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School board, critics discuss testy exchange

Original post made on Feb 7, 2014

A testy exchange involving a child at a school board meeting emerged as a flash point as the Palo Alto Board of Education met Thursday, Feb. 6, in a mid-year retreat.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 7, 2014, 9:37 AM

Comments (74)

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 9:49 am

Didn't know Open Forum had been moved to the start of a meeting. This change must have been done very quietly because I keep track of things quite well and hadn't heard this.

Sounds to me like a sneaky way of making sure people miss it. A better announcement of this practice should be made so that we all know to get their early. I tend not to arrive early because the stuff I want to hear is usually later. Now I know better.


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Posted by Horrible
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2014 at 10:19 am

Barb Mitchell was conscienceless. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

The incident was a disgrace to the District. I will vote against Barb Mitchell next chance we get. I was also dismayed by the other Board members who sat mutely while a bullied child was publicly bullied by the Board Chair. What kind of message is that? Shocked and disgusted. I expect better from Palo Alto Board of Ed.


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Posted by Mary Vincent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2014 at 10:59 am

One small correction . . . I was not present at the jan28 when the incident happened; I joined the meeting later to speak about the bulling policy, which was scheduled for 9:25pm. Though scheduled for 9:25pm, the item came up at approximAtely 1am


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

Barb Mitchell doesn't seem to use her brain. When I was working against Everyday Math adoption, she didn't even bother to read the research (lazy) but rather took the stance of "trust the teachers." All others on the school board were looking at the data and workbooks, studying the issue. It appears her term expires this year: Web Link


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Posted by green gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:21 am

One would think with all Palo Alto liberals, there would not exist a discrimination problem against the poor. Guess they want the GOVERNMENT to take care of them.


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Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:41 am

I agree with Mary Vincent. Mitchell showed incredibly poor judgement in not letting the student speak. Threatening to throw kids out of a public meeting because they want to talk about something that isn't on the agenda is just out of the box. I can't even believe that is legal. It's not like the child ran at Mitchell with a knife. She wanted to tell the board about her bullying experience.

We could make rules so that school board members aren't able to act like power-mad nuts. It would be better if they just had an ounce of common sense.


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Posted by paly mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:01 pm

The way that bullied child was treated was disgraceful. I will not vote for Barb Mitchell next time, now that we have seen her true colors. It was also shameful that none of the other Board members said or did anything to help that child. Not surprising the district has faced bullying problems. Well, that's what elections are for.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm

[Portion removed.]

Last week we read that an 11year old student was bullied by the School Board - now some honesty comes out.
The adult (Mendoza), who caused the conflict, admits '
she and the student were late to the meeting and in fact missed the open forum portion of the meeting, she knew they were going to violate the rules when they got up to speak, she knew she was going to create a confrontation (meaning it was intentional) and then she added to the conflict when she started shouting at the Board after the young student had been asked to stop speaking. Still, she wants to blame the School Board for what happened.

[Portion removed.]

The School Board President has been accused of bullying the young student. I doubt using phases like 'excuse me', 'I'll give you some latitude', 'Ms. B my dear' and 'I apologize to you' are phases that are typically used by a bully. More important was the way the words were spoken to the student ' it is very obvious to anyone who watches/listens to the video recording that the student was treated in a courteous manner.

Of course student comments are very important. In the future I hope students can get up on their own and express their thoughts without adults hovering over them and pointing at things the adults think they should say.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Star Teachout
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:23 pm

[Portion removed to protect privacy of child.]

Having been psychologically bullied myself from 1st-10th grade, the first person I blamed was myself. Since I did not have the maturity or confidence to step forward, I endured the pain. We parents and guardians need to take responsibility and stop blaming the schools for everything. Let's have some constructive criticism: How about at a parent-teacher conference bringing up the problem and suggest a weekly class discussion to air grievances? This passivity and then blaming cycle is unacceptable. Let's stop the attack and actually address the problems.


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Posted by Mary Vincent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm

One minor correction . . .

"parent Mary Vincent, who had been present but not directly involved in the incident"

I was not present during the incident; I arrived after it had taken place and stayed at the meeting until 2am for the bullying discussion.


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Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Barb Mitchell owes Angela an apology and an invitation to return to the board and give her statement without interruption. That is the minimum needed to get past this. Mary Vincent is exactly right. In addition, the board needs to put bullying back on the agenda or hold a special meeting just on that topic. There is no way that 2 am circus should be the only public board discussion of this issue. We need a do-over and Angela should be speaker number 1. I don't know what this board is smoking but they have handled this whole thing horribly and now they have insulted a child. Enough is enough we need to get rid of Mitchell and Tom and pronto.


