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Longtime teacher, administrator named Terman principal

Original post made on Jul 30, 2013

A longtime Palo Alto teacher and middle-school administrator was named Tuesday as principal of Terman Middle School. Pier Angeli LaPlace, who has taught in Palo Alto for more than 20 years, replaces Katherine Baker, who has moved to the district office

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 4:06 PM

Comments (27)

Posted by Seems weird, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Pier is a nice person, so no disrespect to her. Odd that we have two inside picks, though. Are we attracting sufficiently-talented outside candidates? Do these moves take Kevin Skelly and Charles Young off the hot-seat? A year ago we had the Weekly printing Katherine Baker's photo as one of PAUSD's stars, then we found out that her leadership wasn't as "sophisticated" as we were led to believe. What is being published in the back to school issue of the Weekly? Will there be new stars or is the new $150,000 PR person going to play it low key, hoping that issues dissolve away? Notice that Pier or the new Paly principal are part of the same regime. They are no change agents because the board has behaved as if no change was ever needed.


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2013 at 4:50 am

Correction, La Place was not the one who came out with the idea of Phanter Camp. It was the former male principal, and the idea came from parents who attended the site council.The principal took the idea from the parents and put it to work. It is not ok, to take credit someone someone else's work. I think this is called plagiarism. Back then she was a teacher, and she and I attended the council meetings. Hope she has enough education about bullying prevention and is not so sophisticated" or she might have a promotion to superintendent.That is the way things work at PAUSD


Posted by termanparent, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jul 31, 2013 at 9:24 am

As a Terman parent, I'm interested in learning more about Ms. La Place from other JLS parents.
If you can share your perspective on her performance in her various roles at JSL, I'm sure I'm not the only person who would like to read your comments.


Posted by Former JLS Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 31, 2013 at 9:30 am

I have had 2 kids with Ms La Place in 6th grade. She was always very pleasant with parents but we found her a very demanding teacher with lots of homework compared to other 6th grade teachers. I don't think she was popular with the kids, but apart from the homework issue, no specific problems.

You could try looking at RateMyTeacher online.


Posted by other ex JLS parent, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 31, 2013 at 10:55 am

My son had her in 6th grade at JLS. He and we really liked her. We don't remember having too much homework. She was great with the kids. She handled them all fairly and equally. My (Caucasian and not special ed) son had been bullied before 6th grade, she knew it and she made sure everything was fine for him in 6th grade.


Posted by Pseudonymonous, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 31, 2013 at 11:32 am

Fortunately, my kids are through middle school.

One of my children had her as an instructor in sixth grade, before she was elevated to assistant principal. We found her not very understanding, and that she relied heavily on peer review to avoid grading herself.

When she did grade, she cared more about formatting and font choice than actual content. When I started helping my child with formatting, her grade went up considerably. That isn't what I am looking for in a teacher.

I have no exposure to her as an administrator--thank goodness! But maybe she is better at that.

Very disappointing pick. Glad I don't have to deal with it.


Posted by Sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2013 at 11:59 am

@seems weird

Perhaps she's the best pick, even if they did a national search.

However, I can't imagine any dynamic, experienced person from the outside would apply for any senior administrative position within PAUSD. Anyone with any interest in preserving their integrity is well aware that PAUSD has a toxic reputation. Doesn't matter if the reputation is true or earned, the result is the same. One quick search on google and the amount of crap that comes up would scare any sane person away.


Posted by Sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm

ooops - I meant - it doesn't matter if the reputation is earned or not accurate,


Posted by other ex JLS parent, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by JLS Mom, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm

My interactions with Ms. La Place at JLS have been quite good. She is a capable administrator.

In response to criticisms above, the article says she "developed" the Panther Camp program. It does not say it was her idea. In fact, she did develop it, engaging the support of many parents, students and staff. I don't think anyone is giving her undue credit. Good leaders build teams and make sure good ideas are implemented well.

Congratulations to Ms. La Place and Terman. Best wishes, all.


Posted by Mary, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:47 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Paul, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:56 pm

[Portion removed.] I agree with the previous comments about who from the outside would want to work in the toxic environment that is PAUSD. The helicopter and Tiger moms would drive anyone out of this district like Debra Lindo and Mike Milliken. Only an "insider" could weather the rough waters of the bad ship PAUSD. Ms. LaPlace is a veteran and SURVIVOR of this ugly system. She knows the PAUSD "game" and neurotic parental units and their damaged kids. PAUSD is no longer the "lighthouse" district, but the OUTHOUSE district. No sane person rushes into a burning house.


Posted by JLS Mom, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:49 pm

[Portion removed.] Let's all take a deep breath now and try to be factual and civil.


Posted by Right back at you, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2013 at 3:56 pm

[Portion removed.]

As for vitriol and our parent community, Palo Alto is not as special as some think. That would be arrogant. Vitriol, real or imagined in one's head, is present in all communities. PAUSD has separated itself from the pack with its suicides and civil rights issues in the past four years. Talented administrators from outside the district know this and they will suspect that we do not have our stuff together.


