

Why is counseling the only item on this ticket? If you took a survey of Paly sports vs. Gunn sports, you'd find Paly students more connected. Does that mean that we need to bring sport participation and support to the same level at Gunn? There is an implied claim that counseling is more important than other aspects of school life when it comes to students feeling connected. There is no guarantee after adopting any change in counseling that you are going to see any difference in connectedness.

If you were serious about connectedness, look at parent participation in the schools. Check out the PTAs. Compare the PTAs at NPA schools and SPA schools and what they do, how much they volunteer. For example, Addison PTA provides all school supplies for all students as well as additional grade funds - of course the children are going to feel more connected. This starts early and flows through.

You talk about connectedness and then libel the PTA execs. You claim Skelly chose the PTA president and that she owes him for something. This shows an utter lack of understanding. The PTA president position requires you to VOLUNTEER numerous hours and effort for the school. These are very hard positions to fill. The district does not choose who fills these positions, the PTA members do. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff due to disrespectful comment.]

It's unfathomable that Gunn will reach Paly's level of participation and connectedness just by changing the counseling model. This whole process has become a farce.

Posted by Pie in you face
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

Why do paly parents feel like gunn parents should stop asking for TA? App rarely according to trees it's because we don't donate enough to the PTA or pie or volunteer enough hours. Maybe professor dauber has a point about following the money? We both have to work to live in palo alto and just because I can't afford to stay home in my house on guinda helicoptering over to Addison school to "help" doesn't mean I can't participate in school reform. I'll match my tax bill to yours. So entitled north side parents.

Posted by gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 3, 2012 at 11:45 am

That's right! Parent involvement in schools has nothing to do with connectedness. We expect the school to do their job. Parents don' need to step in to fill the void. Go back to your (crescent) park.

Posted by Single mom
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I am a single mom and I have to work and struggle to keep my kids in these excellent schools. I am grateful for all the volunteering done b others that I cannot do and I think it does benefit kids in elementary school. But when they get to high school the schools do not want moms hanging around any more and therefore I think trees either has no idea about high school at all, is just a snob as said before, or is an overly involved helicopter mom who has incorrect theories about teen connectedness. I am concerned with connections to teachers and counselors not overly involved mothers. I am also concerned with 4 year plans which are never made at gun. In freshman year. I am also concerned VERY much with Dr. Skelly s view that counseling is just for college. I do not agree that Gunn teachers should be deciding without considering the data from student surveys. I am very alarmed that we seem to have a very rigid and insular teacher co
Community that is dictating to us when we keep the lights on.

I appreciate the PTA but I have also felt looked down on judged and disrespected by certain PTA moms who think that they are better than I am because they don't work. long those lines I heard PTA leaders say that they think that kids who have problems have them because their moms work including the kids who committed suicide with the strong implication that if moms don't work kids are better off and don't have problems. This is the attitude that I think you are seeing causing backlash here. Some PTA volunteers are nice but some are judgement ap of other moms who have different choices and that is why people are happy to attack you anonymously because some of you have been mean and inappropriate to us and we working moms of palo alto are sick of it.

Please school board give us TA at gunn and end this.

Posted by Behind the Curtain
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm

@Can't see the woods
Here is an excerpt from the Superintendent's Confidential Weekly memo to the Board Trustees on January 27,2012. This document was uncovered by the public records request and can be viewed on the link below. On page 38 under the heading PTA News, the superintendent states:
"I've attached an email exchange with Sigrid Pinsky who I'm reaching out to recruit as a possible new PTA president for next year"

Posted by Time for Total Transparency
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Thanks for the heads up on Skelly's "recruitment" of Sigrid for PTA president. Unfortunately, I can't view the email exchange based on this link. I did, however, make note in Michele's previous email about Skelly's recruitment and thought it a wee bit inappropriate to say the least. Is he trying to get puppets who are aligned totally with his point of view? It would appear that way. I am counting on the Board to do the right thing and take everything that has come to light into consideration when they meet next. We are counting on you! It's about time!

Posted by Here you go
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 3, 2012 at 2:10 pm

@Time try this link re Sigrid -

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why should the public have to use public records requests to get these memos?
How is the public even to know what to ask for since these memos are confidential?
What is the superintendent and the elected school board trying to hide?
What else does the public not know about?

Posted by Can't see the woods for the trees
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm

@Pie, volunteering time and money =/= helicoptering parenting.
@gunn parent, QED.
@Behind the Curtain, and? Anyone can volunteer and the members decide. It is transparent.
@all, those that can, do; those that can't, agitate.

Posted by Recruiting? Please
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 3, 2012 at 4:12 pm

The so-called "recruiting" email consists, in its entirety, of saying I know about your great works and I would be delighted to work with you if you take the job.

Anyone who volunteers in the PTA world knows how hard it is to get people to serve - in all my experiences, we have had to beg people to do the leadership jobs. So Mr. Skelly reaching out to an on-the-fence person encouraging her to volunteer - I would say that is part of doing his job.

Where do we get these tempests in a teapot? Is this really what people think is important?

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Paly and Gunn get an equal amount of funding per student, Paly CHOOSES to spend more on counseling than Gunn.

Susan Bailey is one of the most hard working, dedicated parents in PAUSD. Although she did not comment on the Paly vs Gunn counseling, as the former PiE President and an active volunteer for 10-12 years, she has a better idea what goes on at ALL of our schools than most parents.

As a Paly parent - I don't know anyone who want the Gunn kids to receive less of anything - counseling, career info, electives, etc. than the Paly kids. Gunn students actually have access to some electives (such as engineering) and regular level science and math classes that the Paly kids don't have.

I'd personally be up for a lot more equity, consistency and sharing of "best practice" at all of our school at every level.

Posted by i agree
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm

@recruiting Yes, I don't see anything improper here on Dr. Skelly's part. If PTAC wants to let him play a role in picking the next president that's fine. This does explain a bit about how these choices get made though which always seem a bit opaque. Sigrid was the sole candidate if I remember correctly.
Mostly it bears on why so many PTAC/PTA ladies showed up to defend Dr. Skelly and attack the WCDBB crowd on Thursday with Sue. Sigfrid was one of them with Micaela, who would have been president next year I guess. Personally I think we are better if we don't get involved in this political matters.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

If Gunn implements the same couseling/TA system as Paly, $200K (the additional $$ Paly spends on the TA system) will get cut from somewhere else in Gunn's budget. That is not to say that Gunn shouldn't do it, but something else will have to disappear.

Posted by go paly!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Yes, I like Susan Bailey. And I really appreciate everything she does. I have to work and I just don't have enough time in the day to be at school as much as she does. On this one though I can see why Gunn parents would be upset with her. They are trying to make things better for their kids and she's calling them not civil. I watched the video of the meeting and I can't actually figure out why she decided to talk. I do think that sometimes people feel that spending a lot of time at school gives you special privileges. That can feel exclusionary though I'm sure its not meant that way. Anyways thats my 2 cents.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 7:38 pm

One pice of history that might help to make sense of PTAC's willingness to try to prevent WCDB from participating in the public debate over counseling at Gunn is the recent conflict, not reported in the media, between We Can Do Better and PTAC over the staffing of the Homework Committee. The real conflict between our two groups is far more prosaic than the high-minded theme of "civility" suggests. Probably the best way to characterize it, brought out into stark relief by the "recruiting email" and the various posts above, is as a turf issue.

The Homework Advisory Committee was appointed this winter pursuant to a focused goal that was pressed forward and drafted by We Can Do Better, in order to address our core issue of academic stress. Though the Board approved the focused goal in August and the committee was set to be appointed, there was never any public announcement about it, and no word of what was happening until nearly the end of the fall semester. When WCDB inquired, we found that the committee had been appointed, and had already met once, but no applications from the public were solicited. Instead, Assoc. Superintedent Charles Young had simply asked PTAC to fill all the parent slots, which it then hand-picked, mostly with its own executive board members. No announcement went out to site PTAs, site councils, or principals looking for parent representatives as with the Math Task Force.

