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Counseling, Paly gym on school board agenda tonight

Original post made on Mar 19, 2013

One of the sharpest critics of the guidance counseling program at Gunn High School says she is "cautiously optimistic" that the school is now on track toward a counseling model she would find acceptable.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 9:48 AM

Comments (23)

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Posted by one for all
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Web Link

Proposal 2 is: "Expand Titan 101 structure to cover all 4 years of high school. Small group of students assigned to one staff member who would meet in a non-academic setting at regular/frequent intervals. This group would be consistent (adult/student pairing) from 9th through 12th grade" and had 80% parental support.

Proposal 4 is: "Guidance Model – Counselors in the Lead " and had 100% teacher support.

They couldn't get consensus so came up with "40 recommendations for counseling reforms".


The objections to #2 were:
a) more substantive change to the Master schedule
b) it is not a natural step from the current system
c) existing structures will be disrupted
d) will add more students to teacher loads (potentially from 150 to 180)
e) will fulfill a need in grades 9 and 10 (Titan 101 & 102), but does not address the needs of grades 11 and 12, which need more time with counselors and college prep.
f) Is there is enough staff to do this?? 21 current Titan 101 coaches. This would be a huge shift and change


Come on board, take a stand here. There isn't really anything in the objections that can't be worked through with the teachers and it's what the parents want.


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Posted by See around corners
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm

No PR officer needed to see around corners (in the words of Dr. Skelly) to see this one coming. The board wouldn't give Gunn parents what they wanted so they sent them to "work it out" with the site. 2 years later the parents still want what Paly has and the teachers are still against it. Who is in charge? The teachers or the parents and taxpayers? At some point the board has to take control and stop letting the Gunn admins call all the shots. How is this fair? We played by the rules and did your committee and they STILL won't do it. Please board give Gunn kids what Paly kids get. And I am not in WCDB but I did vote for Ken.


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Posted by We Can Do Better
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Hi All:

We have made a comparison table that shows which of the Guidance Advisory Committee (GAC) 40 recommendations are in the Gunn Year One Plan. As you will see only 8 of the 40 recommendations are even suggested to be adopted. Most of those are only just in the very beginning stages of development and won't be completed by the end of 2013-14. You can access it here: Web Link

The Board's focused goal for 2012-13 was for Gunn to produce a plan for comparable services to be delivered in 2013-14. Obviously we are a long ways from that. What is unfortunate is that we don't have a plan for that ever -- it's not a question of a multi-year plan. There is no multi-year plan. A multi-year plan for comparability would be great. That's not what this is.

Please note that the Gunn administration has not made any commitment beyond this plan. If the Gunn administration were to produce a plan for all 40 of these recommendations to be implemented on a 2-year timetable with assessment and metrics that would establish comparability, that would be a great start toward the goal of implementing the 40 recommendations. However, at this point the school administration has made no commitments whatsoever beyond what is in its board packet for "Year One."

Thank you for looking at the data.


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Posted by Who's in charge
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm

@See around corners - the parents are not in charge, nor the taxpayers. Funny how some people think that is the case. The board is in charge, and they should do what they view as in the best interest of the students. Listening to the input and advice from the teachers and administrators seems like a sensible part of that assessment.


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Posted by Terman dad
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 19, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Why would the Board decide that what's in the interst of Gunn kids is less than what is in the interest of Paly kids? Unless the Board members' kids go to Paly that is...


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Posted by one for all
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm

@Who's in charge,
I agree the board is in charge. The problem is that you have 80% of the parents at Gunn wanting Option #2. It's not even close.
Look at the objections. The teachers aren't rejecting this based on whether it wasn't good for the kids, they're rejecting it based on teacher load. This is what the board's there for - to bridge this divide.

I also didn't vote for Ken or WCDBPA. One major strength the current board members do have is that they do listen and are willing to change their minds. These attributes are sadly lacking with WCDBPA, which makes them totally unsatisfactory candidates for the board as has been shown the last two elections.
The Gunn parents made a clear choice. Hopefully the board is willing to do what is necessary to make it happen.


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Posted by interested parent
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I have not been a support of WCDB, but the Board's lack of action is driving me in that direction. I hope the Board takes strong action and gives a strong message tonight - an action plan with a short timetable.


