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Nanci Kauffman resigns as head of Castilleja School

Original post made on Sep 7, 2023

On Thursday, Nanci Kauffman resigned as head of Castilleja School, concluding a 13-year term that was in many ways defined by the school's contentious plan to redevelop its Bryant Street campus.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 7, 2023, 9:37 PM

Comments (17)

Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2023 at 10:33 pm

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

"In countering these criticisms, Kauffman pointed to the school's recent efforts to reduce traffic and parking impacts. This includes an ambitious transportation-demand-management program comprising carpooling plans, shuttles and requirements that limit the number of days school staff can drive to work solo. It will have to redouble these efforts in the coming years thanks to a "no net new trips" requirement that the council included in its approval of Castilleja's redevelopment plan.

The council's approval allows Castilleja to raise its student enrollment to 450 and creates a path to ultimately get to 540 if the school proves that it could keep its traffic impacts minimal."

Can you tell me why you choose to write the above paragraphs but didn't mention that in the August 7th City Council meeting, 5 out of the 7 City Council members rejected the Castilleja TDA plan which Castilleja wrote for the City Staff to present to the City Council? Did you read all the online comments regarding your August 8th article? Web Link Castilleja suggesting "no net new trips" is a joke by only counting cars going into the school's driveway when there is a known fact that students are being dropped off or parking their cars in the neighborhood.

Also why you didn't mention that the City Council only allowed Castilleja to increase the enrollment to 450 if the entire student body are moved offsite during the construction?

I am very disappointed with your one sided reporting on the Castilleja saga for the last 6 years.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2023 at 11:20 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Old Palo Alto Resident is so right!

As a resident of Palo Alto and a Castilleja parent, I also have been severely disappointed in The Weekly's years of biased reporting on Castilleja.

I have sat thru so many City Council meetings where I was shocked regarding the half truths or worse being stated by Castilleja /Staff. And then to read a one sided, IMO, article in The Weekly quoting Castilleja and not accurately reflecting the neighbor's concerns has been irritating. Not balanced reporting, IMO. It has seemed so one sided for so many years.

A recent example of biased reporting. IMO, was The Weekly's August 11, 2023 (pg 9) article "Critics unmoved by Castilleja's traffic plan".

A more balanced title would have been "Castilleja's traffic plan rejected by City Council". The world AGAIN could even have been added.

Castilleja's traffic plan has been such a fiasco. Example: girls driving to Castilleja BUT parking on Melville and walking across Embarcadero (to school) not being counted as a "trip". Really?

I thank the four Council members who demanded that Castilleja's Transportation Management Program actually manage traffic rather than be "window dressing".

Thank you.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 7, 2023 at 11:29 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

The two above commenters are absolutely right.

If nothing else, the basic news stories might have asked why this was allowed to drag on for so long with so little accomplished. It shouldn't take 6.5 years to realize specifics were needed for a real TDM plan and that an inordinate amount of time and money was wasted while the city was pleading poverty.

I still want to know how much this fiasco cost in real dollars for staff time and consultants -- especially since it was when the city was pleading poverty and threatening to cut all sorts of necessities unless we voted to allow them to keep overcharging us for utilities in perpetuity.

Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2023 at 8:39 am

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

I sincerely wish Castilleja will find someone with integrity as the new Head of School to teach by example on the importance of telling the truth and the true core values of Castilleja, the 5Cs—Conscience, Courtesy, Character, Courage, and Charity to the future leaders of our world.

Posted by Chris K
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2023 at 9:35 am

Chris K is a registered user.

As a neighbor of the school for a decade-plus, I am still dumbfounded how a vocal minority can shape a narrative. Castilleja is the one who contacted the school that they were over enrolled (10 years ago??); they paid the fine and made significant changes to parking and driving. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2023 at 10:53 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

As a former Old PA neighbor, I strongly agree with Chris K. [Portion removed.] I grew up on Bryant and my husband and I raised our three kids a block and a half away from where I grew up. All the years I lived by Casti (more than half my life) Casti never bothered me. I was focused on my own life, personally and professionally. It's commonly referred to as healthy living. I wish Ms. Kauffman well.

Posted by NJ
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2023 at 11:14 am

NJ is a registered user.

