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Glenn 'Max' McGee accepts Palo Alto superintendent job

Original post made on May 23, 2014

Glenn "Max" McGee, a long-time educator from Illinois to whom the Palo Alto school board officially offered the district superintendent position earlier today, told the Weekly Friday that he has accepted the offer.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 23, 2014, 9:50 AM

Comments (85)

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 10:04 am

Is it a coincidence that the school board hires a principal who shares a name with an World Cup Nordic skier then a Supe who shares a name -- even given ironically -- with a Super Bowl hero?

Web Link

I would have thought we could have found somebody good in one of the 22 contiguous western states...what about Phil Tucher?


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Posted by Karen
a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2014 at 10:39 am

Sure hyping the guy up, hope he doesn't make any mistakes.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2014 at 10:46 am

@Karen - who doesn't make mistakes? Of course he will, but give the guy a break..


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 11:14 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 23, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note that there has not been one opportunity for public comments on the appointment of this individual as the new superintendent nor on his contract.


You get the kind of behavior from your school board that you demand.


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Posted by Paul at Barron Park
a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2014 at 1:45 pm

@Peter Carpenter - I'm sure that would go well.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 23, 2014 at 1:47 pm

The public is allowed to speak prior to closed session on Tuesday, May 27, at 1:30 p.m. at the District Office. The public will have two additional opportunities to speak--one on June 3 and the other on June 17 at the Board's regular meetings.


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Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Congratulations on becoming Superintendent, Mr McGee!
We are trusting you with our children and our town! I know both are in good hands. Have fun, enjoy, and never forget it's all about the best interest of the child!


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Posted by Oh Boy
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 23, 2014 at 1:57 pm

What in the world was wrong with Anonymous' post? The "Chinese" reference is based on it being founded with a Foundation from China backing it (per the article):

"McGee is currently head of school at the Princeton Institute for Mathematics and Science, an educational start-up that he spearheaded in the last year with the backing of a Chinese foundation."

That was not a racist comment.


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Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2014 at 2:09 pm

One question. Is PAUSD all about STEM? What for the other students, not that interested in STEM?


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I hope the guy brings some academics focus. There's a reason people send their kids to private schools. Yes, even around here. Paly senior honors awards last night, pretty much an academic vacuum.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 23, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The public is allowed to speak prior to closed session on Tuesday, May 27, at 1:30 p.m. at the District Office. The public will have two additional opportunities to speak--one on June 3 and the other on June 17 at the Board's regular meetings."

Has Mr. MgGee been offered the job?
Who made that decision and when?
What votes were taken in the closed session?
Were those votes reported out at the end of the closed session?
Has he been given a contract to review?

Just exactly what is the public being allowed to comment on? This sounds like a done deal?


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Posted by Westin
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 23, 2014 at 4:31 pm

The other article linked at the end of this one raises questions about Glenn MacGee's credibility. Did IL board seek to remove him? For reasons to resign, he cites personal and family then moves to a startup school with foreign backers where he seems to have stayed less than a year. Where is this school, what are the stats on that, any results? Seems he may not want to give up what seems to be his golden opportunity and he didn't seek the PAUSD role. Why would we want someone who doesn't want to be here? Does anyone on our board have answers, what has he done as superintendent at these different schools and districts that he wants toimprove for us here? Hope there is news forthcoming about that.


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Posted by CMarge
a resident of Addison School
on May 23, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Yeah! Someone who can make some further forward progress with Math and Science within PAUSD. His experience looks great on paper. Sounds like he has quite a significant amount of experience including working with a highly intellectual community.


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Posted by a parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 23, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I think this guy sounds great! I'm particularly impressed that he's actually been thinking about the ways our schools may not be serving boys the best anymore and is actually DOING something about it. There has been years of analysis about the problem, but we seem all stuck to do anything about it.

I'm concerned, though, that the board renewed Charles Young's contract and then sent Charles Young to be one of the people who hired him. I think Kevin Skelly owes a lot of his woes to that man's incompetence and the fact that he's just so great at CYA (his own at least). There are a few others, very close to Young, who will probably be huge stumbling blocks if McGee does not find a way to see things honestly and get rid of the dead (and poisonous) wood. I hope he will spend time really getting an honest look at what's going on, and not just by talking to those who surrounded Skelly, but getting out among the people, so to speak. (And not just in staged PTA meetings.)

Of course he won't be perfect. But I think if he is able to change the culture in the district office to be a more transparent one, and a better fit for the kind of Education 2.0 parenting community we have here, we'll all be better off. If he's as good as he sounds, I'm looking forward to the next few years.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 23, 2014 at 4:49 pm

I have slim hopes for McGee being successful since certain people in this community were not allowed to be part of the interview process even though they had no reasonable expectation to do so. The saga will continue...


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Posted by Former parent
a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 23, 2014 at 7:23 pm

To be successful, Glenn MacGee will have to jettison Charles Young. He represents the worse of the Kevin Skelly Years, in short, the last three years. All Skelly's administrators who were able to find jobs in other districts have already left.


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Posted by PJ
a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2014 at 10:18 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Just make stuff up
a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 23, 2014 at 10:53 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by PJ
a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2014 at 11:43 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on May 24, 2014 at 12:12 am

ChrisC is a registered user.

I hope Mr. McGee made a lot through his start-up endeavor; he'll need it if he thinks he's going to live in the same district he's managing.


