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Teachers, bus drivers honored with 'Sweetheart Awards'

Original post made on Feb 27, 2014

At the annual "Sweetheart Awards" ceremony Wednesday, special education parents paid tribute to teachers and other school staff members who have gone their extra mile for their children.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, February 27, 2014, 10:31 AM

Comments (28)

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Posted by Duveneck parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 27, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Thank you to everyone who made last night so special! It is always wonderful to hear how members of the community reach out to children with special needs.


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Posted by former CAC
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2014 at 3:09 pm

"Several principals were honored by the special education parents, as was departing district Superintendent Kevin Skelly."

I am slack-jawed. Did you give an award to Katherine Baker too? Well done undercutting yourselves. No one can take you seriously now.


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Posted by former CAC
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2014 at 6:25 pm

I was told that this story is in error and that it was district special education STAFF not parents that honored Kevin Skelly. This is kind of a big mistake, don't you think? The PARENTS were the ones who had their rights violated and the STAFF are the ones that Skelly protected by concealing information from the board. The PARENTS are the ones who begged federal and state auditors for help. Weekly can you please confirm why you think it was Special Ed parents who "honored" Skelly rather than the STAFF?


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Posted by I am sure he did not deserve to be honored
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I am sure that the special education staff asked them to do this, they did it one time when Zepecky was leaving. They do this because out of pity because they have been forced to resign. You know Skelly will be the last one I would nominate. Yes, they did it because he is leaving, they did not give one to Katherine, because she is not leaving unless she is forced to leave. At this point she will not leave because she has the support of Skelly, but she will be next along with Holly Wade, Huertas and Young. You know Huertas also violated the rights of the child by not assign an aide to make sure she did not get bullied. What a nightmare in Palo Alto School District.


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Posted by Reality
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2014 at 8:07 pm

@I am sure: This is an annual ceremony, not one held when someone is "forced to resign." Carol Zepecki was not forced to leave, she retired because she was burned out from dealing with the stresses of her thankless job [portion removed.] She contributed quite a bit to the district in the twelve years she was there. Kevin Skelly has not been forced out, from what I can tell. You really need to deal in facts, not innuendo.


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Posted by Using Kids
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2014 at 8:16 pm

How demeaning to single out the other kids for accepting a special needs child into their class, as if it is so unusual they must be given an award for being decent human beings. It says that in PAUSD equal treatment of the disabled is so unusual, so unexpected that children must receive an award to do it. PAUSD says they can do full inclusion without appropriate services by requiring the other children to be responsible for teaching them. Other children should not be expected to be "sometimes friends, sometimes therapists". Children should not be therapists and are not teachers.


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Posted by I am Sure He did not Deserve to be Honored
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Using Kids,
This third grader teacher and his class has been honored many times because he accepts the disabled kids in his class, therefore, they can be fully included, but I bet you that Mr. Fote does not have disable Latino students fully included in his class. I did not attend the award , but I bet you that his disabled students are white or Asian. Actually Mr. Fote is very impatient with disabled Latino students. Lately this years he is using the disabled students to become famous. Make sure you ask your disabled kids if Mr. Fote gives you the "look when he or she does not understand something" This is what he does not when he is under stress and the students do not "get it" I hope he is being good from the heart and not just pretending. Disabled students are ignored, and regular kids only like to play hide and seek with them, to hide away from them. It is the only way to get rid of the disabled students. It is very unusual to see other students talking to them. They often call them retarded and think of them as if they had some king of decease no one wants to get near them. You usually see them alone in the playground and those who read, they just sit down and read, sometimes they stop to watch other play. I rembember this girl at Barron Park used to cry and said why do they not want to play with me, why? They always ruan away from me. Even some teachers recommend other students not to make friends with them. It is awful. Hopefully there is no discrimination when we die. This way they will stop suffering for being lonely.
I have seen them do it. [Portion removed.] I know my facts. Do you know yours? Full inclusion save $$ to the district, this is what they do in East Palo Alto, but at least they fully include every child, not just the Asian, rich and White


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Posted by Skung
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Special Ed hit some new lows after Zepecki left. Like anyone, she had her pluses and minuses, but the Wade-Huertas show has been one failure after another. Skelly leaving is one part of some seriously-needed housecleaning. Charles Young should be announcing very soon his departure, though I would love to see him apply for,Skelly's job. Wade has not had one good year in Palo Alto. We need replacements.


