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Is Diligence on New Superintendent Sufficient?

Original post made by RWE, South of Midtown, on May 2, 2007

Web Link

If the current first choice for Sperintendent holds up, I wish him well.

What many are curious about at this point is how much input from teaching and administrative staff was solicited for this decision.

In past posts, I've pointed out the closed-loop systems that the rarified world of Superintendents live in - i.e. 3-5 year appointments, start a few initiatives, move on to the next six-figure opportunity - all led by elected BOE officials who also come and go, and more often than not leave in their wake one or another mess for the educational professionals, who have become unfortunately far-too-impacted on decisions made by elected non-experts in education. And we wonder why American public education is challenged...

Here, we have what appears to be a good candidate that works under a prior Superintendent, Don Philips, who left Palo oAlto prematurely to seek a "better opportunity" in San Diego. Philips left after a few years and a few more half-started and half-completed initiatives - par for the course.

If it turns out that little or no input was accepted (or is to be accepted) from teachers and site administrators as a *strong* prerequisite for the hiring of whoever turns out to be the new Superintendent, then a loud cry of "fou!l" should be raised up.

We have had a series of very average senior administrators in PAUSD over the last 10-15 years, administrators that have traveled in a closed bureacreatic system of rotating appointments and mobile careerism.

I hope whoever is next is up to the task of LEADING, and realizing that education happens primarily in the classroom, and not within the hackneyed political dealings fomented by elected officials who have themselves - for the most part - never spent a day in the classroom.

We'll see...

Comments (44)

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Posted by Reader
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 2, 2007 at 9:56 am

The pluses from my reading

He has taught in classrooms

He has lived in the area (Saratoga) so has some idea of the area and also PA reputations.

He has children who will be in the system and presumably will not want to leave until his youngest child graduates high school which possibly means that he is looking at being here for some time.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on May 2, 2007 at 10:06 am

I have no inside knowledge of this or the other candidates who were considered, but now is not the time to second guess the process. The BoE made very clear what their approach would be, there was input from several stakeholder groups in the course of this mercifully short search effort, and it does appear that the candidate selected is a good fit. We are getting what were told we would get from the process, and the process was clearly spelled out from the get go.

RWE raises some valid issues around the "careerist" phenomenon that leads to senior school district administrators cycling through after a period of 5-7 years, and some serious examination of that is in order. I hope that such a thing does occur, but let's de-couple it from the real time challenge and opportunity PAUSD faced getting a capable person at the helm as MFC retires.


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Posted by realty jane
a resident of Downtown North
on May 3, 2007 at 8:36 am

honestly, isn't it a little draining after awhile....
all this hot air....
over such a trifle affair....
go to school
learn to spell
then they're gone
like coins in a wishing well


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 10:23 am

Can someone please tell me if Poway is different than it was 20 years ago? The new Superintendant sounds like he has great qualifications, but when my family heard he's coming from Poway, they wanted to know if anyone had asked him if he believes in evolution...

I'm not trying to be mean, it's a legitimate question given the Poway of 20 years ago -- anyone know if it's different now?


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Posted by JDewey
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 3, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Poway appears to be progressing - here's an interesting story, with following thread
Web Link


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Thanks for the story. It was interesting and promising, but it still implied that mostly Poway is still an ultra-conservative, stifling place: as the article said in the end: "if they [the people who pursued a groundbreaking gay anti-discrimination case against Poway district] succeed in making Poway itself a little less bleak--for everyone--all the better."

Given all the controversies in this district already, I am concerned about taking on an ultra-conservative rightwinger as Superintendent. I'm not saying he is, I'm just concerned and would like to know more, because that area has quite a reputation as being extreme even for right wing.

I also don't agree with political litmus tests, but I do think we need to avoid candidates who might have extreme political views that differ dramatically from the mainstream of our district and would be likely to assert them. I think if anyone would have a political litmus test, it would be a district like Poway -- if so, we need to know this.

