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Editorial: Accountability not in lesson plan

Original post made on Jun 28, 2013

With the resignation three weeks ago of assistant superintendent Michael Milliken, Palo Alto school superintendent Kevin Skelly was handed an unexpected gift.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 28, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments (26)

Posted by hypocrates
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2013 at 8:30 am

" We have no reason to think she isn't capable of performing Milliken's job."
Yet you're going to castigate the district for promoting the most able person to the position.
You really can't get this right, can you?

Posted by Perfect
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

The Weekly is simply being nice, good for them. I will be surprised if any defender of the current regime, including the twosome of Kevin Skelly and Charles Young, or the board members, would take issue with this editorial. All administrators keep their jobs, in fact, Katherine Baker keeps her job and gets praise, no one is demoted, and the next school year begins. There is simply no accountability. If something goes wrong, Skelly pulls the aw shucks routine, Young goes MIA, and the board gets loud and says that they want answers. But let's look at the carnage of a violation of the Civil Rights of a young girl, the private placement of another student that will cost us in the six figures after just a few years, the increase in cost of legal services, and the vulnerability to other lawsuits now that many parents realize that PAUSD was not operating at a level of excellence, but in fact, many administrators were bungling their way through the year. Sadly, this is a result of the guy at the top, the one we pay a whole bunch of public money, setting the tone, and that is why Baker should never have been moved to Michael Milliken's spot. The appearance is that Skelly moved Baker to fill a spot that would have been nearly impossible to fill, remember that Young was the result of a second round of interviews two years ago. This demonstrates to OCR that Skelly has addressed the problem and no more training is needed. It also takes away the problem of trying to attract experienced talent to his leadership team, and that is a problem now. June is the best month for these moves, as the kids say, no one cares. Only the minority that criticize Skelly, Young, and the board care about the dishonesty that has characterized Skelly's team, though there is even smaller minority that cares about the critics, and that tiny group of people are the apologists and attackers of the critics. The majority of Palo Altans could not care less about any of this and probably don't even know that anything that has happened over the past year, and that is exactly what Skelly and the board have banked on.

Posted by hypocrates
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:54 am

The weekly is being honest in once sentence and ignoring that fact in the rest of the article. Running of at random tangents which have no impact on assigning the best person to the position.
You really think PAUSD should employ someone who not as qualified or capable because of a single pressure group? They have the best person of the job right there. Do the right thing and leverage them!

Posted by Fire Kevin
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2013 at 11:42 am

Fire Kevin! He is either too stupid or too arrogant to have moved that Terman ex-principal to the district office. But the same "Peter Principle" applied to the movement of Scott Bowers for elementary school principal to head of HR. Of, course, the DO is a graveyard for a career in PAUSD, or a springboard to other high paying jobs in other school districts. Maybe Kevin is a genius by promoting whats-her-name to a job in DO. So many employees have used that promotion to move on or move out of PAUSD such as Debra Lindo.

Kevin, retire now and do us all a favor.

Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I find the following statement laughable:

"...she has been a conscientious and responsive principal."

Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm

The approach of the board toward Skelly, and the approach of Skelly toward his most incompetent and hubristic underlings are the same: BROWNIE, YOU ARE DOING A HELLUVA JOB.

Posted by Man Up
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Unless reformers can put forth 2 strong candidates with the public backing of prominent establishment citizen at an early stage of the next election cycle then this is what we will get. Right now we have high test scores and college acceptances that have masked a multitude of problems. Following the suicides there was a rare willingness to soul-searching and looking for solutions on the part of a large segment of the population but that has now waned in favor of the standard policy of "don't criticize our schools." That policy has proved extraordinarily resilient and resistant to facts.

In order to restore accountability as this editorial urges, many people who have been saying privately that Kevin Skelly is not up to this job, and that the board is not doing its job, must say so publicly and back candidates who can defeat the incumbents should they choose to run for 3d terms. These must also be reform candidates who would be able to stand up to Kevin Skelly and represent the taxpayers and the parents of this district with a focus on transparency, good governance, and ensuring that all rights are respected and social emotional health of our teens is as important as high test scores.

At this point, the board and Skelly are hurting the reputation of the Palo Alto schools. they are becoming shorthand for mismanagement, bullying, and suicide. At this point, there is so much smoke that people understand that there must be fire-- and the fire is that we have management that is not accountable, not transparent, and not public-regarding.

