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School board backs Skelly in annual review

Original post made on Jun 21, 2013

Palo Alto School Superintendent Kevin Skelly emerged from his annual performance review with a satisfactory rating, Board of Education President Dana Tom said Thursday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 21, 2013, 11:36 AM

Comments (34)

Posted by aha
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm

"Despite criticism over U.S. investigations, superintendent earns satisfactory rating"
The criticism is from a very small group.

Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Amazing. I wish I could hide settlement agreements with the federal government, sit silently while our lawyer misleads my boss, create major compliance problems for my employer, and put a stick in the wheel of major initiatives sponsored by my boss -- and still get a "satisfactory" rating. What would he have to do to get "unsatisfactory"? The mind boggles.

Posted by Um, Really?
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Jun 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Hi Chris Kenrick - can you tell us what is the rating scale?

For example, is "Satisfactory" the middle of 5 levels? Or is there no indication of granularity from the school board?

"Satisfactory" is not really the adjective I would hope my boss ever uses.

Thanks, your reader.

Posted by Not surprised
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Not surprised, the board, Terman Principal Katherine Baker, Holly Wade, and Skelly have to stick together otherwise they will all sink down because all of them failed the child; including Dana Tom who did nothing when the family asked him the the other school members for help. Yes that is the way it is in our school district.

Posted by more to it
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm

It wasn't just that Skelly didn't "promptly and fully disclose". He had the district down the road to compliance with the settlement agreement, including training and policy changes. He planned to secretly comply with the settlement agreements while not telling anybody why the district was doing it. It's bizarre. The real information here is about the school board. They are just not up to the job of managing this guy.

Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 21, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Mr. Skelley has been a mystery to me, not just concerning recent revelations about federal investigations of the district. There's a lot about him I just don't get - but then I am not with most of the Board, either.
I did respect Barbara Klausner and supported Ken Dauber.
It seems too much like a closed "Haavaad" club to me in PAUSD and it's crucial that all students and families be included and supported.
I also oppose his using taxpayer money to hire a 150K/year public relations flack staff person. We pay a lot in property taxes in the city of Palo Alto and this is NOT an appropriate use of our generous support of PAUSD.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Do you give this school board a "satisfactory" rating? If not, vote them out.

Posted by More info please?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm

This could be one of the least informative PAUSD stories ever. As a poster above asked, what is the rating scale? Did he get the customary 1-year contract extension? He's received one every year and last year they announced it with the performance review. Did the Weekly staff ask whether or not he was receiving the extension and if not why not? Does that mean he is departing in 2016? Is "satisfactory" the top of the scale or the middle or what? Is it a signal he should pack his bag because "exceeds expectations" is the standard for getting the contract extension?

More importantly, what does an employee have to do to get fired around here?

Posted by Not exactly
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm

An "overall satisfactory performance" is the general term used and does not reflect any scale. Actual evaluations are written by the Board and are more in depth and could include areas for improvement. Some contracts allow for automatic roll-over with a satisfactory performance. Here is Dr. Skelly's contract as posted last year by this paper. Web Link

Posted by Exactly
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I love and agree with first comment: It is a very small group in Palo Alto doing all the complaining and finger pointing. Every time I ask a parent about We Can Do Better group etc... they look at me like I'm crazy and ask me what I'm talking about. 95% of parents in Palo Alto love the schools and feel good about their kids education.

I just saw a parent at PAMF in Palo Alto whose son was in my class and she raved about Jordan and the education her son is getting. That has been the overwhelming response from all parents I have talked to.

Just to few many intellectuals with all these big ideas with way to much time on their hands is the way most people feel.

Posted by exactly
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 6:19 pm


Posted by PA
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Dear exactly,
You are exactly right:)!!!

Posted by makes sense to me
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 7:31 pm

So Exactly, when you talk to people they look at you as if you're crazy and they ask you if you know what you are talking about?

Posted by Cheese is Rice
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2013 at 7:41 pm

This has got to be an obscene joke! Skelly has got to be the biggest embarrassment to Harvard EVER! He has been dishonest, secretive, inept, incapable of doing the job he was hired for, [portion removed]

How on earth can the school board praise him, unless they are hiding something themselves, or are simply blind and deaf???

Good heavens, vote them out!!! Maybe then Skelly will get his just deserts!

Posted by exactly
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Makes sense to me:

They look at me as if they have no idea what I'm talking about, like I'm crazy to bring up a subject that they pay no attention to at all. To them and the overall MAJORITY of the Palo Alto parents Palo Alto schools do a great job and that is the truth.