Maybe things are slowly changing there, and perhaps a poor ideological fit THERE is the reason he wants to come here, I just don't know. But I think it's a question we should ask.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on May 4, 2007 at 10:06 am

I really find objectionable to preposterous suggestions that this fellow's beliefs and leanings should be based on his 3 or so years in Poway. Take a look at the Friday Weekly to get a fuller understanding of his background.

His history suggests a person who has a value system very consistent with the types of values that are commonly found in this community. He spent many years in Saratoga, if he were a right wing firebrand, why would he have worked in that District for so long and agreed to relocate here? Why would someone with such an orientation even consider the position? Wouldn't such leanings become pretty apparent when someone was being vetted?

This type of discussion is very unhealthy. We have many many issues that the District faces, trying to suggest that this guy is some kind of right winger because he worked in Poway is a red herring, and gets in the way of meaningful discussion around matters that are truly important.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Dear Paul,
I did not mean to suggest anything, I only want reassurance. You say, "if he were a right wing firebrand, why would he have worked in that District [Saratoga]" -- but I could equally say: Why would he have gone to Poway if his "value system [were] consistent with the types of values that are commonly found in this community." Poway has a reputation of being right of Orange County.

Do you think Al Gore and George Bush would serve our district in the same way? Extreme political views do have an impact. Having lots of "right wing firebrands" as you say, in my family, I could think of plenty of reasons that he would move here even if he did have extreme right wing views.

I respect your opinions, Paul. I don't mean or want to suggest anything, waste any time arguing, or deal in innuendo. I just want to KNOW, not assume, the sooner the better.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Paul, I agree with you. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Labeling as "right-wing" is presumed "bad", yet "left-wing" is presumed "good". Frankly, too far either way ends in dictatorship, so why don't we cut the rhetoric and simply wait to see what this guy does about various issues? That is all that matters to me. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Around here it is easier to be gay ( which I am) then a Republican ( which I am also) around here. I tell people I am gay, they smile and nod happily, I tell people I am a Republican, and if we were back 200 years I am sure they would make the evil eye sign!!

He looks good to me. I am happy.


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Paul,

We should not the perfect get in the way of the good. As long as he agrees to educate according to the State Education Code, I am fine with him. How about you?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 7:30 pm

Oh my God! What are you deleting? I wrote nothing at all that could even begin to be construed as name calling, flaming or bad in any way! I was specifically careful because I knew that being gay AND republican could draw a lot of fire and I didn't want to do that! You make my post look horrible.

I challenge you to please put what you took out back into the posting, and then ask this forum what it thinks.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 7:40 pm

I read the article in the web link.

I will always come down on freedom of speech and religion. Even if it is speech that condemns me..it leaves me free to speak my mind also.

We are very, very dangerous when we try to decide who has the right to express an opinion and who doesn't.

Opinions on T-Shirts between high school students is fine. I would object if it were a teacher. Teachers' speech should be limited...too much power to influence. And if a teacher is allowed to influence opinion one way, that is "politically correct", then she/he should be allowed to influence another way, that is NOT "politically correct".

So, I believe freedom of speech stays in the car when the teacher arrives at work. I assert that students should be able to express any opinion they wish. Even the one that says I am condemned.

At least another teen can feel free express defense of me.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 7:46 pm

Paul: I just noticed that your post is hilarious. If you didn't know you were talking about Republicans, you would think your post was talking about gays and that you were anti-gay!

You wrote:

"Why would someone with such an orientation even consider the position? Wouldn't such leanings become pretty apparent when someone was being vetted?"

You have a very dry sense of irony! I missed it the first go 'round.
Thanks for the laugh.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 8:30 pm

Resident,
You should re-read my last posting without your own prejudices overlaid. I never said I wanted a far left-wing person as you assumed. I do think, as you do, that anyone with very extreme political views on either side of the spectrum would make a poor choice to lead our already fractious district (you said: " Frankly, too far either way ends in dictatorship"). You might say it doesn't matter what their political views are, but with people who have extreme views, it usually does.