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Posted by D
a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2014 at 8:01 am

I would like to know where the precious money came from to send an entourage of PAUSD people to Illinois to interview this prospective superintendent? I hope it was on their own dime. Not one paper has commented on this. He sounds promising.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2014 at 8:24 am

Why are so many post being removed?


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Posted by follow the money
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 24, 2014 at 8:48 am

@ChrisC
This was posted in the other thread:
Web Link
"Glenn "Max" McGee retired as superintendent of the Wilmette School District in 2007 and draws a $184,100 annual pension while earning $225,900 a year as president of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora."

With that backup, I doubt money will be a problem. If it does, he can continue with his other "consultancy work":

Web Link
"In addition to paying all expenses for superintendents to attend the conference, ERDI pays up to $400 to defray the expenses for a spouse, Mr. Kneale said. Each superintendent gets a flat $2,000 fee to attend. A "full participant" who attends both summer and winter meetings earns $4,000 a year in fees,
....
Max McGee, Wilmette (Ill.) School District "


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Posted by Chill Pill
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2014 at 10:27 am

The guy was certainly better investigated than Kevin Skelly was, so things should turn out better this time around!

Checking him out so thoroughly was certainly money well-spent!


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Posted by Chill Phil
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2014 at 10:34 am

Chill Pill,
Are you cool with the way principals are being selected? Principals can have an instantaneous impact on the kids, school culture etc.


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm

SWE is a registered user.

@ChrisC,
The subject of superintendent pay has come up before. He gets a total compensation package that's like $400,000 or $500,000 , including a car and housng allowance.

I frankly don't think the selction process is as important as what happens when he arrives, and his ability to find out how to get the poison out of the well at Churchill. (Except that too many Go-along Get-alongs in the group probably don't know how to identify a good candidate who isnt - nevertheless, he sounds promiing.) The problem with the most problematic in the office envirnment is that they are usually the best at looking good to superiors. They'll have him seeing boogeyman parents under every rock if he's not careful.


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2014 at 1:03 pm

SWE,

"The problem with the most problematic in the office envirnment is that they are usually the best at looking good to superiors. They'll have him seeing boogeyman parents under every rock if he's not careful."

So true.

This new hire is good news if he puts into practice all the student-centered things mentioned in his books. Behind every boogeyman parent there is a student story worth looking into.


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm

@Good News,
I find the Boogeyman parents are more like the cuddlies you find in Monsters, Inc...


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Posted by Chill Pill
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2014 at 4:08 pm

To Chill Phil: NO I am NOT satisfied with the way principals are selected. Too little research into backgrounds is used, presumably because they draw a lower salary than a superintendent.

However, because they rub shoulders directly with students and teachers, principals should be subject to the same in-depth interviews and background checks as the new superintendent-to-be.

My regret is that not enough in-depth interviewing selectivity, and deep background checking were used in the selection of Kevin Skelly. He caused a lot of damage, to kids as well as to the reputation of PAUSD.


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Posted by gabe centers
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2014 at 8:38 am

His résumé is bland and pretty typical of superintendents. Why haven't we looked in the western states before going all the way to the Midwest/east coast? Was it because they didn't need to work at verifying antecedents. Looks like another polished candidate good just on paper. Trust PAUSD to mess up again.


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Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2014 at 11:17 am

I applauded the Board's decision to hired both the Superintendent and Gunn Principal from the Mid-West. More Traditional approach in Education is the way to go. Those liberal agendas did not serve well. Academic Excellence and Good Behavior(Citizenship) are the only thing matters!


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Posted by PJ
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2014 at 11:38 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

SWE is a registered user.

@PJ,
You clearly seem unfamiliar with our district. We have from kindergarten through middle school, what are called "choice" programs, begun many years ago in order to meet the needs of students with very different learning styles. The project-based program - the one you would deem full of kooks for wanting less homework - is so oversubscribed there has been a long waiting list every year, and next year it will finally be expanded. The focus is on a more holistic and integrated educational experience involving big projects that incorporate all subjects, more collaboration, public speaking, etc. In 6th grade, the kids get to choose a project each term that they then present at the end, something they've never done before, like design a video game or learn a new language. They then do this on a larger scale in 8th grade.

This kind of emphasis is more focused on work-life balance - work hard in school, integrate the learning across disciplines, then have time to do your own projects, extracurriculars, sociallize with friends, and have time with family. Many parents also feel this is better preparation for life. But it's not for everyone, hence we have choices. However, the choice ends at high school for those on the project-based end of the spectrum, while those who want to challenge themselves with lots of APs still have what they need. (the "direct instruction" model).

In contrast to what you seem to think, making way for both ends of the spectrum will actually help reduce pressure to end the intense direct instruction experience that some kids clearly thrive on but that does not work well for others. I know I personally would have killed for that intense direct instruction environment as a high schooler, but my middle schooler is completely the opposite. We have shown we can do both quite well, we just need to extend the programs into high school.

This will take not only the kind of innovation the new guy seems to have experience with, but also getting out into the community and hearing what's here. The only people who should be afraid of that are a few CYA dead wood types in the district office.


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Posted by What?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2014 at 2:04 pm

@SWE: >We have from kindergarten through middle school, what are called "choice" programs, begun many years ago in order to meet the needs of students with very different learning styles. The project-based program - the one you would deem full of kooks for wanting less homework - is so oversubscribed there has been a long waiting list every year, and next year it will finally be expanded.

Are you referring to pausd? I have been teaching in Palo Alto for ten years and I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

Just sayin'...


