The school board meeting comes on the heels of the district's 2013 strategic plan survey, which found "a large gap in non-academic counseling satisfaction across Gunn and Paly": 54% of parents at Gunn expressed satisfaction compared with 73% of Paly parents, and 58% of Gunn students versus 68% at Paly. See Web Link, pp. 27-28. For availability of counselors, 63% of Gunn students and 75% of Paly students were satisfied, while for quality of support the gap was 60% versus 73%.
The study also found that for college and career counseling "overall satisfaction is much higher at Palo Alto High School." For example, 72% of Paly parents but only 46% of Gunn parents said that their students receive effective college counseling. These gaps tracked closely a 2012 district survey on counseling at the two high schools.
At its March 19 meeting, the school board heard the report of the Gunn Advisory Committee (GAC), which was appointed in fall 2012 to devise improvements in Gunn guidance counseling following a year and a half of controversy over a large gap in service and satisfaction with Paly. The committee's recommendations included dozens of measures, including an expansion of the Titan 101 freshman advisory program to include sophomores, juniors and seniors.
At the March meeting, board members told Gunn principal Katya Villalobos and PAUSD Director of Secondary Education Michael Milliken that they were unwilling to approve a one-year plan that lacked specifics on full implementation of the GAC recommendations. Board members also demanded a statement of who at Gunn would be responsible for each component of a multi-year plan. Villalobos and Milliken promised to return with a plan incorporating those details. See Web Link.
The Gunn proposal, for which Villalobos and Milliken are seeking approval on Tuesday, does not mention many of the GAC recommendations, including the expansion of Titan 101. It also does not identify staff members responsible for implementation. Instead, it proposes a "Creative Scheduling Committee" composed of parents and staff that would meet in the fall and winter of 2013-2014, culminating in a vote of Gunn staff in March 2014. See Web Link.
Board members expressed their frustration during the March meeting at the lack of specifics about how to define or achieve comparable guidance services between Paly and Gunn. At that meeting, Milliken admitted under questioning from trustee Melissa Caswell that he had deliberately instructed the GAC not to consider comparability, despite the Board of Education's instruction to the contrary. Milliken also told the board that he would be unable to define "comparable" until fall 2013 at the earliest. Milliken announced last week that he is leaving PAUSD to assume the superintendency at the Belmont-Redwood Shores school district.
The Gunn proposal is the latest development in a years-long struggle over what to do about the gap in parent and student satisfaction with guidance services between Paly, which has a teacher advisory guidance model, and Gunn. In 2008 Noreen Likins, then Gunn principal, pushed for a teacher advisory model with strong student support. Resistance from staff and Likins' resignation stalled the effort, but contributed to the rollout of Titan 101 in 2011.
In 2012 a district survey found large gaps in satisfaction and services between Gunn and Paly, but the school board's directive to Gunn to consider teacher advisory in response foundered on staff resistance, led by Superintendent Kevin Skelly. See Web Link.