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm

@one for all: On one hand, you seem to support the parents on the GAC. On the other hand, you trash WCDBPA for not being "willing to listen and ... willing to change their minds."

Yet, at the top of the article it says the GAC parent quoted is "One of the sharpest critics of the guidance counseling program at Gunn High School" and a member of WCDBPA. The GAC operated by consensus and from everything I've heard Amy was one of the most respected people on the committee. This completely undercuts your WCDBPA-bashing. Maybe that's a sign you are wrong about the members of WCDBPA.Unless you are one of those people who isn't "willing to listen and ... willing to change their minds."

Oh, and by the way, there was only one election with a WCDBPA candidate - the last one. In the previous election WCDBPA did not yet exist and two current board members ran unopposed. I understand that facts can be inconvenient when they don't agree with your opinion. But still, that's an easy one to verify.


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Posted by one for all
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm

No, the WCDBPA member on GAC didn't listen or change her mind. It was set going in and didn't change. If she didn't vote for option#2, I'd agree with you. However it actually proves my point.
In the end it isn't her opinion that matters, it is that 80% of the parents want it.

And there have been WCDBPA candidates in the last two elections that have happened. Wynn Hauser ran in the previous election. He went after Camille and lost - sort of a pattern here.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I did vote for Ken Dauber, and on this issue among others. Gunn students deserve the same quality of counseling as Paly students. We pay the same taxes as Paly parents. Our kids should get the same standard of services.


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Posted by All for one
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 19, 2013 at 4:56 pm

One for all I agree that it's time for the gunn community to get equal treatment. I know Amy and you are wrong. She's a lovely person who cares about kids and listens. Ken Dauber and Wynn Hausser are also wonderful caring people. I don't care much for Camille as a board member but she seems like a nice person and there is no need to go to personal attacks on Amy Wynn Ken or anyone else. I'm glad we agree about giving Gunn a fair shake now though. :)


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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The problem is that the one-size-fits-all, top-down-decision making by a pressure group--or even the Board--is not the best way to go. It makes perfect sense to make some small steps at Gunn--an outstanding high school, by the way--and see how they work out.

Oh, and by the way: Those Gunn teachers--who supposedly are only concerned with teacher load--are the ones who work with your students in class and outside of class, and spend evening after evening doing the preparation that make their classes and students so outstanding. They, like Paly teachers, deserve respect for what they do.

I never worked in the Palo Alto Unified School District, although my kids graduated from Paly and seem to be doing pretty well. But I've seen so-called quick fixes by parental pressure groups, and top-down decision making by board members who thought they were more qualified than they actually were. Oh yes, and suits against districts by parents with highly-paid lawyers. Not a pretty sight, in any way.

It would be great if we could let our Board, administration, and teachers do their job and work their way to the best possible outcome.


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Posted by All for one
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Retired Teacher -- [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] Pardon my saying so but why do you feel it's appropriate for you to speak so condescendingly to Gunn parents? We want what your kids got at Paly. Totally reasonable. And it's not what WCDB thinks. It's what the districts own multistakeholder staff dominated GAC unanimously recommended. Thats what we want. You have a lot of advice for Gunn parents without having educated yourself in the least.


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Posted by GAC observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm

A handful of parents submitted an application to be considered for membership on the Gunn Advisory Committee. Of the 6 parents selected 2 were pro-TA WCDB members and, from what I heard, another 2 or 3 were pro-TA from the start too. It was hardly a balanced parent group.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by GAC member
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm

That is totally false. The district selected a diverse group of parents. Only one was a WCDB member, Amy Balsom. No others. Speaking as a staff member Amy was a real pleasure to work with. I don't know who you are observer but you have no idea what you are talking about. The entire group worked very well together!


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Posted by palo altan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 6:28 pm

@Who's in charge,
You wrote, "the parents are not in charge, nor the taxpayers. Funny how some people think that is the case. The board is in charge, and they should do what they view as in the best interest of the students. Listening to the input and advice from the teachers and administrators seems like a sensible part of that assessment."

You seem to think that what they parents and taxpayers want for their kids education is beside the point. Administrators in a district work for the families of the district.

Governance of schools is set up in this state so that school districts are almost entirely autonomous governmental bodies, for the purpose of local control. Control by the local people, not for the purposes of local bureaucrats. Control by local families because it's presumed they know best about what their children need than anyone else. Capiche?