One problem with this is that it is a non-transparent process for membership selection. It violates the Board's own policies which require both transparency and that all voices and segments of the community be represented on advisory committees. PTAC itself is not representative of district parents, including few minorities, low income parents, single parents, and working mothers. A further issue of relevance to this discussion, as the "recruiting" email suggests, PTAC executive board members enjoy a quasi-staff relation to the district, which has become overly-cozy perhaps. Membership on it should not confer special favors, access, opportunities, or offers. Volunteering is a lovely thing to do, but it must serve as its own reward.

Significantly, given PTACs approval of the nontransparent process currently going on at Gunn, PTAC never raised transparency in parent representative selection. Secret memoranda, confidential process, and systems of exclusion may strike one as fine if you feel yourself to be an "insider" with special access and privileges but they are not consistent with democratic governance and exclude too many voices from the conversation.

We Can Do Better raised the process issue about how parent representatives were selected with the school board. As a direct result of WCDB's request, the process was rebooted, and public participation was solicited directly by the district to the parent community. Predictably given the importance of the homework issue, the district was deluged with applications from qualified applicants, new membership was selected that mostly displaced the PTAC executive board members, and the committee drafted an excellent policy. Everyone on the committee, including Ken and other WCDB members, worked well together and everyone supported the outcome and the process, thus dispelling the myth that we are incivil or can't work and play with others.

The conflict over PTACs role in the confidential selection process for the Homework Committee has obviously generated some animosity on their part. While it is being waged in the lingo of "civility" and so forth it is just an old-fashioned brass knuckle political turf battle over whether our schools will be run by insiders in smoke-filled (well, OK, cupcake filled) rooms, or whether we have an open democracy in which all comers can participate and be involved.

There is plenty of room for all to have a seat at the table and that is what we hope will happen from here out. As a result of more voices and participation and transparency, we will get better policies -- as in the case of the Homework Policy -- for the benefit of all kids in the district.

Posted by paranoia
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Turf wars? Which part of the turf are you supposed to own? Why would anyone contact some random group who has not official status within the community. Delusions of grandeur combined with paranoia do not a good mix make.

Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm

@ Michelle

Can you tell me how many members WCDB has and what is the diversity in that group that is lacking in PTAC?

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 3, 2012 at 9:40 pm

@Michelle Thanks so much for laying this all out. I have been really pissed off at the tone and personal venom that's directed at you and your group. This is all so obviously coming from people who don't want to be playing on a level playing field. This is supposed to be a community that cares about data and analysis and instead we get ridiculous backbiting, whispering, and backroom deals. I don't know how you deal with people like @paranoid but I appreciate that you just keep on going. Theres a lot of us rooting for you.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Dear Gunn Mom:

We have around 250 members on our active mailing list at this time. Our leadership team is extremely racially diverse, including white, Asian, Latina, and African American parents. Closing the achievement gap for underrepresented minority students is, along with reducing academic stress, one of our most important issues, and we have been in the vanguard of pressing that issue with the school board, bringing a tremendous amount of data analysis that the district lacks the ability and resources to perform and develop.

However, please do not misunderstand me. I am not arguing that WCDB should supplant PTAC in some way. I am saying that PTAC does not want "outsiders", whether WCDB or anyone else, on its territory -- territory that it believes that it has an exclusive claim on.

We do not believe that any group has a monopoly on participation or should control the parents who are selected to serve on task forces, committees, or boards. The community is better served when processes are open and transparent. The close relationship between the district and official organs such as PTAC and PiE a raise issues of co-optation and territoriality because serving in these organizations provides information, favors, access, opportunities, and offers not available to members of the general public.

If "volunteering time and money" as "Can't see the forest" above recommends is the criteria for being on the PTAC board, then one can immediately see the problem for democracy as the ability to engage in these activities is not randomly distributed.

We Can Do Better is in favor of open, transparent governance in which all interested parents can have a seat at the table.

Posted by so wrong
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I'm still anti-wcdbpa.

I have no tolerance for small minority groups trying to push their agenda through.

I'm also against the new homework policies. It's a farce. It excluded Honor classes. What's the point?

Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 3, 2012 at 10:17 pm

@so wrong
I was on the homework committee, and I agree with you that the exclusions for honors classes, AP classes, and accelerated classes weaken the policy. The national PTA/NEA standard of 10 minutes of homework per grade per night doesn't have these exceptions, because the best research shows that homework isn't effective after roughly that time, and actually becomes detrimental. But the policy is a compromise, and getting time limits for the first time seems to me to be worth it.
In addition to that issue, the homework policy really isn't done. It doesn't deal at all with excessive penalties for late homework, and excessive weighting of homework in final grades, both of which are a significant source of stress for students. Hopefully the school board will make continued work on the homework policy a focused goal for 2012-13.

Posted by Yikes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I am bewildered and perplexed and, frankly, saddened by reading through this board. What kind of community are we? Do we need to call people names and berate .. of all things.. the PTA?

Ms. Dauber, I don't know you, but words like "brass-knuckle...turf wars" and "cupcake filled rooms" are clearly insulting and, yes, "incivil." To talk about PiE - (whose sole reason for existence is to give equal $ to every child in the district - north, south east or west) and suggest that people who believe in and work for that cause are interested in "favors, access, opportunities and offers not available to the general public" is... incivil. You make it sound more like a mob shakedown than a school district.

The writers who throw out accusations like: "PTA leaders say suicides are connected to moms who work" and "Paly moms want Gunn kids to have less than their kids" are being hurtful, cruel and, yes, incivil. No one has offered one iota of basis for suggesting that anyone has ever actually said anything like that.

The more I've read here the more I think of Seth Myers and Amy Poehler: "REALLY?"

I'm glad we have volunteers who show up and work hard. And I'm glad we have dedicated people who go to bat for causes they believe in. Those are both things that are *good" about our community. Can't we all just accept that there are a lot of good people trying to do good things? Can't we just all get along?

Posted by Truth is the best medicine
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 4, 2012 at 6:31 am

@Yikes I don't know Michele Dauber either but you should remember why she's writing about PTAC at all. A group of PTA and PTAC members came down to the school board meeting to denounce these parents for criticizing the district and wanting change. That's fine but it's also politics, and they can't expect to hide behind volunteerism. Cupcake-filled rooms is a pretty funny image actually. I haven't heard anybody at the school board from this group arguing that PTAC shouldn't get to say what it thinks. This isn't symmetrical.
This isn't the first time I have heard about this sort of thing, either. For example apparently there was a tussle inside Project Safety Net over posting information about an event about advisory run by this group where PTAC reps prevented PSN from posting it to avoid offending the district.
This isn't about civility, by the way, and I wish people would stop using that word unless someone is cursing. It doesn't mean "you said something direct and that made me feel bad".

Posted by who you know
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2012 at 7:30 am

Truth, you're example of "you said something direct and that made me feel bad" can describe Michelle's post. Re-read her post, it is intentionally insulting. As Ken was on the homework committee, it is also entirely inaccurate and self-serving.
I would be more aghast if the district directly contacted their group for input. That would be a scary development.

Posted by social network
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 4, 2012 at 7:59 am

>We have around 250 members on our active mailing list at this time.
Remember people, this is the equivalent of having 250 followers on twitter.

Posted by Standing alone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:03 am

Mr. Dauber,

I beg to differ with your characterization that homework in our town carries excessive weight and that AP and Honors classes should be controlled by the low homework/night rules the committee has suggested for regular level class.

Before I dig in here, where ever did you get this from: “The national PTA/NEA standard of 10 minutes of homework per grade per night”?

There is no National PTA position on homework (just a petition urging it to develop one). The NEA’s handbook, arguably its governing document, states succinctly that the “amount of homework assigned should be determined by the classroom teacher"; no minutes are mentioned.

The 10 minute rule you cite is not either group’s “standard.”

