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School district, higher education turned upside-down

Original post made on Dec 27, 2013

While Palo Alto residents took issue with the city over development and traffic problems, other disruptive forces turned local educational institutions on their heads this year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 27, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments (81)

Posted by the truth is out there, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 27, 2013 at 9:06 am

"Though the agency did not specify what prompted its investigation, "
Perhaps time for the PPR happy Weekly to apply this to OCR? No? Thought not.


Posted by Worst ever, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I've typed it so many times: this board, [portion removed] and these administrators, [portion removed] are collectively the worse employees this district has had in over three decades. Our children have succeeded academically in spite of these people. The last of you defenders out there, where have you been in 2013? I haven't heard from you since the November 2012 election. I dare you to defend this board and this leadership. If not for the Weekly, they would have gotten away with this.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm

When are you going to announce your intention to run for the board?


Posted by the truth is out there, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm

@Worst Ever - it is funny how the things that go wrong are laid at the feet of the Board, senior staff, and even teachers, while everything that goes right is "despite them." Leadership usually deserves both the credit and the blame, and overall, things go pretty well with Palo Alto schools.

And I agree with CP Dad - I would love to see more candidates for school board. The truth is that the lack of candidates comes in part from the castigating comments in forums like this (not to mention emails that go direct to the Trustees overloaded inboxes). It is a tough sell when the reward for your near full-time volunteer job is the derision of some of your vocal neighbors.


Posted by Thankful Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Thanks Palo Alto Weekly for not forgeting the OCR case, which is what school district wants to do, forget about it and move on, just like they did when the disabled girl came to the board meeting to ask them for help to stop the bullying she was being subjected to everyday she attended Terman, but Skelly and board member dis what former Terman Middle School Principal did when she and her parents went to ask her for help, what she did" you might asked "NOTHING", they were expecting the parents to get tired and go away as most people end up doing, but since this family was persistance and found no other way for them to take the issue seriously but making it public. At the end of the day is all about our kids, they are the future of our world and the time and $ we spend on them helping them thrive will be worth it because they will be the next generation, if they make it to the future. Unfortunatelly, many of our students did not make it, and even if we did not heard exactly from they why, Why did they decided to ent their lives, I know have a pretty good idea why. I wish it was not true, but knowing what it goes on inside our schools I have no doubt that our inept school district system failed them too, just like they failed the disabled girl in the Terman case. Except that this little girl was able to let her parents know the pain and humulliation she was going through every day she put her foot at PAUSD schools. At the end of the day that is what saved her: You the community who stood up for her, and our incredible local newspaper. To them Thanks for believing this family and this little disabled girl. Have a good night those who still have their children by their side. Attresure those moments as much as you can, because in Palo Alto you never knos what is coming into our lives next. Let's pray together to save our children. Amen.


Posted by Wahbulance, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Oh, poor administrators! It is so tough to be blamed when they screw up. And those saintly board members! All those volunteer hours and they still can't publish the same bullying policy that every other district has. Cry me a river, folks, but this woe-is-me excuse was old a long time ago, just like the tired excuse that there are not enough candidates running in the board election. Let's say that's true, it still does not forgive the horrid performance by the board in the past few years. They are simply awful. Period. Try some new apologies.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

I offer no apologies. But the fact is that the BoE rarely has an election where there are more candidates than slots available. You can complain all you want about how bad the group performs...but the reality is that no one better (at least that would meet your expectations) is volunteering to run or has positioned him/herself as a viable candidate.

It would be wonderful if some of the people who are hyper critical of the BoE could step up and get elected. Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. So easy to complain. Much harder to get your hands dirty and do the hard work to affect positive change.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Dec 28, 2013 at 9:31 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

I agree with CPD up to a point.

I would like to se critics of the council and school board run for elective office to see if their views in the midst of a tough election have as much support as folks on TS.claim.

Complaining is at no cost.

In past elections for school and city, there are few candidates
as CPD explains and no victories or even close races for complainers.

It will be interesting to see if candidates step up in 2014 to run a throw the bums out campaign and then actually make in public with their name attached the complaints that are easy to throw out anonymously.


Posted by parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

I disagree slightly with Stephen Levy. In the case of the school board, there have been exceptions. While it is true that mostly those who run and who are elected are PTAC and PIE officers who praise the district and toe the party line, that is not always the case. In 2007, Wynne Hausser was barely edged out by Camille Townsend -- the margin was less than 200 votes. He was critical of the district's support for struggling students and minority students. Then, of course, in 2012, Ken Dauber did lose. But two of his opponents were incumbents (including third-termer Camille Townsend). He lost to Heidi Emberling, the other challenger, by less than 2% of the votes cast (17,000 to 16,000 votes).

Put another way, over 16,000 people cast a vote for a candidate who was critical of the district's lack of transparency, lack of public involvement across the broad spectrum of the school population, and its policies on civil rights and support for struggling students. In retrospect, given the events of the past year with multiple civil rights investigations from the state and federal government (and another new one reported in the Post this week) with little or no public discussion, Dauber looks fairly prescient about the need for transparency. Is it interesting to note that the information regarding the OCR imbroglio was withheld from the public until one month after the election.

Would that have mattered? Maybe not. There is a deep instinct in school politics to paint the pig with lipstick, praise the schools, and move along. There is a lot of money riding on the idea that we have great schools and not a lot of willingness to confront the dust bunnies under the bed. However, if ever there has been a time in PAUSD history when a person who was willing to do so could be elected, I think the upcoming election is probably that time.

Hausser, and then even moreso Dauber, showed that a candidate who is honest and straightforward about criticism can get very close -- within striking distance. Many people are willing to hear concerns now where they weren't before. Whether that last big of the gap can be closed will be an interesting question to be answered in November.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Dec 28, 2013 at 10:09 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks Parent. I had forgotten that example. Was Hausser
as virulent in the name calling as many posters?


Posted by Yessiree, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2013 at 10:10 am

I fully agree with parent. Going one step further, I have met several people in the last year who have regretted Ken Dauber's loss and Heidi Emberling's win. [Portion removed.]

Funny how history repeats itself--in 2008, people regretted voting for Camille and regretted Hausser's loss.

True, it is a rather thankless job, but any job in public service is that way. People should know that going into it, and many people who go into any service -type profession, be it teaching, nursing, or BOE are often very giving people.

However, the last two BOEs and the last five City Councils seem to be an exception. We do not ask enough of our public servants and our leaders, and the majority of them seem to be in it for self-serving gain, either to see their will be done or their heavily invested project be done.

Take back Palo Alto: research the candidates well. Once elected, if they fail to perform as required, if they wantonly break laws, recall them, but do not just sit back and watch them bow to the corrupt and become the corrupt.


Posted by Yessiree, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 28, 2013 at 10:12 am

Whoops! That s/b VOTING, not vomiting. Spell checkers suck.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Dec 28, 2013 at 10:16 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@yessiree

Before I flag it did you really mean vomiting or did spell check turn voting into vomiting?

And do you mean corrupt, which is a criminal charge, or something else?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2013 at 10:27 am

I have said this before and it is an important point. We can only have a school board made up of people willing to run. In the last election, Camille Townsend changed her mind and decided to run and did us all a favor as otherwise there would have been no election. I for one am pleased she ran as at least that meant we had a choice.

I went for Heidi and Dauber basically for a change of faces and was really surprised to see Camille win. I don't think she had followers outside her true supporters, just that Dauber managed to make enemies during the election.

The point I want to make is that the BoE is made up of willing people, probably with lots of PTA experience, and they are all nice people. For that alone we should appreciate what they do. However, nice people are not necessarily the best ones for the job. Neither should they all be carbon copies of each other.

I would like to see some candidates who want to shake the status quo. I would like to see some candidates who are movers and shakers. I would like to see some diversity of opinions, some who are willing to be disliked, some who I don't agree with all the time. I would just like to see some big changes with people who know what they are talking about rather than just pussyfooting to get elected.

Do we know anybody like that?


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm

> and they are all nice people.