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Posted by PSUSD parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:27 pm

It was truly disgusting to see Holly Wade, Tammy Zigler, and A flaky behaviorist who never can follow up get awards.

Are you telling me that this person could not come up with an aide, teacher, neighbor, nanny, parent, soccer coach, sibling etc to nominate?

The nomination was so transparent that it left me depressed. Clearly this parent thought that if you nominate Holly Wade, Zogler, and Ms. Lack of follow up behaviorist Renee, you can get additional services. For a moment, I thought I was watching a promotion in corporate America.


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Posted by Mother of two disabled PAUSD kids
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2014 at 11:46 pm

The comments posted are just uninformed. The sweetheart award is an award reviewed and recognized by the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC)for PAUSD. This is a volunteer parent driven organization of parents with children in special education. The parents in the group know what the heck is going on and I can tell you that as I was on the CAC for 10 years. This is not a political prize. This award comes from the heart. Every person's experience is different. Let me start with Carol Zepkey. Having dealt with two other special education Directors in other school districts prior to Carol, let me tell you she was a class act and a true child advocate. Don't tell me I don't know what I am talking about because I lived it with her. I will forever be greatful to Carol. She was smart and fair. She cared and did what she could within her span of control. After she left, I saw things slide and I couldn't even tell you the name of the special education director at PAUSD today, maybe because my kids were older and are less vulnerable. Every child and disability is different. My point is don't discount the experience of one parent, kid, sibling, teacher over another. Celebrate every victory, every kindness, every win. That is wat CAC Sweetheart Awards are all about..... kindness and the human spirit.


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Posted by Ditto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2014 at 12:51 am

@PSUSD Parent - Ditto. The behaviorist has no license, no certification, and no credential. Special Education is allowed to hire their personal contractors, people who return their calls, just not parents. No follow up behaviorist - very true. In PAUSD the way Special Education hiring works is they can hire any contractor they want. There are no controls, and their hires have no licenses, no credentials, and no certification. That is who is allowed to work with the most vulnerable children and to determine their futures. Zero controls. There is no way for parents to file complaints or contact a supervisor about problem behaviorists, or to file a complaint with any oversight board. PAUSD uses unlicensed behaviorists so that no one can provide any oversight over their work. So they are not required to follow any ethical guidelines, and can do whatever they want.

@I am sure he did not deserve to be honored - Ditto. Our Special Education Coordinator did the same thing as Huertas, insisting all disabled kids are bullied, and it is not possible to stop bullying. Watching disabled children be abused as the official policy of PAUSD Special Education is still one of the most harmful experiences of our families' lives. I doubt anyone will ever recover from Special Education's official policy of laziness and neglect. The behaviorist promised to help, but never followed up. Sadly, there will probably be no changes in Special Education until a new Superintendent comes in, so this will go on for the foreseeable future. The entire Special Education Department needs to be replaced. There needs to be parent evaluations of their performance. No more behaviorist contractors, no personal hiring, let them all meet minimum standards and let them all re-compete for their jobs.


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Posted by I am Sure He did not Deserve to be Honored
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 6:24 am