Homework Limits

The homework policy the PAUSD committee devised, apparently based on what it misbelieves is the NEA and PTA standard, perhaps because you told it it was so, states that students should only have 7-10 hours of homework a week; that's 1-1/2 to 2 hours per school night, 15-20 minutes a class.

That's a HUGE reduction in the amount of homework happening in our high schools now. Over 80% work 2 hours or more per night on school right now according to the high school survey given last year.

Despite what you say (“the best research shows that homework isn't effective after roughly that time [90 -120 minutes in high school]” and that any more than that is harmful to kids), that is not what the researchers say:

- Duke Professor Cooper, the current expert on homework research who is cited in the committee's work, found that there were no diminishing returns for homework that stretched to 2.5 hours a night.

- Local Denise Clark Pope's student surveys show students had no physical or emotional problems with more than that. Dr. Pope: "At some point, we say too much is too much. In our study, that's 3.5 hours."

I worry about how students will constructively fill up all the new found free time they will have under this policy. When I grew up, kids who weren't home doing homework were hanging in the park next to school taking drugs and drinking. Be careful PAUSD parents. You may be creating new, harmful, and even legal problems for your kids under the assumption, unfounded, that this new homework policy is healthier for them.


Homework counts in each of my daughter’s classes, from 10% to 33% of her grade. Test scores count from 33% to 85%.

How Mr. Dauber is that excessive weighting of homework? If anything it is exactly the opposite – excessive weighting of tests. If teachers dialed the homework credit down more, you’d have classes where almost all of a student's grade would rest on test scores.

What my daugther’s high school has IMHO is the perfect balance for my child and she says her classmates. Sure there always seems to be a student who doesn't get his homework in on time, who not surprisingly is the student who also can't track the discussion because he is not prepared. But that student is the outlier and appears to her to be out of sorts in other ways too. Homework is likely not the source of that child’s troubles and that child undoubtedly needs (and hopefully is getting) outside help. But for the vast majority of kids in her classes the current balance is perfect since it honors both types of students - those who do well over the long haul and those who peak on test days.

Your proposal would penalize diligent students who, thanks to their teachers' homework assignments, are developing great work habits and who, per Duke Neuroscience Professor Cooper, are improving their test scores because of the homework they do.

Few would stand with you to support a policy that says that a test day is a better reflection of a student's ability than every day.

AP/Honors Limits

As to limiting homework on AP and Honors courses, are you really suggesting that those advanced courses, which are voluntary and cover up to 4 times the material as their entry level counterparts, should be subject to similar limits?

Or are you suggesting that our schools water down their AP and Honors class curricula, which is what would happen if students were not assigned more homework? The time in class is the same whether the class is easy or hard. It is the homework where the extra learning occurs.

Those actions would be silly and are unnecessary. Enrollment in AP and Honors classes is voluntary; if it is too much for your child, don’t enroll in them. AP class homework expectations are clear. Students and parents are not surprised; they sign permissions slips stating that they know the work load before the student can enter the class.

Future Work

Hopefully you stand alone too with your thinking that the homework issues still to be resolved are credit for turning in homework late and teachers giving less weight to it. The Homework Committee's report is clear about what work remains to be done. Neither of those is on its list:
Web Link

Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:12 am

> 250 names on email list

Given the number of students enrolled in the PAUSD, there are upwards of 20,000 parents living in Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills, the Stanford Campus, East Palo Alto, and all over the Bay Area (PAUSD staff members who have enrolled there kids in the PAUSD), as well as parents who live in other cities, but have managed to park their kids in homes of relatives.

That's 250 individuals out of a possible 20,000 individuals with children in the PAUSD.

Posted by Yikes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:28 am

Standing Alone, I agree that some of the "facts" here seem to come from thin air.

e.g. Can't See writes that "volunteering time and money does not equal helicopter parenting."

A few posts down Ms. Dauber writes: "If "volunteering time and money" as "Can't see the forest" above recommends is the criteria for being on the PTAC board, then one can immediately see the problem for democracy as the ability to engage in these activities is not randomly distributed.

Ms. Dauber, can I ask how you got to your statement from what Can't See wrote? Something that was never said is now a problem for democracy? I don't get it.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:44 am

Michelle - the District did ask for parent volunteers for the homework committee. I received an email - sent to ALL PAUSD parents thru Infinite Campus on November 28th from Charles Young, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services.

PiE and PTA volunteers (note the word, volunteers) work very hard to raise money for all our students and advocate for all our students. In doing so, they have the opportunity to work closely with some of the PAUSD staff and board members. Perhaps some of their support for the BOE and Dr. Skelly is simply because the volunteers see how hard they work and how much they care about our students. Are they perfect, no. Do they make mistakes, of course. Do they care a lot? Yes!

Posted by WhyIgnoreTheParents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:19 am

@Ken - I agree with your points on homework. It was informative watching the school board videos to hear that the agreement on the homework was unanimous among the committee. Look at the PA Online web-board: has anything in Palo Alto been unanimous? The fact is, a wide-spread committee of informed individuals can come to productive conclusions. It is amazing, and a hopeful message for the future of this divided community.

Parent - Staff committees work. It has worked. I don't understand why the school board and district do not make greater use of their critics in such committees. I hope there is not a culture of secrecy and back-room influence peddling, but unfortunately, the district never misses an opportunity to portray itself badly.

@Standing - Cooper's data includes a meta-analysis of homework studies, and while nothing is conclusive in science, there is some evidence that prolonged homework is detrimental. Whether the limit is 2.5hrs or 3.5hrs matters little when many of our kids are doing 4-5hrs/night. It also just makes sense - when I am studying and mentally exerting my self, I cannot persist for 4-5hrs at high productivity. It is mentally taxing. A child's brain is taxed sooner.

In addition, the variation in teachers is enormous. While you may have been lucky enough to get the right teacher for your child, I have not. Some of the teachers have ridiculous amounts of homework. The point of policy is to enforce reasonable limits which the community believes is appropriate - again another argument in favor of community-Staff committees.

Finally, homework and tests are not the sole contribution to school. In fact they are probably not even the largest contribution. You framed it incorrectly: classwork is the largest contribution to learning. Time in front of a quality teacher is the best indicator of learning, and classwork should have the largest part of the grade. The Homework policy is correct to put limits on homework: that prevents abuses from the extreme teachers, and reinforces moderation and quality. Listen to the presentation from Charles on the video from May22. It was good.

Late policy was discussed extensively in this video - if policy is formed effectively, it will encourage kids to do homework, not punish them for sins of the system.

Posted by mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:28 am

I mentioned to my daughter who is a sophomore that the homework committee was looking to reduce the credit given homework in their overall grades and her reply was "How can they do that? By giving tests more credit, they will make school even more stressful." In our household, I have never found that homework creates more stress, in fact, it's allowed them to dig deeper and really learn more about individual subjects. All of my kids best writing is done at home and not in the classroom. Have you been inside a high school classroom lately? How can you learn with 35 + kids, many of whom are distracted or not paying attention? Much of the really deep, thoughtful thinking they do comes outside of the classroom and it is exciting to see them really delve into a subject. My daughter finally has an English teacher this year who has assigned many out of class thoughtful essays -- and guess what, this is the first year my daughter has truly learned how to write. Not surprisingly, it was the extra effort she made on her own, and yes it was homework, that finally made the difference for her. She actually learned to write this year. Her teacher gave her feedback in class, tutorial and in turning back her work -- but it was the two combined, that made the difference. In talking with my kids and others at Paly and Gunn their anxiety and stress is caused mostly by the grade deflation that exists at both schools. Paly and Gunn hurt their kids -- both emotionally and in getting into college -- by having a grading system that is far more difficult than almost every public high school in the state, with the exception of Lowell and a couple of others.

Kids across this town spend two, three even four hours a day on sports or other activities, but when it comes to homework, that's where we want to draw the line? Isn't the purpose of going to high school to learn? Why is it acceptable to spend hours on end practicing when it comes to sports, but not when it comes to academics? I know giving my kids a bunch of extra time will probably result in them spending more screen time on facebook and doing mindless computer games.