No rhetoric. I just want to know now, while there is still time to make graceful changes (or not) if that is how people feel. I'm not saying this guy is on any end of the spectrum, I just want to know if his views are similar to the extreme right-wing views one finds so much in the district he is coming from. We don't need more fractiousness. Wait and see is foolish.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2007 at 7:30 am

Ok..I am curious. What are the extreme right-wing views you think Poway has? What are you basing it on? This would be an interesting thread elsewhere, I suspect, about what constitutes evidence of "right-wing". But, if you have more than the article you linked to, which shows no evidence to me of being "extreme right wing", I would love to see it.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Resident,
How do I know Orange County, for example, is right wing? Lots of things, I couldn't possibly write that book here. Lots of other people know those same things, which is how Orange County developed a REPUTATION for being right wing. From all indications, the reputation is deserved.

Poway of 20 years ago was far right of Orange County. It had a REPUTATION for being that extreme, as well. I have seen no evidence that it has changed, but I don't know. I would like to see that evidence, or even if it hasn't, to see that it's not an aspect of our new superintendant's educational philosophies.

Here's something that came up on the first Google search I did, from San Diego CityBEAT Web Link:

"...newly elected Poway City Councilmember Merrilee Boyack serves her spiritual conscience when it comes to public education.

...[She] has for years e-mailed an annual laundry list containing "items of concern" to a group of "informed parents" in the Poway Unified School District. This year, Boyack urged parents to let teachers know about their "strict moral values" and deep religious beliefs, and to ask that teachers honor those convictions by disclosing anything taught in the classroom that might be an affront to those values.

"Pay attention to Social Studies & History Classes," Boyack advised parents earlier this year, recounting a paper her son wrote on "early man" in which he added the footnote, "And I do not believe one single word of what I have just written. I think this is all ridiculous and that God created man in His image."

"Make sure your children know what you believe so they are not swayed," Boyack told parents. "

Imagine a Palo Alto city counsel person engaged in "years" of such activity. It didn't cause an uproar in that district, it wouldn't in an ultra-conservative place. You wouldn't write such an article about the creation science in schools movement in Mtn View, Palo Alto, MP and Sunnyvale because the majority politics are different.

I don't want to argue that point -- I really don't like being asked by you to "prove" that Poway is ultra-conservative, because I am really hoping to hear evidence that it is not. Even if it is, it doesn't prove anything about our Superintendant pick, but it is a concern to clear up. We may not have political litmus tests, but ultra-conservative places often do.

The above recent article again begs the question: has anyone asked Skelly whether he believes in evolution or teaching creation science along with evolution in the classroom? There are probably nicer ways to ask, but we should ask. Why is everyone so afraid of just knowing?

I have an ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christian brother, whom I love dearly, with whom I would entrust my life. He's a good person, wonderful father, great teacher. I would feel fine with him teaching my kids the subjects he teaches. But no way would I want him to head up our school board, because of his extreme views.

What is wrong with knowing that we are not inviting a future powder keg? We have enough problems now as it is. I don't want to be having vicious arguments about whether we should be teaching creation science or not at Gunn. The board should be inviting a good manager and peacemaker, not someone with a political agenda. I'M NOT SAYING IN ANY WAY THAT SKELLY DOES!, but down to a last person, every extreme ultra-conservative person I know would. I hope my concerns are nothing. I just want to KNOW.

Given everything that has happened, I do not trust the board's judgment. I just want reassurance. Offer me that information, and I will be quiet. Thank you!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2007 at 3:07 pm

Ok, now that you have been specific about what your concerns are, ..your fears are understandable.

By the way, reputation does not prove a thing to me, having lived long enough to see completely unfounded "reputations" of groups and individuals.

And, being "extreme right wing" is a huge umbrella term. Most people around here pretty much say that anybody/area that likes Bush must be "extreme right wing", so it is a matter of definition.

