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Original post made by It's about trust, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 18, 2015

A blogger has kept a running record of Yes statements saying there is a No blog already, but there doesn't seem to be, and the blogger deletes anyone who makes a vote NO comment. So here is a post for those who are voting NO. Mine will be the first comment (a post I just made to another blog but won't been seen in context).

Those inclined to go the other way have your own blog in which only people with your same opinion can post, so please let the other side speak here. Thanks.

Comments (32)

Posted by It's about trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Here's why I am voting NO:

I am a parent who has long volunteered for and valued our schools. Right now, we do not need the money as much as we very, very much need to send a message to the district office that they cannot ignore.

We voted in the previous supplemental tax during a time of need that has passed. Property taxes, which provide the majority of our funding, are now at an all time high. We should let this supplemental temporary tax expire so that when we get to the next time of need, the capacity will be there to ask again to keep our funding stable. If we tap people out when times are good, we are squandering a resource we will need to keep our schools stable when times are bad again.

We have a serious crisis. There is a SERIOUS trust problem for good reason -- dishonesty among the administrative ranks has fiscal, human, and leadership impacts, many families have been suffering for a long time, our district has been hurting. We all hoped McGee would be the change, but he hasn't, he's showing signs of being co-opted by the same underlings who helped sink Skelly. He would do well to start doing what is necessary to clean up the district office and restore trust. He's been here almost a whole school year and shows no signs of starting -- a resounding NO in the ballot (not just a squeaker) would be the message he needs.

It would be one thing if we really needed the money, but we don't. The Weekly's editorial advising caution points out that this big of a request needed to be honestly and openly justified, and that would include being very open with the public about what the district is currently spending its money on, but they have not done that. In my opinion, it should have included showing some fiscal prudence by reorganizing and streamlining the district office as part of re-establishing trust with the public.

If this large a supplemental tax is passed now, the district will just spend the money up to the limit, which isn't such a great thing in a district that seems to have no mechanism to tighten its belt from the top-heavy side. I still have seen no accounting of how much the central administration costs us, and what we're getting for it, even while I can see that prorated for 365 days, our Superintendent makes more than the President of the United States.

Lastly, to those who say the money will go to this purpose or that -- it would have helped your case if those things were spelled out in the bond language, but they are not. Absent any reason to TRUST what district administrators say, making claims about where the money will go is meaningless.

Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2015 at 11:05 pm

I've been living in Palo Alto for the past 20+ years! We've been thru a lot! This is the first time I will be voting against
any tax increase. I will share with you why.... keep in mind everything I am sharing with you, I've observed or seen with my own eyes!

I've observed an alarming trend of prescribing ADHD and anti-depressant drugs to our youths in elementary schools because they can't sit or behave when told at the demands of teachers. I've seen increasing administrators placed in our schools without specific/measurable job descriptions. I've seen middle school classes dismissed because teachers didn't show up. I've seen Gunn switch counselors on their seniors during their most stressful time of college applications! I've seen our high school administrators tell students "NOT to share this with your parents because we certainly don't want anymore helicopter parents!". I've seen our high school administrators walk around all morning, chat, and have coffee while students sit and wait for appointments!

I understand a lot of younger students' parents claim that this is not their concerns. I'd think you would want to know since your kids are about to go thru what we've been thru already! Work with us to improve our schools! Demand changes! Advocate for our students!

Vote NO on Measure A! Don't fall for their tactic of "empty promises because voters have short memories!".
Thanks for listening!

Posted by Always Voted Yes, Now Voting NO
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 18, 2015 at 11:47 pm

I do not know who authored this post, but I suspect if it was a coordinated effort we would have seen a bunch of posts already.

I am a native Palo Altan and product of our schools. I have never, ever, voted "no" on a school tax/bond. And just to be clear, I have voted "yes" on every tax/bond that has come before the electorate (as opposed to not voting at all). I donate much time and money to our schools.

I am voting "No" on Measure A because:

-- Property tax revenue is up far more than increased enrollment.