@Standing Alone

Thank you for your thoughtful comments and analysis of this situation. I hope the homework committee will read your comments.

Posted by Googler
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:51 am

Standing Alone: your post made me very curious, so I voluntarily "did my homework", googled "NEA standard on homework" and this is what came up:

From NEA "Spotlight on Research"
Web Link

How Much Is Appropriate?
The National PTA recommendations fall in line with general guidelines suggested by researcher Harris Cooper: 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter (e.g., 20 minutes for second grade, 120 minutes for twelfth). High school students may sometimes do more, depending on what classes they take (see Review of Educational Research, 2006).

Speaking of Cooper - google brought up many items - but an excerpt from a 2011 NYT article:
Web Link

"...Research has long suggested that homework in small doses can reinforce basic skills and help young children develop study habits, but that there are diminishing returns, said Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. The 10-minute guideline has generally been shown to be effective, Dr. Cooper said, adding that over all, “there is a minimal relationship between how much homework young kids do and how well they test.” "

For context, another excerpt Web Link

"...While it's clear that homework is a critical part of the learning process, Cooper said the analysis also showed that too much homework can be counter-productive for students at all levels.

"Even for high school students, overloading them with homework is not associated with higher grades," Cooper said.

Cooper said the research is consistent with the "10-minute rule" suggesting the optimum amount of homework that teachers ought to assign. The "10-minute rule," Cooper said, is a commonly accepted practice in which teachers add 10 minutes of homework as students progress one grade. In other words, a fourth-grader would be assigned 40 minutes of homework a night, while a high school senior would be assigned about two hours. For upper high school students, after about two hours' worth, more homework was not associated with higher achievement."

Reading through these and the many other references it's clear there's complexity - but hardly the idea of one person and certainly not thin air. And it only took 10 minutes of work to find this out!

Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 4, 2012 at 11:26 am

@Standing alone
Just a brief response on some of your points, see the others above for more on the 10 minute question, late policy, etc. I first learned about the 10 minutes PTA/NEA standard from Dr. Charles Young, the associate superintendent who ran the committee.
My point about exempting AP, honors, and accelerated classes from the time limits is just that kids who take those classes don't somehow acquire superhuman learning powers. If they are doing more homework than their brains can benefit from, that's not a useful learning activity, whether they signed a permission form or not. Given the number of students who are taking those classes, I think we would benefit from a conversation about how much homework they are doing and whether it is consistent with what the research says actually produces learning.
In terms of homework weighting in grades, one consistent statement that I heard from teachers on the committee is that homework is imperfect as an assessment tool in Palo Alto because it's not clear how much help students had (e.g., from tutors or highly educated parents). When you combine that with the fact that some kids have less time for homework (not just because of sports activities, but for mundane tasks like caring for younger siblings because their parents have to work at night), the danger is that putting too much weight on homework can be inequitable. That doesn't mean that all assessment has to rest on a few large tests -- several teachers on the committee mentioned smaller evaluations that can be done in class on a much more frequent basis.
Finally, the idea that homework limits can produce legal problems for kids because they will commit crimes once they are done with their homework is creative but probably lacks empirical support.

Posted by Standing alone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 11:44 am


Try not to confuse NEA's summary of Professor Cooper's summary of others' research as the organization's adopted "standards" which need to be approved by its governing body to be considered its standard.

And try not to put words into my post. I did not say that unlimited homework is good. I just queried how the seemingly random and unsupported "7-10 hours" a week for high schoolers was derived.

The "Review of Research" the NEA's summary cites is to Professor Cooper's scholarly paper. This is also the work the short Duke article, not written by Professor Cooper btw, refers to too.
Web Link

Professor Cooper's mentions in his paper that:

- Studies revealed that the average high school student in a class doing homework outperformed 69% of the students in a no-homework class, as measured by standardized tests or grades.

So why does Mr. Dauber recommend that PAUSD minimize the importance of homework and, by lessening its credit, create less incentives for students to do it?

- On the amount of homework for high school students, studies show that achievement ("line-of-progress") continued to go up unabated through the highest point on the measured scales which was 2 hours. It is not that 2 hours is the max. It is that it didn't measure higher.

What's the reason for a PAUSD policy which states homework limits start at 1-1/2 hours a night?

- According to Professor Cooper, Lam's (1996) findings SUGGEST that the optimum benefits of homework for high school students MIGHT lie between 1 1⁄2 and 2 1⁄2 hours but says that there is still much guesswork in these estimates and concludes that the optimum amount of homework likely will be dependent on many factors like the nature of the assignment and individual student differences.

"Depend on many factors." Perhaps that is why the NEA handbook leaves it to the teacher to decide.

- Professor Cooper mentions Lam's work again in his paper, stating that "the strongest relationship between homework and achievement was found among students who reported doing 7 to 12 hours of homework per week, followed by students who reported doing 13–20 hours per week." Only when he looked at students who reported doing more than 20 hours of homework did he see diminishing returns.

So how did PAUSD land on 10 hours at the top in general? Why not 12 which is what Professor Cooper states? A typo? And why not add something along the lines that in some cases assigning up to 20 hours a week may be appropriate if that is what the teacher thinks is needed that week/that assignment/in that grade/for that class?

There is no other mention of minutes or hours in Cooper's review.

As for your citing a NYT article as authority to trump Professor Cooper's own words in his research paper, realize that that article refers to "young children." In Professor Cooper's paper "young" means pre-junior high school. I am speaking only about high school students.

Found all of this googling around in some of the same documents you mention.

Posted by WhyIgnoreTheParents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Half of the high school students in PAUSD are doing >12hrs homework right now. So if that is the magic number, why are 50% over this limit already? Some are over 21hs (15%).

This is not Seniors, this is over all HS grades, so not only is it too high generally, it is way too high for 9th graders.

pg 182-183: Web Link

The board rightly recognized that limits must be put in place. The system is not able to regulate itself, so I applaud the work of the homework committee who took on this task AND REACHED CONSENSUS.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Paly parent: yes you got that email from Charles Young because wcdb raised the issue of membership and insisted on you receiving it. Previously the committee had been staffed by the PTAC exec board. Yes they do a lot but should not be treated as if they are the only legitimate parent or community voice.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I would encourage posters to start one or more new topics on the interesting issues being raised here that are separate from the school board members taking umbrage at allegations of possible Brown Act violations.

We could have a much better dialogue if someone would separate the various thread that have sprouted up above.

Posted by Through the Looking Glass
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm


It is confusing but all of these issues tie back to open public governance issues. The public records act request was made because WCDB saw a private process in regards to policy decisions on Gunn guidance counseling that was diverging from the public process.

Similarly in the fall, PTAC invoked a private closed door process to select parents for the Homework Advisory Committee. WCDB did not want to show the district or PTAC in a bad light so they privately advocated to reopen the process.

Last fall our new Associate Superintendent made a logical choice to reach out to PTAC to help him with the parent selection process for the Homework Advisory Committee. PTAC selected 6 parents through a closed process that was not in line with board policy. These were the only parent reps at the first Homework Advisory Committee meeting on November 21, 2011. After WCDB advocated for an open process to ensure representation from all sides on the homework debate the process was re-opened and our Associate Superintendent reached out to all parents through Infinite Campus in December 2011.

At the December 13, 2011 School Board meeting Camille Townsend commended Dr. Young for reopening the process. Kudos to Camille for saying that she felt badly that the board did not have a process laid out for the Associate Superintendent to follow and suggested a need to better codify the process. The final parent makeup of the advisory committee was three parents appointed by PTAC and six appointed by Dr. Young. You can hear Ms. Townsend’s comments on the Media Center webcast under item C at 42:00 minutes.
Web Link

Critics of WCDB claim it is a small group controlling the School Board. I hope we can give our hard working School Board Trustees more credit then that. WCDB is advocating for structural changes in our schools that come out of best practice recommendations delineated by Project Safety Net, P8 Supportive School Environment. Web Link

P8 was written by PAUSD senior staff and community members. PAUSD has signed an MOU with Project Safety Net that states “Align PAUSD focus goals to PSN to include “improving student connectedness and strengthen support systems for student social, emotional, physical health.” (The full MOU can be viewed here on page 51.)
Web Link

The recommendations under P8 that WCDB is advocating for are in alignment with the district’s strategic plan and are helping to reshape district policies. I hope in the future that PTAC and WCDB can work together on district initiatives. To quote our Superintendent in a conciliatory email to a WCDB member, “Ok. On we go. Let's grab shovels and do the work. As you know, there's plenty to do.”