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Posted by QED
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:50 pm

This boils down to:
- Mendoza missed the open session where the child could have spoken
- Mendoza knows it's wrong to put the child in during the discussion on middle school courses but does so anyway
- Mitchell questions the inclusion and is assured by Mendoza it is about middle school courses
- When it wasn't about middle school courses Mitchell upholds the bylaws
- All hell breaks loose


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Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I watched the video (thank you Weekly for the link, it's good that they are on YouTube now, much easier to watch).

Alphonso raises the question of whether Ms. Mitchell bullied the child. I am not sure I would call it bullying, more like abuse of authority and power run amok. But the words that he left out are important. "Please cut the mike. We're going to ask you to be removed." That was after less than a minute of the child speaking, by my reckoning.

In addition to being rude to the child, Ms. Mitchell was also extremely rude to Ms. Gaona. Mitchell addressed Gaona directly (otherwise she wouldn't have said anything), and then talked over her and threatened to forcibly remove her when she replied.

Everyone can make their own decision about what happened. Personally, I think Ms. Mitchell went way over the line, and seems to have some kind of personal emotional issue with Ms. Gaona that led her astray. She decided not to apologize for it, so she agrees with Alphonso obviously. I think she should apologize, but I'm not surprised she isn't because that would show better judgement than she has shown through this whole thing.


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Posted by QED
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Here's the January 28th board meeting agenda: Web Link

Pertinent facts:
Time 6:35: Open Forum "Anyone wishing to address the Board on non-agenda items may do so at this time. Comments will be taken after the Consent Calendar. Community members wishing to address the Board are allotted THREE minutes per speaker. Please note the speaking time cannot be delegated to another person. Should more than 20 people wish to address any one topic, the Board may elect to allot TWO minutes per speaker. Without taking action, Board members or district staff members may briefly respond to statements made or to questions posed by the public about items not appearing on the agenda."

Time 9:25: "Proposed Revisions to Board Policy (BP) and Administrative Regulation (AR) 1312.3 – Uniform Complaint Procedure, BP 5145.3 – Nondiscrimination/Harassment, and BP 5145.7 – Sexual Harassment Discussion 19 The Board will discuss adopting the Board Policies. Taking these actions will complete this portion of our resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)."

I don't see a "bullying discussion" on the agenda. Only the UCP discussion, which is more than just bullying.


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Posted by QED
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm

""Please cut the mike. We're going to ask you to be removed." That was after less than a minute of the child speaking, by my reckoning."

That is a misrepresentation.

The quoted words were directed at Mendoza who had taken the mike from the child and started yelling and asked repeatedly to stop. That is not being rude to the child.


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Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Barb Mitchell owes Angela an apology and an invitation to return to the board and give her statement without interruption. That is the minimum needed to get past this. Mary Vincent is exactly right. In addition, the board needs to put bullying back on the agenda or hold a special meeting just on that topic. There is no way that 2 am circus should be the only public board discussion of this issue. We need a do-over and Angela should be speaker number 1. I don't know what this board is smoking but they have handled this whole thing horribly and now they have insulted a child. Enough is enough we need to get rid of Mitchell and Tom and pronto.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:19 pm

The woman in the photo is not the same woman who stood next to the child & took over the "conversation." The woman in the photo is the 2nd & older adult who accompanied the child to the lectern but then sat down nearby. Since Ms Mitchell addressed "Marielena" and they interrupted each other, I think Marielena is not pictured here.


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Posted by IB Brocovich
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Thank God for Maielena and many apologies to Angela for Mitchell's totally out of line handling of this.

I wouldn't be surprised if this qualifies as a violation of this young ladies rights.

Shame on Mitchell and the board as well for just sitting there and allowing Mitchell to bully Angela.


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Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Wow, there is a lot of work going on to try to make it look like Barb Mitchell didn't cut off the mike and threaten to have a child removed. But that is what happened.

Angela, a middle school student, tried to tell the school board about being bullied. Mitchell interrupted her twice, and both times addressed Ms. Gaona (who was accompanying her, but not speaking). Gaona was not "yelling" she was trying to talk while Ms. Mitchell was repeatedly interrupting her. After addressing Ms. Gaona, Mitchell apparently didn't like what she was saying, talked over her, and then threatened ejection.

If the question is, "who did Barb Mitchell cut off the mike for and threaten to have removed?" it is hard to say. Angela was still at the mike, trying to finish her statement. Would Angela have stayed at the meeting if the adult with her was hauled off by the police on Mitchell's orders?