Ditto,
You got it. The, young behaviorist [portion removed] was recommended to work with our child, she said she will come and evaluate the student, I do not know how, since she does not have license. She just went to school one day to observe for few minutes, but never came back or call the parents to follow up. I thought I was the only one.
She is so irresponsible, but what else can she do? she is just trying to do something she has no knowledge about because she did not went to school and get a credential the district told her to do. I think. I am sure she makes good money, but does not do her job, she neglects the students and teachers who are counting on her. This is why inclusion will not work, since teachers do not get the support they need. There is more than one behavior therapist, but she is still the same, she does not sees the kids as it is written in the iEP. She sees them only when parents start to complain about it, or when the disabled kids get bullied. I guess she does a little more than Skelly. Even poor school districts have a credential behaviorist, how come we don't? Oh maybe we do not have enough money to hire a credential one because we are spending the money to lawyer up to defend Skelly when he
I have never heard any reports from our PR, when is she going to do her job. Now that Skelly leaves he should take her with her since she was hired to protect Skelly, we do not longer need her. I am sure that Skelly will need her when he finds a job. That way he starts with the right foot. Some of you are right when you say that parents give awards to staff to get more services, you know this kind of makes people change their attitudes about staff who fails the kids. Zepecky was very nice to whoever she wanted, and could be the worst with those she hated. In this case the parents who is defending her says that she live with her. Of course she is going to treat you better DU!


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Posted by I am sure he deserved to be honored
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 8:43 am

These posts just show that you can't please everyone and that the TS has degraded into a forum for the few (5-10) disenfranchised people in the district.


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Posted by TPAR = you?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 3, 2014 at 6:02 pm

It's pretty sad that there is an acronym for the people who live here. Way to turn a positive story negative, Palo Alto Online readers. I can always count on my "Typical Palo Alto Resident" neighbors to find something wrong with the work others do.


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Posted by Press
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm

PAUSD publicizes these events and invites the press to attend in hopes the press will report the District in a positive light. The District makes the event and recipients of the awards public information. So it is appropriate for citizens to comment if they see problems.
CAC sponsors the award, which is problematic since they advocate with the Special Education Office. They are the insiders, with access to Special Education staff that other parents do not have. CAC parents work hard for children and are all volunteer parents, but if the awards are sponsored by them it raises questions.
Lower paid faculty and staff, the people who are actually with the kids and who put in a great effort every day should receive awards. Bus driver's should be awarded. Awards should not be given to Administrators and their contractors, such as contract behaviorists. Administrators are District senior managers who approve granting services to children. Behaviorist's are paid by Administrators to recommend and argue if a child qualifies as having a disability and if a disabled child should receive services or not. If they are hired non-competitively and paid by Special Education's Administrators, questions are to be expected. It comes with PAUSD publicizing these events to the press.


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Posted by question
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Ditto, and others wrote about the behaviorist without credentials. I have heard this before but did not know what it meant. However, i was just reading the administrative case about the severely allergic autistic child (story on the main page) [see: Web Link]. I discovered that the complaints about Renee Yamaguchi, the district behaviorist, appear to be somewhat reasonable given that she does not even have a bachelor's degree. There is a professional behaviorist licensing agency, the BCBA and I am not sure why the district employs a behaviorist who is not licensed. Does anyone know?

From the administrative record:

"Ms. Yamaguchi has been employed by the District as a behaviorist for 13 years. She holds an AA degree in psychology, and is working on obtaining her bachelor's degree in psychology from Brandlin University. As a District behaviorist, her duties include designing and implementing discrete trial training programs, she observes students‟ behaviors and collects data, and she assists in developing behavior support plans and behavioral intervention plans. She has been familiar with ABA techniques since 1995, when she started working as a therapist in discrete trial training in-home programs. Prior to becoming employed by the District, she worked for a variety of non-public agencies taking behavioral data and implementing discrete trial training programs. Throughout her professional career she has worked with children with severe autism."


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Posted by question
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Also, does anyone know what Brandlin University is? I think this means "Brandman" which is an online correspondence course. Is this the best we can do? This is Palo Alto not rural Arkansas Seems disappointing.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I can think of a few other people who should not have had the jobs they had based on their lack of degree: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, We are lucky they weren't judged on their lack of a "degree" but on their skills.


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Posted by question
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 5:46 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Longtime parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Carol Zapecki was great. Always intent on finding a solution that worked for the child.

Maybe with the change in superintendent some of the underlings will also go and we will have another chance to fill her shoes.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2014 at 7:56 pm

[Post removed due to removal of referenced comment.]