Posted by Jordan PTA Parent , a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 31, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Re Paul's comment, Michael Milliken left because he had the opportunity to be Superintendent in Belmont, which must be a big pay hike. But I agree, there are a lot of opinionated parents to deal with in PAUSD. I wish people would be more civil to our administration. People expect too much from our schools here and expect the schools to parent their children. I have been pleased with PAUSD. I think the majority of parents appreciated PAUSD and it's a minority who post on this forum who love to criticize.


Posted by Parent , a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm

My son had Pier Angeli La Place at JLS and it was a not a pleasant experience for our family.
Due to his ADHD, my son had a 504 plan. Pier Angeli La Place was very reticent to implement any of the accommodations provided in the 504 plan. She also did not seem interested in helping us find other ways to accommodate our son's particular learning style. We definitely experienced her lack of understanding and engagement towards those students which did not fit the mold of the compliant and docile student.
I too am disappointed that our school district chose to appoint Pier Angeli La Place as Principal of Terman Middle School.


Posted by Jordan PTA Parent, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 31, 2013 at 4:26 pm

How can a teacher have time to treat a child who has extremely different learning capabilities when there are 25-30 other students to teach? Is it fair to slow down the entire class to help one child whose parents should help him through tutors or medication? I have a child with a learning disorder and mild ADD and we help at home and pay for all the tutoring necessary so the child can keep up with the courses. We don't expect special treatment from the teacher during class. The child sees the teachers after school if help is needed.

But I agree, the teachers who use peer grading are simply lazy. How can a 6th grade student who is learning to write grade another's paper? One teacher even asked parents to grade their children's essays.


Posted by Big Al, a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2013 at 4:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by ex JLS parent, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I agree with Sara's statement above. I will add that the "toxic reputation" of the district cannot be blamed just on how its staff runs the district. Yes, parents are part of the equation.


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm

She definitely did not like dealing with children and parents under IEP. She discriminated against them and kick parents out on Back to School Night when they asked questions. She had a temper.I am glad our kid is out of JLS. Sorry for special ed. kids at Terman. Especially minority students.


Posted by Really?, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 31, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Kind of hard to swallow the news that she has been named principal of Terman. There MUST be better candidates out there for the job.


Posted by JLS parent , a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 1, 2013 at 4:43 am

Our experience with 504 s at JLS has also been extremely negative, but it was worse from the district office, so I think the teaching staff takes their direction from above.

Having volunteered extensively in our schools, I would have to disagree with the above posters criticism of parents. I find parents are a strength of this district and unusually intelligent, caring people compared to other districts I have known. There is a high regard for learning and teaching staff, in my experience. I think PAUSD is better for the parents. I can see there are a few bad apples, but they are the exception esp for such a wealthy district, I'm actually pretty happy with how wonderful a parent population this is. I find the criticism of parents through ugly stereotypes and sweeping generalizations is usually a power play, but that's another subject.


Posted by Apples, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 1, 2013 at 7:29 am

The post above is correct. Most PAUSD parents are great. However, the "challenging" parents are beyond torturous. A guess would be 10-15% of PA parents fit into this category. Rarely are they your volunteers although they can be.

They are worse than you could ever imagine.


Posted by member, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:31 am

What does "attended" Stanford University mean? Why put that piece of information in a news article? If you don't have a degree from the University then that information isn't relevant, sounds like resume padding.


Posted by Past JLS Parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 1, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I am a past active parent from JLS and I think that this is a very good choice for Terman. Ms. LaPlace is a very bright lady and has a lot of experience with Middle Schools in Palo Alto. I do not think that the high paid PR person did her any service by the memo about her appointment. It is not necessary to cleverly word it so it looks like she invented programs or went to schools she did not. It makes her look less than who she is and that is not the case. She was an excellent teacher and hard working administrator. She was part of the initial development of the Panther Camp program with the other 6th grade teachers and at the request of the site council and co-lead it for several years and more recently had administrative oversight. She also has very successfully administered the Exit Interviews for 8th graders for the last two years that was started several years ago at JLS. She would never take credit for the invention of either program.
She has a BA and Masters from good schools and has attended programs at other institutions to continue her professional development. That is strong enough and does not need any additional clever phrasing.
Ms. LaPlace is very sensitive to bullying issues and minority issues and has a long history for standing strong for those less fortunate.
[Portion removed.]


Posted by Pseudonymonous, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 1, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Past JLS Parent,

Enough JLS parents have spoken about their poor experiences with LaPlace that we can conclude that her record is mixed at best.

If my kids were at Terman and were anything but down-the-line straight arrows with no need for anything other than peer reviews for feedback, I would be looking for a new school. Especially if my kids had IEPs.

Her style might work for some kids I guess. But you should run away if hers doesn't work for you, because she isn't going to work with you. At least she didn't with my family.


Posted by Observer, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm

@ Past JLS Parent
I also read this as a PR piece which made me distrust the statements attributed to Ms. La Place. Thanks for sharing your experience. Your credibility gives me hope that Ms. La Place will do a good job.


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