From my perspective, this looks like Mitchell lost control of herself, for some reason couldn't stand the idea of this child talking about bullying for one minute, and way exceeded her authority. She looks like she has forgotten that she is a public servant, as opposed to being over the public. But everyone should look for themselves.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Way to go Marielena! Please keep helping our kids. they need you.


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Posted by Look Out
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:34 pm

What does it take to transform a libertarian into an authoritarian? A gavel.


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Posted by QED
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:34 pm

"I wouldn't be surprised if this qualifies as a violation of this young ladies rights."

What rights would that be? "The right to come late to a meeting and miss the timeslot when you could speak and therefore be able to speak at any time in the meeting in contradiction of the meeting bylaws". I don't remember seeing that one.


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Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm

@qed, Her First Amendment right to participate in a public meeting without being threatened with forcible removal. If Mitchell wanted to remind the child of the topic and ask her to keep to it, that would be fine. Unless the child is making it impossible for the meeting to continue, Mitchell was violating Angela's rights and probably the law when she threatened to remove anyone.

If not staying exactly on topic every minute was grounds for forcible ejection, the school board dais would be empty by 7:00 every other Tuesday night.


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Posted by QED
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Angela, the child, was not threatened with forcible removal.
Mendoza, the adult, after taking over the mike, yelling and refusing to stop after being repeatedly asked to stop was threatened with forcible removal.


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Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm

@look out

LULZ. Mitchell has been on the board for 9 years. In that time we have had scandal after scandal. We have had disproportionality, oversight by both federal and state departments of education, been sued for genetic discrimination, seen multiple OCR complaints, had a rape culture scandal, had a principal of a high school disappeared like this is Argentina, been stuck with a truly lousy math curriculum over the objection of hundreds of parents, lost the opportunity for the middlefield foothill campus, seen the board do nothing about the terrible counseling at Gunn other than shoot the messenger, had three years of BS over the calendar due to administrative mishandling, been dropped from the US news ranking due to persistent racial discrimination, bee are a national laughingstock over the Paly math letter, and now have berated an 11 year old little girl for sharing at the supposed wrong time.

Let's start with a basic question: are the schools better off than they were 9 years ago?


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Posted by Reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 7, 2014 at 2:03 pm

QED, Angela was at the podium trying to speak when Mitchell was yelling about calling the police. I don't know how you can say that Mitchell wasn't referring to her as well as the adult who was with her.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

THe adult who encouraged Angela to speak at clearly the wrong time is the guilty party here ! Angela was put in this uncomfortable situation due to whomever brought her to the meeting, the same person who knew the time had passed when Angela could have had her two minutes, early in the evening. There are rules for a reason.


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Posted by Former Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I remember way back when my son was @ Gunn, and he was being bullied by his special education teacher who often humiliated him, and he got so depressed that he did not want to leave the house, and instead stay in bed all day. Someone recommended Marielena, she went with us tithe IEP, and she spoke for our son, than my son felt empowered too speak up at his IEP. Mrs. [portion removed] said that the special education was probably joking and that he should not take it seriously. After this meeting the teacher stopped abusing my son verbally and emotionally. Next time Mrs. [portion removed] was promoted to the head if the counseling department, at least she had less contact with students.


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Posted by QED
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 3:10 pm

The school board is supposed to be encouraging public participation, not yelling "Cut the mike" at middle school students.

I have seen the board fall all over themselves to let friends of theirs speak early, speak past 3 minutes, comment on topics not on the agenda. Mandy Lowell and Victor Ojakian come to mind in the last few years. That is fine, but can you imagine Barb Mitchell yelling "Cut the mike" and threatening to have Mandy Lowell thrown out of the meeting? No? Then why did this child get that treatment?


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Posted by Mary Vincent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm

At the board retreat yesterday, Marielena showed the board the paper listing 'Open Forum' at 8:30pm. The sheet is titled "How to address the board" and is included in the board packet. The board acknowledged the mistake and said it will be corrected.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm

This is not the woman who was called "Marielena" by Ms Mitchell. The woman pictured walked up to the podium with the child and another woman but very quickly sat down. It was a different woman who remained standing & was arguing with Ms Mitchell & for whom the mike was cut off.