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm

What?

"Are you referring to pausd? I have been teaching in Palo Alto for ten years and I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about."

This may be an area which McGuee can explore - how someone teaching for ten years in PAUSD is not aware of PAUSD's choice programs, not even the term?

The is the link to PAUSD's choice programs.

Web Link

SWE's response to PJ's rant about extremist voices though is worth a look.

PAUSD has adapted well meaning and perfectly acceptable teaching approaches with the choice programs because it's understood that one size doesn't fit everyone. When you have certain programs so oversubscribed though, it's impossible to manage the "choice" because too many people really don't have a choice (those who can't enroll). And these programs are not available in HS. I think choice programs should be meant as pilots K-12, and if they are so good, their best parts should be offered to everyone. Figuring out how to do that, and actually doing it is what ideally a new leaders will figure out how to do.



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Posted by PJ
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I'm astonished that my previous posts on this thread have been removed since I haven't violated the Terms of Use. All I've done is say that the new superintendent might be surprised by the unusual views held by certain leaders in the community, views that are outside of the mainstream of American educational thought. Since these individuals have a great deal of sway in the PAUSD, it's something Palo Alto Online should allow us to discuss. What's wrong with debating different points of view? Are certain opinions "wrong" and therefore subject to immediate removal? (I got a feeling I won't get a reply, and that this comment will be removed like others.)


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2014 at 4:13 pm

PJ,

"What's wrong with debating different points of view? "

Your comments weren't debating different points of view. You were labeling parent voices as extremist or what you now call "outside of the mainstream of American educational thought."

What is "mainstream of American educational thought."?

You have failing schools, and the college admission insanity which has everyone competing with all sorts of moving parts, and students are caught in an adult made mess.

What McGuee might find is that people challenge mediocrity more fiercely than others, and others challenge the frenzy and competition which is not entirely safe. If you have a view that has not been heard, step up.


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2014 at 4:29 pm



Palo Alto schools by the way, are not failing, they're highly competitive, so examining the issues surrounding stress, and social emotional well being is more of a priority.

Most everyone eventually finishes their grade level, they get through with finals, graduate, go to college. Chiseling away so they get academics just right is fine, but not if you have stressed out, burnt out most everyone in one way or another. The doing vs learning issue.


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2014 at 5:44 pm

SWE is a registered user.

@PJ,
I can assure you that I have absolutely no influence in this district. I also think we have stellar teachers compared to any other district I've ever had anything to do with, and I really appreciate the parents and general concern for the whole child.

I wasn't upset by your post, but I can see why it was deleted. I am in the no homework camp, does that make me an extremist? I don't think that's for everyone and wouldn't want to force it on everyone. But for some kids, the homework seriously interferes with even greater educational endeavors and opportunities. And it interferes with home time. When I was a kid, I had none of the opportunities after school that these do, and I don't just mean classes and activities. I think it's so important to teach kids about working hard, but then putting it in perspective and treating family time as sacrosanct. Work-life balance. I'm not going to force my views on you, because your kids may need what's already done well here, but there seems to be a large project-based contingent here who think like I do. We'd like to see the district serve that segment of kids better through high school.

@What?
Which grade level do you teach? Our elementary gave us no idea about the Connections program at JLS, none. And then we found out later you have like a 1 in 2 or 1 in 3 chance of getting in by lottery. So perhaps it's not surprising they dont advertise. That's why it's great they expanded it for next year. A lot of these things seem well kept secrets!

Choice programs really are a great way to provide a high quality education to very different learners. Interestingly, connections doesn't continue for math and science at 7th grade. Which is fine, for a lot of reasons.



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Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2014 at 5:46 pm

SWE is a registered user.

P.s. and that many apply for Connections in 6th grade even though they don't have letter grades in 6th!


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Do a youtube search on Max McGee. He has given a few recorded speeches and interviews. They seem quite reasonable.


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Posted by Oh Boy
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on May 25, 2014 at 10:56 pm

@What?:

I am stunned that a teacher could teach in this district for 10 years and not know about the Connections Choice program. Please keep up with what is happening in the district within which you teach. There is no excuse for being so out of touch.


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Anonymous,

"Do a youtube search on Max McGee. He has given a few recorded speeches and interviews. They seem quite reasonable."

I took a look and watched the interview before he left IMSA and his answers sound almost too good to be true (leadership includes "doing" not just pontificating).

We need to give him time to figure out California, and come clean about that nobody can figure it out, so not to sweat that too much. Everybody assumes you know some weird law and forgets it could only exist in CA. Everyone is from somewhere else anyway, so not alone. Then remind him that the sun and opportunity of this area can blind, so some shades and feet on the ground are essential. If he keeps his nose to the ground on the public education thing, he can do anything. At times it feels like this is a giant private school, but that's where everybody makes a mistake (caution with that, no need to cater to anyone, rich people, power players, safer if you don't). Being public school is what presents the challenges too, but who said it was supposed to be easy.


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2014 at 11:42 pm

If the new super is reading this, I think we would all benefit from the kind of look at how our dstrict runs that business process people make. No, not with expensive consultants, let's just use parent volunteers. There are parents with every skill you could wish for in this district. Just looking at how parents interact, looking at them like customers, how to improve delivery of services so that administrators are more effective and happy, and parents and students are, too. I see a lot of reinventing of the wheel going on, and it's not necessary. It also causes tensions and big mistakes. We have this dea about ourselves as so great, we think we're just naturally great and don't need that kind of self examination I guess. No one shoud have to flounder like both the parents and the staff did in the harrassment case at Gunn or the bullying at Terman. Everyone is well meaning, that's not enough.