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Posted by Full Disclosure
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm

@question Thank you for posting the information from the link of the administrative case about the severely allergic autistic child. The person is a contractor and not an employee. Reading the link, the credentials of many PAUSD autism specialist are questionable.

Behaviorist -
The qualifications for the behaviorist did not list any training or credentials or certification in teaching children with autism or providing ABA services at all. It just says she is familiar with them and where she has worked.

Also, the first sentence of the paragraph posted was left out:
65. Ms. Warter's report contained the results of the behavior observations conducted by Renee Yamaguchi, a behaviorist, and Cheryl Turnboo, BCBA.

Cheryl Turnboo, BCBA, is Renee Yamaguchi's mother.

The Teacher
54. She holds a specialist deaf and hard of hearing teaching credential. She has experience teaching children with severe autism in her capacity as an SDC teacher for one day per week from 2007 through the end of the 2013 school year.

However, the teacher does not have a credential to teach children on the autism spectrum.

The BCBA
66. Ms. Turnboo has been a consultant with the El Dorado County Office of Education (El Dorado) for 20 years, and she has been a consultant for the District for two years. Ms. Turnboo holds a bachelor's degree in education from California State University, Sacramento, and an M.Ed. from National University with a specialization in ABA. She holds a certificate in ABA and she is a BCBA. She works closely with Ms. Yamaguchi and she also supervises other District behaviorists.

Ms. Turnboo the BCBA is the mother of Renee Yamaguchi, the behaviorist.

Guidelines and ethical rules for BCBA's can be found at the BCBA Board site:
Web Link


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Posted by question
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 7, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I am confused about the post from Full Disclosure. FD has posted that Ms. Turnboo the Board Certified Behavior Analyst, who supervises district behavorists who are not certified like Ms. Yamaguchi, is the mother of Ms. Yamaguchi. How is that even possible. Was that fact disclosed to the hearing officer? Since the Board Certified person who was vouching for and assisting Ms. Yamaguchi, the uncertified unlicensed person, was possibly her MOTHER shouldn't that have been disclosed to the plaintiffs, their lawyer, and the hearing officer? Yet it is not even in a footnote in the opinion: Web Link

They both provided testimony in the case against the family, with the BCBA Turnboo backstopping the testimpny of her daughter.

I feel like this could not possibly be true. Can anyone help me understand the interaction with anti-nepotism rules and this very puzzling and concerning fact?

Thank you.


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Posted by Longtime parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2014 at 6:36 pm

I guess a "behaviorist" is someone who works with autistic children? Is it really true that the district has a mom supervising her own daughter in this role? And that they both testified against a family with an autistic child, and no one mentioned that? If that's all true, it seems pretty shady.


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Posted by Full Disclosure
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 8, 2014 at 12:41 am

You can look up any certified BCBA or BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavioral Analyst) in the Certificant Registry at Web Link. Go to the link Consumer Information, than to Find a Certifcant.

Warrants Although hard to find, you can locate information about PAUSD payments to contract behaviorists in the Warrants approved by the Board of Education. Go to Web Link, click on Meetings and Materials. Then scroll down to each meeting, and once a month the Warrants will be listed. You can click on each month's and see a report of payments.
PAUSD pays both Ms. Turnboo and Ms. Yamaguchi. When a BCBA is needed, Ms. Turnaboo is called in to do behavioral assessments for students that Ms. Yamaguchi and other behaviorists work with. PAUSD also pays Ms. Turnboo to supervise other behaviorists without a BCBA or who are training to be a BCBA. It is unclear if PAUSD pays them under Legal or under Behaviorists, but from administrative case about the severely allergic autistic child it looks like at least some money is being spent not on services for chidlren but on behaviorists and BCBAs to sue parents of autistic children and fight autistic children cases in court. If a behaviorist is a lead, that person is over other behaviorists, so even if there is no direct supervision, somehow it is hard to see how a relative is not involved in many of the behavior cases. It is murky and impossible to sort out the relationships.
From the description posted of her qualifications, the non-certified behaviorist would not qualify as either a BCBA or a BCaBA (an assistant who must work under supervision of a BCBA). The registry lists Ms. Turnboo, as a BCBA in Diamond Springs, CA.
@question PAUSD allows nepotism in the case of behaviorists because Special Education hires them as independent contractors, not employees. They don't have to go through a competitive hiring process or meet ethical standards because Special Education can hire who they wish, regardless of qualification or being a relative.
@Longtime Parent If Special Education has 'employed' or paid an unlicensed contractor for many years, sadly the contractor depends on them for their livelihood, especially if they don't even have a Bachelor's degree needed to qualify for BCaB (assistant). It is hard to see how they could give independent opinions and not be under pressure to give recommendations the District wants. Unlike other Districts, PAUSD does not use ABA agencies which require licensed or certified staff and provides checks and balances.