With a budget pushing $200M, and hundreds of millions in bonds outstanding--"nice" is not really a very important talent to bring to the table. It's time people in this town recognize that, and begin to consider "competent" before "nice" when voting for school board/and local government representatives.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm

The annual citizen survey shows high levels of satisfaction with Palo Alto, including educational opportunities (here's the link to the 2011 survey: Web Link). Election results, which tend to go for incumbents and familiar names, and not so much critics, also suggests that most are generally happy with what they have.

Critics are welcome, of course, and necessary, and contested elections are far better, even if they simply confirm the status quo. But critics who take the line that things are broadly or sinisterly wrong with our public institutions and leaders are swimming upstream as far as most voters go. A constructive approach, acknowledging strengths while identifying areas of improvement, may be more effective.


Posted by Worst ever, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Thank you so much for your assertions. I'm sure they are useful in denial-land. Or in Skelly-land, where every complaint of civil rights violations, or the physical violations of children alleged at Paly, is talked away with cheer leading and survey results from a time in which the wool was still covering our eyes.


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm

As many others have brought up - we can only elect people that run. Being on the BOE is basically a volunteer job with lots of hours, lots of stress and lots of criticism. Its a pretty thankless job that requires being passionate about the students in PAUSD.

Perhaps if we were less hypercritical and sometimes nasty in our criticism, we would have a wider variety of people willing to run for office, both on the school board and for City positions.


Posted by parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 28, 2013 at 3:46 pm

@stephen levy

No one who has run for school board, including Dauber or Hausser was a "virulent name caller." Dauber was a serious, thoughtful, smart, experienced manager. Both Dauber and Hausser said, correctly, that the district lacked transparency and was headed for problems as a result. And voila. Putting forth criticism is not "virulent name calling." Treating people who are willing to put themselves forward and run an honest campaign, on the issues, as if they are "name callers" is a big part of what is wrong. So please, be part of the solution not part of the problem.

I do agree that calling members of the council who supported measure D "corrupt" was ridiculous and is name calling.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Dec 28, 2013 at 5:03 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@parent

Thanks for the posts. I voted for Dauber. I asked about Hausser only because I did not remember that race.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 6:43 pm

BTW, it is Hauser (one "s")...a friend of mine.

I would say that neither Dauber or Hauser were "name callers". However, IMHO, Mr. Dauber's public perception problems (whether you agree or not) seem to be:
combative, emotional, accusatory, disruptive, etc. And his wife's behavior, both oral and written, has had a negative impact upon him by obvious association.

Wynn is much more professional in his interactions, though sometimes emotional, but knows how to work within the system (former humans relations committee).


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I thought Dauber was a good candidate with a contribution to make, and seemed to moderate his positions somewhat as the campaign went on. But he started, simply, by saying the Board wasn't doing its job and that the superintendent should be fired, in a Feb 2011 op-ed piece (Web Link). While obviously those are fair opinions to have, it contributed to the us vs. them dynamic we've had for the last couple of years and that you still see today on this thread. To his credit, he put his money where his mouth was, ran and ran hard, contributed constructively (mostly), and lost graciously. But it was hard, partly because of his initial public comments, to shake the impression that he thought his opponents were mere defenders of the status quo while he was both smarter and cared more about students. As I said, that oppositional approach can be a tough sell to the voters.

I agree, his spouse definitely can make people tense. As Mr. Dauber became more engaged in the public debate, though, I thought he did a good job of not doing the same (and we heard less from Mrs. Dauber).


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I think that these are both completely fair comments as they concern me. The only thing I would say in response is that I very much regret the fact that I have become emotional on these subjects in the past. The issue of suicide is a very emotional one for me for obvious reasons (having lost a child to suicide myself), and I have learned that I can't really advocate on that subject very effectively and stepped back from that effort so that Ken and others could be more effective. Hopefully people can understand that. Even more, I regret that the fact that people might hold whatever I have said against Ken. Ken is not "combative, emotional, accusatory, disruptive." He has never been any of these things and I would like to respectfully suggest that there isn't any evidence of that. He is calm, focused, mature, and centered. He cares very much about educational issues and is in fact a very good collaborator with others, including those with whom he disagrees. I hope that people will try to judge him on his own merits, which are plentiful.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I appreciate your response. Thanks.


Posted by Wahbulance, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2013 at 10:50 pm

The superintendent should have been fired in February 2011, I don't agree with the assertion that Dauber had an oppositional approach, and I cannot figure out why someone would fixate on his wife. As for the board, we've got five members who do not know what to do and huddle together in 5-0 votes on things they clearly don't understand. The addition of Heidi Emberling (I voted for her!) made things worse. She does nothing and says nothing of significance. We're stuck with her and we're stuck with the current board, so it doesn't matter if new candidates pop up or not. What matters is that the board doesn't act as bystanders while PAUSD suffers through a years-long investigation from the OCR, a years-long ordeal to make a copy of a bullying policy, and a culture of secrecy, if not deceit. Lawsuits and payouts did not need to happen. The board should have taken care of this Skelly governance issue at contract extension time in June 2012, but it was a 5-0 vote not to. Stop blaming anonymous Town Square critics, the Weekly, and victimized students and parents who have had to file complaints for the shortcomings of Skelly and the board.


Posted by Educator, a resident of Woodside
on Dec 29, 2013 at 7:44 am

Educator is a registered user.

* The Board of Education itself was largely unaware of the scope of the investigation and resolution agreement, having been told by Superintendent Kevin Skelly in December 2012 in such a perfunctory manner that the board didn't even discuss the report. *

The withholding of essential information from the Board is grounds for immediate termination, for cause, of the Superintendent, and brings into question what else has been shielded from the Board. Time to act, board members. The Sup't works for you! There should be no second chances for a manipulative Superintendent.


Posted by Overdue, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Dec 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm

The superintendent is nearly three years overdue for termination. He has committed several offenses which qualify for termination, and yet he is still here.

Presumably, there are more offenses that Skelly has committed that the public does. to know about. Apparently the BOE has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear, otherwise why was he given raises, bonuses, and a contract extension? [Portion removed.]


Posted by A Parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm

The problems in our district are complex and difficult to sort out. It was painful to watch all of this unfold. I do appreciate the continued involvement and efforts by many people to try and improve the situation, but given the personal nature of so many of the comments and interactions, how is anyone to differentiate who is right, and whom to support? Winning an argument is not the same as winning the influence necessary to effect positive change. Leadership is needed so badly here, the kind that does not get distracted by one upping and attacking the opponents, but keeps the focus on the long game, improving the lives and experiences of all the students in this district.


Posted by Barbara Slone, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 30, 2013 at 10:41 am

I would agree whole heartedly with Michele Dauber's comments regarding Ken's character, talents and style. I think that "Crescent Park Dad" in the following quote,

"I would say that neither Dauber or Hauser were "name callers". However, IMHO, Mr. Dauber's public perception problems (whether you agree or not) seem to be: combative, emotional, accusatory, disruptive, etc."

was attempting to say that the "public perception" of Ken (which by the way was created by many of his detractors as a means to try and defeat him in his campaign for School Board).

Ken, IMHO, is a hardworking man who is smart and has a heart. He has provided the district with much helpful data and has provided hope for families whose children may have fallen under the radar map.

I hope that Ken will consider running again for School Board.

I understand how Michele would be upset with the way that Ken was treated and would want to defend him. He is an honorable man with very good motives. I am not sure that this district deserves to have him on the Board. Time will tell in this case as to whether he is willing to line up for some of the abusive and nasty campaign tactics that happened during the last election. I would hope that we have some people of the calibre of Barbara Klausner and Wynn Hauser that will be willing to run. We need leadership and we need new administrators that are willing to support all of our students.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 30, 2013 at 10:51 am

"Time will tell in this case as to whether he is willing to line up for some of the abusive and nasty campaign tactics that happened during the last election"

Just about all the candidates (and sitting board members and senior staff) have terrible things said and written about them - you can see it in this very thread. Some people seem to think that saying nasty things about opponents is ok, but not the sainted folks that they support. The truth is that we all suffer when discourse turns into personal attacks.

Mr. Dauber is a good person. So are the all current school board members, and the senior staff. They are all good people, doing what they think is right and best for the district. While you may not always agree with what they do, and may not even like them personally, this is a good starting place for debating the issues we face.