So far, I have seen a lot of people saying privately what they need to say publicly. You all need to man up. It can't just be that every time Kevin screws up that everyone can just wait for Ken Dauber and the Weekly to ask for change and transparency. You all -- City Council, former School Board, "prominent and important" people in the community (I assume you know who you are) -- you all have to step forward and run for the board in order to preserve what is actually excellent in this community.

If you want evidence, take a look at the number of 5th graders who apply to private middle schools from Palo Alto. The problem is real. Fortunately there is a solution if only our leaders have the courage to act.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2013 at 7:55 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The real issue that Asst. Super may have retired on is that there might be a " big storm a' brewin' " and and as anyone knows " do-do splatters ".
For example: one of the reasons my advisor in these Special Ed issues retired was the impending storm that broke with SJMN headlines about the behavior of a certain superintendent just South of you.

Stay on top of this issue and you may even have a story and a scoop before the SJMN!

Posted by Skellyton Crew
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 28, 2013 at 9:40 pm

PULLLLEEEEAZE get the Skelly out of Palo Alto! he is bad for our reputation, or brand, our schools credibility. He should no longer be working here! He is a detriment to our community, as well as a liability. Why can't the BOE see this? Most everyone else does! Why are they willing to let this turkey bring them down with him??????

Posted by IB Brockovich
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:06 pm

The largest part of the solution to all this can be summed up in two words, "FIRE SKELLY" followed by a call for new candidates to replace the spineless jellyfish that have been masquerading as school board members. The whole thing is just ludicrous. I couldn't imagine a more dysfunctional group of people than the Supe and his Board. The Board was elected by the tax payers in Palo Alto to carry out the will of the electorate. The board has not had the gumption to even follow through on the most simple directives. It's time to say goodbye to the whole mess. Anyone else who lied like Skelly has and then had the nerve to hire PR folks to cover for the harm he has caused students in this district does not deserve to be at the helm in this district. We need more than a "satisfactory" (Dana Tom) performance level from someone who is paid a base salary of 278K a year. With all of the perks he receives on top of that he is being paid over 300K for a totally incompetent and disgraceful (not to mention the money the district is having to put out in amped up legal expenses) job performance. I hope he is looking for another job now so that he won't have the disgrace to live down of being fired which is what he totally deserves!!!

Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2013 at 2:11 am

I can not see how any correction can result only from from letting go of the one in charge and changing the board. It seems to me that a serious discussion about accountability/transparency/etc is just a preliminary, crucial step prior to being able to consider changes. It seems to to me that the atmosphere that enabled the issues triggering the OCR investigation and all the rest was not created recently. I'll just mention the infamous case of sexual abuse by a teacher in a middle school years ago - as it turned out, all knew for a long while, and no one stepped forward to protect the student and address the issues. There was, and still is, unfortunately, an atmosphere - corporate culture, that enabled that. It seems to me that those mentioned above just perfected the existing law of the land. I am trying to say that without an independent investigation - spelling out the things that went wrong to the tiniest details, and spelling out the new standards that will - hopefully - emerge, nothing can change. I found the following in one of the documents that were released after the Weekly exercised the Brown Act. I am quoting the Superintendent here, again:
"As I often say, the community and staff take their cues from us in terms of how they relate to each other." - 9/2010. I have pasted this quote, along several others here - (Web Link
It seems to me that the OCR have found pretty compelling samples of the cues given, and taken in terms of - how to relate to each other. It seems to me that nothing can change when the job security/family health insurance/retired plans etc. of all employees is dependent on the unspoken rules/codes of conduct of the current corporate PAUSD culture.

Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 29, 2013 at 11:33 am

"Katherine Baker may indeed be the most outstanding and qualified person for the job of director of secondary education of our school district."

But PA Online does not want to miss an opportunity verbally bully the school district - just like the kids in school who bully others for no good reason.

Posted by Can't we all just be positive
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Yes, let"s equate critical thinking and accountability with verbal abuse. Then we can claim that holding senior administrators accountable is equivalent to abuse of a disabled child and subsequent serious federall violations of civil rights.
Perhaps we should substitute accountability by the administration with annual little trophies for each administrator. "Most Improved", "Best Spirit", etc. I encourage other posters to submit their own nominations.

Posted by False
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 29, 2013 at 1:11 pm

The OCR complaints are and continue to be a way for the anti-skelly crowd (and by crowd, I mean the same 10-12 people who perpetually complain about everything) to make noise.

Baker is a very good principal and will do great work at the DO. Congrats to her.

