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School board to consider protocols Aug. 28

Original post made on Aug 2, 2007

In their first meeting together, new Palo Alto Superintendent Kevin Skelly and the five members of the Board of Education considered adopting a lengthy list of protocols, including one addressing "trust and integrity."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 7, 2007, 2:18 PM

Comments (60)

Posted by hopefulteacher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2007 at 12:59 pm

I teach in the district and am very hopeful that the new superintendent will help to re-build trust in the district. It would be great if he made rounds to all of the schools to have lunch or hold open fora with teachers to hear what we think is positive about the district as well as our concerns. I've worked in other districts where this happened and the meetings set a positive tone and helped to develop a trusting environment. I realize this could take a lot of time, but the investment will be well worth it.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 2, 2007 at 1:02 pm

The new superintendent seems to have a lot of common sense. Yay!


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Aug 2, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Great idea, hopefulteacher. As a hopeful parent, I hope he does the same with parents and anyone else in the community who is interested, and I hope he does it school-by-school rather than one big free-for-all.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 2, 2007 at 3:28 pm

I hope after he listens he will actually do something about the district staff who are problematic -- put them on meaningful probation or whatever -- and take note of the ones who were beleaguered under the old regime but extremely valuable in their communities. One of the problems with changeovers is that the people who should have been weeded out get to startthe clock runnign on their misbehavior all over again, and the people who should have been recognized or rewarded likewise have to start over again.


Posted by PA Citizen, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 2, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Right on, natasha! There remains a problem area of trust between key site administrators/teachers, and a few remaining hardliners (primarily Cook and Bowers, who have slithered into quiet anonymity during this changeover - keep your eye on these two, Mr. Skelly


Posted by Waiting for the future, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 3, 2007 at 8:50 am

From very early in M.F. Callan's tenure, she was very good at excoriating and ousting anyone who didn't perform to her expectations. Her subordinates had to be faithful soldiers executing her orders if they hoped to keep their jobs. Any administrator with survival skills has to be able to play hardball at times, but some are smoother operators than others.

Cook and Bowers were in visible positions when they executed some of their marching orders. We'll never know whether they held their noses as they did carried out those orders. Personally, I've seen their good sides, their caring sides. It's not a black-and-white issue.

I think it's time to stop vililfying M.F.'s soldiers because now they are Skelley's soldiers. Let's cut out the sniping over the past and give the superintendent a fair chance to set a new tone and reshape his staff and the way they operate. He's fully aware of all the bloodshed that has seized and paralyzed the district, and he deserves a chance to issue new marching orders.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 3, 2007 at 11:02 am

When Cook was head of HR at Churchill, she completely mishandled a complaint, dropped the ball and villified the parents who brought it. She could not even articulate the chain of accountability for Management Team members. She was subsequently moved to a new position where she supported the ramming through of MI on a very biased and poorly substantiated feasibility study. It may be that she held her nose at that point, but of course Callan had already announced her retirement by then. The investigation report urged everyone to move on and not point fingers. But of course, that mostly benefits those who should normally have come under scrutiny for behavior andp erformance issues, and essentially buys them a reprieve. Is that right?

But I was speaking not just of her but of Management Team members whose misbehavior and performance problems have gone on for years in this district with no meaningful repercussions.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2007 at 11:45 am

natasha is correct. Where is the accountability in this district? Mr. Skelly, I'm sure, is an adept (and I've heard, likeable) individual, but he has his work cut out for him to repair the SEVERE personnel damage that was done by his predesessor, with the help of people who were (as now conveniently claimed) "just following orders".

Most of us are swift enough to figure out that office politics do engender offensive behavior in service of the "boss" - that's a reality. But there will be no way to "just put behind us" the serious hurt that was visited on district personnel at the hands of some of these senior executives.

The report that was just issued, btw, should be called HUMAN RELATIONS 101 for SCHOOL DISTRICTS. The BASIC level of instruction in that report, and BASIC level of activities suggested to make communication more effective within PAUSD is revealing of just how incompetent most of the board, and the remaining major offenders and collaborators to Callan's reign were.

Every single one of them would have been drummed out - long, long ago - in the private sector.

Again, I ask, where is the accountability. How is it that incompetent senior executives and board members in educational districts get free pass after free pass by using the same lame "out" of "hiring a consultant" to help them figure out how to do their job.

At the level they're hired at (including elected officiials) they're supposed to KNOW how to do their job. Sure, mistakes are human, but a PATTERN of behavior that repeats itself to the constant detriment of an organization - especially when committed by those entrusted with managing and overseeing that organization - should be made accountable, with appropriate dismissals or very strong censure.

Given the level of fiasco that this district has suffered - parents, students, teachers, etc. - at the hands of those who were entrusted to make things run smoothly, nit's an insult that not ONE of those rresponsible is made answerable for the mess they eiether made, or contributed significantly to.

I'm giving Mr. Skelly the benefit of the doubt, but Cook's and Bower's activities and management behavior are going to be monitored by a LOT of parents in this district.

As well, those BOE members who are now hiding underneath the soothing pablum of this latest "consultant's report" (Primarily Townsend, Tom, and Lowell) will not be forgotten for their contributions to the past mess when election time rolls around. Many will be working very hard to see that the latter three never hold public office in this city again.

It's always easy for those who have perpetrated fiasco to say "let's just put this behind us", while those affacted downstream clean up the mess that was made for them. I say "sure, let's do that, let's put this b ehind us as soon as you apologize and admit your culpability for creating the mess, pubicly - and that appropriate disciplinary action is taken so that an example can be made, and remembered - so that it doesn't happen again. Let's burn THAT into PAUSD's institutional memory, and then get on with educating our kids in a way that has more to do with what happens in the classroom instead of serving those who enjoy the game of political posturing and power more than they do serving. The tail has to stop wagging the dog in this district - we're overdue for some COMPETENT governance.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Ar Dub,

I agree with all your statements of principle about a desire for a well-run district.

You also mention personnel damage, fiasco, and mess. Can you say more clearly what problems you are bringing to our attention?

Thanks.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2007 at 9:18 am

Let's start with the following:

1) Simple trust: Site adminsistrative and teaching personnel do not trust the BOE or senior administration to really _hear_ their concerns on-the-ground, and act in ways that ameliorate those concerns without politicizing them.

The BOE must become FAR more savvy about the fallout that its politicizing causes **in the classroom**. That has NOT been the case for a LONG time. Moral is not good. There is simply no excuse for this - not in a district of PAUSD's purported quality.

Mr. Skelly has his work cut out for him; I and many others hope he's up to the task. I trust that he is.