-- The previous Measure A was passed to get the district through a recession period which no longer exists, and I believe the school district simply fails to manage resources appropriately because they don't have to: they have residents whom blindly trust the district and will keep voting "yes" on all fundraising campaigns. PAUSD IS SQUANDERING OUR MONEY.

-- Our district leadership refuses to prioritize our kids above the teachers and their union. We have many fantastic teachers, but those that are awful just keep floating along despite numerous complaints and repeated issues.

-- Tenure. I am sickened that teachers get tenure in Palo Alto in 18 months. There should be no tenure. No private sector job enjoys this boondoggle. Teaching is so incredibly important; our kids deserve the best and brightest teachers and should not be "stuck" with teachers that we cannot get rid of when they don't serve our children. With no tenure, I would be much more supportive of higher salaries. But tenure + high salaries = crappy teaching.

-- Refusal to centralize on one homework portal. I don't care about the specifics and who is complaining about what, there is no excuse for our district not standardizing on a single homework portal and making it *mandatory* that ALL teachers use it! 100% of teachers!

-- The "site-based control" is a disaster and has prompted many teachers to get far too comfortable in doing whatever they want, with no consistency or management by principals who have no control (because of tenure). There is not even consistency among teachers of the same grade at the same school.

-- Our district leadership squanders our tax money on lawyers and fights with the Federal Government over OCR complaints. Our district should not have any OCR complaints that go to the Feds! Take care of our students and we need not pay lawyers to fight the Feds!

Please vote "No" on Measure A, and send a letter to Dr. McGee and let him know why you voted "No." It's the only way to effect change in this district: Hit them in the pocketbook. There is still a year to approve another tax IF NEEDED, but in that year PAUSD can take some much needed steps to reign in the spending, get rid of bad teachers, and improve the education our kids receive.

Posted by It's about trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2015 at 9:08 am

Thank you NO! and Now Voting NO, for your thoughtful posts.

One of the reasons I have decided to vote NO is just how seriously disconnected our leadership seems from the importance of re-establishing trust. Asking for this amount of additional money, at this point in time, with the serious trust issues, it's really arrogant.

Anyway, thank you for sending a note to explain why you Voted NO. Please send a note to McGee and copy it to the Weekly. If it is private and off the record, you can copy it directly to a person, like to Bill Johnson the publisher or Elena Kadvany the school reporter, and mark it private/confidential or off the record. The Weekly should hear from as many people as possible to help analyze the result. (I doubt the letters will have much impact at the district office unless the Measure fails.)

Posted by Unfortunately, NO
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 19, 2015 at 8:04 pm

I admit I don't know all the aspects of Measure A. But face it, a lot of people vote for politicians on a whim and can turn on a dime, even in our intellectual community. As a result, people vote based upon what they already know.

I do know that I am not happy with the lack of caring for our student stress and the former BoE/Skelly should be blamed. I am optimistic about Dauber being on board, but we still have Baten-Caswell and Townsend who support rigor. And we have McGee who has a son who didn't attend college, so he thinks we are all helicopter parents. Yes, there are helicopter parents, but they are not the majority. The majority of parents want a safe environment for their children (and it is) and a "good" education for their children, rather than outrageous rigor. There is serious grade deflation. Lest I digress from the original topic too much, I am unimpressed with the way the administration has allowed the teachers to disregard student stress. There is a lot of suffering occurring in both middle school and high school and it's just being ignored. Those whose children have had an easy time in the district either have highly capable/intelligent children or have fortunately dodged the challenging teachers.

Let me clarify that there are good teachers in our district, but the irrational ones should be scrutinized. Two of mine have graduated from Paly, and one is in middle school. I don't want to give $758 to PAUSD when we've had to spend so much money on tutors, even for regular lane classes because the teachers don't teach to their tests.

Posted by Sad blog situation
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 20, 2015 at 1:58 pm

It's so sad that we have to have separate blogs for those in favor and those against measure A. I have not made up my mind on the measure and would love to see some civilized discussion about the pros and cons. The blogger who started it all with his biased editing has really made a mess of things.

Posted by Elena Kadvany
education reporter of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Apr 20, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Elena Kadvany is a registered user.