Posted by Googler
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Standing alone: I'm not trying to do the homework committee's work on Palo Alto Online. I don't think it's constructive. I recognize, and stated so in my post, that this is a complex issue. And PA Online is hardly a substitute for people working together around these complexities. (Thank you Homework Committee!)

Your post surprised me as it not only brought into serious question an important piece of the committee's work, but it also suggested that Mr. Dauber must have made up these references to 10 minute rules, etc. So rather than take either of your "words" for it, I wanted to check it out for myself.

While I admit to my own limited knowledge on this, it is very clear that Mr. Dauber did not make this up, and that there are many, many, MANY references to the 10-minute rule as NEA and PTA "guidelines" or "recommendations".

I won't argue with you that these aren't official, voted-upon standards - but as you look into this, "PTA" and "NEA" are constantly coupled with words like "recommendations", "guidelines" and "endorsed".

The National PTA's own web site claims "National PTA and the National Education Association endorse the 10-minute rule" Web Link The NEA not only claims these are PTA guidelines, but suggests they originated from (go figure) your own Dr. Cooper. Web Link ??

Cooper's own words from Web Link "The National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association have a parents’ guide called Helping Your Child Get the Most Out of Homework. It states, “Most educators agree that for children in grades K–2, homework is more effective when it does not exceed 10–20 minutes each day; older children, in grades 3–6, can handle 30–60 minutes a day; in junior and senior high, the amount of homework will vary by subject.”

Many school district policies state that high school students should expect about 30 minutes of homework for each academic course they take (a bit more for honors or advanced placement courses).

These recommendations are consistent with the conclusions reached by our analysis. Practice assignments do improve scores on class tests at all grade levels. A little amount of homework may help elementary school students build study habits. Homework for junior high students appears to reach the point of diminishing returns after about 90 minutes a night. For high school students, the positive line continues to climb until between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours of homework a night, after which returns diminish (Cooper, 1989; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006)."

These are the words of Harris Cooper - as were they in the NYT article. They refer to high school students and they reveal the complexity of this issue.

I chose to write in because the first paragraph of your post called Mr. Dauber and the Homework Committee work into serious question. After a few minutes of research, I concluded the insinuation and accusations within your post had to be written with the purpose to mislead. Thanks to the links, readers can do a little homework and make their own determination about who's being intellectually honest.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Looking Glass - thanks for bringing this thread back in focus. As I posted above, these consequences will keep repeating until the fundamental issues of openness and transparency are addressed and corrected. The school board and the superintendent now need to bend over backwards to be open, inclusive and transparent - partial measures or simply sticking to the letter will not be sufficient to restore trust and to produce outcomes that have broad community support. Moving from their current secretive mode, which they even fail to recognize as such, will require great leadership or overwhelming public pressure.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Peter: I agree with you completely. I think it was terribly disappointing to see the Board join Kevin in his defensive bunker approach. The Board has a governance problem in that it is dealing with a relatively autocratic leadership style by the superintendent. That power imbalance has led to a situation of passive inadvertent issues with the brown act. The board spent a lot of time at the study session insisting on the fact that hey all had good intentions and defending against the idea of an intentional violation (of which no one accused them). This regrettably merely confused the community about what a violation is and what injunctive relief might be available for inadvertant violations. Moreover there was little or no serious discussion of the general practice which is far too autocratic and insular as the PTAC staffing of a government advisory board illustrates. We need a strong public commitment to openness and transparency and inclusion . Another recent example was the study session on a to g which the superintendent publicly stated that he had scheduled in order to prevent parents who were unhappy about a racially insensitive letter from attending. He had to apologize for that statement but the damage was done. It is just one more example of nontransparent autocratic management that excludes certain members of the community. That is why it was truly disappointing and not a little bizarre to see our PTA coming out to defend secrecy, exclusion of parents from policy committees, and nontransparent processes. That beggars description and is another sign of how far off track we have gotten. I hope we can have reform but with the board digging in unfortunately we will have to wait for elections and two of the trustees recently voted themselves an additional year in office so that will take time. That is one reason not to extend elections as it reduces accountability.

The intent of the Brown Act is that the publics business will be done in public. That is not happening with Gunn counseling.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I believe that good people do bad things and the behavior in question is clearly bad while the individuals are undoubtably good people. The citizen whom they are supposed to serve simply need to get their attention.

One possible approach is to BEGIN a recall campaign for the entire board. If such a campaign gains enough support the board may be compelled to act in order to avoid such a recall. Often the only way to change established bureaucracies is to threaten their continued existence and often, if the threat is real, then they will change rather than be thrown out.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Another alarming trend Is the way the Board and Kevin and his parent-surrogates are complaining about our use and the media use of the Public Records Act as if it is illegitimate and a waste of public resources. Barbara Mitchell insinuated that somehow it was irresponsible to use PRA requests to obtain information at the study session. Numerous officials and administrators and PTAC members have suggested that it is a waste of public resources to follow the law. Indeed I would say that our official parent organs have spent far more time arguing against openness than for it even going so far as to suggest that we should not be able to make these requests. District staff have made anonymous complaints in paloaltoonline based on facts that only they know -- unless of course they share heir complaints about complying with the PRA with other parents in order to stir up angst about it. Unfortunately when the community loses confidence that the people's business is being done in public then you will see a number of PRAs. Each of these has yielded fascinating and important confidential information such as Kevin's memos in counseling, the qualitative student data on counseling, the news of a $500K donation that Kevin evidently has carte blanche to spend without any Board vote, the fact that a to g was tacitly approved by the board behind the scenes weeks before the vote etc. it is an unfortunate fact that there is a lot being done behind closed doors through emails, memos, and so forth, sometimes implicitly polling the board. It's a set of bad practices that all parents should object to but since our office parent group feels it has sufficient access perhaps it supports hear types of practices. I lnow for a fact that there are board members who don't like this situation any more than we do. Yet they are not sharing that with the community. This is a real missed opportunity to improve things for PAUSD quite apart from that substantive issues at stake at the moment.

Posted by Lens
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Considering that the Daubers called for Skelly's resignation with their PA Weekly editorial way back when, it's hard to take their "let's work together" tactics all that seriously.

And 250 people on an email distribution list means less than 25 active participants... With a solid majority of those 25 being the mother and father of the same student. Essentially, the very definition of a vocal minuscule minority.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The critical question is do enough people care in order to start a credible recall campaign - if not, then the citizens of the school district are getting exactly the kind of government and governance that they deserve.

Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I read this article and the comments that follow with great sorrow. I don't agree at all that we all want the same things. Clearly we do not. However, I've been present through much of what unfolds in our district and I see so much in these comments that is distorted and reflects poorly on us as adults. For one thing, the PTAC consists of people who have been begged to serve because nobody steps up. This strange view of it that comes from a B movie is not accurate and distorts the discussion. For another, WCDBPA sounded to me like a very interesting group until now. I was going to contact the Daubers and find out more in hopes of making a contribution to the effort. Now that I see them sinking into squabbling I'm reluctant to approach them at all. Lastly, I don't put my name out in this forum because of the personal nature of so many of the expressions of disagreement. Did any of you ever consider that to be employed in this district is to have your head in the middle of a dartboard for anyone with an agenda and an attitude to constantly take shots at? I used to be critical of Dr. Skelly for being relatively secretive, but now I can't imagine how anyone can ever get a thing done in this district because instead of pitching in and working together to make things better, the most vocal people are so often hateful and destructive in their approach. We certainly could do better, but not in this way.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Peter-- yes I basically agree except that there are real kids who are having a truly awful experience at Gunn with counseling or who have too much homework or other stress issues. It is one thing to say that the parents are getting the government they deserve and quite another to allow the impact of those management failures to be externalized onto kids who have no choice. There is a collective action problem to be sure. Working on it by using data but it's not easy.