Chris K,

You wrote: “As a neighbor of the school for a decade-plus, I am still dumbfounded how a vocal minority can shape a narrative. Castilleja is the one who contacted the school that they were over enrolled (10 years ago??); they paid the fine and made significant changes to parking and driving. [Portion removed].”

Yes, Casti did let the city know about the over enrollment and paid the fine so that a few years later they could start the process of applying for their new building project. As a neighbor of the school for a decade-plus, you might have noticed that about the time they paid the fine all of a sudden Casti started caring about parking in front of your house. If there was no building project, Casti wouldn’t have said anything and it would have been business as usual and there would be a faculty member parked in front of your house. It probably wouldn’t be a student because they have their own parking lot. The customer comes first at Castilleja. If this project were to be completed, I’m sure you will see people parked in front of your house and hopefully not your driveway.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Midtown Citizen
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 8, 2023 at 11:17 am

Midtown Citizen is a registered user.

The neighbors who have been outspoken against Castilleja for years have consistently cherry-picked (if not outright misrepresented) facts to support their narrative that Castilleja is a bad actor. They don't really care about "neighborhood peace and quiet": they aren't down at City Hall raising a ruckus every time one of their neighbors asks for approval for a major reconstruction of their property, which is constant. Why? Because they don't want to impair their own property value by limiting what future purchasers can do. The facts are clear: Castilleja has been a property owner at that site decades longer than any existing neighbor (they moved into Castilleja's neighborhood, not the other way around); Castilleja, not any neighbor, is the one that identified the enrollment overreach, paid a penalty, and developed a plan to get back into compliance; and Castilleja has proposed a plan that would diminish the existing traffic and parking burden on the neighbors, while the neighbors have only proposed Castilleja moving away (also, the neighbors and their construction workers park on Castilleja's side of the street with impunity, while Castilleja polices any parking of its students and staff to prevent parking in front of neighbors' houses). [Portion removed.]

Posted by Longtime PA res
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2023 at 11:31 am

Longtime PA res is a registered user.

Castilleja came out only because an astute citizen, Vic Befera, a long time resident living across from Castilleja pointed out that the enrollment was way past the enrollment limit of 415 in the 2000 Castilleja CUP! Ever since then the school has been spinning falsehoods and breaking their promises to the city and neighbors for the past 6 years. So how is it that we can trust anything they say?

Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2023 at 12:31 pm

M is a registered user.

Given how Ms Kaufmann has been treated by some, I have to believe it will be hard to attract the best to replace her. The personal attacks are a stain on the city.

Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2023 at 12:33 pm

Old Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

@Chris K, since you brought up Castilleja’s enrollment violation, lets take a look at it in detail. The enrollment limit of 415 students was defined in the Year 2000 CUP. However, Castilleja has not been in compliance since 2002. Only when our long time neighbor Vic Befera pointed it out to the school in 2013, then the school tried to do something about it. Initially, they used the excuse that the school thought the 415 limit was daily student attendance. Quickly, they learned that was not a believable story. When one takes a closer look at the following enrollment data, one will notice there is a consistent pattern of year over year increase of a few students each year until 2013. Why would Castilleja students consistently missing more days of school year over year during that period? Since Ms Kauffman became Head of School in 2010, please note during 2013 enrollment had the biggest violation jump of 13 students over the previous year. Can you please point out which of these 5C core values exemplifies these type of actions?

2000 391
2001 414
2002 416
2003 418
2004 416
2005 424
2006 427
2007 427
2008 432
2009 431
2010 434
2011 437
2012 450
2013 448
2014 444
2015 438
2016 438
2017 438
2018 434
2019 430
2020 426

Posted by Liquidamber
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2023 at 3:43 pm

Liquidamber is a registered user.

An extract from an email blast to Casti alums from the Board of Trustees:

" In addition, last month we engaged the expertise of Kathleen O’Neill Jamieson, former Head of School at the National Cathedral School in Washington, DC, who will serve as executive advisor and strategic partner both to the Board and school administrators. Kathleen spent last week meeting dozens of members of the faculty, staff and community, and she will make several more visits to campus this year, including for next week’s Back-to-School Night.