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Posted by frustrated mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:28 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

Thanks Ms. Vincent, you are amazing. I am glad you stood up for Angela. I hope others do the right thing by standing up and speaking up for Little Angela too. I can tell you know that it took a lot of courage from Angela to come to the meeting and say she was bullied. That is not what a child expects to say when they go to middle school (they want to belong and be popular)and for Barbara not to listen to her plea for help and shouting "CUT THE MIKE AND TO TAKE THEM OUT" or something like that, makes me feel that our children are really alone with he bullying problem. If she had problems with the adults at the meeting, she should put them aside and be there for the child. I doubt that after this meeting, where Angelas was mistreated, that any other young student is going to be brave enough to speak up about bullying. They would probably keep being bullied in silences than to be bullied by students, than to be humiliated by adults in public. Has anyone thought what is what the other thinks about how her daughter was treated by the elected official?
I know nothing is going to be done about it, look how long has taking them to comply with OCR, they have done nothing, except for taking s us for spin after. Sorry that you and Christina had been taken for a ride, wok hard and at the end it seems like they just took you for a spin. You keep trying to protect ALL kids. I admire you for doing that.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The good news is that some citizens are speaking up and telling the Board that the citizens whom they serve want them to be more open to public input and to actually encourage that input.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Fred is a registered user.

"Didn't know Open Forum had been moved to the start of a meeting. This change must have been done very quietly because I keep track of things quite well and hadn't heard this."

I recall this being done last year sometime. The reason I recall was that agenda items were taking much longer than expected and people complained about how late and unpredictable the public comment time was. The solution was to move it up to the front of the meeting so people wouldn't have to wait around. File this under "let no good deed go unpunished."


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Posted by frustrated mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

Yes Fred, I believe that the fact that it was moved to earlier time, brought up this whole mess. However, I doubt that is Angela arrived on time for Open Forum, they would had still not allowed her to talk, because Protection 4 All bullying victims was not goint go take place till 9:45, but ended up being almost at 2:00 so this will discouraged people from waiting to the item was called. It was a way to stoneall the disscussion. The worst thing is that they still have that time 8:30 for open forum on the iternet.


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

I think I'll file it under "this board is incredibly dysfunctional and unprofessional." It would be great to see Ken Dauber and Mary Vincent and Christina Schmidt on the board and Tom, Mitchell, and Caswell gone.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Every public body should BEGIN its meetings with public comments - that is the only way to ensure that the public body knows what the people whom they serve want.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I expect a school board to support and encourage participation from our youth. I am disappointed that the chair seems to have let some personal and political disagreements get in the way of that fundamental principle. I would have hoped that the other members would have stepped in to restore some good sense, rather than keeping silent.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Fred is a registered user.

Looking at the board minutes of prior meetings, it looks like Open Forum has followed the Consent Calendar (i.e., before any other discussion) since the beginning of this school year. And it is reflected that way on the meeting agendas.


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:09 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

Fred, is the agenda or the minutes in Spanish anywhere? If a translation is not available perhaps the Latino members of the public cannot be blamed for coming at the wrong time. The instructions on the Internet and at the meeting both said 830.

Dauber, Vincent and Schmidt for School board. That's a ticket that puts kids first.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I think it is important to note that when Ms. Michell threatened to eject a speaker for speaking off topic, she wasn't following the rules. She was violating them. Ejecting citizens from public meetings is reserved for serious disturbances, not a minute long statement.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Fred is a registered user.

"Fred, is the agenda or the minutes in Spanish anywhere? If a translation is not available perhaps the Latino members of the public cannot be blamed for coming at the wrong time."

I don't know about that one. No question that the Open Forum time was incorrectly posted in some places and didn't reflect the change in the agendas.


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Posted by Patsy Mink
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Patsy Mink is a registered user.

My two cents is that Angela was cut ogf not for being off topic but for speaking about bullying. The board president says the agenda. The public has waitef for alomst a yeat to heat the board's response to the OCR resolution agreement regarding bullying of a disabled student. Normally hot topics are placed at the top of the agenda to allow for public participation. In my opinion Ms. Mitchell placed the action item regarding policies on harassment of protected classes at the end of the agenda to avoid lengthy public comments. My guess is if Angela had spoken on another topic she would have been allowed to finish reading her statement. Ms. Mitchell's over reaction was uncalled for and unfortunate.


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Posted by N.B.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:40 am

N.B. is a registered user.

Much of the debate is focusing on the agenda. Are those defending the Board suggesting that the child (and the "adult who encouraged" her to speak) should have waited until the scheduled time for bullying discussion? That wasn't explicitly on the agenda, but we have to assume it was to be "discussed" during the session named "Board Policy Updates", including "Controversial Issues" (scheduled for 9:55 PM which ended up being around well after midnight)? Or should they have done it at the time originally published on the schedule for "open forum" (8:30, which was shifted to before 7 PM)? Are you suggesting that the 11 year old girl should have been more thoughtful about following those rules? And if she didn't follow the rules, then "that which was to be demonstrated" was done "out of order" and, thus, she should be stricken from room? If we ever see a bullying policy update, will you be the same ones that say if the child fails to do XXX (whatever the rules state) then he/she didn't follow the agenda of our sage Board and his/her voice should be silenced until rules are followed? Or will you think differently?

