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'Time of healing' needed in school district

Original post made on Jun 29, 2007

New Palo Alto schools' Superintendent Kevin Skelly and the Palo Alto Board of Education ought to spearhead a "time of healing" in the school district, consultants Geoff Ball and Associates advised the school board Tuesday night.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (5)

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Posted by no more bonds
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2007 at 10:53 am

the district lacks clarity on decision making

Really? They needed a 31 page report to figure this out?

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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 29, 2007 at 11:00 am

this is the second thread on the same article and subject. I agree with you, no more bonds. And I guess they needed a grownup to tell them to behave like adults and an outsider to tell them to behave like professionals. Hmph.

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Posted by no more bonds
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2007 at 11:48 am

Sorry, didn't see the other thread, just commented through the PAWeekly on-line report. Seems they haven't linked these 2 articles together.

Please at further comments here: Web Link

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Posted by Jim
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 29, 2007 at 5:54 pm

here's all the other comments from a similar thread

What about the other important item on the agenda last Tuesday, enrollment increase planning. That is also an important topic and I have heard nothing. Was it discussed? Were any decisions made?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 18 hours ago
Healing--as in, oh sh--, people are so pissed off about MI that they might vote against the next bond.
At least we'll be spared another self-righteous lecture about behavior from Ms. Callan.

I think the healing should begin with an extraction of a couple of school board members, followed by pathology reports on Callan's governance and just how hand-in-glove the school bureaucracy got with PACE.

Then maybe we could follow this up with a competent treatment plan where the board and the district actually, oh, comes up with some real solutions to the district's problems/
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, 17 hours ago

It's funny how we're told to "heal" on two fronts now -- upper level management & MI. And yet, the two seem to be one and the same in many respects.
My favorite quotes are from page 28 of the management study (aka "Organizational Development Project", found here Web Link):

Note: this was a study of the management team, ostensibly nothing to do with the other trauma facing the district right now.

"The Situation:"

"it seems that the relevance of the current strategic plan has diminished and it is not regularly used to guide planning and decision making"

"A majority [of management team survey respondents] were also concerned about how the Board preserves strategic priorities in the face of parental pressures."

"The Analysis:"

"A robust strategic plan requires a willingness to be constrained by the plan, which means saying "no" to some new demands in order to preserve the direction and momentum toward strategic goals."

Uh, yes. Isn't that what most of us have been saying all along?

Any chance the board will take *that* into advisement and re-consider (again) its flip-flop on MI? Nah ... who needs a strategic plan. Biggest check and best threat letter wins.


Yes, enrollment was discussed starting at 10pm, after dealing with mandatory budget approval and other business. No surprises there -- the board will wait until fall to see how enrollment is actually shaping up. The only motion made (and passed) was to not change any boundaries for now.
Posted by Not healing yet, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, 17 hours ago

Healing is only possible if people want healing to take place. If people enjoy the excitement and stimulation of feuding, then they'll keep the hostilities and finger-pointing on the front burner. If this dysfunctional district is to work more harmoniously, then people will have to work at finding common ground and join together in things that can be agreed on. Obviously, there needs to be some changes, and the best present we could give the new superintendent is a positive attitude and serious effort to let go of grudges. That doesn't mean squelching frustrations, but it does mean not taking glee in how bad the bad stuff has been and instead focusing on what we want, not what we don't want. Positive language toward positive goals.
Posted by Ready for change, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, 8 hours ago
"If the Board were to forego serious efforts in these areas, we would anticipate significant
negative consequences (i.e., loss of long-tenured talent to other districts, continued, if not

escalated, hostility between the Board and the managers, loss of energy and commitment in support of high performance, loss of trust and rapport, and damage to the Board’s credibility)."

oh, brother!

typical shrinking violet tactics - - called in some circles "let the holy words of the sacred consultant wash away our sins, even though we screwed up really, really bad". it's kinda like asking mama for a fifth chance.

so, our tax dollars went to hire a consultant to help dysfunctional administrators and a few elected board members learn how to "play nice" and "clean up their mess"? how quaint

some advice for the new sup:

1 - clean house! if you don't, you'll find out really, really fast why you shuold have - - start over with people your employees can trust, instead of trying to repair years of conscious insensitivity

neither you, or site admins and teachers who have been stonewalled for years by the likes of Cook and Bowers should not have say goodbye and start over with your own management team - otherwise spend the first two years of this assignment picking cleaning up a mess not of your own making

some advice to the community:

1 - replace Camille Townsend. she fought positive changes right down to the wire, and continues to be a loose cannon - - I have yet to see a more ineffective board chair
Posted by out with the old, in with the new, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, 8 hours ago

Seems unlikely that meaningful change could happen at Churchill without taking a good hard look at the competence and mangement style or some of the administrators, and removing them as appropriate (and I think many people agree that removing one or two them WOULD be appropriate -- they have forgotten they are public employees and that the district is not their own private playground), and taking a good hard look at the patterns that have gotten us here. As I tell my children, "Saying you're sorryu and promising to change your behavior doesn't cut it. I want to SEE the change. I want to EXPERIENCE the change. No change in behavior = no change in attitude. No change in attitude = consequences."