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2013 at 11:06 am

The issue with voting for Wynn or Ken was that they had recognized there was a problem for non-stellar students in PAUSD but had not thought through the solutions. And in Wynn's case, he was not willing to espouse his solutions. All anyone could ascertain from their campaigns was that they wanted to follow some advice from Stanford. That is not good enough because it is putting the fox in charge of the hen house, albeit a well-meaning and dedicated fox. Talking about the need for support for struggling students and claiming credibility on the issue by association with elite institutions or companies who hire ivy-equivalent only candidates is just a big contradiction. We have a manufacturing workforce which transitioning to a knowledge economy. These two intelligent guys still do not understand what PAUSD needs to do for the type of student who would have thrived in a preparatory environment for manufacturing. They are knowledge economy people themselves. Voters are not going to trust that they understand the type of learner who is struggling in the schools which are now gearing kids up for a knowledge economy. Ken and Wynn are really about taking kids who would be at risk in any environment or were underrepresented in the manufacturing economy and making sure they have good standing in the future. It is a different problem and a worthy one. But a few questions to either Wynn or Ken reveals that they think the two problems are identical. A cause for a "no" vote.


Posted by Stick to facts please, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

@voter You are mistaken that Dauber and HauUi bGsser were only focused on under performing students. That was a myth propogated by opposing campaigns by people who were not able to see that measures to reduce stress for all students did not equate to watering down our education system. Data shows that stress reduction increases academic performance. Here is a link to Dauber's campaign platform. Www.kendauber.com The number one item is academic achievement for all.
High achieving students who are now attending elite college campuses gave Mr.Dauber strong endorsements. All of the student publications at Gunn and Paly endorsed Mr. Dauber.
Since the election Mr.Dauber has continued to advocate for improvements in our education system and for transparency to effect better political solutions.
It's fine if you disagree with reducing stress and having transparent governance but please no more misrepresentation of Mr. Dauber's candidacy.


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2013 at 11:54 am

@ stick to facts please
I'm sorry to say that you did not understand my post very well. Could be that I needed to do a better job of explaining but I probably won't have time. However, your focus on high achieving students is another example of the focus that Ken and Wynn had. Also, I don't recall mentioning stress at all. But stress is a major component of a student's day when the educational system is focused on things that student does not do well. It fits in very well with my original point.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2013 at 11:57 am

Voter, you may have pointed to a couple of flaws in Ken and Wynn, but in no way did their opponents have better ideas. At least they both acknowledged the problem even if their solutions were weak. Having choices between those who acknowledge a problem and those that ignore anything meaningful when asked shows weakness on the electorate rather than the candidates.


Posted by nothingnew, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm

In the late eighties, I worked briefly as a Palo Alto teacher's aid in a special ed class. During my first week, I witnessed the teacher physically and verbally abuse several students. I flashed back to signing my employment papers when I mentioned I was signing a document that said I had received the documents regarding abuse, when in fact I had not. I was dismissed with, "No one ever wants them."

When I reported the abuse to the principal, she was reluctant to go forward. She sensed I would not back down, so she finally called the police. Later, a policeman told me that the teacher had broken down and listed various personal problems she was going through. Her new contract had just been signed. I never knew what happened to her as a teacher. I was dismissed.

It is my impression that most in Palo Alto want to maintain the image that their schools are worth the outrageous money people pay to live here. Keeping their heads in the sand is the modus operandi of those in charge.


Posted by Neighbor of Daubers, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 30, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Jeff Dauber was in special Ed, struggled at Gunn, didn't graduate , went to JC transferred to Berkeley, graduated and is now a successful auto mechanic in Palo Alto. The daughter who died was an artist who graduated from RISD. I think you are misinformed voter. Another daughter is a theater designer who went to Stanford. One is an elementary teacher . Only one of their kids, who goes to priory is a math genius. I know the family from Barron Park school where their son was the smartest kid in school and by the way they never made any trouble at all. Nice family terrible tragedy. Very generous with poorer members of the community.


Posted by Penny, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 30, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Weekly, please require people to post their real names so that they will be more responsible about what they say on this site.

If you are going to distribute these comments, you are responsible, at minimum, to check the content for ACCURACY. These threads are littered with misinformation that many read as truth.

The tone is generally terribly negative. Do you believe this is a useful contribution to productive problem-solving and civil public discourse? By allowing anonymity you are encouraging people to post polarized, angry diatribes. This sets a generally negative tone. It is replacing civil discussion, collaborative problem-solving, and compromise. The result? You are discouraging people who want a civil dialogue from participating. It doesn't move us toward agreements around thoughtful solutions.

Disappointing.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Time to dump Skelly and his appointees, in particular the Gunn admin staff. The Terman principal who dropped the ball with bullying on her campus got a promotion. The yearbook faculty advisor who allowed vulgar pictures and sayings into the Gunn yearbook got a promotion to instructional supervisor. If you screw up BIG in PAUSD, you get a raise and a promotion. Of course, if you are honest and outspoken, you get forced into retirement. You are treated like a leper and cast out of the district like a certain teacher at one of the PA high schools. Skelly can withhold key information from the school board and keep his job. His actions are unprofessional and dishonest. However, if a teacher tells the truth, they are forced into an administrative leave. They are called unprofessional. Just what is "professional" on the PAUSD plantation? Kevin has lowered the bar and speaks with forked tongue.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm

@nothingnew - who's head is kept in the sand? by who?


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm

If you've been around for awhile and seen this superintendent and Board of Education, you might likely share my opinion that new blood is desperately needed, and inclusion of more points of view and attention paid to a broader spectrum of children.
I think many people are too busy and therefore things slide by them. The Board meetings are AWFUL.
One of the worst things in my opinion, as a local taxpayer, was the outrageous hiring of a PR woman for this district. PAUSD has enormous sums of money to work with and should better steward these funds. Foreign language instruction, for one quick example, was very poor (taken as a whole in the district), while a special, limited Mandarin immersion program was instituted to cater to a minority who threatened the Board (with a charter school). I strongly feel a unified district should be operated to the benefit of the entire community. I feel there is a so-called, self-appointed "elite" sector who benefits from this district's actions.
We need people with backgrounds in Education and Accounting on the Board. I also am distressed by many of the statements and actions of this superintendent and the lavish salary and benefits given to him.


Posted by Unneeded, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Thank you, Neighbor of Dauber's, for setting the record straight....it is much appreciated.

Regarding mandarin immersion classes: more than 90% of Chinese who come here from China speak English. If you go to China, you will find that in the big cities, almost everyone speaks English. It is only in the rural areas and small towns that people speak Cantonese or another dialect, not English (even then they do not speak mandarin--that is a formal dialect spoken by the wealthy and privileged). The same is true of German and Dutch.

The languages that are TRULY needed for Americans to learn at this time are French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, and Hungarian. Those populations have too few English speakers and there are not enough Americans or anyone else who speaks their languages. THOSE are the languages that should be taught in schools.

Secondarily, the Japanese and the Russians have largely stopped learning English, so those languages should probably be revived in schools.

I agree, the language teaching in PAUSD is second-rate. If the child does not learn the language he or she studies fast enough, the child is dismissed from learning it. My son wanted to learn Spanish desperately, took it at Paly, was dismissed from it after one semester. He took it again in college and did quite well.

I, too have seen teacher abuse of IEP kids, though not in this district. My son had a book thrown at him by his teacher, because, she stated, she was tired of explaining things to him again and again ( this was on the first grade!) . She even stated that she wished we would put him in a special school for retarderded kids (this is a kid who aced the most complicated puzzles, but due to oxygen deprivation at birth, had short term memory problems).


Posted by Andrea Wolf, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I would like to publicly request that Ken Dauber run for office in the school board election scheduled for fall of 2014.


Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 30, 2013 at 3:53 pm

"Foreign language instruction, for one quick example, was very poor"
I've found that foreign language classes at PAUSD schools are very well done. Starting from day 1 they prohibit speaking English without pre-obtained permission, which leads to a greater level of immersion. After two middle-school-years of Spanish, I found I was familiar enough with the language to listen in on conversations, read and give directions, order food, etc. And by all accounts PAUSD is doing well -- scores on the language AP's, which are well known to be among the most challenging, are high. And I know many students who never took AP but took until 3 or 3H of a language and took the SAT II test and did well. The only negative comments about the language system (excluding sign language) are about the AP-level courses and their grading systems.


