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Paly teacher regrets strong words on principal

Original post made on Nov 5, 2007

After speaking with parents over the weekend, history teacher Mike McGovern issued a statement Monday expressing regret for earlier strong words in his clash with Palo Alto High School Principal Jacqueline McEvoy.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 6, 2007, 8:48 AM

Comments (17)

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Posted by Theresa
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 5, 2007 at 4:03 pm

There is a 5th re-enactment called "Degenerate Art" that seldom gets mentioned, and it's too bad because it's an amazing piece. It's usually performed after "Anne Frank" in the spring on the Haymarket stage, in the round. It's quite a bit different from the other shows, though, and is focused on the horrors of the Holocaust.

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Posted by Katie Young
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Typical Mr. McGovern...take the high road, apologize, try to take responsibility. I think Ms. McEvoy should apologize. She just arrived and is already trying to undermine a really successful teacher and program. Mr. McGovern is by far the best teacher at Paly and it is totally understandable that he was furious at the way he was treated. I am proud of the students who came to his defense. They all know how lucky they are to have had him as a teacher.

Ms. McEvoy should find a way to compensate him for all the time he spends...and listen to him re content rather than the other way around. He is fantastic in every way and deserves her support without qualification. I am thankful that he doesn't just walk away when he has to put up with administrative meddling. We desperately need teachers like Mr. McGovern, who reach all of the students, not a select few.

And if she wants to worry about safety during a theater performance start with the Haymarket.

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Posted by julie
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2007 at 4:32 pm

I was not in the room at the meeting so I do not know what happened.

Mr. McGovern clearly has a lot of support from both students and parents.

I hope he was not discriminated against because of his religious beliefs.

However we all know as parents that you should not argue in front of the children and certainly not lobby for support among the children. That is clearly dysfunctional and symptomatic of more profound underlying problems.

I believe there is something more fundamental going on at Paly as

revealed in certain performance indicators eg the News Weeks rankings

and behavioral problems among students. If we do not have a

conversation about these topics we may be in denial about root causes.

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Posted by oh, please
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 5, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Julie, this is the second time I've seen you mention the Newsweek ranking as an indication of the failure of our schools. It's a little off topic, I suppose, but why do you have this preoccupation with the rankings that PAUSD has decided to abandon? Do you know how that list is compiled? If so, you must realize that it only measures one aspect of performance.

I'd also like to see proof of behavior problems. You mentioned gangs in a related thread, and I have to say, I don't think I've seen any gang activity.

On McGovern: I've never had him, but I think any teacher who touches as many students as he apparently has is a good one and should be encouraged.

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Posted by Theodore
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 5, 2007 at 9:48 pm

Not bad considering McEvoy has stood up for the "satanist club" at her old high school. If anyone knows Mr McGovern, they would realize his Christian beliefs aren't damaging to student's views even if he were to convey them in his reenactments (which he HAS NOT may I remind everyone). This overblown sensitivity towards Christianity is disturbing in a community that supposedly values diversity and religious freedom, yet cringes at the slight reference to anything Christian within education. And this is coming from the Principal of Palo Alto High School- a woman who is supposed to represent the school in a positive manner. I am disgusted.

While Mr. McGovern may have blown a fuse after listening to her, the context makes his ill judgement seem understandable. He isn't paid for his time (a policy that SHOULD be changed), and he works very hard on them to give a wonderful and memorable experience.

Surely anyone who respects his effort and the masterpieces he and his students create would speak gently and cautiously when giving recommendations. McEvoy so far has failed to connect with students in a positive manner. First it was the dance policy, and now it is the reenactments. She may be entitled to her opinion, but she is not entitled to in her first year start making unilateral decisions and comments that enrage the community (as misunderstood as she was).

I am appalled that there was UNANIMOUS support from the PAUSD School Board, and the advisory committees for the approval of our principal. Perhaps many of them are second guessing themselves now they know that they have accepted a principal who has made sudden changes in the way in which the school is operating, furthering a rift between the students and the administration, and degrading Paly students and their learning experiences here. For that, I am even more disgusted.

Principal McEvoy needs to look before she leaps, and make sure where she leaps onto isn't a hornet's nest. This isn't San Mateo, this is Palo Alto. Things are done differently, and she must conform.

The Grim Reaper of PAUSD is watching carefully...

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Posted by Looking-At-Nothing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2007 at 10:39 pm

The amount of coverage to this non-event by the Weekly is astonishing. The reporting on the most recent sexual assault case did not get this much ink.

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Posted by cast the first stone?
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 5, 2007 at 11:19 pm

Students sure seem mad at the principal for... - gasp! - enforcing rules! and - horror of horrors! - meeting with a teacher to express her concerns!!! Children, she's doing her job. And if you don't like her style think about how you feel when an adult or a teacher doesn't like your style. Would you like to have it dragged out in public? And in this case it would be like a teacher putting you down even though they don't know you. Unless you were at that meeting with McEvoy and McGovern???? Thought not. So boys and girls, please do what your hero asked - taking the high road means you can support the program without insulting someone over a disagreement you don't even know about firsthand.