In all of this debate about following rules or not following rules, we are forgetting that this event is reflective of the Board's continuing ineffectiveness as leaders and as educators. PAUSD's vision includes the phrase "We support all PAUSD students as they prepare themselves to thrive as global citizens in a rapidly changing world." Did our Board help this young girl learn, from adults, how to thrive in a rapidly changing moment? Did they empower "every chilod (sic, from PAUSD website) to reach [his or her] full intellectual, social, and creative potential"?

The Board had a chance to empower ONE child in their rapidly changing agenda. They failed. I, for one, hope this gets discussed at Middle Schools and at PALY/Gunn. And I hope this young girl gets another chance to use her powerful voice. The good news is that now "every" child in PAUSD has a chance to learn from this moment. Let's hope the Board do too.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:02 am

Fred is a registered user.

@NB - to clarify, the Agenda for the meeting listed the Open Forum at 6:35pm (here's the link - Web Link - item #4 at the bottom of page 2, following the Consent Calendar). It's been in the same spot since the beginning of the school year. The staff failed to update a web page and maybe another document (not sure exactly) that listed the previous slot ("close to 8:30").

I'm curious - how many people on this thread have ever run public committee meetings (Peter Carpenter is one, I know)? I've run a few - it is not as easy as perhaps it seems. There is business to get through, and impatient people waiting for their items to come up, and members of the public (and members of the committee) have their own issues, interests, agendas, etc., and the chairperson's job is to enable input while trying to stay roughly on track and on schedule. When someone steps up in the midst of an agenda item (one of many) and launches into a prepared statement about something completely unrelated - I'm not sure how many chairs would simply smile and say please go ahead. Maybe you grit your teeth and hope that it is just one person; maybe you ask them to stay on topic. For me, I'm interested in what the young lady has to say, but I'd prefer to hear it during a related item or at the next Open Forum in two weeks time.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Fred is correct, running a meeting of a public body is difficult. One of the keys is to remember that the meeting is not an end in itself but a means to an end which is managing the public's business on behalf of the public. The other key a is having a well prepared and well documented ( attached reports etc.) public agenda.

The problem with public comment period is most pronounced when such comment has not been both stimulated and facilitated in the past and there is a lot of pent up frustration - that boil must be pricked and when it is there will be a one time outpouring of emotion and some anger. Once the air has been cleared then future public comment periods become quite manageable and are a crucial mechanism for the elected officials to receive input from the people whom they serve.

This is how the Fire Board agendas prefaces each of the four comment periods that are provided at every Fire Board meeting:

"A fundamental element of democracy is the right of citizens to address their elected representatives."

The Fire Board also has a unique provision that allows citizens the opportunity to place items on its agenda:
"Agenda Item Requests - Members of the Public
Any member of the public may request that a matter directly related to District business be placed on the agenda of a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Directors. The request may be made during the public comment portion of any Board meeting, but unless the requirements of the Brown Act can be met, the agenda item may only be added to a future meeting agenda. If the request is made outside of a Board meeting, the procedure is as follows:
1. The request must be submitted, in writing, to the Fire Chief at least one week prior to the Board meeting, and
2. The Board President, upon consultation with the Fire Chief, will determine whether the public request is a "matter directly related to the District Business" and if so, it may be placed on the Board's next scheduled meeting agenda."

Finally, as previously noted, starting a meeting with a public comment period is an excellent practice and there is no legal reason that comments made at that time cannot included comments on items that will be discussed by the elected body later in the meeting. The Brown Act simply requires the opportunity for public comment at some time BEFORE the elected body makes its decision.

In general, showing respect for the people whom we serve is a great way for elected officials to be treated with respect by those whom they serve.


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Posted by Star Teachout
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Star Teachout is a registered user.

[Post removed to protect privacy of student.]


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Posted by Star Teachout
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Star Teachout is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] In our 11 years at Barron Park, and through my yearly volunteering, I know and trust the very high quality teachers at Barron Park, and I seriously doubt whether they were ever informed of excessive teasing/bullying and took no action. It is just not possible.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I have chaired committees in conjunction with participating in the League of Women Voters. Never have I felt the need to threaten anyone with forcible expulsion, let alone a child. Ms. Mitchell has had 9 years on the school board to learn about the rights and obligations of the chair. She should apologize to the child and the community, in my view. Her action was simply beyond the pale.