Posted by Thanks Michelle, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Michelle Daubber, Thanks for sharing such a personal experiences. Now that I know what you have been through I see that you have a reason to call people names. You know that when students are under stress, there are a lot more chances of getting mentally ill. I see that you are working in the benefit of our kids so their parents do not have to go through what you have gone trhough. For these reaso I think that Ken Dauber would have been the best candidate to teache the Board of Edu. seat. Too bad, those teachers joined and sent e-mails to other teachers telling them that if Ken will will the election, the teachers would not get a raise. Right there these malicious teaches discouraged many people including teachers from voting for Kenn. They were such a cheaters. I know that next time you will win the seat. Hope that ken runs again. I actually feel that the present board needs someone like Michell, someone who does not let them get away with violations of students rights and waisting our $$ in lawyers, and not needed position. Every penny that I spend on my parcel tax should go to the students not to Skelly and their incompetent staff.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm

@C, I suspect you are speaking of current foreign language instruction; I admit I am a bit out of date. I don't want to specify the particular language I know best about, but I am quite solid in my opinion and experience with that. These things do change, although the special dispensation given to the small Mandarin immersion program for certain young students is inappropriate, in my opinion. We have to be careful not to wall off certain students in a faux private school.
It(foreign language instruction) was poor in our day. We have many peers sharing our opinion on that. Middle school, especially. -- One reason why some PA parents send their daughters to Castilleja for middle school and then on to Paly. I think this is basic and needs to be effective across the grades, and across the schools.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Just to let you know that foreign language is a joke in Palo Alto. Sorry to inform you if you feel otherwise, but it is a very poor situation.

To begin with, there is no foreign language instruction in elementary school, the age at which accent and grammar development will align with English language learning. Most of the world knows this and starts learning at least one if not more languages at elementary level.

Middle School and high school classes are large, much too big for a teacher to be able to work individually with each student's accent or to do any conversational instruction with each individual student on a regular basis.

There is no technology used in the classrooms and there is often more emphasis on making posters or cooking rather than learning the language.

Some students have a natural ability to learn a language or even get help because of heritage. Other students start with no knowledge and are finding it harder to learn. There is no differentiation in the classes for these factors. A student may have some knowledge of a language because it is spoken at home, may be quite fluent orally but have no knowledge of the written language, but these students are put into a class with students who have no knowledge at all and no help at home. It is ludicrous to think that these two groups should be in the same class and learning at the same pace.

Why anybody thinks foreign language is taught well in PAUSD just because no English is allowed or because you can order from a menu or ask for a bathroom means you are learning well shows that some students have no idea how a language should be taught.


Posted by Details, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2013 at 7:27 pm

@ Thanks Michelle,

You need to know that the Dauber daughter who committed suicide never attended Palo Alto schools and, as far as I know, took her own life while in college somewhere in the Midwest. A tragedy for sure. However Palo Alto schools are not linked to it at all, and maybe no secondary school whatsoever either .


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 30, 2013 at 7:59 pm

"Details" apparently wants to know more about our experience.

I will share my personal experience from my perspective, for whatever it is worth and at the risk of having it picked over here. Maybe it will help someone. Our daughter suffered from depression -- very common among artistically talented people. Here is a book about that, for anyone who is interested: Web Link

She attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where in retrospect we can now see that the intense curriculum (the freshman year is known as foundation studies and is notoriously hard) coupled with the lack of a good student counseling program and the difficulty of obtaining medication made it hard for her to stay on top of her illness. But we didn't understand fully what was going on with her or how we could help. We did the best we could. There were things that in retrospect I really wish that I would have done differently and better. There are things that are known about the effects of stress and sleep deprivation on depression for example, and the lack of a counseling program there was also a serious problem. These are things I think about every single day.

As I said above, I find this topic one that is very emotional and difficult to discuss. Every parent who has lost a child this way has to walk his or her own road. My feeling is that the stress of the RISD curriculum and the lack of a good counseling program could have made a difference.

That is why Ken and I have been donors to RISD in order to ensure that other students who suffer from depression (very common in artists, as I said) will have a different experience. Together with RISD President John Maeda (who is now moving to Silicon Valley) we helped to fund and create from the ground up a counseling program, provide training for staff, and more. When we first approached the school about philanthropy in this space in 2009, shortly after Amanda's death, there was nothing at all. Now there are 4 full time and 2 part time therapists, a separate counseling center (which displays one of our daughter's paintings), a wellness center, yoga, mindfulness meditation, AA meetings, and more. There is a counselor who specializes in eating disorders and a prescribing physician on campus 2 days per week. We found that President Maeda's leadership on the issue was key and we were happy to provide (and to continue to provide) a gift to the school in our daughter's name in order to fund and support counseling services for the RISD community.

It's too late to do anything for her but not too late to help others at her school, which she loved.

My goal in approaching PAUSD in the beginning was to share my experience and try to sound the alarm. Having had children at Gunn when the suicide cluster happened, I could see that Gunn has many of the same issues -- poor counseling program, low sense of connectedness, and high stress and workload. Unlike at RISD, the information was not well-received.

I wish I could go back and maybe find better words to say some of these things. I am not as good at this as Ken. I don't have his natural gift with people and am not as flexible. What I can tell you, from the heart, is that if you know what it is to lose a child to any cause, but especially to suicide, you would be willing to do anything to prevent it. You would be willing to improve your counseling program, compare your high schools to each other, look at the data honestly, and make changes. You would be willing to reduce stress and homework on your students so that they can get enough sleep and don't become depressed and anxious. You would do a lot. You would do anything.

I live very close to Gunn. When I walk past it on my walks, I feel very sad because having had two children there, I know that there are issues there that still could be addressed for the benefit of the students there.


Posted by Details, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Thank you Michelle for writing about this topic that must be so difficult for you, I can't even imagine. I am so very sorry for your loss. You are right. Not having lost a child to anything, let alone suicide, there is no way we can know what you do.

I agree that there is an incredible amount of pressure on our kids in this town, and elsewhere. I just don't think (and I am not speaking about your particular case, or any other one case in particular, rather in general about Palo Alto), I just don't think that all the pressure comes from the schools. Having had children in the schools here for many, many years, I have found that most of the pressure I've witnessed has come from parents. I saw parents look at me with "pity" when I told them that my kid was going to attend a college that is "only" ranked about 40th in the country. I've heard parents dismiss colleges not in the top 15, and on and on and on. Again, not saying you ever did this. But that's what I have repeatedly seen. That's what I've found to be the hardest pressure to deal with in this community, as a parent. If I find it hard to deal with as a parent, what must it be for the kids? This pressure is coming from parents.

On the other hand, I have heard teachers and counselors say time after time not to worry so much about the college one ultimately attends, that the kids will be fine in a state university that's below the radar or whatever. (And it's true!) I have not seen teachers put the pressure on kids to overachieve or to be in a lane they are not qualified to be in. Usually, it's the parents marching into the teacher's or the IS's office and demanding that their kid be "up-laned".

The schools of course have their role in fighting the pressure. I don't know about Gunn, but my kid will be the first one to tell you that the amount of homework has noticeably decreased in recent years at Paly where she is, at least in the case of her classes (normal and advanced). I really think that most of the people running the schools have their hearts in the right place. I hate seeing them bashed here. I know you heart is in the right place too. Thanks for all you have done, especially for RISD.