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Posted by What?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2014 at 10:25 am

@ Oh Boy: >I am stunned that a teacher could teach in this district for 10 years and not know about the Connections Choice program.

This district has 12 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, two high schools, five specialty schools, 625 teachers, hundreds of additional staff, a yearly budget over $200 million, and approximately 12,000 students. The Connections programs are primarily concentrated in two of the twelve elementary schools, in language immersion programs, in limited form in two of the middle schools, and not at all in the high schools. How would a teacher not know about them? Easily: these programs are not present throughout the system and they serve a small percentage of the total population of students, so if you're not teaching at one of those schools or not teaching those kids, you would have no idea what it's about. It's not something to be stunned about, it's something to understand via a simple explanation of demographics. I am not out of touch. But I do teach in a big district with a lot going on, not all of which I have heard about. If you work at a company with over 1000 employees, I'd be willing to bet there are a lot of things going with the company that you are not aware of. Does that make you out of touch?


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2014 at 11:59 am

@What and Oh Boy,
Peace.

I asked you what level you taught, What, bcause it wouldn't be surprsing if HS teachers knew nothing of Connections or other choice programs. If you teach at lower grades, it really is probably a good idea to learn about these programs because they exist to serve important needs for the students and families in them, and families learn about them through the teachers oftentimes. However, in keeping with the above post, it's probably more telling of processes and management that you don't know anything about them.

Disneyland is a great management model for this. One of the things I find most astonishing about that place is how you can ask any employee anywhere a question about anything, directions, problems, and chances are, they can answer it, from the people at the offices to the people cleaning the bathrooms. It's not an accident, it results from Disney's management values and processes, which form the training, culture, and expectations. The person putting papertowels in the bathroom could easily give the excuse that the park is a big, bewildering place with changing rules and millions of people from all over the world, they don't get paid to know whether fast passes are available at some ride across the park or the schedule of various events, and yet they do.

Really, how hard is it for anyone to know about the educational resources available in this district? We could clear it up in detail with a good ten-minute conversation. (I'm not criticizing you when I say that, "What" I think you should not be the one taking it on yourself to reinvent the wheel,) How important is it for staff to have such knowledge? Your answer depends probably on whether you are a student, a parent, or staff. So it's really a management culture question to answer, and a (for lack of a better term) business process issue to best resolve to everyone's benefit.

I think, Oh Boy, a lack of knowledge about the educational programs in our district speaks more to a need to better understand and improve our processes, how we interact and meet everyone's needs (including staff), including understanding the kind of problems that arise and how to best ensure everyone can deal with them well.



By the way, you still don't quite have it right. Connections is one of the choice programs available in only one of the middle schools. It continues a philosophy similar to the one at Ohlone but is not just for Ohlone students, all students may apply in fact many from Fairmeadow where they are more familiar with the progam do. The program is very hard to get in because it's lottery and heavily oversubscribed. There is one choice program at each middle school (Connections at JLS, direct instruction at Terman, and Panish Immersion at Jordan), and if you wish to enroll, you are moved to that school regardless of here you live in the district.


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm

What?

"If you work at a company with over 1000 employees, I'd be willing to bet there are a lot of things going with the company that you are not aware of. Does that make you out of touch?"

It's not your fault when your performance is not judged on the basis of things outside your day to day. While you hear about efforts to work together, we know one can teach a class without minding too much about what a fellow teacher is teaching in the same school, same subject and same grade. We have legends in middle and high school about how two students can feel like they attended two different schools because of varied teacher practices. One can assign double the homework for half the credit of the other, and the other flips it around for the tests or special projects. It's all supposed to equalize somehow but it more often causes problems. In business, your performance would be judged on the basis of synergistic practices, and harnessing what everyone knows to do a better job delivering whatever work you are doing. This being said, there are a lot reasons why lazer focus on your own practice matters more at school, you're on the frontline with students. With the right leadership, doing both is not impossible. You'd want to be part of the big picture.

Knowledge on a need to know basis though speaks to the millions spent on professional development. A huge percentage of PAUSD's budget goes to this and it would be good to know what it prioritizes.


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2014 at 1:59 pm

SWE

"a need to better understand and improve our processes, how we interact and meet everyone's needs (including staff), including understanding the kind of problems that arise and how to best ensure everyone can deal with them well."

I agree but I would change "meeting everyone's needs" to assuring everyone has the right supports to advance certain goals, together.

My sense is that instead of improving processes, a lot of energy goes to spreading the good and bad around. So, if a student has an easier teacher in one subject, they give them a harder one for another, balance it out a bit. In reality, one bad experience for one student can set them back in a way other students aren't, so it's risky to not improve. It may all come out in the wash, some can do great, but some can get very hurt. I would look out to the ones getting hurt first, and stress and social emotional are very much tied to the "processes."


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2014 at 4:19 pm

@ Good News,
I would agree with just about everything you said.

I want to be very sure I'm clear that I'm not suggesting we codify a bunch of stuff, though of course some stuff that does need codifying and already has been, such as anti-bullying policies, needs to be looked at this context, too.

I'm suggesting ... business process solutions, or, educational ergonomics, I guess. Certain problems will keep coming up in the context of schools: children with needs, parents with needs, parents with different communication styles, parents with innovative ideas, staff with different challenges, administrators with poor time management skills, facilities with certain problems.