My name is Elena Kadvany; I'm the Weekly's education reporter. I'm working on a story on Measure A and am hoping to talk with people who oppose the parcel tax. If you're interested, please email me at [email protected] Thank you!

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm

@Sad - It’s simpler than it sounds. If you think the district does the right things and listens to the community on how to do more of the right things, then you should vote YES. If you think the district has some directional and/or governance issues and has trouble hearing the community, then you should vote NO.

If you are eligible to opt out of the tax and you expect you will opt out, then ethically you should vote NO or abstain.

Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 20, 2015 at 7:12 pm

Reason is a registered user.

Here is why I am voting No on Measure A:

- Fiscally, the case presented with measure A is very weak. It seems the schools fund low priority stuff from normal budgets, but keep high-value, attractive programs attached to the parcel tax. This is a marketing ploy to get us to vote for more money, but I feel it is all fungible. I don't buy the arguments that any cuts will automatically come from high profile programs, nor will it all come from teachers. They are awash in rising property taxes, and have not really economized at all. We are being fleeced. They determined the ballot amount by maximizing what voters would pay, not based upon need at all. This is disingenuous.

- Management of the schools is a real problem. The Union grievance against the Gunn Principal for asking for schoology support is just one of many examples of a system that is not under management. The teachers can ignore the board policy - so why should I fund them? The whole point of a school system is that voters support taxes and management of how that money is spent. Given that the board cannot manage the teachers, then how are voters to support this? Really - can anyone tell me how this works? I thought it was that we vote for a board, the board hires a super, he directs the principals, and now they CANNOT manage the teachers. This is a direct break in the chain of command that the voters rely upon to get our schools to serve our needs. This is very very broken. I cannot vote for a tax which supports a broken system that cannot be managed.

- Treatment of our kids in the schools has had some very terrible experiences. (To be fair to the awesome teachers out there - we have had some very great teachers.) But the bad teachers are not managed. They bully, intimidate and pressure our kids with too much homework, and too little instruction. This directly causes stress in the students, as they are pressured to deliver results (by the teachers), but are setup for failure by the very same teacher. And it is not a rare problem - I heard of a class at Walter Hays where the teacher bet the kids on a certain test to reach some performance grade (which she controlled). When they lost the bet, she made the kids dress up in tutu's and dance in front of the admin building. Since when is public humiliation part of our education system? The boys in this class were picked on following this event. It is totally inappropriate, and the Principal did nothing. We have individual teachers that pressure and humiliate kids, and the Principals do nothing about it. Either they cannot manage the teachers, or they refuse to stand up for what is right. The previous Super - Dr. Skelly, refused to do anything about this. When I complained to board members, they listened politely, but did nothing.

Either they are a completely ineffective bunch that has no interest in the moral problems with the mistreatment of children, OR they have no real authority to change a very broken, terrible system.

Take your pick: incompetent, or impotent. Neither is good.

- The response the mental health crisis is terrible. What little they have done seems very knee-jerk. They bumble from one catastrophe to the next with no proactive plan to make our schools safe for children. The numbers are shocking - when I heard 16 students from Paly were hospitalized in the first 3 months, and 200 on a watch list, I was shocked. When it became clear the board members were unaware, I was even more stunned.

Here we have: incompetent, or unaware. Neither is good. They are elected to know. The Super is paid to keep them informed.

When I draw these issues together, it seems very clear to me that the individual problems we have had are clearly affecting a lot of other students in the district. And to disastrous results. The fact that the Principals, Super and Board refused to help in our case leads me to believe they are not helping any other students either.

Who is running the schools? Why is there no leadership? Is the entire system actually run from the bottom up entirely by the teachers? If so, just tell us: " Dear parents, as your Superintendent, I want you to know that I have no authority in the schools, and therefore cannot take responsibility for the rash of problems you have been experiencing. Please send us more money that we can shower on the Union who is actually in control."

But we don't even get honest answers about who runs this school district.

If it is the Board and the Super, then they have failed the community very very badly. If it is not, then why are we sending the money to them?