Even the National School Board Association, the national cheerleaders for school boards, says things like, "The school board represents the public's voice in public education providing citizen governance for what the public schools need and WHAT THE COMMUNITY WANTS [emphasis mine]." and "Your school board is accessible to you" and "School boards are accountable to the total community." This Illinois District expresses it well:
Web Link
"What a School Board is
... the basic function of school boards today remains the same: to provide local citizen control over education at a point as close to the parent and child as possible. This means that the school board should represent the citizens of the school district "

The school board is vested with power in order to represent the citizens of the district, not so that they can do WTHTW.

But you would be right in your sentiment that the rules are imperfectly set up so that, despite the purpose of school boards to vest the power to run schools with the local citizenry, actual control often ends up in the hands of a few insular bureaucrats who are essentially autonomous from above AND below.


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Posted by anecdote Annie
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 19, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Why in the world can't Gunn and Paly be equal? This is so wrong...they are in the same district, after all.


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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:03 pm

All for One: You accuse me of speaking condescendingly to Gunn parents. I have the greatest respect for parents--and the involved parents were the ones whose students did best in every school in which I worked. No, All for One, it's the pressure groups I'm not so fond of. The ones who hammer on the administration and teachers wanting to get their way when they can't win school board elections. WCDBPA claims to represent the parents--but before they lost the last election, they claimed to represent the voters as well.

All I ask for, All for One, is respect for an administration and teachers who are trying to make things work for the best at Gunn.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by All for Gunn
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Sorry for stealing your name AFO. Retired teacher 16000 is a lot of voters and parents. Wynn Hausser lost by fewer than 200. They didn't win but they aren't marginal. There is a very large constituency for the WCDB goals. Lastly, your last sentence is still condescending.


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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2013 at 9:16 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
They're two different schools, with two different cultures. This one size fits all, parent-pressure group mentality seems characteristic of WCDBPA. How about giving the school time to explore how to make things work at Gunn? How about respecting the work teachers and administrators do, instead of assuming that they're dragging their feet because of "teacher load?"

Gunn and Paly-two great schools! Two different great schools! Let's value them as they are, not try to put one into the other's mold.


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Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm

I'm a recent Paly grad (now in college) and I am not convinced at all that the TA system at Paly is superior to the traditional college counselor system employed by Gunn and most high schools.

The quality of TAs varies tremendously and most TAs, with the exception of two or three, were downright terrible. TAs don't get to know their students well since TA sessions are infrequent and simply involve TAs reading off a couple announcements. Very few TAs are actually familiar with the demands of the college admission process — we received little advice about teacher letters of recs and how to approach the common app essays — and most do not understand the importance of letters of recommendation: one page of boilerplate with one or two anecdotes is no going to cut it when students at other schools are receiving 2 page, personal letters.

When Gunn has far more students getting into top schools than Paly (even though the two have nearly identical average test scores), I find it difficult to believe that the TA system is working. In fact, the year I was applying to college Paly's scores were better than Gunn's and our top students just as or even better qualified. But only a handful got into Stanford (as opposed to 25+). The same applied to almost any other top school.


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Posted by proud to be part of Palo Alto
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 19, 2013 at 10:53 pm


BEST BOARD MEETING EVER!!!

I am STOKED. I loved the positive collaborative effort of the GAC committee between parents, students, teachers, and staff. The excitement and momentum they presented tonight was awesome. What a role model for our kids to see. This is exactly what gives me hope in the American way. And this momentum carried on through to the Gunn leadership team that created the first draft of an action plan for the first year. Everyone seemed optimistic about Gunn's counseling future. Goes to show you what positive team effort can produce.

Made me realize that comparable services may not be the way to go. So if Gunn continues on this track they may very well exceed the counseling services offered by Paly. Then will Paly have to catch up or does Gunn have to hold back to make it comparable. Gunn recognized there was room for improvements and went after it. Already noticeable in Gunn's thorough Counseling website and the new counseling email that explains exactly what's happening weekly in the counseling world at Gunn.

What to go GUNN!!


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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

My daughter had a terrible experience with the TA program at Paly. Without the support of Susan Shultz, and other caring teachers, she would not have survived Paly.


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