If we take a very holistic view of what's going on, where the roadblocks are, where the powderkegs are/have been, WHERE THE OPPORTUNITIES ARE (something so often overlooked but so important), and think about how to make things work better, it will help us to make things run more smoothly - for everyone, parents, kids, teachers, staff, and administrators. We may not get Disneyland, but we could attain a much higher standard.

I do think the very start of this process is our new administrator spending time just really getting out into our district and understanding it and us. I don't think he can do that alone, and I don't think he will do it well if it is filtered through the lens of some problematic administrators who I think caused Skelly a lot of problems without his realizing it.


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2014 at 5:43 pm

SWE,

Looking at the risks, it appears nearly impossible to codify anything with site control, union control, board control, parent attempted control, Churchill out of control- policies, procedures, nothing- that's what drives everyone crazy. At each site level, the Principals don't control much. They try, but it has to meet some impossible consensus and it's back to no control.

As a parent, you have to have witnessed five runs of the wheel getting re-invented to get it, and by the time you've figured it out, you're done. Even if something is codified, like a bullying policy, there's a loophole to make sure it's re-invented or ignored. You can't have it both ways -creating good processes and then blocking them because it's inconvenient to certain needs or situations. Example, you adopt Schoology, but it's not consistently used. You have dead week, but some teachers are still living the quarter. You have a bullying and harassment policy but nobody pays attention to it. The only ones who are beholden to policies and procedures are students. You were sick? Not the school's problem, when in fact you have plenty of kids who actually get sick because of school.

There is way too much looking at visionary opportunities and not enough making sure things work as best as possible. The amount of love, caring, and passion in this district could get you to Mars (and back), but God help you if you need to see a Counselor.

I like what you say, great intent, but I will probably choke if it's another love fest on the outside and festering on the inside. Look at the WInston appointment. Some real work needs to happen.


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Posted by Oh Boy
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on May 26, 2014 at 8:18 pm

@What:

"If you work at a company with over 1000 employees, I'd be willing to bet there are a lot of things going with the company that you are not aware of. Does that make you out of touch?"

If I am completely unaware of very successful and sought after products/programs in a company as small as 1,000 people, yes. A 1,000 person company is not very big at all in the private sector and employees would absolutely be expected to understand the popular products/programs offered by the company, particularly if many products/programs either feed into it or flow out of it (as well as be subject matter experts in their own jobs).

This year about 180 kids applied for Connections, from all over PAUSD.

In any case, anyone can just enter "Connections" (or anything else they are curious about) in the search box on pausd.org to find information, rather than posting here as though it was some secret or hidden program.

@SWE:

I'm not sure why you believe Fairmeadow families are more familiar with the Connections program than any other elementary school - the physical proximity to JLS does not afford us any special information that is not available to all PAUSD elementary schools, or other JLS "feeder" schools. In reality, I believe Ohlone families comprise the largest proportion of applicants as they are already in a "choice" program and look out for similar opportunities.


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Posted by Oh Boy
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on May 26, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I believe every employee of every institution, be it private or public, is responsible for staying educated and aware of what is happening in their "company" and industry. In the private sector, if you don't stay current (on your own time) you find yourself behind and out of a job. I am unclear as to why PAUSD staff would not also, at a minimum, be expected to surf the pausd website every once in a while, and ask questions about anything they see as new or different.

Private sector employees do not succeed by simply minding their own job in a vacuum, and neither should "educators."

Regarding the inconsistency of the teaching, don't even get me started. If teachers want the flexibility to "teach their own way" then tenure needs to be tossed out the window (full disclosure: I don't understand why anyone besides the teachers and teacher union thinks tenure is a good idea). It is ridiculous that our kids get such different experiences depending on which teacher they get. Especially when you consider that all the teachers and district employees get to pick their kids' teachers (whether or not they reside in pausd) so only the property-owning, tax-paying residents have to play whatever politics they can to get the "good" teachers. At least half the time, we get "tenured" teachers with anger issues, low-engagement, or incompetency issues.

Yeah, I guess I am angry and sick and tired of public school and tenure, and whining teachers that never need to fear losing their jobs like the rest of us do. I recently witnessed some shockingly unprofessional behavior by a teacher who had a (single, first all year) personal issue with a parent and chose to make their child suffer as a result. This teacher is unprofessional, personally motivated, and vindictive, and should be reprimanded at a minimum, but that will not happen, thanks to tenure. And so the same will happen to another kid, and another, and another, etc... All the while we have new grad teachers with enthusiasm and competence that cannot get jobs.

Sorry, didn't mean to start a rant on tenure, but it's related to what teachers think they need to do to be good at their jobs.

No matter what the industry, employees should get out of it what they put into it. Put in the extra time if you want to succeed.


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm

@Oh Boy,
You are missing what I am saying about applying business process solutions to PAUSD, because you are complaining about exactly the kinds of things such an application would address. I am absolutely NOT talking about coming up with more codified processes (unfortunate use of the same word, sorry, I have no other word, but they don't even mean the same concept here).

It's like the difference between writing more and more detailed procedures for traffic laws in response to bad behavior versus studying the traffic circulation, flow, development, etc, and coming up with things like timed lights, etc, to help solve the problems. Or instead of writing more and more detailed laws about phone solicitation, simply making a Do Not Call list and that's the end of the problem. Understanding how to make flow or make things work without constant fiddling.