Vote No on Measure A.

Posted by It's the trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2015 at 10:50 am

Given the high bar to passing a measure like this, another (kind of circular, I know, but compelling) argument to vote NO is that, if the idea is to send a message, the stronger the message, the better.

In other words, if it's likely the thing is going to be defeated anyway, it's really better if it's defeated bigtime. Then the message cannot be ignored, because this community is usually SO strongly in favor of funding asks for our schools.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 21, 2015 at 11:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Remember the parcel tax only requires 55% of the votes cast.

Those in favor will vote YES.

IF you want to block this tax then make sure you and others vote NO.

Voters who don't vote, don't count.

Editor's Note: The parcel tax requires a 2/3 vote to pass.

Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 21, 2015 at 1:00 pm

I voted NO. I have also opted out of paying the tax. I would have voted Yes, and agreed to pay the tax, if the schools were not being used for so many unnecessary boutique projects like language immersion schools and Tinsley transfers and mental health counselors and various other hand holding practices. Too much is demanded of our schools, and now the new superintendent is claiming that the suicide cluster is a "crisis" that Palo Alto schools are responsible to fix. Give the schools more money and they will definitely find new 'essential' needs to fund. The reverse may be true: Deny the money, and the schools will need to figure what is truly essential.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 21, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are two different National Rankings of High Schools:

The High School Challenge:
Gunn ranks 212th in the nation
Paly ranks 668 in the nation

Niche Best Public High Schools in America:
Gunn ranks 4th in California
Paly ranks 27th in California

So just exactly what are the taxpayers getting for their money?

Posted by ARDC
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2015 at 2:53 pm

I'm voting no and urging others to do the same because of an issue that is stand-alone but that I think also draws all of the other posts together through the themes it touches on.

The issue is the soaring legal fees to the district's outside counsel Fagen Friedman and Fulfrost.

This issue exemplifies the core complaints of those arguing for a NO vote: trust, transparency, high spending on things that do not benefit students, and low priority given to social emotional health.

Fagan Friedman is the firm that handles the special education law of the district. It's billings went from approximately $25K annually in 2009 to over $300K last year alone. Here is a Weekly story about the fees "soaring" Web Link

The firm was formed historically when Lozano Smith (our other firm, isn't that cozy) was slammed by a federal district court for the unethical behavior of its special ed lawyers, who overbilled a client by nearly $500,000 in a matter than could have settled for $8K months earlier (sound familiar, PAUSD...?). Following that ruling many special ed lawyers left Lozano to form Fagen Friedman.

The firm's bills were an issue in the last school board campaign, with all of the candidates other than Catherine Foster asserting that the fees were excessive. Ken Dauber took the most active stance on these fees, asserting that they did not benefit students in the district, particularly the fees related to resisting the authority of the Office for Civil Rights investigations. Hundreds of hours were billed in that matter. One memorandum alone cost nearly $50K.

Here is what Dauber had to say about his concern over whether Fagen Friedman's fees were reasonable:

"We cannot get on the right path on bullying when at the same time we're engaging in an act of denial on the bullying that's actually happening," Dauber said at the Sept. 16 debate.

He has also condemned the amount of money the district has spent on legal fees, especially relating to litigation with special-education families. The district spent more than $200,000 in the first seven months of 2014 in legal fees related to its cases and conflicts with the Office for Civil Rights, including just under $50,000 for attorneys to research, develop and follow up on the June resolution.

Dauber said at the Sept. 16 debate that his top budget priority is to eliminate district expenses that "don't have anything to do with serving student needs," including legal fees."

Web Link

Despite this, what has Dauber (or Godfrey) done since the election to bring this firm under scrutiny? Their bills have not been subjected to any analysis that I have seen. Has Dauber followed through on his promise to look at their work to see whether it is satisfactory, whether their recommendations are reasonable, and whether their fees should be or can be reasonably reduced?

As a member of the special education community, I feel let down by the lack of follow through on the issue of Fagen Friedman. Based on what I have seen, they have adopted very very agressive tactics against our families. People are being taken to due process, and they are paying out of their own pockets to defend themselves against this firm. Things that were previously provided are no longer being provided.