Posted by Thanks Michelle, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Michelle, I admire you for pouring your hear out. It must be very difficult to hear back from detalis who defends the district by saying that your child did not attended Gunn; therfore she believes that things are ok in PAUSD when we have hado so many suicides,a nd at lest three attempts to suicide even from students who just graduted from Gunn in 2013. Why do we want to burry our heand on the sand like the ostrish so we do not want to face reality. Your experience and Ken's would had beenn in so much benefit or our students, but all people could see that you sometimes say bad words. When in fact skelly needs someone taff to make him be transparent and stop violating students rights. I myself said badwords when a student attempted suicide right there inside Gunn's bathroom, but we still say that it is not the schools that is making our kids suffer. If you do not work for the schools and know what really goes on do not open your mouth. Teacher's keep it quiet because they can be retaliated and loose their well paid job. Remember who bad it was for Mr. Vincent teacher at Gunn when he spoke the truth about the suicides and bullying. Luckily he was not fired because he has worked for many years at Gunn, has tenured and knows his rights, but he did got into trouble with the principal.
Hope one day people get it that your experience could be of great benefit when Ken gets elected for board member. He lived the experienced, saw the signs of mental illness and knows what students needs in order to prevent more suicides. We were lucky that the student in the OCR did non ended up dad, at least not yet.
Details, I am wondering if you are not skelly using another name. You defend the district so much, when the truth spekas up for itself, and you still trying to protect the school district.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2013 at 10:42 pm

@Michele Dauber - Thank you.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 31, 2013 at 10:05 am

While I appreciate "neighbor's" response to set the record straight, I didn't think it was appropriate to publicly review someone else's family life and to discuss their children in detail. Just my two cents (not trying to make a personal criticism of neighbor) but I think family details should be considered private unless the family voluntarily gives out the info.


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 31, 2013 at 2:30 pm

@CPD thank you for your concern. It's OK.

@Details. I agree with you that some of the pressure to excel comes from parents. Interestingly the most recent strategic plan (2013) survey sheds some light on this question. See: Web Link at page 14.

As you suggest, 33% of students identify their parents as a "major" source of stress. However, nearly as many (28%) identify their peers as major source of stress. Most interestingly, 65% of students identify "pressure I put on myself" as a major stressor. What does this mean? The most plausible interpretation for these data is that (1) parents have high expectations that may or may not be realistic; (2) the school environment is highly competitive; and (3) students don't really know where it's coming from and have internalized the competition and pressure. One important fact to note is that students were not given choices to describe the source of stress other than the following" self, parents, teachers, and peers. In other words "the whole school environment" was not a choice. One of the open-ended student responses attributed stress to "Palo Alto culture." '

In my opinion, when students talk about our school culture they are often discussing the most visible signifier of that culture in their lives, which is the amount of homework that they do.

For more information about that, we can turn to the essay recently published by the Campanile editor Hillel Zand: Web Link entitled "The cost of being a student at Palo Alto High School." Zand, the editor in chief of the Campanile wrote that:

Few teachers are aware of the reality where many students hastily copy a peer's assignment five minutes before it is due. But why couldn't this student just do their own homework? Because they spent the whole night completing a project and only got five hours of sleep. So as a sacrifice they chose not to do their homework for another class, copied the information they were supposed to learn as if they were a computer and as a result failed to learn the actual material. And this cycle will continue for days, weeks and years. This is the cycle that has taken a toll on the well-being of our students.

"There's some questions as to how well we're preparing [students] socially, emotionally or for some of the life skills you need to have when you go off to college," principal Kim Diorio said. "I've always thought that there's just way too much work and pressure on students."

As a consequence, Zand cites evidence that students are experiencing hypomania, sleep deprivation, and depression at higher rates than in previous years.

There are many contributing factors to student stress, clearly. But one reason to focus on school reform, in preference to parent reform, is that parents, whatever their competitive nature, are not assigning homework. Homework is assigned at school. Tests are written by teachers. This seems obvious, but it is relevant to the question of where we can get leverage on the problem that Zand is calling to our attention (and his article is really but the latest in a stream of very similar articles written by students at Gunn and Paly over the past decade).

Why are schools assigning so much homework? One answer to this is that there is a homework fad and our kids are unlucky. Our current fixation on homework is like the tulip bulb mania that swept Europe in the 1630s. Once it's over, we will probably wonder what that was about. Another answer is that it is hard to distinguish among the many extremely talented and hardworking kids in certain elite public schools like PAUSD's. Many smart, successful ambitious parents have crowded into this district to give their kids access to "a good education." But because of the lack of diversity in the pool of students (a skewness in the distribution toward the right-hand tail of ability and ambition), teachers have a problem.

Teachers have to distinguish among these students and decide how to rank them (who gets the A). In doing that, where A's are artificially rationed at a low number as in many upper level PAUSD classes, backbreaking workload is often the tie-breaker. Where a student takes several of these upper-level classes (as they must if they intend to go to a good school) the workload is increased and suddenly we have students who do 6 hours of homework per night -- an entire workday after the "end" of the workday.

This leads to sleep deprivation and the problems Mr. Zand rehearses. It also leads to pervasive academic dishonesty with the corrosive impacts to students social-emotional health that brings in its train.

Do educators and parents confuse excessive workload with "good education" and "rigor"? In my opinion as a university educator, yes. I think that people have conflated a ridiculously high workload, which causes stress, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression, with "excellence." They are not the same thing. They just make it easier for teachers to figure out who gets the A. But that is not what "excellence" means.

The Strategic Plan concluded that PAUSD has a problem with academic stress and with dishonesty and marked both (and counseling improvement) as areas in which our schools need to improve. Here are the priorities for improvement from the strategic plan:

Improved counseling, better support for under-performing students, greater emphasis on academic integrity, and reduced student academic stress, especially at the high school level

Neither the strategic plan authors, nor Mr. Zand, nor Kim Diorio, nor me are "bashing" the schools or teachers by cataloging these areas that need improvement. For myself, I feel that I have experienced firsthand the emotional problems that can be caused for a student by excessive homework and excessive workload and competitive environment. I saw it at RISD with my daughter who was already depressed -- and saw the terrible impact that these kinds of environments can have on a vulnerable student -- and I saw it at Gunn with my children and their friends. I don't think it's necessary, I don't think it's healthy, and I don't think it will result in the long run in having a better education.

That doesn't mean I approve of parents who push their kids as you describe in your post, or who look askance at a less-elite college (as an aside, one of my daughters attends University of Vermont, and someone posted in Town Square that we were only advocating for reduced stress because our daughter could only get into UVM and we were in effect sore losers, so it's not like I'm oblivious). It just means that I think that the bigger problem lies elsewhere.






Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 31, 2013 at 2:56 pm

What I don't understand is if in a class doing an assignment (say math) and everybody's work is to the required standard with the right answers, they don't all get As? Why should there be a ration of top marks when all students deserve top marks?

My teachers always expected the whole class to perform to our best ability and if we all deserved an A we all received an A. To do otherwise makes a nonsense of education.

Academic education is not a race, it is not a ration, it is a means to quantify what a student has learnt, understood and retained. A good teacher who has done a good job should be proud that all the students have reached the required standard. That shows the strength and ability of the teacher and the system. Anything else shows lack of compassion. Who would want to do well if the grades were rationed out? Who would want to enter a race with only one winner? Who would do anything other than think that education was reaching for the stars, pie in the sky and unattainable except for the lucky few?


Posted by another parent, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Details,

There is a SMALL minority of parents who fulfill the stereotype of the arrogant and pushy parent that you fantasize about. In reality, not even the small minority is as bad as anyone can say.

The issue of addressing school stress lies SOLELY on school reform, and Michelle Dauber is being way too generous in trying to explain that nicely.


Posted by Details, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Thanks for your perspective Michele

I saw that article by Hillel Zand. I guess our family just has a very different experience than what Zillel and you describe. In spite of being in advanced math and science classes, my last child does not spend hours and hours studying and doing homework. She decided not to even try to take all kinds of AP classes, only a couple. She accepts to have Bs rather than As, that is true, and has giving up on even applying to "elite" colleges. She may have to settle for something much less than that. However, she is enjoying her classes at Paly, not killing herself doing homework, and has noticed a drop in the amount of homework in the last couple of years. She has also decided to be impervious to the competition. Maybe that's the most critical factor. She has refused to buy into this competition thing.

Maybe we are a very unique exception in this community, as a family.

As such, maybe, if I can reassure even one or two students in this town, I will say that my other 2, older, children had the same attitude (I actually sometimes bemoaned their "lack of drive"), and yet they have done very well in life beyond high school, and now college for one. They have jobs they like, are productive members of society and are happy young adults in spite of not buying into the competition trend in local schools and in spite of going to two of those colleges that are looked down on by so many parents here.