You said, "Even if something is codified, like a bullying policy, there's a loophole to make sure it's re-invented or ignored. You can't have it both ways -creating good processes and then blocking them because it's inconvenient to certain needs or situations. "
But look at the Finnish schools, which are held up as a model - they got things right when they made their policy, Whatever It Takes for every child. If the way we are doing things isn't working and keeps running into these problems, examining why they aren't working with the right tools should get us to the next level.


You said, "You were sick? Not the school's problem, when in fact you have plenty of kids who actually get sick because of school. "
So, for example, if kids are getting sick because of the school, the EPA has worked out a whole program for how schools can keep their buildings as healthy as possible in the ways they can afford, and stay on top of it in the easiest ways possible. Waiting until kids get sick is usually costly and bad for the kids (and teachers). I'm just giving this as an example - parents, administrators, they might not know about such a thing, yet they shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel if they need it or someone wants to bring such an improvement to the district. Or the problem might be some other issue having to do with health. Looking at processes holistically, one would look at how parents or staff would learn about, incorporate or adopt such a program in order to always optimize health, either in response to certain needs or inputs, or to be always on the leading edge of being healthy, because physical and emotional health is one of the areas where presumably we would want to optimize.

The point is, it's like looking at the whole City with the value that traffic should always flow well and drivers and bicyclists shouldn't have to be inconvenienced or unsafe, and understanding where the traffic keeps getting jammed or into accidents and coming up with flow solutions rather than a lot of rules that are hard to follow and easy to break. Does that make more sense? It would mean finding solutions on the next level so that a lot of the complaints end up resolved without having to be dealt with over and over again.


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Whoops - forgot to add -

My spouse had a problem as a supervisor with workplace violence/sexual harassment of one employee by another. It was shocking how hard it was to get the support to take care of it - and in these situations, unless there is a clear path, people punt -- it wasn't like it was the first time anything like that had happened in the work world or that location, and wouldn't be the last. Same goes for schools. There has to be a clear path to solutions -- not necessarily a bunch of codified steps -- for a wide variety of needs. But in schools and jobs, the same kinds of needs come up over and over again.


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Posted by Oh Boy
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 26, 2014 at 11:41 pm

@SWE:

You are completely confused and attributing quotes to me which I did not make.

Editor: Please delete SWE's comment as it is factually incorrect and claims to quote me for comments I did not make!


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2014 at 12:35 am

SWE,

I think you meant me, not Oh Boy for the response about the path to solutions.

We might be saying the same thing. There is a lot of frustration with things that could actually be more easily solved. I'm all for solutions, not just the path though, actual solutions.

Things don't get tracked very well in PAUSD. You see power points from time to time buried in a board packet or if you caught the split second on broadcast, and never seen again. You'd never know the traffic jams if you had them. And forget the district surveys which have leading questions, or have only three questions that apply to you, or you get boxed into options which practically force you to say you're completely satisfied with everything. So what you have are parents complaining to anyone who will listen, they get dismissed, and the complaints just float out in the system (oh sure, everybody knows about that problem), but not really tracked to see if there is an increase or decrease of a particular jam. My favorite is the feedback form for the teacher for their self-improvement, and no relevant form for administrators. Fortunately most things work out well, but a jam is a jam, and it's hard to see kids getting caught in a jam, repeatedly, if the problem is not addressed, or even acknowledged.


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2014 at 12:39 am

Oh boy,

SWE was referring to my quotes, not to be taken too seriously :)


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Posted by No Comprendo
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2014 at 1:27 am

Wow, this thread completely digressed. I don't understand how students of Ohlone Elementary (no homework) and then JLS Connections can adapt to high school, which is graded mostly on tests and homework. Are these parents trying to avoid hard work for their children? I am not a supporter of rigorous academics but do believe that children need middle school academic training to prepare for high school and high school to prepare for college.

And what about this comment? "Yeah! Someone who can make some further forward progress with Math and Science within PAUSD." Is that sarcasm? Math and science are already out-of-control rigorous, with science using college texts.

WE NEED HELP WITH OUR DEFICIENT ENGLISH TEACHERS IN PAUSD. They don't teach how to write. Peer corrections? No corrections from teachers? Papers returned at the end of the semester with no corrections? PAUSD was well-known for their strong writing teaching back in the 70-80s. What happened?!

We also need to abolish tenure! There are too many bad teachers protected by tenure.

I have high hopes that Mr. McGee will make some positive changes. He has small shoes to fill.


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Posted by What?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2014 at 5:29 am

@ Oh Boy: >This year about 180 kids applied for Connections, from all over PAUSD.

In a district with over 12000 students, that's about 1.5% of the total population.

I think you made my point for me.


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Posted by Oh Boy
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 27, 2014 at 8:21 am

@What

>> In a district with over 12000 students, that's about 1.5% of the total population.

Haha, I love the creative math - that number represents how many kids applied this one year, not how many families were interested, or would have applied if their elementary teachers had known anything about it. That number does not represent how many kids are currently enrolled in the program, or spent three years in the program and are now in high school. Obviously, far more than 1.2% of the kids in the district experience or are well aware of the Connections program.

In any case, the program is far from being obscure, and has gotten quite a bit of attention over the last 10 years as it gained moment and became very popular. And, again, a quick search would have turned up the details on the program.

@No Comprendo:

I agree with much of what you said. I've seen a lot of homework come home ungraded, and "peer corrections" or even teacher corrections which are unclear and did not help my student understand what was wrong at all. We once had a teacher that announced at the beginning of the year that she would not grade homework. So why the heck are the kids doing the homework?