And poor job by the Weekly for fueling this thing by rehashing so much "he said/she said" with no value to the general public.

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Posted by Give it a rest
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 6, 2007 at 11:19 am

Would he have have been so "outspoken" if the principal were a man?
I don't like the tone and the implied threat in Theodore's message.
The insider information has a familiar ring.

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Posted by A Concerned Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2007 at 7:53 pm

I am concerned that our new principal, while undoubtedly trying to come in and make some positive changes, is acting a bit like the proverbial "bull in a china shop". She needs to stop and observe, soak things in and learn about the Paly culture -- what is important to the parents, kids and surrounding community -- before jumping to conclusions about things that "MUST" change. Moving to a closed campus, dumping the TA system, shutting down the College Center are all things that have been swirling around since her arrival. Where are her advisors? Where are some basic management techniques that one would surely employ regarding information gathering and communication skills? Surely Paly deserves better than this . . .

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 6, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Is this true? Is she really getting rid of the TAs and closing the College Center? Where are these rumors coming from? What are the Vice principals doing and saying about this?

I know a new broom and all that, but sweeping away some of the essential services is not what we want. Yes, get rid of the cobwebs (if there are any), but not the valued gems.

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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Mr. McGovern has a tremendous reputation for his reenactments, and they truly are wonderful performances. But, he also has a reputation for choosing only his favorite students for roles, and for spending so much time on reenactments that he doesn't provide much other content in his classes. I think it would be great if these reenactments were made part of an elective class so that Mr. McGovern could spend his time where he truly has a passion and a talent and where students who are his favorites can shine.

BTW, there is another Paly teacher who completely loses his temper routinely in class, shouting at students until they cry and making fun of them if they have an opinion on politics that is different from his. My kid is often afraid to be in the classroom.

The worry about McEvoy is that, coming from San Mateo, she might be overly concerned with rules, safety, etc., and not as much concerned about academic excellence.

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Posted by Paly student
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2007 at 10:26 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

This is not merely a case of kids rebelling against an authority who is trying to enforcing rules as "cast the first stone?" seems to believe. Otherwise, students would not feel so strongly about their feelings toward McEvoy. The root of the problem? She is trying to change a number of things around campus and is doing so in a manner that demonstrates she knows absolutely nothing about Paly or Paly students. The rule of thumb for new administrators is to wait at least one year, if not two, before going around and changing everything - and there's a reason for that. It takes time to create a working relationship between two parties who have just met.

It's not that McEvoy's concerns aren't legitimate. It's that she tried to change things too fast and in completely the wrong way. She treats Paly students like little kids, which is absurd because Paly has always been run like a junior college. Plus, she has shown through a number of her actions that she cares little what the students think of her. She needs to learn how to communicate with students before making so many new policies or more stringently enforcing old ones.

As it stands, McEvoy doesn't get us and we don't get her - a fact that doesn't bode well for the future. Hopefully she's learned that even if she doesn't want to be explicit in her communication with us, we'll always be explicit in our communication with her.

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2007 at 10:46 pm

I agree with what the Midtown resident writes in his/her first paragraph. The reenactments are great but should not be part of a regular history class. There are students who would like to be a part of reenactment but are never considered.

Regarding religious content in McGovern's class: His strong Christian believes are obvious to the students. I wonder what would happen if a Muslim teacher would show a movie about the killings of Muslims in Bagdad by Americans in his history class (McGovern showed a movie to the students on how Jesus was crucified).

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Posted by Lurker
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 7, 2007 at 3:37 pm

The new prinicpal doesn't want to shut down the college and career center. She wanted to separate it from the guidance department and move it behind the library; it might happen later.

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Posted by Arden Pennell
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Nov 7, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Arden Pennell is a registered user.


To respond to "A Concerned Parent" and others, McEvoy said in an interview with the Weekly that she has no plans to make Paly a closed campus.
When asked where all the rumors may come from, she said she is new to Paly and has been asking a lot of questions about how things work.
People may assume she is planning to change things when she actually wants to understand them, she said.

Thanks for all the comments.

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Posted by Don't Drink the Kool-Aid
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 12, 2007 at 9:22 pm

@ Arden:
She lies all the time to us, and she probably does to you as well. She ruined a usually fun tradition at paly recently by making false incentives. Float deconstruction happens the saturday after spirit week at 11 AM. McEvoy told 2 girls who had forgotten to buy homecoming tickets that if they didn't come at 10 AM, then they couldn't buy tickets. the tickets became available to EVERYONE at 11, not just the 2 who came at 10, when people were supposed to come. some 20 people showed up to deconstruct floats only to find that two out of the four were already gone, taken down by those 2 people, by themselves.

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Posted by The Admiral
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2008 at 11:39 pm

I am The Admiral! my name is mike i attended paly high for 3 years and mike mcgovern is the BEST teacher i have ever had! if it wasnt for his chalk eating, re-enactment having, desk jumping teaching styles none of me or my friends would have ever found any interest in school!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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