The BOE - mostly populated by individuals who have never taught ot site administered for a _living_ - needs to work with Mr. Skelly in ways that permit him to LEAD. This is ASSUMING Mr. Skelly is willing to LISTEN to staff (intently, and authentically) - and act accordingly to repair trust.

Site administrators and teachers are not right about everything, but their opinions should be given FAR more weight than the short shrift than our last admisitrator and last few BOEs have given them. (with Gail Price excepted; she has been a model of what a responsible, thoughtful BOE membe can be)

Negotiation and human relations are a two-way street; 25 Churchill and BOE need to open up the "other lane"


2) Recent fiascos (MI among them - never mind the outcome - the entire MI process was pathetic) have seriously - in a negative way - impacted the base of individuals that PAUSD will require to pass its next bond.

The BOE needs to do some repair work - and fast. Re-appointing Camille Townsend to another term will spell disaster for any forward bond attempts. Single-handedly (with significant help from Mssr/s Tom and Lowell), Ms. Townsend has managed to make a significant number of strong PAUSD supporters (KEY supporters) mad enough to spit, and determined not to back anything that she is a part of. Townsend has the dubious distinction of having the negativity baton passed to her from Callan. She is a weight on the district

(note: I voted for Ms. Townsend in the last election. I will state here - unequivocally - that I have never been more sorry for voting for any public official in my last 26 years of voting for public officials in Palo Alto than I was after voting for Ms. Townsend; she has disappointed on a scale that transcends even the most negative adjective that I was able to find in the OED). Her performance this last term compels coining a new word that
faithfully represents her lack of effective leadership - to wit, the adjective "townsend", as in "the meeting resulted in a series of "townsend" decisions that made the entire community wince"

Replacing Camille Townsend is a sine qua non for any chance at future success in passing the next school bond.





Posted by Different Voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2007 at 11:20 am

Sorry, I disagree with RWE on voting choices.

I voted for Camille and will vote for her again.

The person I regret voting for is Dana Tom. I will not vote for him again, if he runs for re-election in two years.

The MI fiasco was more a fiasco because of Mandy and Dana. Camille has been consistent (just like Gail).

See you at the polls!


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2007 at 11:46 am

Different Voter is correct; Camille Townsend has been very consistent.

George Bush prides himself on consistency as well - i.e. never changing his mind, in spite of piles of evidence that contradict his made-over-breakfast decisions.

Camille Townsend has just presided over - and been a consistent progenitor of - nothing short of fiasco in this school district. She has been CONSISTENTLY insensitive to staff, and a CONSISTENT supporter of the prior Superintendent, who was hired to throttle unions, and staff.

Camille Townsend has been a perfect "carry a softer club" inheritor of the Cathy Kroynman "take no staff or teacher prisoners" approach to managing a school district.

A vote for Townsend is a vote for the continuing alienation of KEY PAUSD bond supporters.

PAUSD citizens will get exactly what they vote for, if Camille Townsend is re-elected - more of the same kind of MISGUIDED consistency that "Different Voter" unwittingly supports.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2007 at 12:28 pm

RWE is exactly right. Blind consistency is downright dangerous. I MUCH prefer the thoughtful and sincere attempt that Dana and Mandy made to reason out what was best for the community in the MI issue.(even though they were thwarted with cheap threat tactics in the end)

Mandy and Dana both did EXTENSIVE research on the issues of comparable mandarin programs, of immersion programs, of charters schools, of community feedback, of financial impacts, district resources, district priorities, before making their final decisions.

Townsend on the other hand stuck her flag in the mud the day she was elected and blindly refused to look at anything that didn't support her oddly biased view of the world. Leaving many to wonder exactly what her ulterior motives really are. How can anyone be that willfully blind to reality? Just like we wonder about the sick scheming dangerous motives of Bush.

Myopic narrow minded purpose is the most dangerous enemy of all. Townsend and her gang of 9 have shown nothing but, and hence we find PAUSD in deep trouble. Thanks pretty much single handedly to Camille willingness to stand up at the podium and flout all reason.

Different Voter didn't like Dana's willingness to listen to reason, because as soon as he opened his mind, he went against Different Voters narrow minded agenda (MI at all costs).


Posted by Different Voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2007 at 12:51 pm

parent,

There you go again, casting aspersions and exaggerating negative (different from your) opinions.

I never said I regret my vote for Dana because of the MI fiasco. I don't like Dana for many reasons, none of which are for listening.

In your continuing efforts to get Camille un-elected, how about saying who you support in the field of candidates?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2007 at 1:16 pm

I don't know because I haven't heard any of them state their position on MI yet. When I do, I'll let you know who I support.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2007 at 2:40 pm

Ar Dub,

So, teaching and admin staff don't trust the BOE or the previous superintendent. Well, Callan is gone. As for distrust of the board, you need to say a bit more about that for your argument to have any traction. Why do they distrust the board? You made some vague statements about the board not hearing teachers, but what are you talking about? What issues? What is this mysterious "fallout" in the classroom?

You criticize the board because they have not been teachers. Why? The skills and experience of teaching are irrelevant to running a district.

You are right that the way the board handled MI was a disaster, but it's just not correct that Townsend caused the problem. You make further silly claims that she caused an unnamed "fiasco" in the district, and I think your feelings got the better of you.

As for never changing one's mind, surely that fits Gail best....


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Parent,

You say Callan is gone. Correct. My question to you is " how and why did she get here?" Callan WAS HERE, at the behest of a BOE. Look what that wrought. Look who her biggest supporters were on the BOE? Count Camille Townsend among them - big time.

Count Camille Townsend as one of those BOE members who CONSISTENTLY supported policy that alienated hard-working site administrative and teaching staff.

Count Camille Townsend as "consistent", just like George Bush.

Please, Parent, go do some "homework" and tally up 1)opinions about site administrative and teaching staff regarding Camille Townsend - prepare to watch the eyes roll (btw, I've been there, done that - you should, too); 2) opinions about site and teaching staff regarding the competence of the BOE, and how specifically, various board opinions have been filtering inefficiencies down into the classroom for YEARS. Please do that field work" and come back when you have as much real knowledge as you now have belief.

It's laughable to hear you say that the skills and experience ofo teaching are irrelevant to running a district. Since when does an educated body of professionals have political appointees telling them what to do - with agendas changing as new electees come on board? Name ONE professional body that is governed that way - just one.

