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Op-Ed: PAUSD needs new leadership
Original post made
on Feb 25, 2011
Palo Alto parents are becoming increasingly frustrated with the school district's leadership on the issue of academic stress. The evidence connecting academic stress to adolescent depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation is overwhelming. We would be making more progress if our district leadership were less impressed with the difficulty of the problem and more willing to make fundamental changes to solve it.
Read the guest opinion, written by Palo Altans Michele and Ken Dauber, here Web Link
posted Friday, February 25, 2011, 9:49 AM
Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm
I see a lot of misinformation here, so I want to set a few things straight. This is a really important topic, people should not just be throwing out beliefs with no foundation.
Crescent Park Dad's comments are a good example of the misinformation, and are almost identical to the stop-the-problem-solving-and-leave-us-alone kinds of comments we've been getting from the administration so far.
"Stop the whining!
The residents of Palo Alto approved the bond and the projects. At this point PAUSD is following the mandate set by the people of the city.
Keep scapegoating the PAUSD - when in fact the entire city has been involved in the debate and the approval of the bond, the plans, the building, etc."
Sorry, but that's just misleading baloney. It makes me wonder about CPDad's stake.
So here are some key points:
1) Residents approved a bond project to improve our schools. The bond project included a general description of goals and sites and was clearly crafted to include rebuying the property at Cubberley and building there if the board saw fit.
2) The administration has done no outreach or open discussion with the public about the direction the high school construction. There has been no interaction with the public about whether we want the challenges and costs of mega schools and the implications to academic quality and social life come with such large schools.
3) Multi-story construction in public schools is extraordinarily expensive. We only need multi-story to make the high schools into mega schools. Construction at Cubberly may even be doable with just the additional money being spent on the multi-story premium at the high schools. We don't know, though, because no one has done a study of this to problem solve, NO ONE HAS MADE SPECIFIC COMPARISONS, LOOKED AT ACTUAL COSTS, AND OUTCOMES FOR DIFFERENT OPTIONS. A lot of people, including in the administration, make sweeping judgements with absolutely no data to back it up. This is one of the most glaring problems in the leadership on this issue.
The architect for the Gunn project stated publicly that the premium on multistory would be 15%. IMO, it's probably more. But assuming that is correct, that means $3million is being spent on just that first building JUST SO WE CAN GET A TWO-STORY STRUCTURE. More millions are being spent on square footage we wouldn't need at Gunn if the square footage were going in at Cubberley. All in all, I think at least $10 million of that $20 million building could be spent at Cubberly with no loss of any functionality at Gunn, if Gunn were not being built up as a megaschool -- and that's just the savings from ONE BUILDING, there are six mult-story buildings being planned for the two campuses. By comparison, a single-story building planned for Gunn in the same phase will cost only $8 million.
4) Meetings have been open to the public, but the big issues have not been publicized. The public was allowed to attend the planning meetings, but topics were never publicized, the implications (as stated above) were never brought up by the planners, and the public that attended had no opportunity for interaction. A short question session was allowed, but questions were taken on cards, with only 2 minutes allowed each, and no rebuttal was allowed from the public if the response was wrong or inadequate. It was not a forum for discussing the big issues anyway, there was NEVER any interaction with the public over whether to make Gunn a huge school or reopen Cubberly. This is hardly a "debate" or "the entire city" involved!
5) The state of california publishes a document that outlines things that increase costs of public school construction. It says multi-story construction is so expensive in public schools, it's almost never worth it even to save land costs. They suggest making parallel plans, single-story and multi-story, as the best strategy to save money. A member of the public brought this up, and a single-story topic was inserted on the agenda, but there was no legitimate plan produced for comparison. (Again, self-serving and sweeping, even misleading, arguments by various parties that don't have the publics interest at heart were accepted with no factual backup and again the failure of leadership was glaring.)
6) It is the elementary families who will be most affected by these decisions now, but it is very difficult for them to protest against something they have very little information about and that is so abstract. Things like these get dealt with usually when it's too late. It's eleventh hour now, but dealing with it NOW could actually save money and change the direction for the better. We should demand the district talk with the public about options, have an IMPARTIAL entity (or competing entities) run some actual numbers on the costs, and bring up the potential academic and social consequences of the options.
7) The optimal situation for a district facing such overcrowded schools and increasing enrollment is having a decommissioned school site to bring on line, which we have. We have approved a bond that could pay for renovation and is written to include that possibility. The city is willing to sell the land it's using back to the district now cheap (NOW is the time to get that land back, it should never have been sold in the first place). We could have done something advantageous with Foothill if we'd had some leadership. (I don't want to hear anymore vague and sweeping arguments -- lets have some real discussion now with real numbers and facts!)
8) There is a shallow fault running directly under Gunn High School. The combination of hubris and uncertainty that I see in this construction will almost certainly be a safety issue sometime in the future. Just as with the school size, this is an issue that should be openly discussed with the public, and should have been from the start.