My kids are only in elementary school and even they get this. We wouldn't even have needed a consultant if the Board had listened to the deep problems in the first place and taken respoinsibility for being something more than a rubber stamp for the Superintendent's recommendations for the past however many years.
The reason people get mad and then bring up old wrongs is that at so many levels, behavior never changes. While nice talk and respectful tone are important, they are the beginning, not the solution. Without consequences, no one changes. Being held to account is pretty standard in adult work situations. It should be in the District as well. The best thing Mr. Skelly could do is take the time early on to examine each administrator and manger's work and performance closely, and not let the clock start ticking all over again on receiving consequences for their blatant and offensive attitude of entitlement.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, 7 hours ago

natasha is correct. What we have had for years is power-tripping attitude from a few senior administrators. Where is the accountability, and where are the consequences? Gee, an expensive consultant's report is their life-raft? We deserve better people for our tax dollars. (I just read the report; it's full of nothing but common organizational sense, pasted over with 1980's-type edu-speak...sheesh!)

I'm gonna work hard against Townsend this fall, as are my friends. As for the senior administrators that are left, if the new superintendent keeps them on, knowing what he probably already knows by now, it will be a warning about his management style and approach. Cook and Bowers should be replaced, as they were long aware of these problems, with even more problems festering in the teacher corps (that this so-called "solutions report" doesn't even address. Scott and Bowers can be very quiet and comforming when they need to be; I wonder if the new superintendent will see through that.

Posted by Jim, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, 5 hours ago
I meant "Cook and Bowers can be very quiet and comforming when they need to be; I wonder if the new superintendent will see through that."
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, 5 hours ago
I'll join you in the campaign, Jim! If I hear one more time from an administrator about how we should forgive and forget, when *nothing has changed from the situation that made everyone furious in the first place*, I will just go crazy. When people who behave like the district or the school is their personal feifdom, someone needs to step up who is not afraid to say that's wrong and stop the behavior.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, 5 hours ago
Finally had time to catch up on my papers today.
Quoting from the Palo Alto Daily's report on the Consultants - Web Link


"Managers told the consultants they're sometimes frustrated by board members' oversensitivity to community concerns and tendency to supplement staff reports with their own independent research.

"Some focus group members felt that the latest wave of community e-mail carried more weight than the cumulative wisdom of internal educational experts," the report stated.

Board Member Mandy Lowell said she frequently gathers additional information from the community's local experts, including those at Stanford University.

"None of that is a substitute for the educational professionals," Lowell said. "Maybe I need to do a better job of conveying that I'm not trying to duplicate their work."


Ummm...since when does an elected Board member being sensitive to the community's concerns mean 'bad'? They are supposed to set policy based on what we, the taxpayers, elected them to do to keep our tax dollars flowing in. They are supposed to hold our District accountable, and we are to hold our Board accountable.

This implies that the Staff believe they should have free rein to do with our tax dollars whatever they see fit. They don't believe their job is to advise on best educational research and strategies,and the ELECTED Board's job is to set policy on how best to prioritize and implement their recommendations.

And, do the managers who feel that the community e-mails carried more weight than their "cumulative wisdom" STILL not understand that very little of the "latest wave of e-mails" had anything to do with disagreeing with their "cumulative wisdom" that immersion is the best way to learn a language?

Do they still think that this was an argument over whether or not immersion is good? If this is an accurate reflection of their views, then it shows a complete disconnect between what they believe/understood and what was reality. Or, maybe they did, but their arrogance makes them believe that they are right about not only good educational practice, but about the way to implement and prioritize in a District. In other words, it looks like they believe that the rest of us are too stupid to understand what is "good for us", and why bother having a Board?

Lastly, did it occur to any of them to wonder why so many others feel a need to do outside research? It may be because the research we get is one sided and incomplete, with foregone conclusions well known before the report is even begun. No need to go into it all now, but in my opinion we never got a full, honest, multi-sided report on anything big in our District in the last year. Reports were circumscribed from the outset, with little critical thinking through sourced pros-cons of many options so the Board could decide how to proceed, and obvious critical contributors left off reports, from the AAAG report, to the Feasibility Study, to the Charter vs. Choice Report.

THAT is why there is so much research going on outside of Staff's.

Look inside yourself when you think others are "taking" your job..maybe they are filling a vacuum.

Posted by Resident to the 10th power, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 2 hours ago
Parent writes: "What about the other important item on the agenda last Tuesday, enrollment increase planning. That is also an important topic and I have heard nothing. Was it discussed? Were any decisions made?"
There's a news story up. Web Link

Nothing decided, but apparently lots to think about.
Posted by District watcher, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, 1 hour ago

Resident to the 10th power -- I agree with you completely. This attitude, which thy didn't even appear to try to conceal or modify for the benefit of the consultant, is the reason Mr. Skelly will have his work cut out for him weeding out the problem administrators so they will not continue to corrode the environment in the district.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, 1 hour ago

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Posted by Jon
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 14, 2007 at 10:30 pm

And so, my fellow community members, ask not what your community leaders can do for you; ask what you can do for your community leaders.


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