Posted by my nominations
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm

"Least subject to subpoena"

"shortest commute to deposition"

"most worn-down kneepads"

In all seriousness, at least Katherine Baker won't be able to use her "very sophisticated" knowledge to "help" any more special ed students. She is now in a job that is removed from all consequences which seems like a perfect fit. Even better if we weren't paying her salary, but I don't want to be churlish.

Posted by Shucks
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2013 at 1:57 pm

False, are you one of the 5-6 complainers who attack anyone who dares to criticize the superintendent and school board?

Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm

As mentioned above, we have high test scores, mostly terrific teachers, smart students and great college acceptances. That is what the majority of PAUSD parents care about. Very few people outside of Palo Alto pay any attention to things like the OCR investigation, so our "reputation" is secure. In addition, Stanford was just declared the "smartest city" by the brain-training program company Lumosity, so Palo Alto is pretty secure in its academic reputation.

If you want things to change, you need to put your time where your mouth is and run for school board.

Posted by my nominations
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm

False wrote: "The OCR complaints are and continue to be a way for the anti-skelly crowd (and by crowd, I mean the same 10-12 people who perpetually complain about everything) to make noise."

I think what happened is that those 10-12 complainers have a mole inside the district and that person destroyed all the very good policies on bullying and harassment that the district officials wrote and the board adopted years ago when they were required. Then, what happened is that that mole who is part of the cell of 10-12 complainers hacked into the district computer system, and substituted the gibberish policies currently shown as part of district policy, you know, to make the district look bad. They had to be very careful to write them in such a way that they are a confused mess and also full of illegality. Very clever of the 10-12 complainers. Then, that same mole, by using a Vulcan mind meld, forced Katherine Baker to totally absolutely and unequivocally bungle her job and violate the rights of the disabled girl. Then probably through the same mind-meld, the mole forced Baker to tell federal investigators that she didn't want any of their stinking free training. Very sophisticated and all that. Then, the 10-12 complainers notified OCR and the press and voila! And then the finale was of course promoting Baker. Wow those 10-12 complainers are fantastically brilliant and oh so effective. They make Edward Snowdon look like Heidi Emberling.

Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2013 at 4:40 pm

I agree with David Pepperdine. Why would you say, "she has been a conscientious and responsive principal"? If she had been conscientious and responsive, there wouldn't be a finding that she was unresponsive and ignored the policy and the law. I don't think this matters much -- it's hard to think of a less consequential job than the one she's going to -- but at least be consistent.

Posted by Um
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm

@pa parent i don't think anyone mentioned "terrific teachers" that I saw.
@nominations the whole thing is appalling and I applaud the weekly for its well deserved expression of disgust with Skelly.

Posted by Same old...
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jun 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I disagree with "false" - I only count the same 7-8 people consistently complaining about everything PAUSD. Everyone I talk to is very happy with PAUSD and support our educators. Sorry you don't feel the same. You can always run for (and probably lose) School Board.

Posted by Expand your horizons
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Same old, if "everyone" you talk to is happy with PAUSD, you need to meet more people.

Posted by pa parent
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm

"Conscientious and responsive"? Except for the part where the federal investigators found her to be unresponsive and not conscientious that makes total sense. Weekly, you sound like the school board in praising things that don't deserve any. If you want to say she seems like a nice person or that her owl collection is very extensive or that she sure knows how to grow a tomato, that's fine. But how can you say "conscientious and responsive" when she was actually found by a federal investigation to have FAILED TO RESPOND PROPERLY or in a conscientious manner to the bullying of a disabled child. What is going on over there? Get your red pen fixed, would you?

Posted by What?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I think that Skelly's brain is not working. How can he promote to someone who get us into trouble by no protecting the special education child who was being harassed. In conclusion come to work at PAUSD and if you messed up you yo get promoted even if you do not deserve it, or if you do not have what it takes. This is the message Skelly is sending to the rest of the staff.

Posted by Au contraire
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm

On the contrary, I think the message he is sending is that he supports full inclusio. Cor district staff. Katherine Baker is merely being mainstreamed into 25 Churchill street, just like Amy Drolette. She had no need to worry as they talk all the time about how to stop people from bullying the vulnerable members of district staff. Indeed the school board strongly supports social kindness towards senior district staff.

Posted by Gimme the Cue!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Kevin Skelly is like a disease, and he is slowly killing his host, PAUSD. Word of his misdoings is out in the general public now, has even been reported in the SJMerc!

[Portion removed.]

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