Asking teachers to let parents know if you are going to teach something contrary to your moral beliefs is valid. If you, as a parent, wanted to make absolutely certain your daughter never saw pictures of fetuses so that she would have no problem aborting if the day ever came, then I believe you would want to know when this particular unit in human development was going to be taught. For me, that is far left wing, but the same process. I have no problem with the concept of parental notification and don't think it is a right or left wing concept. It is a fundamentalist approach of beliefs, which can apply to either wing.

So, what you really want to know is if a superintendant believes that creationism should be taught in the schools. That is a specific litmus test, and one that would be a valid question for a Superintendant. Or if a Super believes any words or pictures on clothes is acceptable in a school environment ( to rule out horrible language or scriptural quotes). That sort of thing.

Those are fair questions. But, not too sure how much impact a Super would have on such policies anyway, since it is the Board that sets policy.

Me, I don't care how he believes. I care how he listens to us, the community, and treats the staff and teachers. And, so far, he looks like a good guy.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2007 at 4:55 pm

My spouse grew up in that area, we have family around there. I'm not just speaking in generalities about "reputation". Twenty years ago, Poway was a frighteningly conservative place. (I hate using the term conservative, because I think of myself as being fiscally conservative, meaning, wise and thrifty user of resources, the definition everyone seems to have forgotten while pasting themselves with the label. That kind of "conservative" has nothing to do with what I am concerned about here. I am also a Christian -- does that make me a Christian conservative? These are labels that don't get to real meaning.)

I don't know the general community now in Poway, but if family there are any indication, it's the same now. If Skelly has that kind of bent, there are a lot of reasons we should be concerned, not just one as you indicate.

Parenethetically, you wrote, "If you, as a parent, wanted to make absolutely certain your daughter never saw pictures of fetuses so that she would have no problem aborting if the day ever came, then I believe you would want to know when this particular unit in human development was going to be taught. For me, that is far left wing"

What does that have to do with this discussion? I don't know anyone on the left or right who thinks that way (except maybe a few extreme right-wingers in the family who like to set up straw-liberal-men and attack them ala Ann Coulter). I've got far left-wingers in the family, too, and I've never once heard anything remotely like that in even views I found highly objectionable from them. I have never heard anyone make that argument in public or private. If Skelly were a far left-winger, I doubt this would be an issue in our classrooms, because as far as I know, no one is expressing that anywhere in the real world. (All I'm saying is that a more realistic example would have given your argument more weight, instead of seeming like a backhanded stab at straw "far left wing"ers.)

The fact is, pushing for creationism instead of evolution in school biology is actually happening (unlike your straw-man argument above). It's just one example of what I am concerned about.

Extreme right-wingers and extreme left-wingers -- people with extreme political views on any end of the spectrum -- usually have an axe to grind and I would object to their heading up our school system. You have indicated this yourself in a previous post. Since Skelly is coming from a school district that used to be frighteningly right-wing, I would just like to know if he thinks that way, too.

Now you are saying you don't care how he believes, end of discussion for you (are you being honest about that? Your post indicates you would be bothered if he were far left wing). I do care. I'd like to know. I don't want our district burdened with a political extremist regardless of which end of the spectrum. (And one from Poway would be right-wing.) AGAIN, I AM NOT SAYING SKELLY HAS THOSE POLITICS. I JUST WANT REASSURANCE. If he has extreme political views, he is very unlikely to listen to the community, staff, and teachers objectively.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 5, 2007 at 5:31 pm

What if one of the reasons that he wants to come to Palo Alto is to leave such a conservative area and join a more open-minded school district?


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Posted by Oakland Public Shool grad
a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Hey - the guy once taught in Oakland, let's give him credit for that. And he got the Saratoga High cheating scandal dealt with. Maybe we could give him at least a chance? He problably also got an earful from Don Phillips - and he still applied for the job!


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2007 at 9:01 pm

Okay, okay -- I appreciate the positive sentiments, but I don't want to engage in speculation, I'd just like to KNOW. Facts, not speculation. Then I'd feel free to look forward to his tenure and celebrate his accomplishments without worrying about a hidden agenda, because he does have a lot of good qualifications.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Just because someone may or may not be a Christian, with Christian views on a personal level, does not necessarily mean that he would do a bad job in Palo Alto. I feel that a Christian who is dedicated to his job and his community would be able to work within the demographic parameters that Palo Alto would want.