Posted by Standing alone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I'm confused.

First, I am just trying to understand what the committee’s thinking is behind the minutes per night homework limits. I don’t see an exact match to the research but posters are right - I wasn't on the committee - so perhaps there is more behind it. Mr. Dauber, it sounds like you were on the committee. Can you share the thinking behind the numbers? I imagine that is public information.

Googler, you say that this is a "complex issue" and refer to "our" work so you must have been on the committee too. Please share … Was it based on research? Was it a compromise? Were all teachers, the ones who will be subject to this policy, given an opportunity to chime in (not just there through a few representatives)?

Second, isn't this item up for discussion and vote on June 12th? Or is it that the committee's recommendation is supposed to be rubber stamped? Ironic if that is the case given the discussion on this thread about open process, non-insiders having a chance to ask and perhaps even influence the outcome, etc.

Third, as to authority I'll say it again . . . summaries of research, short articles about research, and sound bites scattered throughout websites are not standards and are not research findings. Look at Cooper’s' well-written and probably peer reviewed paper. If there is ambiguity or a conflict, that is where you’d go to clear it up. That is standard protocol.

Fourth, do the math. If as you say most schools have landed on "30 minutes of homework for each academic course they take (a bit more for honors or advanced placement courses)" and this is "consistent with the conclusions reached by our analysis,” the upper limit should be 15 hours a week not the committee’s 10 since most high school students take 6 academic courses a semester. That is 50% more than the upper limit in the proposed policy. Even your cited 2.5 hours/night gets you to 12.5 a week which, again, does not match the policy’s 10 or for that matter the 12 hours cited in Cooper's paper as a lower limit.

Doesn't seem complex to me.

Posted by One more mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Frankly, AP classes are higher level classes that will require a lot of homework unless watered down. How about not taking AP classes if one does not want to do much homework?

I have trouble understanding people who want to take high level (honors, AP, etc.)classes but don't want to put in an extra effort. If a student does not want to work hard, that student should just take regular lane classes.

Posted by Googler
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Hi Standing Alone...
I wasn't on the committee (which is why I googled)and the words "our work" were not written by me. I think you are confusing Dr. Cooper's quoted words for mine.

If you reread the post and look for the end-quote, it may make more sense?

It's not complex to me that these seem to be well-supported, useful time guidelines (not hard and fast rules or numbers) that allow room and flexibility for honors & AP classes, yet caution that diminishing results are seen beyond 2.5 hours/night (for high school students). Keeping it simple and in context, Dr. Cooper, NEA, National PTA and the homework committee seem to be in agreement.

Posted by Yikes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Hi Ms. Dauber,

Again, I am feeling confused by another of your posts.

You said that Ms. Mitchell "insinuated that somehow it was irresponsible to use PRA requests to obtain information at the study session." I have read and re-read her statement at the study session and can't find that part. Can you point it out?

You also say "Numerous officials and administrators and PTAC members have suggested that it is a waste of public resources to follow the law." It is really disturbing to me that anyone would say such a thing. Can you give me more information? Which officials and administrators and PTAC members have said that? What exactly did they say? When? Any help is appreciated.

Also, "our official parent organs have spent far more time arguing against openness than for it." I follow the news fairly closely, and I can't remember ever hearing anyone - parent leaders especially - argue against openness. Who has argued against it? What did they say?

I appreciate your clarifying or providing details or background .. thank you!

Posted by frustrated
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Why isn't the PTA leadership coming out and refuting the untruths people are writing about the organization and what they do? Who in their right mind would run for school board in this community when a small group of angry parents who didn't immediately get their way can cause such divisiveness and interrupt any real work by spreading untruths. I will say they are smart enough to speak partial truths so that uninformed people will believe them about everything.

I think this all started with the Daubers stating that the district wasn’t moving fast enough with one of the PSN goals. There are 22 “goals” identified by PSN. Four fall under Education, eight fall under Prevention, and ten fall under Intervention. Many of them are multi-faceted. The Daubers have chosen to focus on one facet of P - 8: “Study, discuss and implement additional environmental strategies that create a more supportive school and learning environment, such as finals prior to winter break, revised test and project calendars, revised homework policies addressing purpose and volume, academic integrity concerns, tutorials and advisories, and social and emotional skill development.” With limited financial and human resources, not all of these goals can be achieved immediately. Much of the initial work went into the Education and Intervention goals which is appropriate. Why should the Daubers dictate which goal is the most important for the district to focus on? Do they have any evidence that this will significantly reduce student stress as opposed to other interventions? Do they have any evidence that student stress contributed in a significant way to the suicides that occurred? There is much work being done on all of these, including advisory. Please note that it starts with “study, discuss and implement”. The schools are now in the discussion phase and I think will present their plans at the next board meeting.

As for the Public Information Requests, my belief is that this was done to intimidate the board and Kevin Skelley. I think they were fishing for information because they weren't able to get their agenda adopted. I personally believe that it is poor use of our school funds just because some parents didn’t like the answer they got. The Daubers state that they have always had a civil tone. I’d like to see them release their all their emails with the district staff and board.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Having served as an elected public official for eight years I commend to those concerned with openness and transparency the Menlo Park Fire Protection District's approach to citizen participation. Here is the statement which appears at least three times on each of their meeting agendas:

"A fundamental element of democracy is the right of citizens to address their elected representatives. Therefore under Public Comment XX the public may address the Board on any subject.....".

Words have meaning.

Posted by Yikes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Frustrated, thank you.

Daubers, in the interest of openness and transparency, would you please post all of the emails you have written to board members and district employees on your web page?

Please link here when you have located and posted all of them.

Thank you!

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm


If you view the video near the end, at 2:00, the Board began a discussion about Public Records requests, which were a part of the memoranda addressed by Lou Lozano at Kevin's request. Melissa Caswell at approximately 2:01 stated that she wants to "understand the burden on the district when someone asks for a public records request." At that point (~2:03), Barbara Mitchell stated that she was against the Superintendent's proposal to place his Confidential Weekly Memoranda on the web until further discussion had taken place despite the fact that they are covered by the PRA. In the interim, she stated that any member of the public [speaking here about the Weekly's announced intent to do so] should feel "comfortable without any negative cast" to request those specific memos.

She went on, however to state that prior to implementing a policy in which all of the confidential memos and other communications between staff and board members are posted to the web going forward, "I would like to learn more from [the lawyer] on how the legislature set forth both the public agency's role but also the role and responsibilities of private citizens" under the Public Records Act. She asserted that the PRA "is a two-way street. We could certainly post all of these documents and have all of the related costs and time involved but I think we should discuss this in the context of how the legislature saw the role of the trustees, of the superintendent, and of the private citizen in this."

This unfortunate passage seems to echo the Superintedent's view that the PRA requests are an undue burden on him and on staff. She seems here to be alluding to some violation of the responsibilities of the citizen [me, I think] in making Public Records Act requests, as if it is out of order or harassing to do so. The Superintendent has complained about it to us in numerous emails, and I don't doubt that he has also complained about it to the Board. I imagine that he has also complained about it to a high-ranking PTAC officials who has carried that message to several of our members on more than one occasion and stated that she agrees with it. Her message reads much like the one from "frustrated" above who states that his or her "belief is that this was done to intimidate the board and Kevin Skelley. I think they were fishing for information because they weren't able to get their agenda adopted. I personally believe that it is poor use of our school funds just because some parents didn’t like the answer they got." None of that is true, none of that is appropriate, and none of that is civil. But it seems to have seeped into the views of Board member Mitchell and probably others as well.