The severely allergic nonverbal autistic child that the district took all the way to federal court and LOST is just one example. That cost a huge amount of money. Why?

This firm should be looked at and board members promised to do that. $300K per year? That is a lot of money!. Is that out of control? Is it responsible? Is this firm acting in the interest of the taxpayers?

Certainly a reasonable question was raised during the election and people voted for a searching look at them. Has it been done? Where is the transparency?

Trust. Transparency. Spending Sprees on the Wrong Things. Social-Emotional Health of Students.

These are the themes that the community cares about and Fagen's fees are emblematic of these issues. Get the fees down or demonstrate to the community that they are justified.

I'm voting NO NO NO.

Posted by Its about trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2015 at 9:56 am

Thank you for your post, ARDC.

You wrote, "The severely allergic nonverbal autistic child that the district took all the way to federal court and LOST is just one example. That cost a huge amount of money. Why? "

I hadn't heard how that resolved -- are you sure about that? (Do you have a link?)

Because I have serious concerns that a lot of those kinds of endeavors are creating a really terrible ripple effect in our system. For example, the doctors that had to collect 200 doctor signatures and go before the board asking the district to make epi-pens available -- that was a huge amount of effort for busy doctors, and it's something that should have been able to have been dealt with in dialog with the original doctors and parents. The trouble is that the district represented in that case in hearings before then that it already had epi-pens in the schools, and it was part of their stance in the case that they were prepared in regards to allergy on site. Thus, they couldn't very well be objective when parents/doctors came to them personally and asked for something they had already claimed in one of those cases that they were already doing.

The same is true of so many things. The district promised in the facilities bond measure A that as one of the SPECIFICATIONS that they would be "improving indoor air quality", yet efforts to get them to adopt an effective framework for managing indoor air quality to improve indoor air quality have met with stiff resistance. Such efforts are well-proven to decrease asthma, absenteeism (including among teachers and non-asthmatics), respiratory illnesses of all kinds (including among teachers), and to increase student performance measurably. Given that it's part of the bond, and our belief in ourselves as aspiring to excellence, what sense does it make for a district to **fight** parents against doing this, when they already promised it?

Probably because those issues came up in other special ed cases, including things FFF's lawyers wrote about. So now, instead of doing something they already promised that would make students and staff be healthier and perform better, and save money over time, they put energy and money into thwarting parents trying to get those things done.

When our legal advice is obviously resulting in huge legal bills to the district and worse, causing the district to fail to put the interests of our schools and our children first because of what are arguably corrupted systemic processes -- frankly, good stewards of our system should have stopped everything and fixed it the first time it happened. Unfortunately, the culture in the district office has encouraged CYA and further digging in. I don't think we should keep paying for that like everything is just fine. Passing a bond like this in this context will be used by people in the district office as cover to say we only need minor adjustments. I'm not sure a NO vote will be enough of a wake up call, but it's really the only hope of starting the conversation.

Thank you for bringing up this issue.

Posted by It's about trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2015 at 10:34 am

I do want to flip my stance a bit to say:

IF Measure A fails,

IF the district gets the message and makes real steps to restore trust and communication (there's no way around it, there must be some changes in the district office, and at some point, we should see the reintroduction of such foreign concepts such as "apology" and "putting kids and families first"),

IF the district does a better job of putting its fiscal house in order

Then I will be happy to help do whatever is necessary to ensure any future bonds pass (should we be still be in the district)

Posted by just voted no
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 9:19 am

Our family has been long time supporters of PAUSD, active volunteers, big PiE donors, PTA officers, etc. ALL of the over 18 family members just voted no.

1 - We are in an economic environment where our property taxes are growing. A VERY hot real estate market. Increasing the Parcel Tax is totally unfair to those who are already struggling.

2 - I think this is the only possible wake-up call to our District, both teachers and administration. We have so many fabulous teachers, I am not bashing or blaming them at all. But there are some simple things (mentioned many times) that they both refuse to do.