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Posted by RogerD
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 8, 2014 at 2:50 pm

RogerD is a registered user.

Marielena Gaona Mendoza,is obviously someone known to the board, she knew the rules and decided to break them.She said herself she wants to be like Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez. I suggest the child obviously not her daughter, was simply a front, a method to get public attention.
As for an apology, I think its clear that one was already given by the board, where is the apology from Marlielena for showing up late. (accidentally late. Really.)
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 8, 2014 at 3:27 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

Second, it is absolutely possible that there was bullying at Barron Park that wasn't reported correctly. It happens all the time. That';s because there is no policy procedure or protocol for handling it. Especially when Kathy was principal a lot of stuff got handled in a lot of random ways and no one was alerted, not parents or staff. The school is a good school but not everything was perfect, not every teacher was good [portion removed.]

Third, there's no excuse for doing what Mitchell did to Angela. I don't care what her issues are with Marielena. No excuse.


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 8, 2014 at 4:25 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

Why does Roger get to say that Angela was a "front" being "used" by adults? That is so incredibly insulting to Angela -- it steals her agency, presumes that she could have nothing worth saying or hearing on her own, presumes that she did not want to talk about her experience, that she was just a tool.

It's obvious to me that some of the people in this drama are indeed tools but it's not Angela.


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Posted by Star Teachout
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Star Teachout is a registered user.

Dear JLS mom of 2,

[Portion removed.] I would like to better understand what your expectations are for a public school, its teachers, and administrators. I don't expect perfection from any of those components, and try to respect all parties involved. As I've posted in the past, which has offended you in some way, I believe these cases are very complicated and many people are quick to place all the blame on others rather than accept some personal responsibility (nor do they acknowledge the flaws inherent in institutions like public schools).

What can we influence? We can talk to our children when they either perpetrate unkindness or are the receiver of it. We can have respectful discussions and hopefully solve some problems while building more connections with each other. We can put some procedures in place, but I would rather get to the sources of these bullying cases.





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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:33 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

I think you are really misbehaving by posting facts about what you think you know about the family involved in the Terman OCR case.

I don't disagree with what you have written above -- after all, it's mostly a bunch of blandishments without much meaning. Sure, we shouldn't expect perfection from the public schools and to my knowledge no one does. I don't, nor does the federal government. However, this isn't merely a he said/she said situation, nor is it one of maladjusted or unreasonable expectations. This is a case in which the law requires a certain minimal level of care from the school officials, Katherine Baker in particular. After a year-long full and thorough investigation the federal government concluded that the minimum level of expectation was not met. That's not an opinion nor is it a matter that is any longer subject to debate. It is a fact. Katherine Baker and the staff at Terman broke the law when they failed to intervene effectively to protect a disabled child from disability-based bullying.

You can say that you don't like that finding for some reason, though it is hard to know what that would be. What you should not do (and what the editor is persistently stopping you from doing) is trying to insert different facts that sup[posedly you know about due to your volunteering at BP, about the family to try to discredit them, their family members, or the finding.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Star Teachout
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Star Teachout is a registered user.

Dear JLS mom,

1. My postings in this thread are about the recent school board meeting, not the Terman OCR case. I have not brought anything forward in this thread about that previous case.

2. Have I ever stated that the schools were innocent of wrongdoing in any of the cases? No. I have no information about how the cases were handled or mishandled.

3. Have I ever said a disparaging word against the people involved? No.

[Portion removed.] You have made some enormous assumptions and then condemned me based on them. This sort of dialog isn't adding anything to the forum.


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 8, 2014 at 10:02 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

Fortunately your posts to that effect were removed "to protect the privacy of the student" so I can't quote them back to you. Still remaining above is your post stating that it is "not possible" that BP School staff could be told about bullying and fail to address it. Since you don't have a mind-reading machine or ex-ray vision you don't actually know what anyone was told or did or did not do about it yet you are willing to make flat statements that something simply could not occur which others allege did in fact occur.

If you plan to stop making these statements, that is all to the good. But let me reiterate -- you are using your position as a volunteer at BP school to act as if you know something more than everyone else about what has happened in these cases and you are insinuating things that are just wrong. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by frustrated mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 8, 2014 at 10:31 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

I wish that someone from Palo Alto On Line could tell us why did they locked the thread so soon. Not everyone likes to register and by locking it, they are "Cutting the Mike" and not everyone can share what they believe. Hope they write the reason. I am wonder if any of the parties involved in the article asked PALOALTOONLINE To lock it.