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Posted by question
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm

This does not seem like a good idea to me. I certainly hope that the lawyer for the family is reading this thread and learns about the fact that two of the witnesses might be a mother-daughter situation so that he can question the independence of Turnboo if it is true that she is the mom of the person she supervises. That's a Charlie Foxtrot.

I really wish that family well and hope that they win in court. Enough of spending district funds on lawyers instead of on helping our special ed students.

And what is going on with the Latino community and this school district? Why are there Latino families at the board meetings with big signs every week lately or protesting outside of the district? I don't know what they are protesting about but does anyone at the district even have a clue? Why is this happening?

It just seems like no one is running things.


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Posted by frustrated mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 8, 2014 at 8:00 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

FYI these parents got tired of the Special Education administrators and Dr. Skelly. Enough is enough. At this time we are also protesting outside Gunn High School because our child has no placement. The district is recommending a school in San Mateo when the child gets anxiety riding a car. She needs a school closer to home. Also when she gets this anxious she might lose control and get out of the car. This is a posttraumatic stress disorder that resulted from all the bullying she suffers at PAUSD schools. Child has been home since December 14 213. The school takes her time. Mr. Young too, and claims that the case is complex. We will keep protesting and will move from school to school and district. People need to become aware that bulling is very detrimental for the victim. We also need to become aware that we need better administrators at the district office. They make a lot of money and all they do is treat the parents like dirt. They treated me nice when I sign the IEP documents and did not question their recommendations.


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Posted by PAUSD Professional Violations
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:06 am

Looking at the three PAUSD hearing decisions posted (links below) it was surprising and sad to see the same therapists who provide services to disabled children at school also testify against these children in the hearings. They use private and sensitive medical and psychological data obtained at school as part of school based services or at home to evaluate children for school placement. Parents probably trusted these professional, never knowing the real reason for providing services and asking for personal data was to testify against a child.

Parents probably think when a professional with a license or certificate comes from PAUSD, they are there to help the child, some who are as young as three years old, and that think their information is private.

Parents probably think licensed medical professionals such as the Speech Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists who testified follow the highest ethical guidelines and act in the best interest of the child.

Parents probably think school psychologists face an even higher standard in protecting child's privacy and putting the child's best interests first.

Instead, these hearing documents show a wide range of professionals testifying against disabled children in hearings. If they were all clearly hired by the District only for these hearings that would be one thing, but these are the same people who provide services to children every day at school in order for the disabled children to be able to obtain an education.

Children have no choice but to attend school where the professionals are collecting information, and families have no choice but to send them. Even when families know a school or program is not a good placement for the child, they are powerless. They can only obey the Special Education Division and bow to their latest fad belief that all children must be mainstreamed with almost no help to survive school. Parents want their disabled children to survive school have little choice but to allow professionals such as the behaviorist and psychologist in the hearing to work with their children at school, sometimes alone with the child with no supervision or credentialed person present. Families are powerless against the unlimited legal fund coffers of PAUSD.

Reading the hearing decisions, we are frighted to ever allow our children to work with these SLPs, OTs, psychologists and behaviorists again. BCBA guidelines, at least, say the therapists must put the child first, not the third party payer such as the school district. None of these people should have licenses, how do their Boards or fields allow this?

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