I guess that it is the message that should be driven home. Kids, it is useless (and for some decidedly harmful) to buy into all this competition.

I believe you are right, Michele, that the stress comes from several different sources but I also believe that the root cause is parent pressure, internalized by many kids who turn school into a competition, and also catered to by a school district that does not want to disappoint those hard driving parents.

Kids, relax, forget about the competition. There is a life out there without it. And it's as good as the life you can get with a ticket to Stanford, MIT, or Harvard, and sometimes even better. Make a resolution for the New Year: stop obsessing about classes, grades, expectations... Enjoy life for a change.


Posted by Details, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:35 pm

@ another parent:

I could not disagree more with you. I believe that parents in this town sometimes just don't want to look in the mirror (and again, I am not speaking about Michele here). A very large number of parents (of course not all) have overly lofty expectations of their children, whether they express it directly or only indirectly. God knows that we have been the butt of condescending comments from those parents.


Posted by another parent, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Details,

"God knows that we have been the butt of condescending comments from those parents."

This confirms you are an insider. If you have been on the receiving end of supposed parental condescending comments, you likely confused a poor evaluation of something you have done or failed to do as condescending.

If you were a parent you would know parents don't interact with each other like you make yourself out to be, a victim, an insult to the parents who try to be partners to efforts in the schools.

Parent blaming is the low performing educational insider new sport. It is to be seen for what it is.


Posted by Details, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Actually, rather than complain that some have "too high" expectations of their kids, I would say that they have unhealthy or inadequate expectations.

For example:

Unhealthy - expecting them to have all As
- dictating what classes they ought to be in
- expecting them to be admitted to universities X, Y, Z
- trying to bail them out when they are in trouble for breaking school rules

Healthy - expecting them to be good citizens in class
- expecting them NOT to cheat on tests or otherwise
- letting them live with the consequences of their actions


You get the gist


Posted by Details, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm

@ another parent

Me an insider???

No, you are totally wrong. I am a parent, as I said. I have no relationship to the school district other than as a parent. And I am not otherwise part of any profession related to the education field.

If you cannot accept that someone has views differing from yours, there is not much I can do for you... other than say that I don't think this, itself, is very healthy.

Happy New Year to you


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 31, 2013 at 10:39 pm

@details

If all kids could do what yours did I think that would be better. Unfortunately they can't all do that. I don't think that is the result of parenting necessarily one way or the other. My experience with five kids is that they had five different personalities and five different ideas about how to do it. I don't think once they were teens I had a lot of influence. I think all parents just want what they think is best for their kids, and in truth I think that the PA high school scene is pretty hard to navigate -- it was for me. I was not prepared in any way for the level of competition and stress here.

Parents move here to put their kids in good schools. It is only later, probably, that many of them have the realization that by doing that they put their kids into pretty rarefied competition. If a parent went to an elite college (as many PA parents did) then they may want what they had for their kids -- that's kind of natural, even if unrealistic. But by putting your child into that competitive pool, you probably decreased their chances of that outcome. That's just a fact based on the pool of highly talented and motivated kids.

There are many excellent colleges and universities that are not super-elite schools. Given the pool of kids we have here, we should expect that many of our kids will have good chances to be distributed to those excellent 4 year colleges and to the UCs other than UCLA and Berkeley. Many of those schools are also selective. The kids who are PA teens with good academic potential but who are not going to be in the top 10 or 15% of their class (and thus not receive the coveted slots at elite schools) should graduate with records that are strong and will send them to good liberal arts colleges like Oberlin and Reed and universities like Northwestern and Wash U St. Louis for example.

But these schools are also selective. They also want to see kids who took a "challenging" curriculum and who are motivated learners and have good grades. The question is: is this group of students -- the "kids in the middle" as well as those who struggle, or who are in special education, who aren't destined for the Ivies graduating from PA schools as motivated, engaged learners with confidence and good records? Have we made getting an A so hard that their transcripts reflect poorly on them because they were competing for an artificially scarce high grade? Did they lose confidence in themselves or feel like failures as a result?

Barbara Klausner, when she was on the school board, repeatedly called attention to the distribution of grades in some of our elite classes, noting that there were kids getting 5s on an AP test and getting a C in the AP class. That situation does not make sense and it makes you wonder what is going on in that class for that outcome. I have a guess based on my own experience which is that teachers have a very hard time distinguishing between students at the top -- they are very similar. In that situation, endurance becomes the criteria for distinguishing between the A and B student. Endurance and possibly performance enhancing drugs. And possibly academic dishonesty.

I don't think endurance, and the ability to stay up late and do a lot of work, is the right proxy for excellence that colleges are looking for, which is why colleges complain about their students lacking creativity. High Schools are not selecting or rewarding for creativity -- they are selecting for ability to complete large amounts of work, stay on task, and take the safest course. They do not reward risk taking - they penalize it.

I think endurance was selected as the variable to serve as the proxy for quality and excellence because it puts a kind of Calvinist gloss on the selection process. Hard work seems like merit, after all. The trouble is, after a point, it isn't. And it might even be inversely related to the characteristics that make students successful in college and in life.

I don't think your children should have to choose between going to an excellent college and having a reasonable adolescence, even though they made the right choice. It shouldn't be either/or. And I don't think that it is right to put kids who "choose" to do the homework in the situation where they have to do it. Just because a child "consents" to the situation doesn't make it ethically right or pedagogically appropriate. You can't fix what is an unreasonable, and probably harmful workload by saying that you obtained the consent of the child to do it. Either it is pedagogically appropriate to assign all that work or it isn't. Either all that work is a good proxy for excellence or it isn't. Consent is irrelevant. The fact that you can get a kid to "consent" to do something harmful isn't a sign of excellence it's a sign of something going really wrong in my book.

I have no problem believing that you have been looked down on and condescended to by other parents about your kids' colleges since I have as well. But these messages aren't limited to parents. For example, I recently saw a resume of a teacher that actually listed the number of students in that teacher's AP class that received a 5 on the AP test, that listed all the awards and prizes won by students in that teacher's class. There is something wrong with that -- as a Stanford professor I would be embarrassed to put my students' achievements on my c.v. It is not only parents who take vicarious credit for the achievements of the young people in this community and not only parents who obviously are overinvested in that success.


Posted by another parent, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 1, 2014 at 10:13 am

@details

"Actually, rather than complain that some have "too high" expectations of their kids, I would say that they have unhealthy or inadequate expectations.

For example:

Unhealthy - expecting them to have all As
- dictating what classes they ought to be in
- expecting them to be admitted to universities X, Y, Z
- trying to bail them out when they are in trouble for breaking school rules..."


Do you realize that what you consider unhealthy is considered healthy by the rest of the world?

- expecting them to have all As

Around the world parents who expect and demand all A's are respected as good parents, many of their children are among the best students.

- dictating what classes they ought to be in

Not only do parents world over dictate what classes teenagers take, so do governments. They don't have local teacher committees deciding on the latest math textbook, or instructional supervisors calling shots on curriculum, and choices based on all these local levels of educational opinions. It would be considered developmentally inappropriate to ask teenagers to act like university scholars, choosing one literature class over another, choosing not to learn Algebra or choosing to not be a high school graduate. You can argue that choice is a wonderful thing, and for many many kids you can argue the opposite.

- expecting them to be admitted to universities X, Y, Z

Again, world over people aspire for X,Y, Z university and expect their kids to work up to certain expectations. It is not considered unhealthy.

- trying to bail them out when they are in trouble for breaking school rules..."

This is the healthiest reaction of all, but it does not mean parents actually bail them out. Reasonable schools do not allow bailing out. Kids get expelled, kicked out, etc. This one is in the control of schools.

Given the extremely accurate representation Michelle posted above, what is unhealthy is that getting A's and getting into college becomes a hazing ritual in schools without the proper balances. Especially because grades are the most important quality for college entry, ANY college.

If you have seen students laboring over AP classes, Mrs. Klausner's observation about PAUSD students getting a C in an AP class and scoring 5 is illustrative of a serious problem which has nothing to do with parents, and everything to do with school reform.