Put the students first. Not the teachers, not the teachers union, not the administration.
Enforce the homework rules.
Post homework and grades on Schoology (or another, Districtwide system).
Teach what you will test on.
Don't limit "A's" or support grade deflation.
Give up the site based governance. This allows way too much control by an individual principal and limits the sharing of best practices.

While I support our schools and even continuing the parcel tax, I don't support an increase in $$ unless I see an increase in the Districts willingness to be responsive to the community.

Posted by I'm voting NO too
a resident of Hoover School
on Apr 23, 2015 at 10:42 am

I just voted No too. Feel it is too much to ask, too early to ask.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Please vote no.

Posted by It's about trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2015 at 10:24 pm

Whether you post here or not, please, if you haven't already done so, after voting, send a short note to Churchill and/or the Weekly to let them know why, especially if you voted NO. (If you don't trust the district office, and you want your input to be confidential, address your letter to the publisher, Bill Johnson, at the Weekly.)

The Palo Alto Weekly
c/o Why I voted NO
(or Personal and Confidential to Bill Johnson)
450 Cambridge Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94306

Also if you wish, send a copy to the district office at 25 Churchill.

I am not related to the Weekly, this is totally a suggestion from a parent so that they get an idea of why people voted NO, and can have a better post-election analysis. Thanks.

Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:42 am

Another "No" voter here. It's time to stop blindly throwing money at the district. It's time for creativity, not cash.

Posted by It's about trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 2:48 pm

"It's time for creativity, not cash."

@Nora Charles,
Thank you, well said. It is so true, especially in this district. Creativity applied by those with honest and trustworthy intent.

Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 7:55 pm

I actually have no specific complaints against teachers. They have a hard job.

BUT, PAUSD needs shock therapy. As an institution it's in denial...these schools just can't stop demanding MORE MORE MORE from the kids. This school system only cares about higher grades, HIGHER TEST SCORES.

There are a lot of people in Palo Alto who are addicted to MORE AT ALL COSTS. They dump their crazy attitudes into the school and the school gulps it down.

That's why I'm voting NO.
That's why I'm going to push for McGee to resign.

Somebody has to say "stop!" to this crazy addictive behavior. As a parent I'm exhausted trying to shield my kids from it.

Posted by Always Voted Yes, Now Voting NO
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:21 pm

@Another dad: While I voted NO on Measure A, I do not agree with your attack on McGee. He is very new to the district and has enacted some positive change. He cannot, however, enact wholesale changes overnight. He has to work with the existing structure for a while before he can truly make intelligent change.

I know the impulse is to expect him to do what each each of us thinks needs to be done, but if he had a knee jerk reaction like that he would be a politician, not a school district superintendent.

Vote NO on Measure A. Our kids are too important to not demand accountability.

Posted by It's about TRUST
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2015 at 11:21 am

@another dad,

I also agree with much of what you post, but I, too, disagree with going against McGee. McGee is experiencing exactly the effect I most feared, because when Skelly left, there was really no mechanism to deal with the real problem, which were Skelly's immediate underlings like Charles Young (and a few other people whose names will be deleted even though if there were a lawsuit over whether they are "public officials", they are without question public officials).

I think McGee is a smart and talented person who could do a lot for our district but time is running out on our ability to keep him from being utterly pulled under by the slick and incompetent element in the district office surrounding him.

Posted by Another Dad Voting NO
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 25, 2015 at 2:09 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2015 at 3:09 pm

I also want to give McGee a chance. A number of people I know like him and I think he's got a tough job if he's going to combat the various entrenched interests in the district.

The teachers union is an issue. While I don't know most of the teachers on it, the ones I do know about are not strong teachers. I notice, too, that Gunn has far more representatives than any other school. I have to wonder what the internal politics of it all is.

I've noticed that Baldwin and various pro-A people seem to think this is all business-as-usual--they still don't get that they're not really in a position to negotiate here. Yes, the online forum has lots of noise--but this goes deeper than that. Children have killed themselves and attempts to create a healthier environment have met with an insane amount of push-back over minor changes.