Incidentally, hasn't it been various local BOEs that have mandated Intelligent Design be taught in some American schools districts. Parent, you might want to think hard about teaching as a profession, and not some stooge discipline that's set up as a plaything ny political hobbyists with too much time on their hands,

BOE's - especially BOE's like the one's we've had recently, and most especially this one, Chaired by Camille Townsend - has POLITICIZED our children's education, and brought DISSENSION to PAUSD. There is no reason to have Ms. Townsend further mcking up PAUSD. She's probably very good at lawyering; let her return to a place where she's competent, and can do more good, than harm.

Did Camille Townsend ask teachers what they thought of MI? I doubt it. If she did, she would have received advice that was counter to her supporting vote for MI.

btw, I was (and somewhat still am) neutral on the MI question. What my concern is is the fiasco, circus-like atmosphere that occured - not to mention the additional Management Team fiasco, led by Camille Townsend and MFC.

Please explain to me how that helps classroom efficiency, and education.

Camille Townsend is an unmitigated disaster as a member of the BOE. She has, and will, cause further alienation and distrust. Here consistent PATTERN of behavior, which has CONSISTENTLY discounted advice from teaching and site staff have cost this district dearly.

Trustt me on this one: A vote for Camille Townsend is a vote AGAINST passing a much-needed, upcoming PAUSD bond. I and MANY acquantances that voted for Ms. Townsend last time, will not be doing so in the upcoming election.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2007 at 5:22 pm

RWE,

It's not up to me to do homework for claims you made. If you expect to be taken seriously, you need to be more specific and back up your claims. As it stands, they are vague and mysterious.

"Since when does an educated body of professionals have political appointees telling them what to do...?" Er, not political appointees, elected officials. Welcome to democracy, buddy. The board represents the people of Palo Alto and are charged with making decisions about education for us (not for the teachers). This is standard for school systems. (It is also standard for doctors, nurses, architects, plumbers, contractors, etc.)

Again, it would make no sense to put teachers in charge of running the district. The skills you need to be a teacher are not the ones you need to manage a district. I don't understand why it galls you that teachers are directed by the people--through their representatives.

"politicized ... dissension ... mucking up ... harm ... unmitigated disaster ... alienation and distrust ... consistently discounted advice." More mysterious slander against Townsend!

"Did Camille Townsend ask teachers what they thought of MI?" Who cares? This is exactly the kind of case where teachers' opinions count for nothing. Doesn't matter if they support it or hate it, their thoughts are not germane (unless they are PA voters).

I do agree with you that the way MI was handled was awful, but that had nothing to do with Townsend, or MFC. The board fled from decision-making at the outset, stalling with the feasibility study, then hemming and hawing. Once they lifted the moratorium on new choice programs, they ought to have voted up or down in 2006--and they should have taken into account the possibility of a charter.

You have a huge chip on your shoulder, and I can only surmise that you are a teacher or are married to one. If you take a step back, I think you'll see that having teachers run the district would not be a good idea and would never fly.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 6, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Dear Parent -

You don't have to be a teacher to respect their abilities and opinions. And we absolutely should care what they think - they spend all day with our children. Employees who feel that their opinion matters feel valued and do a better job.

I think it is a great idea to ask a teacher's opinion on running the school, what they teach, new programs to implement, etc. We already do that via our school site councils. It would be foolish not value the opinions of such a knowledgeable, intelligent group of people.

PS - I am not a teacher and not married or related to one.


Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2007 at 6:08 pm

One of my main issues with Camille Townsend is her lack of respect for the strategic plan/district priorities that so many staff/parents/teachers worked so hard to establish. Board members should be the stewards of the strategic plan, and shouldn't discount/ignore it when they have their own agendas (MI). I also find her demeanor as board president unprofessional. I don't find comments like, "let's just all be happy" very helpful when difficult decisions about district/board policies are being discussed.

I also find it unfortunate that AAAG members spent countless hours studying boundary/over enrollment issues, only to have their opinions ignored/discounted by the board. In other words, Camille is not the only board member I'm not very happy about these days.


Posted by MI Supporter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2007 at 6:41 pm

Hi parent,

Here you are with your one-issue election. And it's certainly within your rights to keep hammering at your desire to have the MI reverse-reversal as the center of your (political and educational) life.

Please ask all the candidates about their position on MI. And publish their responses here.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2007 at 7:18 pm

Dear Palo Alto Mom,

Oh, we should respect their opinions, but we should also respect the opinions of plumbers equally. Teaching is unrelated to running a district, and the opinions of teachers matter as much and as little as the opinions of the populace.

Sure, it's a good idea to ask teachers about certain aspects as to how a school is run, but that is a far cry from asking them to run the district.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Parent,

Perfect! We will use your words in our campaign to defeat Camille Townsend.

Frankly, I'm gratified - even delighted - to see you taking Camille Townsend's position - as in your rsponse to my question: you wrote...
""Did Camille Townsend ask teachers what they thought of MI?" Who cares? This is exactly the kind of case where teachers' opinions count for nothing. Doesn't matter if they support it or hate it, their thoughts are not germane (unless they are PA voters)."

Since you clearly resonate with Ms. Townsend's positions and philosophy, you help show in very clear language how Ms. Townsend thinks about PAUSD teachers - the people who teach and socialize and care about our kids every day - when it comes to distrtict decision-making. In fact, you represent what I have seen at many BOE meetings, ,and in votes and policy positions put foward by Camille Townsend.

Parent, you do sound a LOT like Kathy Kroynman, a past BOE member that also treated staff and teachers and site administrators as if they were little more than chattel.

btw, how about answering the "specific" that I brought - the one that describes how BOEs in various parts of our country have used their political clout to impose Intelligent Design on our kids? Please respond; I'm interested in hearing your assumptions.

We're not going to do away with BOEs anytime soon, but to claim - as you and Ms. Townsend do - that teacher's opinions don't matter - shows EXACTLY what is wrong with the touchy-feely relationship that recent BOEs have had with a Superintendent (MFC) who was brought in SPECIFICALLY to put teachers and site administrators "in their place".

Their is a LOT of repair work to do - thanks to MFC, Townsend, Kronman, and a few others who have been consistent supporters of an administrative philosophy that is DISCONNECTED from the classroom, CONSTANTLY POLITITICIZES education, and creates COMMUNITY DISSENSION. With Camille Townsend's defeat (and Dana Tom's next time around) we may finally have a chance to move forward with more enlightened policies, without the absurd fiascos brought on by comstant flip-flopping and faux know-it-alls.

I look forward to future tidbits from you, and other rabid Camille Townsend supporters who resonate with her thinking, and position on things like teacher/staff relationship, chain-of-command issues, etc. etc.








Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2007 at 7:29 pm

Palo Alto Mom,

Parent is a Camille Townsend supporter who is perveting my suggestion that we have more teacher input on the BOE - something we have had precious little of in the past 10 years.