The We Can Do Better Crowd is just a blimp on the radar and will soon disappear and Palo Alto Schools will remain the best.

The Weekly is no help at all either in endorsing and giving a voice to all this negative behavior [portion removed.]

Posted by Cheese is Rice
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2013 at 8:12 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I agree that overall our schools are great. Are there areas we could improve? Sure. There are always areas to improve upon. I think the schools are always looking to better themselves and WCDBPA actually gets in the way of that progress. If you watch a board meeting you will see that it is often the same 4 - 5 people that get up and speak. I think the majority of people are very happy with our schools. The booming real estate market (with houses once again going over the asking price) are just one indicator that overall people are very happy with our school district.

Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2013 at 11:16 am

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

As a retiree from another school district and the parent of two Paly grads, I can say without reservation that we in Palo Alto are very lucky to have a superintendent like Kevin Skelly and a district as good as the PAUSD. [Portion removed.]

Good for you, Board of Education, for standing up against the unconscionable behavior of the Skelly/PAUSD bashers.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Patsy Mink
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Patsy Mink is a registered user.

I agree that we have great schools. What makes our schools great are the teachers, administrators and board members who work to continuously improve them.

Some administrators are able to lead change and some are not. Paly has benefited greatly from leaders like Sandra Pearson and Phil Winston who placed the needs of the students first and led their staff in a model of continuous improvement. This has created a change culture at Paly with a focus on students where many of the improvements are driven by staff with enthusiastic support of the administration. For instance, the block scheduling change was driven by staff and parents with strong support from the administration.

The current Gunn administrators are not effective at implementing change, primarily because they put teachers ahead of students. At the June 11th board meeting where Gunn was to report back on implementation of the GAC guidance improvement plan the principal said it would take five years to implement the changes. “To be successful, the reforms must have the commitment and buy-in of all groups at the school, Principal Katya Villalobos said, likening the change to "trying to turn around an aircraft carrier."” Web Link

Assistant Principal Trinity Klein has been tapped to lead this change process. Ms. Klein follows the management model of placing teachers ahead of students. When Ms. Klein was the English Department Instructional Supervisor at Paly she supported the Honors English teachers who had a grading policy of three A’s per class even if all of the students were producing “A” quality work. Similarly Ms Klein caved in to Gunn teachers and suspended work with Challenge Success when Denise Clark Pope spoke at a parent ed meeting about the benefits of teacher advisory. (see PRA web link below) This halted important work on improving the school climate for the benefit of the students. Ms. Klein supported the teachers last year who led a campaign against teacher advisory as evidenced by her emails to Dr. Skelly that were produced in the PRA requests. Web Link
At the June 11th board meeting Ms. Klein told Ms. Caswell that she had presented the guidance plan to a group of Gunn ASB students. She told Ms. Caswell that, “There wasn’t one specific thing that they said other than don’t expand Titan 101”. Ms. Villalobos added that they also specified that they wanted more one on one time with their counselors during their Junior and Senior year. See Video B at 1 hour 16 minutes: Web Link
I doubt that anyone explained to these students that by expanding Titan 101 they could shift some of the academic counseling to Titan coaches which would allow for more one on one time with their students. Originally Gunn said they did not have the financial resources to implement advisory for all grades. Now they are hiring two additional counselors at a cost equal to Paly’s advisory program and the net result is still less guidance services for their students versus Paly’s guidance model.

Buy in is important but there comes a time when you need to exercise leadership to implement first and allow buy in to follow. At Paly that was the case for teacher advisory and block scheduling. If the leaders had waited for buy in these changes would not have happened. Let’s hope that the district keeps this in mind when they select a new Paly principal. Phil Winston will be a tough act to follow.

Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

Retired Teacher, I am curious what you think about Dr. Skelly's failure to inform the school board and the public about the settlement agreements with the federal government over civil rights violations, and the finding that PAUSD had violated a disabled child's rights? He didn't share that information with anyone until it came out in the press months later. Is that appropriate?

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Fred is a registered user.

@Peggy Duncan,

I'm not sure with @Retired Teacher thinks, but Dr. Skelly said himself that he erred in not informing the board earlier - as he put it, "I blew it." He clearly made a mistake there and apparently regrets it.

Posted by wmartin46
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm

wmartin46 is a registered user.