The arguments to vote for A haven't been compelling--housing prices in a town where many people have already seen their home values go up 100 percent? Draconian budget cuts when we have skyrocketing property values and, thus, property tax revenues? There are better ways to deal with district issues such as attending board meetings and changing the board--when such methods so clearly haven't worked?

From what I can see, money's been talking a long time at Churchill--certainly, it effects who gets on the school board and the policies they pursue.

I'm still holding my ballot, but if the union doesn't change its act on the Schoology and, by doing so, show a willingness to create a healthier environment for our teens then I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for salary increases.

Posted by It's about TRUST
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Someone on the other thread (aptly named "Middle Ground" made an excellent suggestion:

There is common ground between the two sides:

-Vote NO. Send a msg to the school district they can't ignore.

-Make a 5-year pledge to PiE for $769-$1,000 per year. But send with it a note that you will only write the check and renew it IF the district immediately makes substantive efforts to restore trust and address the major problems (as well outlined by "Reason" above, list your concerns !!!!!) Send your list every year as you write the check. Make note of progress, too.

This way, the community can make a HUGE statement, still provide the funding, but also have far more control of the funding. The district office will know far more that they are being watched. Families would have more incentive to watch as they write the check every year. (Those who can afford it should consider pitching in more for those who can't, which is how we do things at the school level rather than forcing everyone to pay.)

It would be a way for both sides to come together.

Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 25, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Reason is a registered user.

@Another Dad writes: "these schools just can't stop demanding MORE MORE MORE from the kids. This school system only cares about higher grades, HIGHER TEST SCORES. "

I think this is pretty accurate. A system based on pressure will continue to squeeze more and more out of fewer and fewer students at the top, to the detriment of the bottom. And with resulting high pressure on the middle. It is not fun. This will generate a very unhappy place with a bell-curve distribution of performance.

The ironic thing is that there is a different path that would actually work better to raise test scores. When you look at a bell curve, moving the top person has very little effect on the end score. If you want to move the scores, I believe that supporting, encouraging and motivating the Middle has a MUCH larger leverage. Moving the mass in the middle even a small amount can have a huge effect on your scores. The schools have missed this basic approach, in their zeal to squeeze the motivation out of students.

However to do this requires a drastically different engagement model with students. It would look something like a service company- with every employee hell-bent on providing the best service possible. High engagement, high levels of organization, focus on high-return activity. Every action would be evaluated not on today's method of 'how much' can students do, but rather 'how good' can we make a learning experience.

It is a model that, in many regards, requires no more effort. It is a model that winning hotels, service companies and world-class institutions in the private sector use all the time. It is, in short, a different world.

Let's start with things that actually gain you huge traction, while costing LESS time (like, why not do this, Right?):

- stop demoralizing, bullying, and humiliating students (this costs teachers time, and demotivates students)
- stop retaliation for bringing problems to light, instead reward problem discovery (retaliation costs time, and demotivates; plus you will need this problem list to work on - that is how you improve experience)

Then add to this items that cost very little, but give large advantage:

- focus on the system. Every problem solved that is solved in the context of a system is immediately multiplied times a thousand students. Systematic approaches outperform individual heroics every time.

- share best practices between teachers. Have the best teach the others on items like classroom management and organization. (one-time cost to learn, but an organized classroom can cover more ground in LESS time. Organized homework can be completed faster by middle kids, ADHD kids, all kids in LESS time)