Take a look at the community ferment that has resulted.

Please go ask some teachers about this last BOE; talk to people who trust you; you'll get an earful. Clearly, parent hasn't done this, because she, like some few other board members think they understand education from their ivory-tower BOE positions.

What they've done, however, is create ferment, inefficiency, and LOSS OF TAX DOLLARS in our schools.

Let's put people on the BOE who CARE ABOUT TEACHING and EDUCATION, instead of politicos and know-it-alls who fsail to grasp the fact that education happends in the classroom every day, and that the latter environment is what needs nurturing.

We need MATURE BOE members, not political climbers and self-congragulatory politicos who see the BOE as a stepping stone.




Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 6, 2007 at 8:03 pm

I agree that Camille has been unprofessional and pernicious. But it remains to be seen whether the field of candidates contains enough people who are an improvement over Camille to allow voters to elect her out in good conscience. I wish we could hear more about the candidates' stand on various issues. I am not convinced that they will not perpetuate the existing problems.


Posted by hopefulteacher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2007 at 9:45 pm

'hopefulteacher,' the original poster, signing in again...

I have been following this interesting thread with curiosity to see how long it would take for someone to start bashing teachers. [I think it took 17 responses with 'Parent' chiming in first. It's usually sooner, so thanks :-)] I would never air any opinions about PAUSD in an open forum, but I will say that I hope the directors on boards of hospitals look to (or collaborate?!) with medical professionals for insights and advice. It is respectful and professional, at the very least.

Again, I am hopeful that the new superintendent can help to heal the district. (No pressure.) Teachers, parents, students, admin, and BOE, etc. are *all* valuable stakeholders. Everyone needs to step up to the plate.

Back to lesson planning...


Posted by different parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 8:48 am

Bashing teachers? Where?

By the way - there are more than one 'parent's on this thread. The comments about MI are not by the same person as the comments about teachers involvement with the district. I only WISH someone would have had the guts to ask teachers what they thought of MI. And I only wish some of the teachers would have had the guts to speak out. Given the hostile environment they face from 25 Churchill, not surprising (by woefully unfortunate) that we didn't hear anything from teachers on the MI debate.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2007 at 9:50 am

Where have teachers been bashed? How about "parent", a clear supporter of Camille Townsend, who says (about teachers) "Who cares? ....teachers' opinions count for nothing. Doesn't matter if they support it or hate it, their thoughts are not germane...."

How's that?

Teachers love what they do; it's a high-stress occupation with huge turnover - just look at the statistics, nationally.

We have some of the best teachers in the country, in this district; they don't want to add to their stress load by involving themselves in the sewer politics of BOE babies that get all excited about playing their political games with our tax dollars.

Mature, reasonable, NON-MEDDLING, Boe members have been more the exception than the rule.

Here's some advice for BOE members: EVERY time you make a decision, think about how that decision filters down into the classroom. And, if you don't have a clue how it *might* filter down into the classroom, ASK A TEACHER or SITE ADMINISTRATOR. Then, act accordingly, take the path that will cause the last harm, and get the heck out of education's way!


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 10:03 am

Ok. I didn't see that one. That's ridiculous. That's so stupid that you must realize that's a troll. RWE: Why are you wasting the calories it takes to move your finger muscles on such nonsense?


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2007 at 1:21 pm

are you "parent", or "different parent"? :)

"parent" posted what I quoted above.

btw, it's not nonsense to contradict such statements because there are - at this moment - members of the BOE whoh believe what "parent" posted.

They are convinced that there is a "higher-level" of diligence necessary to "manage" a school district. This simple boggles. Why? Because running a school district is a VERY straightforward operation, UNLESS one begins to believe that one knows more than the people who do most of the work in a school district, and unless one starts to walk the narcissistic road towards self-delusion that convinces one that one's ideas about running a district are somehow unique, or sovereign, and so worthy of consideration that one begins - without benefit ofo inquiry to those who DO THE WORK - to begin to forge political alliances and invent meddling initiatives that create innumerable variables that utimately end up NEGATIVELY impacting the education LONG AFTER the unwitting BOE perpetrators (or Superintendents) are gone.

The inmates (BOE) are running the asylum. The current design of school board governamce has done more to hurt public education (here, and elsewhere) than any single other institutional structural flaw, short of the appointment of transient "professional educational managers" who bounce their merry way from district-to-district, vreating nary an inter-district efficiency as they mozy toward retirement.

I'm waiting for the new Superintendent (he has my support) to show some moxy in dealing with our current problems, as well as waiting for this BOE to shape up and smell the possibility of actually ENABLING those that have entrusted the larger part of their children's daily lives to the vagaries of their decision making - that, instead of the disgraceful fiascos that we have recently witnessed.

Let's see what this group is made of, hopefully, without Camille Townsend - the most unfortunate board member electee since Kathy Kroynman.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 5:15 pm

RWE,

Ah, "bashing." It's just an insult empty of content. A strategy for avoiding thought.

You think teachers should run the district, a silly suggestion. Teachers should teach. Administrators should administer. And the BOE should make strategic decisions. There is no reason to ask teachers to make strategic decisions. It's not just me and BOE members who think this. This is the way the world is run. You don't have a good grasp on how organizations function and seem to have a romantic notion that the district could run itself if only the BOE would "get out of the way." Letting the troops general is not the norm for any profession.

Your notion that teachers should have input into MI is a perfect example of this wrong-headed approach. What could teachers--as teachers--have possibly added to the debate? Nothing germane to the discussion. It was irrelevant what they thought of MI, whether they were in favor or not.

You have a personal stake here, and your emotions have got the better of you. Do some homework and ask around about how corporations and other school districts are run.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2007 at 6:52 pm

Parent,

Troll away...

remember, that a vote for Camille Townsend in the upcoming BOE elections is a vote AGAINST any hope of passing a much-needed bond here.

I would rather see a bond not pass than have a lame "strategic" group decide how to WASTE more taxpayer dollars with their fiasco-laden, flip-flopping "strategies - strategies so lame that they have to hire consultants to clean up the mess that their "strategies" create!. Laughable! :)))

Citizens, imagine the likes of Dana Tom and Camille Townsend deciding how your tax dollars are going to be spent. Now, open your eyes and pull the right levers come election day.

You and those you support on the board will be seeing a LOT MORE of this kind of "DEFEAT CAMILLE TOWNSEND FOR BOE" activity in the coming months -more than you've ever imagined.

IN the meantime, keep posting - we can use your quotes as a Townsend supporter in the campaign. Those quotes alone will cost Townsend votes.

I especially like the ones about how "teachers don't matter" What a gem! It'll be perfect as a caption under Camille Townsend's photo.



Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2007 at 8:20 pm

RWE,

The Parent with whom you disagree is the Parent with the capital P. The one who's telling you to ignore Parent is the parent with the lowercase p. I believe lowercase p parent is the one who's been around this forum for the longer time.

Parent (the cap. P) one. My dear, the teachers were asked what they thought of MI--at Ohlone. The parents were mostly out of the loop, but the whole Ohlone Mash-up proposal wouldn't have happened without Susan Charles consulting with Monica Lynch.

Now, I don't agree with 'em, but it's goofy to think that teachers had no part in the debate. Charles and her staff work tightly together--which is what makes any notions that MIers can go off and do what they want at Ohlone particularly absurd.

Also, a public trust, like a school district is not run like a corporation--totally different kettle of fish. Public and private sector institutions aren't interchangeable. School and district administrators are, with maybe some random exceptions, former teachers. Those supervisory jobs require classroom experience. Teachers, in turn, can be a tough well-organized group, thus the failure of the voucher propositon in this state.

So, you might think teachers have no business running school districts, but that ignores the fact that on a daily basis that's exacly what they do. (Much as in a corporation a chief technical officer will have been a programmer/engineer, etc.


Posted by p(P)arent?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 9:00 pm

So Charles went and consulted with the only BCLAD Mandarin elementary teacher in the district to find out if that teacher wanted to have an instrumental part in building a new MI program. And of course that teacher????? Gave Charles a great big wink and a pat on the back and said..... Surprise - she said sure, great idea.

And do you not think that Mah ferretted that teacher out probably a year or more ago to plant that seed, to make sure that teacher was primed and ready to go when the day came? C'mon OP.

Which other teachers had a word in edgewise about it?


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2007 at 9:10 pm

OhlonePar, Perhaps you might consult with teachers at Ohlone, to see what they thought of the process that brought us MI. Then, ask them how they feel about implementing MI in the way that it has been proposed. Then, ask neighboring school teachers how they feel about the same things. After you've done that, you might have a change of mind. About your assumption that pubic institutions not being run like corporations: that's true to a great extent. For instance, public institutions are mandated - often by law - to exist, and operate.

Think about what that leads to in terms of the incentive to innovate, and create efficiency. Think about how a guaranteed mandate actually creates _disincentives_ to innovate, and maintain administrative fiefdoms. That's what has happened in public education.

There are many, many forward-looking thinkers and activists working to change the current inefficiencies in educational administration. The waste and loss of human capital engendered by these so-called systems and "chief executives" is a tragedy of major proportions, even in the most gifted districts.

That school administrators at the top have had teaching experience is even more of an irony, especially given the animus that very often exists between executive district administrators and their charges. Why is that? It's a consistent phenomenon in the majority of public school districts, whhich still operate under a 1950's style management system.

If you think I'm wrong, take a look at the recent consulting report. That suggestions as elementary as those in that report should be considered essential to repair district morale says volumes about how masssively inefficient this district has husbanded its most important resource - its human capital.

Could is be that those who couldn't hack the classroom and move on to senior administration are largely operating within the Peter Principle? That you suggest teachers run our public schools is laughable.

Ask almost any teacher about unfunded national mandates like NCLB, and the many superfluous state and local mandates that are imposed by beueaucrats and BOE's with too much time on their hands.

Public educations DOES require administration; it also requires public input. That said, too many large-scale inefficiencies have come as a result of executive district administrators who have a standard career path (3-5 year assignments) that mitigates AGAINST long-term accountability.

As well, too many BOEs are populated with well-meaning persons who - with due respect - are ignorant of the important vagaries of the educational institutions that they are supposed to be creating "strategy" for.

How can any group of people who have never worked inside an institution that operates within very tight tolerances create SUSTAINABLE, LONG-TERM strategy? Does anyone wonder why public education is in a mess?

btw, Teacher's unions aren't perfect - in fact, a goodly number of union executives are Neaderthal in their thinking about gaining traction for their respective memberships (but that's topic for another post).


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 9:25 pm

Ohlonepar,

You're mixing up two things, sweety.

RWE believes teachers should decide strategy for the district and implement it. It is a silly position. As I pointed out, they have nothing to add to such a debate. Asking them WHETHER to implement MI is wrong-headed.

When it comes time to plan HOW to implement, then it makes sense to gather ideas from teachers and staff.

Sorry, but the principles of good organization hold for public and private sectors alike. Some administrators--e.g. principals--absolutely need teaching experience (as with your your chief technical officer). Others--e.g. board members--do not (as with CEO, board, etc.). Doing the work of the district is not running the district.




Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2007 at 9:58 pm

Parent,

The board doesn't run the district--the superintendent's office does. The board dictates direction and overall strategy. I don't think the board needs to be composed of educators. However, you're conflating two different jobs--that of the board and that of the super's office. The board, for example, doesn't hire principals.

Or, to go back to the corporate analogy--the BOE is a bit like a corporate board with controlling stock clout. The Super holds the CEO position. The latter has on-the-job teaching experience. You're claiming the board as the CEO position, it doesn't, though like a corporate board, it has discretion over the CEO's hiring and firing.

The division's pretty clear when you sit through a couple of board meetings.

p(P)arent, I don't have the details as to which teachers Charles talked to. Nor do I know if Grace Mah planted a seed in Monica Lynch's head. I'm not inclined to think it because the Ohlone strategy seemed pretty ad hoc and not where PACE wanted to go. So, a year ahead? I really doubt it. Charles has said that she figured it was either Ohlone or Escondido and that she figured it would be better to try to embrace it--i.e. the Ohlone Way.

I know that Charles thought well into the last school year that MI was a bad idea at this time in the district, but once she got caught up in MI/Ohlone-style, she started buying into the notion. I think, key for her, is that "Ohlone Way" part. By agreeing, she keeps control--and I think that's what mattered to her.

FWIW, I heard Monica Lynch argue for MI at one point--it wasn't impressive. She really doesn't strike me as having that much savvy. In some ways, I think there would be no need for Grace Mah to sound her out ahead of time. I doubt Monica Lynch would have to be sold--why wouldn't she want to teach in her native language, but with all the advantages Ohlone has for teachers?

And, well, Grace is clearly a lousy saleswoman given that she couldn't sell the district on MI without a threat. She's depended far more on a sort of single-minded determination than persuasiveness. I mean, I think, numerically, she probably lost supporters.

In other words, I don't think there had to be a conspiracy for this to happen. There could have been, but I don't think the evidence is decisive.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 10:42 pm

Ohlonepar,

Split hairs as you will, setting direction for the district (which is what the board does) does not require teaching experience.