I feel sure that the majority of parents of students in Palo Alto have no idea of the number of dedicated Christian (and other faith) teachers we have here already who are able to do their jobs and gain the respect of the teaching peers, the students and the parents who have no idea what their personal feelings on any subject are. I personally know several, some from school and some from Church, who I know are generally thought of as being "excellent teachers".


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2007 at 3:20 pm

I don't want a super who doesn't understand why the theory of evolution matters and why creationism should not be confused with science. That's not a matter of personal belief, but of basic education.

I don't think you can assume Skelly shares the general views of Poway--for all we know the conflict might be why he wants to get out and back to the Bay Area. But I'm with anonymous--why shouldn't we know?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 5:06 pm

It doesn't matter what his religious convictions are. This is America, for God's sake. Asking what he BELIEVES is wrong. If you really think it is necessary to ask him what he THINKS, then ask him if evolution is something that he thinks should be taught in science..period. Or, if that isn't enough for you, ask him would he support creationism as you understand it being taught in the schools alongside evolution in science class?

Honestly, though, does anyone really think it makes a hill of beans of difference what he thinks? The science teachers determine, along with parents that pick the books, and the State which sets the curriculum, what our standards are, not the super.

For me, the the point is more, will he do the job we need him to do for us? And, for him to do that..will he be able to respectfully listen to people's opinions?

I really think we need to assume the best about this guy. I am.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2007 at 12:12 am

A very interesting discussion. The question I wonder most about Mr. Skelly is whether he can LEAD us - take on challenging and potentially divisive issues and help the community and Board sort them out and make sound decisions.

In my view, it is critical that he is not just a "manager" (like our City Manager); he needs to be the person who shapes the strategy and educational vision for Palo Alto (to be duly discussed, modified, and ultimately endorsed by the Board of Ed whom we all elect).

I'm curious whether others think the same. For my #1 concern about the district is the reactiveness and muddy thinking (not to mention turnover and conflicted motives/ambitions) of the elected Board. Given that, the #1 thing we can ask the Board is to hire a Super who can both lead and manage - just as most large company board do when they hire CEOs.

Fred


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2007 at 11:41 am

Fred: Dare I say AMEN?!


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2007 at 11:32 am

Why do people have to get so emotional about things like this?

I believe I already wrote above that I am myself a Christian. I also wrote that a close brother is a fundamentalist right-winger -- a good person I would feel fine TEACHING my kids (most subjects), but not leading our school district. When people have very extreme political views, regardless of which end of the spectrum, it tends to become an issue in their leadership. We don't need that.

If you think that extreme right wingers wouldn't want to come here, or that their views wouldn't affect their leadership or decisionmaking, then you don't know enough extreme right wingers. Skelly is coming from an enclave of political extremists -- I just want some assurance that he is not one himself. It's not like the board we have inspires the kind of trust about their judgment that makes me want to just wait and see.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2007 at 11:54 am

Anon, above

I am just wondering. You say that your brother (not sure if you mean by blood or by faith) would be OK teaching your kids but not leading your district. Now I do not know the person involved, but are you saying that his faith should prevent him from doing well in his career? I feel that if you are, this sounds very discriminatory. If someone is prevented from getting a promotion or getting to the top of his profession because of his religion, then I think we are getting into hot water.

If a good person who is very religious can't discern when to keep his views to himself and when he has to be open minded, then of course that would not be in his favor no matter what his chosen profession. But, if someone is doing a good job and his religious views are not compromising his ability to do a good job, then he should not be held back just because he is a Christian, or whatever.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Resident,

Views on evolution have been a huge mess in recent years. Skelly can believe whatever he wants. The district doesn't need, however, a super who confuses religion and science. How and what he supports affects what's provided in the classrooms.

