Buried in the "packet" for last night's school board meeting was a letter from Sandra Pearson, the former Principal of Paly. In her letter, Pearson dressed down the Board and the senior district staff for their decision to hire a Public Relations person at an annual salary of $150,000.
Pearson stated that she was "puzzled and dismayed" by the decision to hire a PR officer, arguing that public communication is the job of the senior staff. According to Pearson, the Superintendent is "hired to represent the District," and it is "unnecessary to layer another person in the mix." Rather, she urged the board to "hold your administrators responsible for communicating effectively."
Pearson also recalled that during an earlier period of austerity the PR officer was the first person to be fired as unnecessary, a decision she agreed with, and she argued that the district had much better things on which to spend $150K, urging the board to,"Ask any teacher how $150,000 might be used to support teaching and learning in the classroom. I doubt you will find any who would opt for a communications officer."
Pearson's letter to the Board was sent nearly a month ago on March 17. It mysteriously turned up as an attachment to the packet for last night's meeting. There was no discussion of the PR hire and there was no mention of the letter.
Pearson's views echoed those of many community members who objected to the hiring ofa PR officer in the wake of the recent district civil rights scandals. The district recently posted a job advertisement for the PR officer, in which it solicited applicants who had a background in fields that included "marketing" and listed as a primary job responsibility to "promote a community climate of support for the district" and to "cultivate" stories in media that portray the district in a positive light."
Here is a link to Pearson's letter: Web Link
The full text of the letter is below.
To : Dana Tom, President, Board of Education
Barb Mitchell, Camille Townsend, Mellissa Baten-Caswell, Heidi Emberling
Date: March 17. 2013
I served as Principal of Palo Alto High from 1987 to 1994 and again from 2002-2004.
Since retiring, I have chosen to remain silent on PAUSD issues. My husband and I have
lived on Stanford campus for nearly 45 years, and we have continuously supported our
schools. Our two daughters went through the public school system, and we now have
grandchildren who will benefit from Palo Alto’s good schools. We have a long and
profound interest in your allocating school resources wisely.
When suddenly we experience higher than expected tax revenues, the generous parent
community(PIE) raises over $4 million for the schools, or an anonymous donor
contributes millions of dollars for facilities, it is of utmost importance to recognize the
value of community support. Establishing trust and transparency are critical aspects of
leadership within our District if we expect to parents and community members to
continue to support our schools.
Your decision to create a $150,000 communications officer has puzzled and dismayed
me. If the administrators are fulfilling their job responsibilities, they are the ones in the
best position to communicate with the public. They are inside the issues. They are hired
to represent the District. It is unnecessary to layer another person in the mix. When I was
principal in the District, we had a communications officer. That position appropriately
was one of the first to be eliminated when cuts had to be made. I believe you are making
a mistake to allocate precious resources for a communications officer. I urge you to hold
your administrators responsible for communicating effectively.
Ask any teacher how $150,000 might be used to support teaching and learning in the
classroom. I doubt you will find any who would opt for a communications officer.
691 Mirada Ave.
Stanford, Ca. 94305