Making a decision about whether to start a particular choice program ought not be up to teachers. That's not what they are trained to do.




Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 8, 2007 at 7:06 am

Parent, maybe I misunderstand OhlonePar, but I think the idea was that you should talk to teachers about the ramifications of particular programs, not that you should ask them to vote on it and use that as the deciding factor. But when the community is so split about the program, and it does impact the school community substantially, why would you NOT want to include principals and teachers in the dialigue? Even if their comments are not decisive, to say they are irrelevant strikes me as pretty arrogant.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2007 at 9:01 am

It's laughable to see people conflating corporate directors with BOE members - seriously laughable. It shows real naivete, and makes one wonder about the value of arguments of those who argue for that position.

Corporate directors are chosen because they have EXPERIENCE and have been SUCCESSFUL in an occupation that has RELEVANCE to the company that they are chosen to help direct.

This is clearly NOT the case with most BOE members.

Further, who is saying that teachers shuold run the district? There's a BIG difference between that and having one or two teacher representatives on a governance board.

Those who rail against teacher or site adminsitrator input to the BOE are mostly hobby-horse politicos who love the political intrigue caused by the fiasco-laden decisions that emanate from BOEs, and end up politicizing education.





Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2007 at 11:44 am

RWE,

"Corporate directors are chosen because they have EXPERIENCE and have been SUCCESSFUL in an occupation that has RELEVANCE to the company that they are chosen to help direct." No, they're chosen because they have leadership skills.

"Further, who is saying that teachers shuold run the district? There's a BIG difference between that and having one or two teacher representatives on a governance board."

You. You've said BOEs are "populated by the ignorant (i.e. non-teachers)," " the inmates (BOE) are running the asylum" (i.e. are not teachers), "Since when does an educated body of professionals have political appointees telling them what to do...?" (i.e. the professionals, the teachers, should not have a board of non-teachers above them).

Although you and Natasha are adamant that the board should have gotten input from teachers on MI, neither of you are able to suggest the smallest way in which that input could have helped and informed the decision.




Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 8, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Parent, I advocate a "more information is better" approach. I was appalled when Camille Townsend, supposedly a trained attorney, stated on the public record that she could not care less about the strategic plan, or about what effect an MI program would have on teh district. She was voting for MI because she just thought it was such a wonderful thing. At least Mandy really researched in depth, and thought through the whole proposal, before coming to her original conclusion, and again before changing her vote under duress. I think teacher input on (1) the status of the basics in our district, and needs on that front; (2) the potential effect of MI on their ability to teach; (3) whatever else might have given a robust data set in the face of the anemic Feasibility Study would have been a good thing. Why would you NOT want to understand, as a Board member, the ways in which 25 Churchill was preventing people from doing their jobs on site? Why would you not want to understand the big picture and ramifications that your big-picture decisions will have on the day-to-day?

I don't really agree with RWE that we HAVE to have teacher representatives on teh Board, but I think it would be a good thing for on-site reps to give their input. And by the way, anyone who suggests that the Site Council is the vehicle by which those opinions will be aired to the District is naive in my opinion. I have been on Site Council and talked to people on site councils for other schools. It was basically a rubber-stamp for whatever the prinicpal wanted, no independent verification or data gathering involved.

Are you ok with the way Camille made her decision, btw? And why are you so adamant that they should NOT have gotten that input?


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Parent says, "Although you and Natasha are adamant that the board should have gotten input from teachers on MI, neither of you are able to suggest the smallest way in which that input could have helped and informed the decision."

But we'll never know, will we? Case closed.

btw, I stand by my other remarks. Most BOE electees are ENTIRELY ignorant of the fine internal workings of a classroom; most have NEVER taught; most are NOT educational professionals. So, how is it that this group of well-meaning, mostly ignorant-about-education individuals get to make "strategies" that have long-term NEGATIVE impacts long after the BOE electees have moved on?

PLease, name ONE professional body that has its work defined by non-professionals.

Further, there is a HUGE difference - relatively speaking - between school board members and corporate directors - that's laughable. That you choose to conflate the two shows more ignorance on your part.

It appears that you really have a bee in your bonnet about letting teachers and site admionistrators play a significant role in district governance. My sense is that you think teachers know less about educational strategy that BOE members, right. PLease defend that position. I'm interested in hearing yuor assumptions. This is - as they used to say - "going to be rich".

Incidently, "ignorance" is not a pejorative word, as it indicates a "lack of knowledge" (as opposed to stupidity, which is action made inspite of knowledge known).

What's really funny about your position is that the BOE, and it's hired gun (Callan) managed to screw morale up in this district to the point where it caused an almost unheard-of revolt from staff - soonn "covered up" by a pandering consultant's report that purports to claim that senior managemnent and the BOE need to take lessons in basic communication skills. This gets more absurd by the week.

We're waiting for QUALITY candidates without weird political agendas or pablin platforms to move to the BOE.

We're tired of the Dana Tom's (who came in on a PLATFORM of "improving communication" ...right, Dana - time for "Intro to Human Communications 101); and, we're tired of the Camille Townsend's who shake hands and press the flesh, but once in office turn on the constituency that voted them iin, while at the same time largely contributing to trashing the culture that they have been mandated to nurture.

Like they used to say in Brooklyn: "Throw the bums out!"



Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Natasha,

I did not follow the MI debate as closely as you. It seems unlikely that Townsend said, as you claim, that she "could not care less about the strategic plan."

Whatever she may have said, I agree that more information is better. Teachers' opinions are helpful in a variety of ways on a variety of topics. However, when it comes to a strategic decision, like starting MI, what they have to add to the debate is purely political. Imagine a third-grade teacher at Duveneck who raves about immersion. Or a high-school math teacher who hates the idea. Their opinions should carry no more weight than yours or mine. I don't favor giving any one group with a political axe to grind special status.

RWE,

"PLease, name ONE professional body that has its work defined by non-professionals." Scroll up. I named several above when you first asked.

Hm, it seems like you are the one with a bee in your bonnet, posting these rants hither and yon, demanding that we do away with the board, etc., all the while suggesting politicizing the decisions by making them the prerogative of teachers. Teachers should teach. Let the leaders lead.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 8, 2007 at 3:15 pm

Parent, I paraphrased Camille's comments, but not by much. Check out the footage (or transcript) from the meeting where the BOE members first cast their votes on MI, January 2007. I couldn't make this stuff up, really I couldn't. She said that she could look at the feasibility, and she could look at how it fits in with everything, but really (at this point she flipped over the papers she had in front of her) none of that even figured into her decision. It was just such a darned neat program, that's really what made the decision for her. It being so neat, we should have it and have it now.