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Posted by Star Teachout
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Star Teachout is a registered user.

Dear JLS mom of 2
I continue to find your assumptions troubling. I've never said that I know the inside details of the recent case through my volunteering, nor have I said that there was no bullying. I mentioned my volunteering over the past decade as an indication that I know many of the teachers more than just saying hello. It is obvious that the district has not complied with federal regulations in the past, and needs to improve.

In this recent case I need more information (than what was contained in the original article) before I judge that the system--including all the teachers involved at Barron Park-- again failed another student. I guess that is called loyalty. It is one thing to want a complete change of leadership in the school board/superintendent because you find them reprehensible, or want a centralized bullying procedure. It is another issue altogether to label the entire teaching staff (all lumped together as Barron Park) as having turned away from helping this student.

Some of the teachers may not have responded to what is considered teasing, but to suggest that some/all of them watched a student be truly bullied, fearful of her safety and did nothing? Of course I can be wrong, but I just don't believe it of some of the teachers involved. That is my opinion, and I believe there is probably more to the story than uncaring teachers. Perhaps that's your argument for a protocol? Perhaps my post of a year ago was not clearly stated, but I think you have misjudged me. Perhaps that's the essential problem with these forums. Perhaps I resign.

"..I seriously doubt whether they were ever informed of excessive teasing/bullying and took no action. It is just not possible.


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Posted by George Orwell
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2014 at 12:16 am

George Orwell is a registered user.

@Star Teachout - Knowing nothing about the situation discussed above, I am sorry to be the messenger: Everything and anything is possible, unfortunately.


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Posted by Star Teachout
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2014 at 10:06 am

Star Teachout is a registered user.

I understand your point. I should have said "It seems unlikely." rather than "It is just not possible."


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Posted by dancin man
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm

dancin man is a registered user.

I just watched the video and see zero reason for Mitchell to apologize to anyone. She attempted to be as courteous as possible to the student speaking and only got irritated when Mendoza apparently hijacked the mic and attempted to (much less eloquently than the student, mind you) speak (perhaps a more appropriate term would be rant) about the student's issue, after the student had been directed to speak to the appropriate authority on the case.

If anything, Mendoza owes Mitchell an apology for disrupting the meeting at a completely inappropriate time.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 10, 2014 at 9:27 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

The idea that a citizen should apologize to an elected official who illegally threatened her with ejection is astonishing. We're speaking of a child who wanted to deliver a one minute statement to the school board.

I do not think that that Ms. Mitchell's defenders are doing her any favors by continuing to defend her action.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 10, 2014 at 9:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sometimes it is not who is 'right' or 'wrong' that is important but rather who has the wisdom to accept responsibility regardless of who was right or wrong in order to serve the community.

A little humility and a dose of wisdom would be a wonderful end to this episode.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 10, 2014 at 11:33 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

We all need to try to be objective and both the Board and the public share responsibilities to insure reasonable meeting outcomes. The student certainly should get another opportunity to speak in the future. However, it is very obvious in the video that the student was never threatened with ejection - the treat was directed at the adult who took the mic and started shouting at the Board. To continue blaming the Board for mistreating the student is not fair and is not accurate. Furthermore, nobody was actually ejected from the meeting - as the meeting continued both adults and the student sat down and listened to the next speaker.


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Posted by dancin man
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 7:53 pm

dancin man is a registered user.

@Peggy Duncan, watch the video, neither the threat of ejection from the meeting (which I doubt is illegal if given sufficient cause -- perhaps, for example grabbing the mic from another speaker and disruptively and arguably threateningly shouting at the board members) nor Mitchell's irritation were directed towards the child, which appears to be a common misconception here. The threat of ejection (which seemed legitimately quite reasonable--the meeting was being obstructed completely unnecessarily and NOT by the child, but by her adult chaperone) was not even remotely directed towards the child.

I do admire and respect the child for being willing to come forward and speak in an open forum regarding her undoubtably serious issues with bullying, however the actions of her chaperone were ridiculously inappropriate, and for some reason people seem to believe that any of Mitchell's comments or annoyance were directed towards the child, when they clearly were not.

In addition, the child's chaperone should have probably directed Angela to the appropriate source (or contacted an appropriate source herself) before instructing Angela coming to speak before the school board. Again, I admire Angela's courage in speaking in a public forum, however having attended Barron Park myself several years ago, I find it unbelievable that teachers would have allowed a serious bullying problem to go unresolved had the student approached them.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 10, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

@Alphonso and @dancin man

Your statements are simply inaccurate.