There really isn’t much information about the Review process of Superintendents at the PAUSD in this article. The kinds of information that I would like to know, and I think we all would benefit from knowing are:

o) What criteria does the BoT use to review Superintendents?
o) What are the possible results of a Review (ex—Superior, Satisfactory, Not Satisfactory)?
o) Is there a written framework that the BoT uses for these Reviews?
o) Can this framework be published?
o) Does the PAUSD provide a history of these Reviews on its web-site?
o) Can a Superintendent be terminated because of a poor Review?
o) Is there any reason that a Superintendent can not voluntarily publish his/her Review?

This Review process could be a lot more transparent than it is. Why doesn’t the PAUSD constituency demand more transparent governance of this local education agency than it does?

Wayne Martin

Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2013 at 3:26 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@Fred - I want to think that middle school minority students are given the same chances to express their regret prior to being searched for - possibly - missing $20 (parallel thread). This is an education system - double standards? Can you doubt, now, prior patterns of which the victims are more aware?

Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

Peggy Duncan, Fred makes an excellent point. I'd add that in this poisoned atmosphere and with the Office for Civil Rights making claims that have not been tested in a court of law, Skelly was operating under great pressure and in uncharted waters. As a union rep in my old district, I had my run-ins with administrators, but here I'd be inclined to accept Skelly's apology. I wish the extreme critics were more fair-minded.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

Retired Teacher raised a very important issue - the blatant and continual bias by PA Online directed against the PAUSD. [Portion removed.]. Most of the bullying in school happens as a result of how kids see adults act and certainly the "adults" at PA Online are not very good role models.

Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 22, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I find it amusing but also concerning when adults describe others who do not agree with them as "bullying". It minimizes the real effects of bullying, which are serious, and (ironically) attempts to achieve through slurs an effect which can't be achieved through reasoned argument.

I would point out what seems obvious, but not to some posters: Kevin Skelly is not PAUSD. The school district is a large organization, funded by our tax dollars, set up by state law. Kevin Skelly is an employee selected by the school board to be paid by us to run our school district. Criticizing Kevin Skelly for how he does that job is not the same as criticizing the school district. It is much more like criticizing the school board, which is not the school district either.

Retired Teacher offers an explanation that makes sense: Skelly panicked under pressure, and hid the truth from the board and the public. While understandable in a sense, and while he apologized after having been caught at it, that doesn't strike me as a reason to rate his performance "satisfactory." But let me be clear that I do like a great many things about PAUSD. I'm just unimpressed with its current superintendent.

Posted by Pinocchio
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Pinocchio is a registered user.

@Retired Teacher

The problem I have with the superintendent’s apology is that at the time he apologized for not notifying the board that he had entered into a resolution agreement with OCR; he did not disclose that he had signed off on a second OCR agreement that he also kept secret from the board and the public. When he got caught a day later he issued an apology in a private email to the board, "I sincerely apologize that, once again, some of you have been taken by surprise by press inquiries involving another OCR case.”
Web Link

I fail to see the sincerity in this apology coming on the heels of an apology for the same behavior, both actions serious violations of the terms of his employment agreement. I also find it telling that the superintendent apologized to the board for allowing them to be blind sighted by the press but not for withholding information about consequential district matters from the board.

“I don't ask for an apology because it's only tomorrow's fish-and-chip paper.” ~Tracey Emin

Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2013 at 8:12 am

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

Peggy Duncan, you epitomize the problem Kevin Skelly and the PAUSD face: every statement and action from them is distorted and used to attack them.. Just as you distorted my answer to your loaded question and used it to attack Skelly.. I suggested that Skelly panicked? Funny, I don't remember suggesting that. I WAS suggesting that his mistake was minor, he apologized for it, and the apology should be accepted.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 23, 2013 at 8:20 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

Retired Teacher, thank you for clarifying. I can see where we disagree. You believe that:
- failing to ensure that legally required procedures to protect children are followed or even acknowledged;
- concealing a federal investigation, finding of violation of the law, settlement agreement, and then policy changes and activity to comply with it;
- concealing another investigation even after apologizing for the first one;
- sitting silently while the district's lawyers misleads the public and the school board;
- drawing yet more complaints;
- and refusing to discuss publicly what happened or why;
are "minor". I don't think so. But the school board does seem to agree with you.

Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 23, 2013 at 10:23 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2013 at 11:02 am

Fred is a registered user.

"Can you doubt, now, prior patterns of which the victims are more aware?"

@Peggy Duncan - I honestly have no idea of what you are talking about, sorry.