"Kathy and Kathleen will assemble a Faculty Advisory Council composed of experts in educational leadership and Castilleja culture. This team will work in close coordination with school leadership on curriculum and key operating procedures, always guided by the positive, collaborative culture that has been a hallmark of Castilleja.

"We will appoint a skilled, seasoned Interim Head of School who will provide leadership during a thorough nationwide search for a long-term Head of School. "

What isn't mentioned so far is the impact on the faculty and students from the ex-head's failure to line up temporary classroom space to start the new building project. She tried to get space in Belmont at Notre Dame and at Cañada College. Both deals fell through but before they did over a dozen faculty resigned unwilling or unable to do that commute. The new advisor from D.C. and whomever becomes the new permanent head, I wish s/he well. Their must be a board of much wiser souls like the boards in the 1960's-80's which did go-slow huge campus building projects from the three story dorm to the new admin building with the patience for the last one to wait for nearby homeowners to die who had sold the school life estates to land now the school's baseball field.

Mr. Levitsky has amassed a huge collection of rental houses contiguous to Casti including the only parcel on its city block it does not own. What happens to his land when he dies?

Posted by Liquidamber
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2023 at 4:16 pm

Liquidamber is a registered user.

I'd like to see Mr. Levitsky's old houses stay as low income houses. Keep the names he gave each house from Grateful Dead songs. Perhaps a combination of housing for local school faculty, plus students at Casti and Stanford, too. Make his block of Emerson a dead end at Embarcadero with a public park connecting his houses and the Casti campus.

As soon as Caltrain is electrified and more trains are running, Casti will have an easier time getting its students and staff to ride its shuttle fleet to the train stations to reduce local car trips to its campus.

Posted by Liquidamber
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2023 at 4:21 pm

Liquidamber is a registered user.

Perhaps a statue in that new park to the rock & roll psychedelic singing icon Grace Slick, a graduate of Castilleja! A good companion to Mr. Levitsky's famous Dancing Bear costume.


Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2023 at 8:46 am

rita vrhel is a registered user.

You really think she "resigned" ?????? Seems unlikely based on the Daily Post's more factual reporting..

IMO, it sounds like she was forced out and likely given a golden parachute to keep quiet.

Probably for the transportation management program, which was a complete fiasco and had to be an embarrassment to Castilleja after touting their "incredible traffic reduction numbers" and using this as the basis for a "trust us" attitude.

Also the CSM "shock" when CSM said no to Castilleja's request to rent a sizable portion of CSM's classroom space.

QUESTION: Is it healthy or safe to have students on campus during construction? Noise, dust, heavy equipment? I certainly would not pay $50,000.00/school year to have my daughter sit in a construction zone! Wonder how they are mitigating these factors?

With 4 + years of construction, an unlucky student could hear construction their entire high school career.

To @Chris K.. ...during the 6 years of discussion regarding Castilleja's expansion it was repeatedly pointed out (as above), the 20 years of over enrollment. At $50,000.00 a student/school year, we calculated Castilleja took in an extra 2M$ + after paying their fine.

I even calculated the ROI and offered anyone the amount of the fine for a return equal to Castilleja's.

Time to give the "they paid their fine" line a rest and actually look at the facts rather than continue to spout the school's propaganda.

I do not live near Castilleja but my daughter attended Castilleja for 5 years.

It was such a different school then.

I mourn the loss of that Castilleja where the 5 C's really mattered.

And the girls were encouraged to use their exceptional education to give back to the communities where they lived; then and in their future.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 9, 2023 at 9:12 am

Online Name is a registered user.

#rita vrhel, thank you for refuting the constant propaganda. I've heard similar sentiments from other Casti parents who remember and cherish the "old" Casti that used "women's education" as more than talking points.

Also thank you Old Palo Alto Resident for showing Casti's long history of violating its enrollment cap while incessantly sloganeering about the importance of trust.

As for Kauffman "resigning," who believes a responsible devoted considerate employee would resign so suddenly with no notice just as school's starting while throwing a search for her replacement to a national search committee??

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2023 at 11:27 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Sometimes you have to get to the root of the issue. Addiction to local politics. Most residents (of any city) are apathetic towards local politics. They just live their lives.

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