Check it out if you don't believe me. I would provide the link but somehow PAUSD site is not allowing access at the moment.



Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2007 at 3:15 pm

Parent,

Let's color your style "dismissive". That's no surprise, considering that you support Camille Townsend.

In any case, thanks for the pithy quotes; we'll be using at two of them in our campaign to defeat Camille Townsend.

btw, why would anyone ask a math teacher about language immersion? You even seem to get it wrong as you try to show your opinion right. Oh, well...


Posted by Parent Trap, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 8, 2007 at 3:21 pm

Parent, you list "doctors, nurses, architects, plumbers, contractors, etc." as examples of professional bodies that are controlled by non-professionals. Really?

Name ONE.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2007 at 4:36 pm

RWE,

"why would anyone ask a math teacher about language immersion?" Exactly. Why would anyone ask our teachers for an opinion on this topic. You make my point for me.

Parent trap,

Take any ONE of the FIVE, and there you have it.


Posted by another teacher, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2007 at 4:47 pm



Regarding 'Parent's' comment: 'Teachers should teach. Let the leaders lead'... Can't teachers be leaders and leaders be teachers? That comment reflects an attitude that teachers are second class citizens.


Posted by Parent Trap, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 8, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Parent, Let's have the NAME of the professional body that is controlled by non-professionals who have never worked in the field. You might find ONE....good luck. :) Please, a website reference, or an address, will do. Please include the backgrounds of the controlling body.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2007 at 9:17 pm

"Can't teachers be leaders and leaders be teachers?" Sure.



"That comment reflects an attitude that teachers are second class citizens." No. It just doesn't buy into the notion that teachers should be running the board. It implies that they are merely citizens, just like the rest of us.

Dear Trap,

Ah, I see the problem, you're not tracking the discussion. Let me bring you up to speed. RWE claimed that no group of professionals has appointed officials (rwe meant elected officials) telling them what to do. I just pointed out that this is obviously factually incorrect and gave examples. The controlling bodies are our elected officials (senators, reps, state reps, council members, etc.), who make rules telling professionals in all walks of life what to do.


Posted by Parent Trap, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 8, 2007 at 10:47 pm

"The controlling bodies are our elected officials (senators, reps, state reps, council members, etc.), who make rules telling professionals in all walks of life what to do."

not so - - consults for ALL of those organizations depend on *professional* feedback to determine policy - - not so with school boards - - check your facts :0


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 9, 2007 at 12:14 am

School boards have limited power as to what they can do to teachers--either hiring or firing. And if you've checked out the clout of the teacher's union it's pretty clear teachers as a professional group aren't controlled by nonprofessional bodies.

HOWEVER, public school teachers are paid by OUR tax dollars. Since it's our money, we elect a body to oversee the management of that money and the education of our children.

As far as I'm concerned, teachers can run for the board--just like everybody else. However, the well-being of our kids is much more important to me than the wants of teachers. If there's a convergence, great--but everyone's got an agenda--teachers included. I see no compelling reason to set aside a board seat for a teacher. In fact, if that teacher's in the district, it's arguably a conflict of interest.

I mean, the problem with Callan was not that she didn't get along with the board or lacked experience in education, but that she was too clubby with the board, which then failed to see the problems she'd created until there was open revolt.

Parent,

Yes, Camille did say she didn't care about the strategic plan. Her behavior was embarrassingly unprofessional at a couple of board meetings. Her comment was made to Gail Price.


Posted by Just Wondering, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2007 at 7:30 am

Interesting question whether teachers should be given a seat on local school boards.

Before deciding, consider the power and influence teachers already have over district spending and policy by their union membership and as, Palo Alto Mom points out, on school site councils.

The Palo Alto Educator's Association's union contract, which the board re-negotiates every three years or so, not only controls things like teacher salaries and hours of work, it also ties the board's hands on mid-contract changes to things typically considered to be within the Board's spending and policy setting role, like maximum class size and, to an extent, what can be taught in the classroom.

I hear that not all Palo Alto Site Councils, as Natasha says, are principal rubber stamping sessions. Teachers on ones that tend to stamp can turn that around by speaking out.

Are teachers' interests adequately represented at the collective bargaining table and on site councils or do they need more?

Is it helpful or a conflict to have a teacher-board member negotiate on behalf of the board what will be in the teachers' union contract?

Is it appropriate for a teacher-board member to have a say in district spending and policies at both board meetings, at site council meetings and through his teachers' union membership or is that too much influence?

Just how much Board work would the Board's conflict of interest policy conflict a teacher-board member out of? If alot, would filling that board seat with someone who is not conflicted out be more helpful given all the work the Board has to do?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2007 at 7:31 am

Trap,

"consults for ALL of those organizations depend on *professional* feedback to determine policy" On some things yes, on some things no. "not so with school boards" Sorry, it's exactly the same for school boards. They receive input all the time from teachers. You need to attend some board meetings to get a handle on this.

No need to set aside board seats for plumbers or teachers.


Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2007 at 10:41 am

Just Wondering brings forward some good points; let's look at them.

The question "Are teachers' interests adequately represented at the collective bargaining table and on site councils or do they need more?" assumes that teacher representation on the board would put at risk the balance of power that exists between teachers and the district at large, or teachers and the administration.

Who does the BOE represent? Taxpayers (parents, etc.) AND, through its power to decide policy, and hire and fire senior administration, the entire policy making and senior OPERATIONAL management apparatus of the district.

Operational policies - those that emanate from senior administration - are essentially run under the umbrella - and within the constraints - of policy budget decisions that are carved out between the senior executive team and the board. So, where does the balance of power lie in this - and every other - school district in America? Clearly, it lies with BOEs and senior administrators, who generally work together as a team, counterbalanced by teacher's unions.

Let's drill down a bit. How about the power of the purse? Why is iit that when things get tight, we still see senior executives drawing exhorbitant salaries and perks, while teaching staff is compelled to hold the line on something as simple as a cost-of-living increase?

How about the DOZENS of decisions that BOEs make that filter down to make more work in the classroom?

What we have in MOST school districts is essentially an atagonistic relationship between teachers and the BOE/senior adminstrative groups. That's the norm.

Another feature of this structural mess is that BOE's are COMPELLED to cozy up to senior executives because the model is "strong executive" DIRECTED by the board. Tthink about how many conversations, briefings, etc. etc. etc. happen between the board and senior exectives in a district. Compare that to the number of briefings, conversations, etc. etc that happen between teacher's committees and individual teachers and the board. There's simply no comparison.