I also hope our new superintendent will demand higher performance from the teachers and make PAUSD a reasonable learning environment that does not rely on high-achieving parents and private tutors to educate our kids. (I do think there are some very good teachers here, but the bad apples make it tough on everyone.)


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Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2014 at 8:30 am

I was disappointed with the past leaderships. Posted meaningless manifestos and social agendas on the emails sent to parents. I will be more interested in seeing academic accomplishments, good behaviors and outstanding activities got praised in those emails. Palo Alto doesn't have more diversity or bullying problems than any other districts and we proud of that. I don't see the District should get accused for that due to deep pocket. For any special need students the district should join/create the regional programs. I am sick and tired of minority rules majority. For any special interest group they should go to a private school they like or create their own charter school. The public resources are meant to be for public! That is majority of the student population!


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2014 at 9:25 am

The back and forth about JLS Connections speaks to the lack of data. Maybe those kids adjust very well to High School. There is no data that tracks them, so we learn nothing from their practices. As nice as these choice programs are, they require a ton of district attention, and you can have an entire core subject like English failing thousands.

English actually has data - student surveys consistently point to it as the weak link, and what No comprendo points is well known. Still, every year that negative feedback is given a pass, as if the problem doesn't exist. Full year class, so thousands of students can suffer a waste of a year (unless they got lucky with the good teacher) for triple the angst because it's a subjective subject. Weaker students think they're failing because it's them, when it can be the failure in instruction. Let's see how many rounds of bad feedback on English McGuee will allow, Skelly lived with it easily since he started.


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Posted by Good news
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2014 at 9:34 am

Supply & Demand,

I agree with you, Worst case scenario is that more gourmet programs are created to serve a a few with precision, more lottery systems, new competing systems, and the majority population of students are left to chance, or tutors, as it is now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 27, 2014 at 11:24 am

Please read all the above comments.
A few are positive the rest derogatory.
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by check your math
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 27, 2014 at 11:52 am

@What and @ Oh Boy: >This year about 180 kids applied for Connections, from all over PAUSD.

In a district with over 12000 students, that's about 1.5% of the total population.

---------

Considering applications mostly come from incoming 6th graders (currently in 5th), Connections lottery apps come from more like 15-18% of the eligible population, assuming about 1000 kids per grade. Granted some still apply while in 6th and 7th, but the majority are incoming 6th. That is a heck of a large group of families valuing a more holistic education for their kids.


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Posted by Oh Boy
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 27, 2014 at 12:35 pm

@Check your math:

Thanks - you make the point I was trying o but wasn't sure of the number of 6th graders in the district!

Having spoken to many middle school and high school teachers about the Connections program, none reported anything negative, and none believed they would be/were less ready for high school after 8th grade.

The kids still have homework and tests, they just do more longer-term projects and many of those projects integrate several educational areas so the education is more holistic. I think the kids actually learn more skills to prepare them for high school, college, and future employment.

Perhaps in the long-run the Connections approach will be embraced by a the district as mainstream so it no longer needs to be a choice program. Of course, if a district wants to try out something new they tend to pilot it with a small group first. This year the program was expanded (100 6th graders got in rather than only 50) and that expansion will continue so the program is effectively doubling. Why not continue to expand this program if it is successful and there is still more demand than their are available seats?


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 27, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Why does everyone think he sounds great?
He wanted to start a new school from the ground up and is applying for a new job before the first anniversary?
Several SHORT stints as superintendent before, anything to show for it? Any accomplishments? Why are all so short?
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm

[Portion removed.]
Give the guy a chance, why don't we all wait and see how he progresses.
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm

@ check your math,

To further revise your calculation, I believe there are about 1,000 students at JLS, similar at Jordan, and 600 ish at Terman? That's about 2600 students in middle school, divide by 3, which is roughly 870 6th graders. This means almost 21% of incoming 6th grade middle school families applied for Connections, even though it is so poorly advertised.

If you assume that about half the student population needs the direct instruction model and wouldn't be interested in this approach anyway,

i.e., that means around 42% of those potentially interested applied,

and recognizing that the applications are heavily weighted toward those already in the JLS area (in other words, many families may not be able to swing sending their kid across town, I know this from experience), you see that this educational model is very much of interest to a large percentage of district families. If it were available at all 3 middle schools, I suspect the majority of those potentially interested would apply.

Again, we serve this educational end of the spectrum through middle school, but then it stops, while the other end of the spectrum has their needs met. Kids with great potential who are put in situations where their learning is subverted experience great stress -- which is why I think it's great that we serve both ends of the spectrum. But we should continue it through High School, at least in the most appropriate form at that level.

(I was willing to give our self-proclaimed teacher a pass on the not knowing about the Connections program, but that's pretty sad on the math there!)


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Posted by check your math
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

@ SWE. Thanks. It is higher than 20%. I just divided 12000 by 12 grades, forgetting K. Divide by 13 and there would be fewer than 1000 students in 6th grade.

Even among those who understand this program and how it will benefit their kids and help them develop the skills they'll need for the 21st century (and frankly which will come in handy in the academic grind known as high school), there are many of us who did not get a spot. My child is too far down the wait list even with the expanded program. There are countless similar stories of families who did not get into Ohlone year after year.


