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It's official: Fletcher Middle School will adopt sustainability focus with choice component next fall

Original post made on Nov 17, 2022

Fletcher Middle School's plan to adopt a campuswide sustainability theme next fall and allow students from throughout Palo Alto Unified to apply for enrollment received support from the school board this week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, November 17, 2022, 9:33 AM

Comments (11)

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2022 at 5:41 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Was traffic ever brought into this discussion?

The trouble with these programs is that it turns schools into destination commuter schools and more than likely kids will not be biking or walking. The likelihood of anyone joining this program from outside that school boundary is that it will mean being driven to and from school.

Posted by Retired PAUSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2022 at 8:38 am

Retired PAUSD Teacher is a registered user.

It's official. Alignment is dead, but it was just another political expedient for Mr. Austin anyhow. Let's hope this current "innovation" is not the same thing since it is a major shift that requires a long-term commitment going well beyond headline grabbing. Teachers that did not play the previous "alignment game" because it hampered creativity, academic freedom, and the ability to adjust to different student needs, were regularly vilified and targeted by administration for not being "team players". Clearly that cannot be the case with the Fletcher program since there is no set curriculum at the moment.

Building an attractive and successful new school is not an overnight proposition, and the way 25 Churchill gravitates to trends and fads, then ditches them, is cause for concern. Do Mr. Austin and the board have the necessary staying power on this one? Will they support teachers and staff through the growing pains? The 25 Churchill track record is not good in these regards, often leaving students, parents, teachers, and staff holding the bag. The "standards based grading" implementation is a great example.

Hopefully the mindset of PAUSD leadership is changing as well. Time will tell if all of this is for real, or just another gimmick.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2022 at 4:33 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Board of Education,

Choice schools draw students from all over the city, and longer school commutes push families into cars. What are you going to do to keep students who walk and bike to PAUSD schools in the vicinity of Fletcher (including neighborhood kids who currently walk and bike to Fletcher) safe from the risk factors of additional auto trips this change will generate?

Every one of you said you supported Safe Routes to School when you ran for office. What is your plan to keep school commutes safe and to work with your partners in the PTA and at the City of Palo Alto to minimize the congestion and safety impacts that your unilateral decision will create? Have you consulted with them? Have you talked with neighborhoods near Fletcher?

Please do not allow Sup. Austin to dump the project with its traffic impacts on the neighborhoods and the city as you recently did with Cubberley, Palo Verde, and Hoover projects. Consideration of the whole healthy child and community needs seems not to be a consideration in your facilities decision-making.

Further, a strong emphasis on Safe Routes to School and daily reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions generated by school commutes would be consistent with a Sustainability program. What support will PAUSD give to its Safe Routes to School partners at the city and PTAs to mitigate the auto congestion, safety and emissions impacts of PAUSD's unilateral decision for Fletcher?

Posted by Retired PAUSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Nov 27, 2022 at 9:36 am

Retired PAUSD Teacher is a registered user.

In July of 2021, due to declining enrollment, I was told that I would be teaching a course I had not taught in decades. When I asked for some paid time to get prepared for opening day in August, I was told point blank by my site administrator that PAUSD does not pay teachers to prepare curriculum. I did my best anyhow, but nonetheless was soon officially reprimanded by the same administrator for “unwillingness to teach state standards” and “doing a disservice to all of my students” in that class. The sin: I decided that in lieu of the Roman Empire unit, I would give my 7th grade students a primer on the U.S. Constitution so that they could see the influence Roman governance had on our Founding Fathers. Doing so comported with state standards and filled a gap that all three middle school social studies departments had previously recognized. It did not matter, however, because the other 7th grade teachers were not doing the same exact thing at the time.

This begs these questions:

1. Now that Fletcher will be re-writing the curriculum wholesale, will teachers be paid for their extra efforts?

If my principal was being truthful with me, then the answer is no.

2. How will the subject wide “sustainability” core strictly align with state standards?

Clearly there must be a lot of leeway in this realm, the type of which has led to disciplinary action in the recent past.

3. Is there more to declining enrollment other than the lack of an engaging curriculum?

4. Why was the previous curriculum not engaging? Does the lack of engagement have anything to do with recent district attempts to homogenize teaching and to neuter teachers that didn’t go along with the alignment push?

5. Is it possible that students and parents are fed up with poor leadership as opposed to the curriculum, thus the decline in enrollment?

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2022 at 12:50 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I have questions since thinking and reading more of the comments above, in addition to my earlier comment about traffic for this commuter program.

Do parents get to see this curriculum before electing to move their kids into it? Will parents be able to elect to move their kids out of Fletcher if there is not enough regular curriculum classes as opposed to these specialized classes?

Do we know if this will become the woke curriculum? There seem to be many trigger words used without really explaining what these terms mean and how they will be implemented into other subjects?

What will happen when these students graduate Fletcher and move into high school? Will these classes be included in the curriculum of both high schools, just one high school, or completely ignored by high school entry and courses?

Since this is supposedly being done to bolster enrollment, how will this be evaluated after one year, 3years? For example, will more students from say JLS area than Jordan area, make all 3 middle schools very unbalanced in enrollment. In other words, will one middle school be huge, one medium and one small, and perhaps Fletcher be the medium or even the largest? Is the ultimate goal that all three schools should be approximately the same size? Additionally, how will this ultimately affect enrollment at the high schools?