It doesn't matter, since it is not a "two way street," and as their lawyer reminded them anyone can ask to see any public record at any time for any reason. And every request we have made or the Weekly has made has produced relevant and interesting confidential information not previously made public.

In terms of PTAC leaders arguing against transparency, we can start with the aforementioned homework committee. When we discovered that PTAC had been tasked with filling all the slots and had done so with no public notice and chiefly with the members of their own executive board, we first contacted PTAC to ask for an open process and we were told that the organization would not open the process to other parents, solicit applications, or do anything. At that point we spoke to Kevin and the Board about it, and the process was reopened.

Most recently, the Paly PTA President, Susan Bailey, presented a joint statement of a group of moms (same video at 1:22), including PTAC leaders such as Micaela Presti and incoming president Sigrid Pinsky, as well as others, which stated that they were supportive of "the ongoing work to improve things that aren't going as well," a reference to Gunn's Guidance Work Group, which was reported on by the Oracle last week and is comprised only of teachers and includes no parents or students and has already decided against advisory because "the workgroup does not feel changing to the advisory system would best serve Gunn and its culture."

Web Link

The PTAC leaders' statement read by Mrs. Bailey praised the district's effort to "seek input from all stakeholders" but made no mention of the fact that the Guidance Work Group contains only staff and teachers and no other stakeholders at all. The PTAC leaders' statement furthermore supported the practice of the Weekly Confidential Memoranda not being public, stating that the signatories (including both Presti and the incoming President Pinsky) believe that the staff and Board need to do "advanced preliminary thinking" on issues. The PTAC leaders' statement concluded that they "support the experts that are teaching our children" a reference to the Gunn teachers who are opposed to advisory and have already decided not to implement it in a closed process that includes no parents or students.

In sum, the PTAC leaders expressed support for the closed process at Gunn, support for the teachers and staff running that closed process, support for a closed process to name members to the Homework Advisory Committee, support for the continuation of the Confidential Weekly Memoranda ("advanced preliminary thinking") and no criticism or dissatisfaction with the fact that parents are not included on the Guidance Work Group at Gunn.

Finally, on May 22, Micaela Presti, who is the current Executive Vice President (#2 in the hierarchy) of PTAC, stated at the Board meeting (see video at ~53) that she (a Jordan parent with no kids at Gunn now or previously) did she did not want to implement advisory at Gunn but instead to "give Gunn staff time to make *their own* informed decision on how to improve *their* guidance systems" by letting the teacher-only process from which parents are excluded to continue to play out. I think two things are clear here: PTAC sees the guidance system as belonging to the staff not the students, and PTAC is unconcerned about allowing teachers and staff to "make their own" decision about what to do to improve it rather than including parents and students in that process.

One fact mentioned by Micaela does shed light on the true nature of her objection -- otherwise hard to fathom for a Jordan parent: she worried about the "tremendous expense associated with" the implementation of TA at Gunn and asked whether it would really be worth it. She asked "Why spend that money if it's not something the Gunn staff want to have happen?"

PTAC leaders, I have an answer: Because Gunn parents and students deserve the same quality of service at Paly. Right now the services they receive are far inferior on pretty much every measure, as shown by both quantitative and qualitative data, and by numerous studies over the years. It is time to get off the dime. The data is absolutely conclusive. TA is better, and it is so much better that it is unfair not to provide it to all students equally.

There are actually many more examples like those above, some stated privately, some publicly. But the general cast is the same: PTAC leaders support the confidential memos, the closed homework committee process, and the closed teacher/staff only process for deciding the direction of reform at Gunn.

I don't agree. And I'm not incivil because I don't agree.

I just see it differently and am following a different course of trying to get some evidence and metrics against this problem. To that end, I will stack my volunteer hours up against anyone's at PTAC or anywhere else as I have spent and other members of WCDB have spent many many hours, in the hundreds for Ken alone, tabulating data on various issues including counseling and the achievement gap and producing white papers and reports that shed light on important issues facing the schools.

Posted by mattie
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm

If our schools were actually run by the people commenting on these boards, I'd seriously consider homeschooling. Relax y'alls.

The Life of the Mind is about 12 degrees removed from all of this drama. Our kids' proximity to it is going to hurt them more than any changes will help... unless we're training them for political intrigue.

Posted by Yikes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Ms. Dauber, I am more confused than ever. Again and again you state what someone actually said, and then in the next breath re-state it as an entirely different statement. I really can't see or follow the leaps that you take. I also listened to all of ms. Mitchell's comments and found her words measured and thoughtful. Your interpretation isn't even remotely close to what I heard. The same, exactly, for ms. Bailey's statement, and the words you quote from ms. Presti. To me, they say moderate and thoughtful things, and for the life of me I don't recognize their actual words in your re-interpretations.

Mattie is right, and I am feeling a little silly for engaging here. It doesn't make sense to pursue it further. I don't see the world, or the Palo Alto school community, as forces of darkness. I think the people we elected and hired - and their commitment to Palo Alto's kids- are pretty impressive. Oh- and that "group of moms" you mentioned ... It includes several attorneys, writers, engineers, patent holders and at least one rocket scientist. Just saying.

Checking out now-

Posted by One more mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:56 pm

@ mattie

Michelle and Ken Dauber who comment on these boards head a group of at most 250 persons, many but not all of whom are PAUSD parents. This group is named "We Can Do Better Palo Alto". This unelected group, only representing themselves since it is unelected, are very vocal and influence greatly the decisions made by the school board these days. I, for one, deplore that an unelected minority group has so much influence on our schools.

I suggest that one or both of the Daubers run for an elected position in PAUSD. That will give them a legitimacy that they do not currently have.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2012 at 11:28 pm

I don't know where you get the idea that we "influence greatly the decisions made by the school board these days." That is demonstrably false. This school board is far more influenced by many other stakeholders and we are only one voice among many. To the extent that anyone listens at all it is because we have spent the time to produce serious empirical analysis and data backing each of our requests. I suggest that if you would like to enter into a serious policy debate that you produce your own analyses or show how ours are flawed and should not be relied upon. I would welcome that debate.

Any group of parents can organize themselves to ask for things that they think would benefit the schools -- sports boosters ask for new fields, people ask for math textbooks, or not to change the calendar. As I pointed out, some of the same people who want us to stop being involved in pressing for PSN item P-8, suicide prevention through caring school climate pressed over a period of years against the calendar change, including starting up their own little organization. Where is the hating on T3 as a small, unelected group? They have as much a right as we do to organize on their issue and I support their right to do that, though I don't agree about the calendar.

See, we disagree on the substance (and I even thought that their tactics were pretty strident at times) but I never went down to the board and denounced them for caring about their issue or said that they were divisive (although they probably were/are) or uncivil (even though some of their speakers verged over into incivility). That's their right. If you want to denounce small unelected groups pushing an issue, please start with them.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 5, 2012 at 6:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I suggest that one or both of the Daubers run for an elected position in PAUSD. That will give them a legitimacy that they do not currently have."

Never forget that the highest office in a democratic society is that of citizen and all who serve in elected offices are servants of the public. Sadly many citizens do not treat their office with the respect and attention that it deserves.

Posted by amused
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 5, 2012 at 7:42 am

"Where is the hating on T3 as a small, unelected group?"

You really don't know why?

Posted by frustrated
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2012 at 8:14 am

Who is T3? I don't recall reading about them in the newspaper. They certainly didn't request access to all communication about the calendar or else we would have heard about it.

Again, can we see all the emails that you have exchanged with the district and the board members. Maybe it would help to understand your anger.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 5, 2012 at 8:56 am

Michele -

Perhaps the PRA requests are an "undue burden" not because any one is trying to hide anything, but because the BOE and staff are already working WAY too hard (hence still being in a meeting at 2 am!)

I'm not sure why you feel that parents and students should automatically be part of any committee which is determining changes in staffing at a school. I am quite sure that the Gunn staff is aware of the need to improve their counseling system. Implementing the TA systems would cost (I'm assuming) an additional $200K (Paly's cost). That means that Gunn would need to cut $200K (which is 3-4 teachers) from somewhere else and with the state of CA budget, that is a huge change to contemplate.