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 1:20 am

@ check your math,
I'm frankly hoping the district will expand this program into high school so that it's NOT such a grind. Again, some kids thrive on that, others are the opposite. Mine has some amazingly rewarding extracurriculars that wouldn't be possible in that grind, consistent with the kind of self-motivated project-oriented focus of Connections. We should be serving both ends of the spectrum through HS.


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Posted by Bonita
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 30, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Concerned parent: "Why does everyone think he sounds great?
He wanted to start a new school from the ground up and is applying for a new job before the first anniversary?
Several SHORT stints as superintendent before, anything to show for it? Any accomplishments? Why are all so short?"

Heard through the grapevine that the Chinese school was a failure or not entirely legit?


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Posted by hr
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 1, 2014 at 11:04 am

I would like to know more about the terms of the interest free million dollar loan? Is a million dollars of the school budget just handed to him interest free with no other terms? You can pay it back when you leave? You need to make monthly payments of ? Be nice if every employee of the District was offered the same perc. Even a percentage of salary with the same scale would work. Why not just give him a district vehicle with PAUSD label on side like the maintenance folks use. Is it really necessary to give a $750 allowance for a vehicle used as work related? Seems like a lot of car for something work related.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2014 at 3:47 pm

As a local taxpayer, I was shocked at the perqs offered along with the generous contract. How often is the Supe in the main office by PALY and how often does he need to drive out? How about reimbursing x cents per mile as opposed to a flat, large sum per month for local driving duties, which are not constant and are nearby and should be well within the expectations of the position at that large salary.


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Posted by palymom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 2, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Why choose man from out of state? Why not a Californian who went to CA public schools? Better yet, why not a woman? There are plenty of solid CA admin. who could fill Palo Alto's superintendent moccasins. Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman.


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Posted by palymom
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 2, 2014 at 6:31 pm

No Comprende, I was pleased with Paly's English teachers. My son just graduated (daughter did two years ago). Perhaps you aren't aware of how the English teacher's workload -- due to overcrowded classrooms -- has magnified. Have you ever graded an essay? Have you ever taught AP with 37 students holding threadbare Scarlet Letter copies? I have. For twenty years, in fact. Consider Paly's classroom enrollment and teacher preps from the 80's. Huge difference. I paid close attention to every English class my children took. I was blown away. Maybe, Mr. No Comprende, you should donate to the English department for new paperbacks or provide a stipend for all English teachers to grade your precious child's Grapes of Wrath essay. Capiche?


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Posted by SWE
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2014 at 1:01 am

@ anonymous,
As the child of a college administrator in a major university, I too was shocked by the salary of our administrators - not just the one at the top, but we have such a large range of highly paid assistant this and assistant thats, all who make these large six-figure salaries.

The state of California has a citizens commission whose job it is just to review our governor's salary. Sometimes they lower it. Jerry Brown famously gave up his salary and his mansion perk. Well, a contract is a contract. But maybe we should make a new rule that anyone making more than $100,000 a year gets a performance appraisal by a randomly selected sampling of PARENTS -- which is who they are really working for anyway.

Things would change things around here real fast.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dr. McGee Fan
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I am a recent graduate of IMSA and there is overwhelming agreement in our community that Dr. McGee is an amazing leader, educator, and person. Palo Alto is extremely lucky to have him and I highly recommend getting to know him... It only takes a few minutes to see his passion and enthusiasm!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous post
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 8:35 pm

@fan
I wish Dr. McGee the best and hope he will do great things here, too. My advice to him would be to bring in people he knows he can trust and let go of a lot of the existing administrators. They will poison the well for him same as Skelly if he doesnt. Maybe he can do a retirement buy out like the government does... If he treats families with respect and parents and like partners, he will be well-received here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 10, 2014 at 12:15 pm

As a district Art teacher I'm deeply disappointed that you chose to talk about "STEM" rather than "STEAM".

Web Link


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Posted by Illinois Teacher
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2014 at 4:33 am

I am a teacher in Illinois and have been to professional development opportunities at Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) and I also send my children to the school. We have all had very positive experiences with Mr. McGee. You are really lucky to have him in your district. I wish that he was the superintendent in the district where I teach, I know that he would make great improvements. Enjoy his enthusiastic, professional expertise. I think that quality administrators like him are very rare indeed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another Dr. McGee Fan
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2014 at 10:30 pm

As a parent whose child graduated from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, under Dr. McGee, I will say that you are extremely fortunate to be getting Dr. Max McGee as your superintendent! He was quite an asset at IMSA! He was also very involved with the students, parents and faculty! He does not operate within a bubble, but rather, he seeks input from those around him to make the school or district successful! I wish you the best, Dr. McGee!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SWE
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2014 at 9:26 am

@paly mom,
"Perhaps you aren't aware of how the English teacher's workload -- due to overcrowded classrooms -- has magnified."

The City of Palo Alto has pursued a development agenda that is putting strain on our schools, justified by policies set by ABAG, Plan Bay Area, and bonus density rules (a sham that incentivizes high-density gentrification with the justification of a little below market rate housing to take the place of the low-income housing bulldozed because of it).

It turns out there is a state commission on unfunded mandates, and the state publishes a citizens guide on how to apply for funds to pay for unfunded mandates. Because of the reputation of our schools, these density mandates have a bigger impact on PA, and we should be asking the state to shell out for mitigating the consequences of all this development. There are many besides overcrowding in school, but start there because the citizens guide mentions it.

(Remind me again why paly will spend $40 M on a gym, and not buy books?)


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