A good example is SI and MI. Teachers weren't consulted; yet if you asked teachers (privately) what they thought about the large and small variables resulting from implementing these programs, you would have gotten an earful about what some of the early constraints might be, and whether something other than what has been cobbled together by the BOE, senior administrators, and parents who have special interests in mind.

Teacher consultation is simply NOT done to any degree that is representative of the weight of teaching hours spent with student in the classroom.

I, and others who agree, about getting some kind of teacher representation on the board (that has weight) are well aware that having such a thing happen are close to zero, mostly because the TRADITIONAL relationship between BOE's and what goes on - every day - in a classroom is a distant second cousin to what happens between the BOE and senior administrators.

From 30,000 feet, the above scenario, writ large, is one of the PRIMARY reasons that American K-12 education is in such a funk.

Where else - in what other buraeucracy - would there be NO effort to combine efficiencies between districts (or operating units). We see NOTHING done in California, or elsewhere, to lean out the excessive, and expensive, over-management of public education at the district level. This costs taxpayers BILLIONS of dollars in waste and inefficiency.

One of the reasons that senior adminsitrations proliferate in such numbers is because they are managed by essentially naive political electees - i.e BOE's, who are typically interested in pursuing one political agenda after another that more often than not COMPLICATES the process of educating our children.

Here in Palo Alto we have a gifted demographic - i.e. a population very motivated and interested in the education of their children, at almost any cost. Thus, we have a lot of parents who want involvement in ways that they think will benefit their kids. This is normal.

However, when you combine the above with the fact that the BOE is a POLITICAL body - made up of individuals who run on reputation and sound bites - there happens a recipe for meddling in classroom and other related educational places (like hiring a Superintendent to "manage" the teacher's union) that ultimately creates dysfunction.

What I still find astounding is the consultant's report, from the last fiasco (the Management Team revolt).

The advice issued in that report, and the protocols requested by the new superintendent are so general as to be meaningless. Basically, those protocols are a long list of "let's be nice to each other" requests that will soon fall apart as the next not-so-bright idea is floated by a board member or parent (or group of parents) who think PAUSD can oro should do something better.

All this begs to the question: "where are the teachers in all of this". They're in the classroom, teacxhing nand socializing our kids every day, largely removed from the back room maneuverings ofo the BOE and senior management, and mostly at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiation, because the essentail negotiation points around key things like salary are put together by the BOE and senior administrators.

When it comes to programs and policies that impact teachers and kids in the classroom, there seems even more ignorance on the part of this (and other) BOE's.

The bottom line is that there is a dearth of teacher input on strategic decision-making in school districts, period. 98% of the teachers that one discusses these points with would agree.

The protocols set out (above, by the superiintendent) only say general things about maximizing quality of education.

Guess what? the word "teacher" doesn't appear in that list of protocols even ONCE, not ONCE. Think about that.

"Parent" has failed to show anyone in this forum even ONE professional policy-making body responsibe for any large body of public servants that doee not include strong representation and feedback from those who thus serve. That's the case in teaching.

My hope is that Mr. Skelly will be the strong manager we need in this district - a manager than can hold the BOEs feet to the fire, and a manager that will treat the teachers in this district as a part of HIS TEAM.

That's going to be a tall order for Mr. Skelly, mostly because he has to ANSWER to the BOE for his actions. He will not have to answer to the teachers in the same way.

Think about the conlfict of interest that the above engenders within PAUSD (and elsewhere) - and then come back and tell me that we shouldn't do more to incluse the voice of teachers in strategic decisino-making in our schools.

Flippant voices like "parent" want to make it seem as if those who agree with me want teachers to control districts. Not so. The point is that the balance of admisinstrative power is so far weighted in favor fo political electees and careerist managers who have no real incentive to do anythign other than please the poeple who hired tthem, with the latter having no special obligation to the people who do the work of educating our children - our teachers.





Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2007 at 5:54 pm

I would like to respond to the comments that were going on at the beginning of this thread.

I have no objection to Board Members (or City Council) changing their minds if the reasons are the right ones. In fact, if new information comes out, if new research is done, or if they receive a whirlwind of letters and emails from the public on a relevant issue, it is right for them to change their minds. They are only human, and it is human to be able to adjust one's position and admit mistakes. However, this is not what has happened at the BoE. Yes, Camille was doggedly for MI and never flinched. Barb always seemed to be in favor of MI but since there was no "home" she voted against it. She then changed her mind although that came as no surprise since it was evident she was really in favor all the time. Mandy and Dana were definitely the ones who changed their minds, against their own best judgement, due to pressure from a few signees on a letter. They are the ones who we should be wary of in the future. Gail of course, didn't change her mind and was the only voice of reason for much of the debate.

Since Mandy is leaving and Dana is remaining to fulfill his term. We must make sure that all replacement Board Members will be rational human beings who think things through in a logical way. I don't mind a Barb type who although I didn't agree with her thinking, at least seemed to be on the same plane all the time and could make a reasonable vote against her personal preference. I don't want a Camille type who continually looks through rose colored spectacles and sees how wonderful something could be and for that reason alone, regardless of all the logical reasons against it, is just following her own personal political agenda.

For the one who said they voted for Camille and would do so again, I ask why you would want someone who is seemingly walking on clouds and looking for a good feeling about something as being the most important factor in making a decision.

Yes, I would like to know how the candidates stand on many issues, but I would also like to find out just how they look at a problem and try to solve it. I would like to know if they make up their minds and stick to it or are able to see that there are times when they can be influenced by all the good information given to them and are able to readjust their positions knowing that they are making a decision that will benefit the majority interest.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 9, 2007 at 6:17 pm

Bystander, I was under the impression that Barb and Camille both voted for the MI program the first time AND the second time. I still am not clear how Barb rationalized this. I think she is a very political beast, and I would prefer not to have more of that type on the board. Having people who think things through -- yes, even do independent research if that is warranted (though I hope it won't be in this new administration) in order to obtain a balanced set of data points -- is great, but having someone who is just more articulate and smooth than Camille but still basically does what she wants, is not so great.


Posted by Don Kazak, Palo Alto Weekly columnist
on Aug 11, 2007 at 9:47 pm

Don Kazak is a registered user.

RWE,

I have a question about something you posted but I would prefer to discuss it off-line. You know how to reach me.


Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2007 at 10:39 am

Natasha

I may be wrong about how Barb voted the first time but at a discussion meeting before the first vote, she did seem to give the impression that she was in favor of MI but had some reservations due to lack of a home. I know that she is very political and has her own agenda, she often asks tough questions, but at least she has been transparent to some extent with views that are evident. Dana is the hard to read member and I am more concerned about his choices as they often seem to fluctuate with the tide and he is entirely much more difficult to read.


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