BTW - It sounds like what the parents at the meeting were trying to tell you was that Gunn should be allowed to decide what Gunn is doing, not a parent's group of any kind, however well meaning. Our District has site-based decision making within the BOE's guidelines, not to mention that the Teacher's Union has a say in things.

To everyone who comments that the BOE should be recalled - they work TONS of hours for VERY little pay because they care about the kids of PAUSD.

Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 5, 2012 at 9:00 am

On homework: Standing alone, you're right, the homework policy is set to be discussed and voted on at the school board meeting on Tuesday, June 12, beginning at 6:30. The agenda and the board packet should be posted on Friday at Web Link I encourage you to attend and tell the school board your objections. In terms of process, the committee's meetings were open to all and posted on the PAUSD website. The committee's recommendations were by consensus, and parents, teachers, and administrators from elementary, middle, and high schools were represented.
In terms of the 10 minute standard, the committee looked at the research, looked at the judgement of the PTA and NEA and other districts, and settled on 10 minutes as a reasonable point that has garnered a lot of support here and elsewhere, including from researchers in the field. It's worth remembering that the board appointed the homework committee because of what it perceived as a broad concern among Palo Alto parents that the amount of homework kids are doing is excessive, and the fact that the Project Safety Net plan (specifically, section P-8) committed the district to examine homework as part of a broader response to student stress.
To all of the various critics of our work: The biggest surprise that I've had in getting involved in school policy in our community is the resistance to using data and research to have an informed conversation, particularly on areas where we need to improve -- and prime among those are social-emotional health and connectedness, counseling, and the achievement gap. Quite often I've seen district officials react with defensiveness and delay when a more appropriate and productive response would have been just to engage with the data and have a policy discussion. For example, it's been over a year since we presented data from years of student and parent surveys of counseling effectiveness to demonstrate that there is a large gap between Paly and Gunn in this area. The school board responded by asking for a comparison between Paly and Gunn, and the district directed the consultant not to compare the schools in her report. We laboriously did the work of comparison ourselves, and the school board months ago directed Gunn to look at the comparative data, look carefully at teacher advisory at Paly, and figure out how to get to comparable services. That still hasn't happened, according to the Oracle story.
A big part of the problem, I think, is that pointing out areas for improvement is often seen as an attack. I've been told by several senior district officials, including the Superintendent, that staff feel "attacked" by the data that we presented from the PAUSD survey (Web Link I received the same feedback for presenting CST scores showing that PAUSD has much lower achievement scores for under-represented minorities and poor students than many other districts in California, which suggests that there are districts that we can learn from (for example, Web Link PAUSD is an organization with a $160 million a year budget responsible for educating 12,000 children. That's too much money and too many kids not to be able to have honest, data-based discussions about best practices.
The second biggest surprise I've had in getting involved is how a fairly small but vocal group of parents joins the district in this defensive posture. Their contribution is almost never substantive, but instead is focused on whether parents have a right to participate in the policy-making process. This criticism is couched in the language of tactics and civility -- which are hardly ever spelled out in enough detail to actually figure out what they mean -- and in various versions of "there aren't very many of you, so why do you think anyone should listen?" (you can see various versions of both of these above, and you can see another example in Susan Bailey's statement to the Board last week).
I actually trust the school board, flawed as it is in some ways, to ultimately do the right thing. They saw the issue with the counseling data, correctly identified comparability and connectedness as the key issues, gave direction to staff on March 27 to fix it, reaffirmed that direction on May 22, and I think will underline their commitment on June 12. The rest of this is, as Wynn as put it, the messiness of democracy.
Finally, I do want to respond to this statement from @frustrated: "As for the Public Information Requests, my belief is that this was done to intimidate the board and Kevin Skelley. I think they were fishing for information because they weren't able to get their agenda adopted. I personally believe that it is poor use of our school funds just because some parents didn’t like the answer they got." Actually, we made our public records act requests because it was clear that the process underway at Gunn after the March 27 board meeting did not match the board's directive. It turned out that we were right.
Beyond that, we have made multiple requests for information from Gunn and district staff for basic information about the process at Gunn. None of those requests have been answered, beyond bureaucratic non-answers. In fact, the Oracle article contains far more information than we have been able to glean from the district. Public records requests are a ridiculously expensive, wasteful, and time-consuming way to communicate with the public. In a transparent public agency, public records requests have no purpose because they produce no information beyond what is freely available. So if the board would like to get to the bottom of why the district is wasting money on retrieving, reviewing, and redacting records, I would start with looking at why simple requests for information are going unanswered, and why important discussions like the future of counseling at Gunn are going on beyond closed doors with no transparency.

Posted by Volunteer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2012 at 9:41 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Yikes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2012 at 10:11 am

I was done here but need to come back simply to apologize to the Daubers, on behalf of everyone on all sides, for Volunteer's final sentence. Please know that this is one person's appalling comment, and does not represent "you guys" or anyone else in Palo Alto. I immediately reported the comment to the Weekly. I'm sorry words like that were said. I know you won't link one individual's gross insensitivity to any other people.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2012 at 10:14 am

@ paly parent

"I'm not sure why you feel that parents and students should automatically be part of any committee which is determining changes in staffing at a school. I am quite sure that the Gunn staff is aware of the need to improve their counseling system."

I feel that parents and students should automatically be part of this because that is our system of site-based control, which relies on Site Councils -- including representation from parents, students, teachers, admins, and community.

It is very surprising and unusual for the district to bypass Site Council in favor of determining the outcome strictly by teachers. In 2008-09 when Noreen Likens was trying to implement TA at Gunn, she used the Site Council to consider the proposal and study it. In 1992, when Sandra Pearson was implementing TA at Paly, again, she formed a parent/teacher committee and relied on the Site Council. The notion that parents should be excluded from the consideration of such a major change is highly unusual even within the "site based control" model.

Posted by Trish Davis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

Ken and Michele, thank you for your tireless efforts in presenting important information that has previously not been made available to Palo Alto parents.

What amazes me is how a school district that calls itself unified fights tooth and nail against implementing best practices between the two high schools in the name of "culture" when their own studies and surveys clearly show the best practices that have produced results. Why doesn't Paly want to institute a basic Biology class that doesn't "strongly recommend" the student also be in Algebra 1A when Gunn has such a class that almost all freshman pass successfully? Why doesn't Gunn want to institute some version of teacher advisory when it is demonstrably better for the kids? Ridiculous.

On another note, to the anonymous posters on this board. Attacking others' motives for engaging in policy discussions, requesting information that should already be publically available, and presenting data based upon that information is out of bounds. If you disagree with the policy or the data that has been presented by WCDBPA, you should show up and state your legitimate reasons for doing so to the school board at the next board meeting.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2012 at 11:13 am

I may not agree with every opinion that comes on this forum. Same applies to just about everyone who posts here. And it is no secret that I have had my own set emotional/heated forum debates & criticisms with MD.

No matter how you feel, there is no excuse for anyone to make personal attacks or inferences to personal tragedy. Disgusting.

"Volunteer" should be ashamed.

Posted by Sad to see this
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Volunteer's comment is sickening, but it's also the logical consequence of a lot of the really personal attacks that are directed at the Daubers and WCDPBA. Somehow everybody thinks that they should be able to just assail these parents constantly without them defending themselves, and gets even more outraged when they do. Now can we stop talking about civility and start practicing it? What if we agreed that everybody has the right to talk about school policy, that hurt feelings are not facts, and that grownups can either take the heat or get out of kitchen?

Posted by who you know
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2012 at 1:23 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by amazed
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I am ashamed to say I must have been sleeping through the fall this year. PTAC should have just politely declined the request to man the homework committee and recommended that it be passed on to School Site Councils and Principals. PTAC and WCDB both deserve some derision and some respect as does Mr. Skelly. All put in numerous hours with the hope they will benefit our children and their own careers (volunteer or not). But all have made some whopping mistakes in the way they operate.

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