Posted by Yet Another Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 1, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Another Parent, you must be a tiger parent if you believe the things you posted are considered "healthy." And you sound like an insider yourself, since you seem to be defending the ridiculous culture of intensive work and competition pervading the PAUSD. When I was in high school (in another NORCAL county) I took plenty of required courses, but I also got to choose electives too. And I went to a college both my parents and I were happy about. It wasn't Harvard but it is certainly a well respected, even an elite school liberal arts college. I worked hard to get there but I didn't sacrifice my teenage years or get by on little sleep to get there. And most of all I made my own decisions regarding my studies and college applications, something I consider more important for my own kids than getting into the "right" colleges or taking a million APs.


Posted by just curious, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 1, 2014 at 7:01 pm

It amazes me that parents are watching their kids receive low marks with high stress due to the things described above, but are accepting it quietly rather than letting it be known that they don't find this acceptable. Even after seven suicides between 2009-January 2011, why do parents with all this money accept this? I have often wondered why so few people send their kids to private schools. Is it because there isn't any room, because people think that their child will be OK until it turns out otherwise and by then it's too late? I don't get it. If parents get together and send the message that they don't want their kids in this Hunger Games for the "A" wouldn't the schools have to change? Don't they ultimately work for the parents? How does it work? Please educate me.


Posted by Details, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 1, 2014 at 7:27 pm

@ Michele

I understand and agree with what you say in your latest post. The competition IS such that talented kids who do not play the game are overlooked by the more selective colleges. I so agree.

I have seen quite a few Paly seniors who were very underwhelming in reality but who had a very high GPAs, be admitted to elite universities, including Stanford frankly. You probably have nothing to do with undergraduate admissions at Stanford, so I can probably tell you this without offending you (I hope I don't offend you, as I am really enjoying this conversation and have a lot of respect for what you are saying on this thread). To be fair, I've also seen truly outstanding young people be admitted to Stanford. So, it goes both ways.

This whole system does not seem fair at all. We have just resolved ourselves to live with it, as a family. We've given up on elite universities for our kids even though they may have deserved it if you looked at them closely beyond grades. Actually, they had been identified as GATE by the district, but that made no difference whatsoever in their schooling. As a consolation, I know that my oldest child now easily competes professionally with graduates of elite universities.

I can certainly agree with you on the fact that our schools can improve, of course. We've personally had our share of bad teachers that we wished were fired, teachers who were weak teachers, and even one in middle school who was known to have physically abused her students (she has since retired). Unfortunately, the bad teachers can't be fired given the system. However, we've had even more fantastic teachers. There are truly great teachers in the district.

Counseling can certainly be improved too. We have loved the TA system at Paly. My current senior has really thrived on it. Any problem? She has gone straight to her TA, who was also her teacher one year. The TA knows her well, is available and solves problems for her. I really think Gunn would benefit from the TA system. As I understand it, Gunn has chosen to use its money to reduce class sizes instead. Maybe it's why they don't want the TA system. They may not want to give up on their smaller class sizes. There are hard choices to be made. However, from my perspective, it's a no brainer. By high school, a few more students in regular classes is an easy trade-off for a better counseling system from the students' perspective. I really agree with you on the TA system. I would not find it fair, though, if Gunn ended up with more money than Paly so that it can have BOTH the smaller class sizes and the TA system. Unless Paly gets the same deal.

For all our local problems, that I believe at least some people in the district are trying to address, I would go one step further and also blame local technology companies, and national banks and investment companies as well, who seem to only want to hire people with degrees from those few very elite universities. Why but why??? They play into the same system. As an aside, I really think it will hurt these businesses in the long run as they'll pass up on people with great abilities. So, the whole system from the top down needs to change. Maybe the first step would be for universities to refuse to participate in the rankings?

The whole high school/college admission/college/business hiring system in this country is screwed up. The system was great here 30 years ago when I first moved to this country from Europe. A real breath of fresh air. Now, it resembles more and more the traditional competitive European systems. Not good. Let's go back to giving a chance to unusual students, students with personal qualities, creative students, unique students, students who don't just "do" school. Everybody will benefit from this, from families to high schools, from colleges to businesses.

[One last note, especially for "another parent". Many, many times, when I told fellow parents (who asked) which college my oldest child was going to go to, their only reaction was either a pained look on their faces, or them uttering "This is a party school" and nothing else, or I got both the pained look and the party school line. It really hurt. I don't care any more. But at the time, it really hurt.]




Posted by another pov, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 1, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Yet another parent,

I'm not an insider, just pointing out that some of the unhealthy things mentioned by details are not necessarily parental sins, but in our high schools these can probably be hazardous expectations. To blame parents for how it got this way IMHO is not helpful or healthy.

What you did in another high school, in another time, and other circumstances does not mean that there are no stressors in our schools or that all students are being served well by the system that worked for you elsewhere. I'm not a tiger, just get annoyed at parent blaming because truly - do you see parents here being as sick and stupid as people make them out to be? If anything, parents are worn out trying to support their kids, be it their high achieving, struggling, average student, some families have all of the types in one family.

@Details,

There appears to be no reason for higher education to fix the problems you point out. Higher ed seems stuck on being selective, competitive, worried about yields, and getting endowments$$$. Meantime, high schools pour energy to compete to please these priorities that are not theirs to begin with, and which went off kilt long ago. The best way to fix this should be to focus on ways to protect students from the mess that is really not their fault. That old favorite saying in PAUSD - a B here is an A everywhere else. This supposedly means that a C is a B and that D is a C anywhere else. Really? Is that the consolation after working them like robots. Imagine if your boss told you that your salary is actually higher in some virtual world after you just did overtime for a semester. I'm sorry some parents had pained looks upon hearing about your child going to a party school (I went to one). That's really their problem and for every idiotic college snub I think there are extremely down to earth parents, and that is not the norm.


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2014 at 7:28 am

Well done Michele. I can honestly say for the first time that I agree wholeheartedly with the entire analysis in your post. An interesting note though is that your neighbor who posted about your children above only mentioned RISD and Berkeley and Stanford but not U of Vermont.

@ details: our experience has been that there are people who literally didn't want our kids hanging out with theirs because our kids were not headed for ivy or ivy equivalents. We noticed that even close friends were quiet good at hiding their bigotry on the issue and only when their guard was down did we see how they really felt.


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 2, 2014 at 7:55 am

Maybe that person didn't know where that daughter went just that she was an education major. It seems that the point of the post was to let another poster know that Ken (as a school board candidate) did understand the need for options for kids who aren't academic stars because our son went to JC before UCB and is a tradesman and our daughter is a teacher (and others are in the arts). I think given the fact that the person noted that our son went to JC and transferred it wasn't an effort to emphasize eliteness.

If any post-secondary option is more stigmatized than junior college in Palo Alto I am not sure what it is based on the looks of pity we received. Junior college is another subject that could merit a thread of its own. It was a great option for our son. That said, there are probably many kids in PAUSD who could have attended a good four year college if their grades had not been artificially low and their educational self-esteem unnecessarily harmed by unnecessary competition.


Posted by Wahbulance, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2014 at 12:38 am

I was wondering where Michele Dauberhas been. Her latest posts, and those of others as well, have shut up the PAUSD apologists, it seems. The last grasping of straws is the myth that we cannot field enough candidates, but we had plenty a little more than a year ago. The release of Michele's email with the F word to Charles Young, who then purposely emailed it to Kevin Skelly, was no accident. Neither was Skelly forgetting to report to the board about the OCR investigation (one of a series) and resolution agreement. Skelly, Young and all the lawyers that we pay for are not releasing all the emails and communications that are out there. Not just the PAUSD accounts, I also mean the private emails and publicly-funded cell phones on which the public's business is conducted. Because of the Weekly's public information requests, any common citizen is able to pore through piles of communication to get a glimpse of how little transparency there is, not to mention a pattern of excuses. You can also find Barbara Mitchell's cell number and Tabitha Hurley's personal contact information as well. It's all there on pausd.org. To the Weekly, don't stop reporting and requesting public information. The Weekly is not the problem, the problem is that Skelly and his hires have not been one bit more transparent or performed any better, in fact they have been woefully worse, since Ken Dauber's Op-Ed in the Weekly on February 25, 2011, almost two years ago, in which he concluded: "It is well past time to enforce accountability for our elected and appointed officials. We can do better than this, as a district and as a community." Have Skelly, Young, and the board done better in the last 22 months?