First, Ms. Mitchell has no authority to expel anyone from a public meeting unless they are making it impossible for the meeting to continue. The idea that Angela or Ms. Gaona-Mendoza was doing that is absurd. Angela was making a 1-minute statement to the board, and Ms. Gaona-Mendoza was trying to persuade Ms. Mitchell to allow her to complete it. It was Ms. Mitchell's behavior that caused the most significant delay in the meeting, which was in any case minimal, perhaps 3 minutes total in a 7.5 hour meeting.

Second, Ms. Gaona-Mendoza did not speak at all until she was directly addressed by Ms. Mitchell, and she was responding to Ms. Mitchell's questions and interruptions. The statement that Ms. Gaona-Mendoza "grabbed" the microphone and shouted at the board is completely false, as a cursory examination of the record shows.

Third, Angela was standing at the lectern trying to complete her statement the entire time that Ms. Mitchell was directing that her microphone be cut, and that she be removed. Can you imagine what it was like for that child, having summoned the courage to come to the school board, to be so rudely and summarily dismissed and threatened?

I do place the blame for this episode squarely on Ms. Mitchell, primarily, and the board, secondarily. I have never seen a public body so badly mistreat a child. I hope I never do again. The fact that Ms. Mitchell has chosen not to apologize is to me a sign that a moment of bad judgment in anger in fact reflects a deeper misunderstanding of her role as a public servant.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Fred is a registered user.

@Peggy Duncan - as the saying goes, there are three versions of any event - his, hers, and the truth. I definitely did not see and hear the things that you describe in your post - to me, it is you who are simply inaccurate. Oh well.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 10, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

@Fred

Here are the parts where Ms. Mitchell is addressing Ms. Gaona-Mendoza (Marielena), and she is responding:

Barb Mitchell: Excuse me for interrupting, but this item is on the middle school courses. Marielena, I'm going to hold you, I'm talking to you. Is this about middle school courses?
Marielena Gaona-Mendoza: Yes, she goes to middle school right now. If you wait a little bit...

...

Barb Mitchell: Miss B. My dear, could I direct you to speak with Dr. Young who is in the room as this item is not on the agenda right now. Marielena Gaona, we're done now and I want to be very courteous to our young student and I would ask that—
Marielena Gaona-Mendoza: She wants to say that she was bullied and there should be a law that protects all kids, not just special ed kids. And you are here to work for the kids and this is a kid bringing you an issue and you are cutting off the kid. What are you doing there?
Barb Mitchell: Marielena Gaona-Mendoza, you are out of order. You are out of order.
Marielena Gaona-Mendoza: She needs to finish.

In both cases, Ms. Mitchell spoke directly to Ms. Gaona-Mendoza, and Ms. Gaona-Mendoza responded. During this entire time, Angela was at the microphone. I don't see the inaccuracy.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Fred is a registered user.

@Peggy Duncan - what part of your transcript or the video supports your statement: "The statement that Ms. Gaona-Mendoza "grabbed" the microphone and shouted at the board is completely false, as a cursory examination of the record shows."

I do no see anything on the video that supports your claim. At 1:28:48 for the next 20 seconds or so, we hear Ms. G-M loudly and clearly - I believe, though the video does not show it, that at that point she is speaking into the microphone, since prior you can barely hear her when she speaks. I do not know whether the student is still standing at the lectern at that time (as you also state) or not - the video does not show the student. It may have been that Ms. G-M took her place so she could speak into the microphone. Whether she "shouted" is unclear - she seems to me to be speaking louder than anyone else on the tape, but volume levels are hard to assess. I would say she raised her voice.

You statement that someone else's view is "absurd" seems like an opinion on its face, so maybe "inaccurate" is the wrong word - I guess I just disagree with you there.



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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 11, 2014 at 8:53 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

Fred, the truth is that Ms. Mendoza stepped to the microphone in order to respond to Ms. Mitchell, who interrupted the student twice to address Ms. Mendoza directly. I think it qualifies as absurd to characterize that as grabbing the mike and shouting at the board.

A more mature response to this situation works be to acknowledge the error, rather than to mischaracterize Ms. Mendoza on order to defend Ms. Mitchell.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Fred is a registered user.

@Peggy Duncan - if you find those who disagree with your interpretations absurd and/or immature, there isn't much point in discussing with you. I can get insults like that any time from my wife ;-) I look forward to future numbers of "The Gospel According to Peggy."


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 11, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

Fred, I'm definitely feeling some empathy for your wife :)


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