- buy textbooks and reading material that are dyslexic friendly fonts. This brings along a LOT of kids for no teacher effort. No Effort!! That's huge.
- test all elementary kids for the top 10 treatable learning disorders. Let's find this stuff early, and address it before they get to middle school. Getting kids ready to learn will save teachers a LOT of time, AND help kids. (this is the exact opposite of today's method of denying any problems exist because nobody wants to take the effort to help these kids. But it is about 30% of your population, many with very high IQ, just in need of simple supports) If we don't have expedient tests, get PiE to fund research with Stanford to get this stuff operationalized.
- Make all classrooms ADHD friendly. There are some low-hangingn fruit in this area that probably cost nothing, but reorganizing classrooms, instruction, homework administration will move us away from punishing the disorganized kids to a model of engaging them. Some of these are extremely bright kids, but are ground into dust by the end of Middle school. Engaged students save teachers time, and learn more.
- Connect the middle school writing end-to-end with the high school writing. The gaps in the current system are large enough to drive a truck through. This makes High School english more effective (for NO EFFORT once in place), and this has the knock-on effect of making Social Studies more efficient, as now the kids can write.
- Teach short-answer writing. It is amazing to me that this is not taught, but is expected as part of many tests. If you want to boost test scores, this one item would help a lot of kids. Little cost, huge effect. This is going to be more important in Common Core as short answer and being able to express your self quickly is a skill that is tested.

- Get everyone on Schoology. It's a huge boon to students with organization problems. Huge.

Basically, an overhaul throughout the more dismal dark corners of this school district, shine some light into the scary places where evil hides, and bring some hope to the students trapped in an uncaring system.

More carrot. Less stick.

If each year worked to increase student engagement, rather than squander it, you would see an amazing virtuous loop that would build on itself.

...or in other words, do more-or-less the exact opposite of our Jordan experience. Just change that. All..of that.

THAT is how you bring up test scores. Move the middle.

Posted by It's about TRUST
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2015 at 6:38 pm

@ Reason,
I find with most things in life, the problem is leadership. You can accomplish a great deal with just volunteer effort, especially in this district, but you have to have the right leadership.

We have that in Max McGee, I truly believe, but it's like he's almost slipping away, because his immediate staff are absolute poison. They aren't as smart as he is, heck, they aren't as smart as most of the parents or the kids, and the worst ones resent it. They just want to hang onto their cushy positions and hope the latest wave will crash and they'll go on as before. Sadly, if one looks at the professional history of said persons, this is no surprise. The trouble is, we desperately need the leadership, and the actions they take aren't inconsequential. Necessity is the mother of invention -- it's parents who face the most difficult circumstances who have the motivation to solve problems, who will solve them for everyone else who comes after. They should find support and collaboration in the district office, not people desperate to push those "troublemakers" out of the district for the benefit of their own backsides.

Restoring trust will have so many beneficial consequences -- to our finances, our organizational strength, leadership, to working with parents, to improving our programs, to innovating for our kids. Unless the district gets the message that it's not ok to just go on the way we have been, none of these consequences will materialize out of the shored up insularity resulting if this measure passes.

I am more convinced as time passes that voting NO is an important act to improve our district. And if NO wins, people MUST send their reasons to both the district office and the Weekly.

The one place I would refine what you have said Reason, is that our kids mostly don't need carrots or sticks at all. Most are already internally driven. They are already hungry, we do not have to tell them to eat, we just need to give them a variety of healthy food and let them to it.

Posted by It's about TRUST
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2015 at 5:51 pm

I just found out it was my spouse tried to post (almost never posts) and got deleted since I am posting. No way for two people in the same household to voice opinions and remain as anonymous posters!

Posted by It's about TRUST
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Only a few years ago, PAUSD put a Measure on the ballot to move our board elections from odd-year elections to even-year elections because it would save money (election costs) to have the elections at the same time as the general election on even years. That election itself cost us maximum dollar, and had the effect of extending the board terms of a few of the most problematic board members by 2 years. But public approved it to save election costs -- the same election costs the district is now spending on special elections to game the system to get extra money, rather than making the case to the public through action and transparency.

This Measure A is the second special election for PAUSD, after recently starting this practice, COSTING us maximum money to wage the election. Palo Alto voters have shown a willingness to pass funding measures in the past by overwhelming majorities in general elections, so it's definitely NOT necessary. The district should STOP using expensive special elections for these votes, they are hugely expensive, and they just got us to vote for moving an election in order to save the exact same election costs!

People should vote NO on Measure A if only to show the district that spending hundreds of thousands on special elections is a waste of money, especially given the hypocrisy of their having just spent money on a ballot to move our board elections with the argument that the election costs will be less for the district if moved to even-year general elections.

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