I think Skelly made a mistake, but without really knowing the details of the case from the district's point of view, it is hard to assess it. He should have disclosed to the board earlier, no doubt, as he admits now. In the scheme of running PAUSD, that was dumb. You seem more certain about the severity of the error than I am, which is fine; I defer to our elected officials on this one.

Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The Board and the entire district work hard to protect children; the Office for Civil Rights has theories that may or may not meet a legal standard; the district's lawyer quite correctly suggested that these attacks should stop and we should all move forward; and the voters of the district did not elect a major proponent of these attacks.

I'm with Fred and Alphonso--let's stop these attacks and let our elected representatives supervise the district while the administration, teachers, and staff do their jobs.

Posted by Really?
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Really? is a registered user.

I wonder why folks keep harping on the fact that only a minority of the community is dissatisfied with the work that Skelly is doing. Does the fact that only a few people have noticed/followed the events make them any better? Or should we overlook them because they only seem to be adversely affecting a minority of people - those bullied, or denied equal education, or otherwise discriminated against because of their disabilities?

The Office of Civil Rights was created to protect the minorities in our community from mistreatment by the majorities. They have come into our school district on multiple cases because they are seeing a pattern of behavior by the administration that does not look right. The fact that they are having to intervene in how we run our district should be a big HUGE alert that the majority is abusing its power and threatening the rights of the minority.

Kudos to all who are speaking out for the minority. No matter how few they are, or how much the majority would like to ignore the information they unearth, that does not make what is happening now in PAUSD right by any means.

Posted by spectator at large
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 24, 2013 at 7:02 pm

spectator at large is a registered user.

Haven't we had enough? Skelly is not appropriate for this "superior" district with only "satisfactory" performance.

I have spoken with many of my friends recently with kids in the district schools and many of them are either

(a) totally ignorant of what is going on in the district because they are just too busy trying to raise their children and make ends meet etc. feeling that they live in a district that they paid a HUGE amount of money for the privilege of living in everything must be OK. They just don't have time to look into the underbelly of school board or administrative goings on. They are stressed just being parents.

(2) acutely aware that something is horribly wrong in our district and that the stench coming from the rotting board and superintendent is getting bigger every day. they are also worried about the very real tolls all of this is taking on their property values. they keep on saying, why are we putting up with skelly with his violations of a young girl's civil rights not being addressed with the proper remedy. the proper remedy they suggest is firing him or at the very least administrative leave while the allegations are fairly and impartially looked at. we all have to stand up and write letters to all of the board as well as skelly (not that it will do any good). we all have to insist that the board represent we the taxpayers and advocate for all of our children. we all have to insist that we are tired of paying out our hard earned tax dollars to pay for extra legal representation which has been escalating with leaps and bounds since skelly took over. we all have to insist that no way no how we will put up with putting our tax dollars towards paying for a PR person to cover for skelly when he continues to make errors in judgement. we need to refuse to employ a superintendent that continues to allow further damage to be done to our children and to the reputation of the pausd. we are tired of this; however, if we do not rise up and take action in the form of coming down to the board office to speak in the public comments or on specific agenda items affecting our children we will never have a good outcome for our children. we need to go to the ballot box next election and just say no to a spineless, weak and ineffective board with no vision of what this district could be if we had proper leadership. leadership is not just relegated to skelly. skelly is supposed to have to carry out the board's directives and not constantly stall on doing things that he said he would do. we need not only a new board and new administrators but also a new establishment (not gonna happen) in PA that reflects good values (honesty being at the top of that list). it is nigh unto time to revamp the whole thing. those that voted for townsend and emberling deserve what they got. they had an opportunity to vote for ken dauber (who by the way was advocating for one of the new focused goals in the district....namely transparency). why are the board even bothering to have this as a goal when you know darn well that they are not following it right out the gate. if they were they would have fired skelly or put him on leave last wednesday at his performance review.

parents: you MUST MAKE YOUR VIEWS KNOWN TO THE BOARD AND TOP BRASS if you want any chance of any change. PLEASE ACTIVE AND DON'T RELY ON OTHERS TO DO THIS FOR YOU. IT ONLY TAKES A MOMENT TO LOG ON TO THE PAUSD WEBSITE AND ACCESS THE BOARD AND SKELLY'S EMAIL ADDYS. MAKE YOUR VIEWS CLEAR TO THEM AND STOP WHISPERING IN THE SUPERMARKET AISLES. thanks from all the students who may be suffering from the willful neglect and outright deception coming from the supe and board on down.

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