I do think that this idea appears to be rushed through which is something that PAUSD has not done in the past with perhaps taking too long to make decisions, this particular one seems to be lacking in community input. When I think back to say the Mandarin Immersion debates, the process was long and contentious, but at least the community could weigh in and we could get the various views for and against the program. Now we seem to have no idea what this program may teach, how teachers will be prepared to teach it and what materials will be used and how they will differ from what the other schools or regular program uses.

Posted by Retired PAUSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2022 at 7:42 am

Retired PAUSD Teacher is a registered user.


This is why stakeholders should be concerned about real commitment. Mr. Austin loves headline grabbers that make it seem as if he and the folks at 25 Churchill are very busy doing what is best for students. But once the onion is peeled back, often there is very little substance to the so-called initiative. When the dust settles and the cameras disappear, quite often the 25 Churchill engagement drifts too.

Standards based grading is a great example. It sounded good in theory, but the district did a poor job selling and implementing the system. First, leadership thought that assigning numbered grades instead of letter grades would take student focus off of grades. Instead there was confusion and a greater focus on grades. Second, the district ignored the fact that calculating grades the "new way" would take teachers more than twice as long, thus slowing reporting and the updating of grades online. Third, the district felt little need to update grade recording and reporting systems to accommodate SBG. Teachers were forced to convert number grades back to letter grades because the reporting system would not take numbers. Finally, few colleges or universities take transcripts with numbered grades, so the system could not be used at the high schools. At the end of the day students, parents, and teachers were left with a confusing and convoluted system that has shown little to no impact.

Administrators championing the system will argue that it has resulted in fewer D's and F's. But that is not due to SBG, but to the adjusted grading scale and the conversion from numbers to letters:

4 (eliminated by many departments) = Exemplary
3 = Proficient
2= Developing
1= Basic

Three out of four equals 75%, which is now an A or B grade. Two out of four, or 50%, is now a C or B grade. Zeros for missing work have been eliminated as well, thus it is virtually impossible to score a D or an F. Great for admin, not so much for students, parents or teachers.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:19 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Oh, goodie. More traffic. I can spent more time looking out the window to see all the backed up traffic while I decide it's not worth it to try to back out of our driveway safely.

I say this after drivers have collided with our parked cars TWICE and almost destroyed our street tree. Good things all those bollards at EVERY Middlefield intersection have "increased visibility" rather than driver frustration at not being able to bypass turning traffic.

More PA "leadership" --let's hope the Junior Museum and Zoo gets its $1,000,000 dinosaur model set up soon so we can attract even more traffic. After all, it only takes a few backed up cars at poorly timed Middlefield lights to leave cars stuck in the middle of the Embaracedeo and Oregon intersections.

Seriously, how many articles have to be written about the Middlefield mess before any of our highly paid staff get out of their offices to check out what's really happening?

Posted by Retired PAUSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Retired PAUSD Teacher is a registered user.

Another instance of political placation lacking substance: The school district thought it appropriate to wade into the BLM/Woke arena by “highly encouraging” 8th grade social studies teachers to use the book STAMPED. “Highly encouraged” means "do it or face repercussions" with no commitment on the district’s part to back a teacher if things go awry in the classroom.

STAMPED is a very good book outlining injustice against African Americans and why the issue is continually problematic. It’s just not an appropriate selection for many 8th graders. High school or college? Yes, in the context of a social justice-oriented course. The book is no footnote, and should be taught with comparative literature. None of that mattered to 25 Churchill, and roughly 1,500 copies were purchased adding a PAUSD logo for effect. The cost must have been somewhere between 10 and 15 thousand dollars for the books. The training, meetings, and teachers away from classrooms were added costs.

My 150 copies remained boxed and unused. That decision came when a district administrator told me offline that many parents were objecting to teaching STAMPED without the presentation of other viewpoints.

Teachers must walk a fine line between teaching and proselytizing. Administrators can play either side of the coin and then refer all issues back to the teacher.

A history teacher should be able to open eyes regarding historical and current injustice. As a career U.S. History teacher, I know well what minority communities have gone through during their struggle for equity. Yet it was clear to me, and others, that the adoption of STAMPED was more about politics than education.

A colleague once e-mailed me about a “required STAMPED training”. He wanted to know if I was going. I said no and basically told him the same thing I’ve shared here. My final advice to him was to shut up or face consequences. I'm sure this is not what the authors of STAMPED envisioned.

Posted by Retired PAUSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2022 at 2:13 pm

Retired PAUSD Teacher is a registered user.

By the way, all copies of STAMPED have been boxed and sent to storage.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2022 at 4:39 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Retired PAUSD teacher.

Thank you for speaking out. The indoctrination going on in our schools under the heading of education is concerning. The fact that it is happening in our schools here is something we are told is not happening, but this information must be brought out.

Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2022 at 8:36 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

Remember folks, it's always about creating a plausible narrative. The narrative is control, always winning, managerial excellence. The playbook: 1. Set a moving target, amorphous goal like "every child will read well based on a measure that we change constantly" 2. Ask for teacher and community input on curriculum purchase (concerns included relevance, effectiveness, racist/gender issues with texts). 3. Ignore input and make pre-determined purchase anyway (for $2.7 million tax dollars). 4. Celebrate "improvements" in reading scores - even though the curriculum had not yet been implemented (always winning). 5. Demoralize and suppress any further concerns. 6. Declare victory.

I've got bad news for you all. It turns out that the curriculum has some serious flaws, especially concerning gender and race. It's also got some serious flaws wrt meeting the needs of our students' learning. You'll never hear about it because this does not fit the narrative. Any voice that does not fit the narrative must be suppressed. Your tax dollars at work, neighbors.

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