Posted by Holy Moly, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 8:18 am

Is there any way that Skelly and Young can be recalled? That is to say, can the community override the BOE and get them outta here? The BOE made a grievous mistake in hiring Skelly sight unseen, and not vetting him first, and that mistake is poisoning the district as well as tarnishing the PAUSD name!


Posted by Wahbulance, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2014 at 7:20 pm

So it took nine hours from my last post for the Weeky to release the latest bombshell, revealing that PAUSD has it's ninth OCR complaint. That thread was quickly shut down by trolls, which might be the last method to protect superintendent Kevin Skelly and Compliance Officer Charles Young. If this was almost any other district in California, the county office of education would have been called in to take control, but that would take a rational board decision to remove the top two administrators and demote others. These complaints have not happened by accident, they are not the result of overzealous parents, and not because our principals cannot follow supposd myriad rules and regulations. At this point, arguments to keep Skelly and Young are merely insults, jokes, or delusions. These two did not have the requisite experience of running a district and that has caught up with them and had damaged our district reputation for many years. Time to pay Skelly $450,000 to leave today. The next board meeting is Tuesday, January 14. You don't need to go down there, you don't entered to email the board. They know this is bad and they know they are responsible. They blew it. None of the focus is on our students. Cheerleading a few student awards, presenting PowerPoints about fictional counseling programs, and [portion removed] every two weeks, while ignoring the elephant in the room, has been a cruel joke. Can this get worse?


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 9, 2014 at 10:06 am

I have a college student who has been looked down (by former PA HS peers) on for not being in an Ivy League school. Never mind that this school is actually rated higher on US News & World Report than some Ivies. You can't satisfy some people. They will nitpick you to death. Personally, I only "believe" in general groupings of university rankings, strengths and weaknesses and don't view the hierarchy as absolute, but try telling that to some PA parents and students and you won't get far. I have expressed concerns before about our PAUSD superintendent and his family being Harvard/Harvard legacy. In our experience, this REALLY skews one's views and I don't believe this view is appropriate to serve the entire range of PAUSD students. Just a few cents from a former parent who wishes well to ALL students.


Posted by Wahbulance, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Ok this time it took 14 hours since my posting yesterday for the Weekly to release another bombshell about Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, Melissa Caswell, and Camille Townsend, this time another bungling of a oh so very basic duty to copy and email basic policies to the students and staff and parents. These folks are in no way focused on any need of children. There is no defense left for them. We don't have one person here who knows what to do. Skelly and Young have ruined it for any other new administrator who will apply later this year for their jobs because no one will ever take a chance on a rookie superintendent or associate superintendent. They have made this district a laughingstock, it's just too hard to deny that fact. How can this get worse?


Posted by reality bites, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 9, 2014 at 9:23 pm

@ Wahbulance, you might like to read what the thread was actually discussing before posting!

""The OCR in June dropped another case, alleging racial discrimination in a middle-school search after $20 went missing from a teacher's purse, citing insufficient evidence.
Two other cases -- a 2011 allegation of sex discrimination and a 2012 allegation of disability discrimination -- have been closed.""

Yeah, that's right, these OCR complaints are all being closed! Time to vent your frustration elsewhere.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2014 at 9:46 pm

It's very important to remember that although the individual cases matter -- and district officials including board members should have apologized long ago directly to the Terman family -- whether or not any one individual case results in a letter of finding is not important.

in the wake of a highly publicized finding like the Terman finding one year ago, it was inevitable that many other families would file claims with OCR because the publicity gave hope to desperate families of ill children that perhaps this was a route to being listened to. Not every one of those cases will have sufficient evidence of legal violations. Indeed, in the Duveneck case, there is evidence that the school board president Barbara Mitchell and other district officials decided to block OCR's access to interviewing student witnesses, leaving OCR in a very difficult position with respect to evidence.

What matters is not how these nine claims resolve. Some will go for the district and some against. What matters is that we ask these questions:

1. Why are there so many families of disabled students who feel so desperate for assistance that they feel that going to a government agency for help is their only option;

2. Why isn't the district doing a better job working with families who have problems so that their issues do not reach the boiling point of filing a claim;

This isn't a matter of seeing around corners. This is looking 20 feet ahead of you across a flat plain. It is possible to see well in advance when a family is becoming desperate. Each case follows a familiar pattern: things break down at the site level for whatever reason; the family loses trust and faith in the principal, they begin to send emails to Charles Young and Kevin Skelly and board members, they file written complaints that go unacknowledged, they come to board meetings even, pleading for help, then in desperation, usually after a long period of trying to get help, they get a lawyer or file a government complaint.

All of it was obvious, all of it was visible a mile away or more, and all of it was preventable.

One missing piece of this puzzle is good, clear, transparent policies and procedures that are followed by everyone in every case. Where people feel that there is some procedural justice -- that they will be listened to and treated fairly -- they often are better at accepting a substantive loss. People want to be heard, they want to be treated with respect, they want to be listened to and taken seriously.

That is what is going wrong here. We have no procedural justice, we have virtually no policies and procedures, and those that we have are ignored and never enforced. Emails go off into space and are not answered. Parents are not treated with dignity and respect. And this is particularly true when their kids are hurting.

You show me a parent with a hurting sick kid who feels that they have no hope to help their child, and I will show you a lawsuit waiting to happen. Everyone knows that is what has gone wrong here.

And today, our officials and board took a giant step back from fixing the problem when they announced that they are dropping having any procedures regarding bullying at all other than the minimum legally required policies for discrimination.

The outcomes in any particular case doesn't matter. What matters is the fact that people feel that they have no route to receive a just outcome for their child, and that no one is even listening to them. They feel that they have no way to be heard. They feel that only the government investigators might listen.

That is the result of mismanagement and failed oversight. That's the problem.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2014 at 10:06 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by reality bites, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 9, 2014 at 10:06 pm

@Edmund,

"whether or not any one individual case results in a letter of finding is not important. "

Actually, it does matter. Here's another example of a student filing for "discrimination" Web Link

These cases arguing for more than the district is required to offer does not make it an issue for the district. They are being closed for a reason and the reason isn't that the district is doing wrong.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2014 at 10:23 pm

@reality

Complaints may close for a variety of reasons. One of the complaints you reference "closed" because it resulted in mediation that resolved the issue, although the family reported to the Weekly that they regretted the mediation because as soon as the complaint closed the district resumed discriminating.

Complaints may close due to a lack of sufficient evidence. Or they may close due to the complainant voluntarily dropping the complaint. Many factors can result in closing an investigation. A district can voluntarily agree to resolve the matter without a finding, and that also closes a case.

What I am saying is more subtle. It is that a district that has such poor relations with families of sick children that so many flock to the hope of governmental assistance is having a management problem.

We need new policies that provide people with a measure of procedural justice, which is a real thing and it means being treated with respect, being listened to, being taken seriously, and using procedures to decide matters that are fair. Empirical research shows that when people feel that their cases have been decided by fair processes, they are more willing to accept a negative result. That is, procedural justice matters more than substantive or distributive justice.

The longer PAUSD delays in implementing fair district wide processes, the more complaints it will have. Not all of them will be meritorious. But all of them are sending a message about the broken process.


Posted by George Orwell, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2014 at 11:30 pm

George Orwell is a registered user.

Bravo! lock the thread, silence the discussion.


Posted by Chris_long, a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2014 at 12:06 am

Chris_long is a registered user.

Online education is more common than ever. In fact many educators and policy makers view online education as the wave of the future. Definitely, the problem of bullying might be solved with the help of home education. Home-schooled students benefit from the ability to develop their independent study skills. In online education student can learn at their pace. Today many professional certifications are available online. There's a useful service Web Link where students can get professional help. Anyway, achieving perfect scores demand a lot of efforts.


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