And one of the big concerns in PAUSD is the science curriculum.

When religious views are transformed into a political platform, I don't consider them sancrosanct. Why? Because when that happens, I have an agenda pushed on me and my offspring. If people want to, say, teach creationism in a private school, fine.

But this is all quite possibly a moot point. My guess is that it is. I don't see any harm, however, in knowing. A newspaper interview would do it and not get in the way of the hiring process.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2007 at 2:31 pm

Ohlone Par

I respect your views as I have seen them elsewhere, but I beg to differ with you on this one. A small number of Christians may be very vocal in wanting their theories of intelligent design taught in schools, but the majority of Christians are quite happy with the way science is taught generally. Just because someone is a Christian does not mean that they are in favor of intelligent design being taught regardless of whether they believe in it or not. Many Christians do not agree with intelligent design per se as although the Bible does teach creation with intelligent design as a focal factor, it is a spiritual teaching and not a text book of how it happened. There are many different ways Christians take the Genesis account of creation and many of these involve a creation/evolution hybrid as well as other ways of looking at it. For this reason, there is no reason to believe that just because the new super is a Christian (which I have never seen documented anywhere) that he would ever have any desire or inclination to bring the topic into our schools. Therefore all of this is a big red herring. His religious beliefs are therefore in no way an obstacle to his hiring and to say otherwise would be discrinatory.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2007 at 10:07 am

Once again, why is everyone going off on tangents instead of dealing with the salient point: I would like to know if our new super has extreme POLITICAL views.

Why does everyone keep descending into these tangents? I JUST WANT TO KNOW IF OUR NEW SUPER HAS EXTREME POLITICAL VIEWS, SINCE HE IS COMING FROM AN AREA THAT IS KNOWN FOR HAVING A POPULATION WITH EXTREME POLITICAL VIEWS. Extreme right-wing populations are far more likely to use litmus tests in their hiring. The fact that our new super comes from an area like that makes it more likely that he was chosen because he does fit there. Maybe not, but what's the harm in KNOWING. FACTS! Even those arguing with me above have commented that people with extreme political views shouldn't be leading our school system, if only because we don't need more divisiveness.

This is not about Christianity or anyone's religion. This is not about whether Skelly is a Christian. I am a Christian myself, as I keep pointing out. Poway is famous for its political extremists. They also happen to generally be fundamentalist-type Christians. Why those two things got mixed up together is a mystery to me as a Christian, don't ask me to defend it or argue about Christianity -- because I and many other Christians find many of the fundamentalist POLITICAL views to be very anti-Christian, and to go directly against the words and wishes of Christ in the Bible. (My brother is a teacher of technical subjects, and can teach them without getting political; but leading a school district is different, if there are leadership and policy directions at stake, inserting political views would be unavoidable.)

All Christians are not alike, I completely agree with you on that, Resident. But the "small number of Christian [who are] very vocal in wanting their theories of intelligent design taught in schools" as you say, are concentrated heavily in the district our new super is coming from, and their views dominate there. Maybe you are religious and don't have an agenda, but please don't be so naiive about those who DO.

Again, I am not saying Skelly is this way, I think we should know. The last thing we need is more divisiveness in this district.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Anon-

A couple points come to mind from your post. First, I imagine extremists of all kinds are likely to have litmus tests in hiring (not just "right-wing extremists"). Just out of curiosity, if Mr. Skelly were most recently employed at Berkeley or Cambridge public schools, would you be concerned about lack of diligence or divisiveness then? I don't think that I would.

Second, what test do you think should be applied? Do you have a "litmus test" in mind? If we found that Mr. Skelly were an old-school Reagan conservative, would that make him a bad hire in your mind? If he were an un-reformed McGovern liberal (after all, he went to Harvard!)? I'm not really sure how we would use his politics to judge his ability as a school leader.

Finally, is there something you'd like to see done to resolve this issue? I believe (though not sure) that ability to create consensus was a important criteria the Board was looking for in a new hire. You could email the Board members and ask them directly. You could also email and ask if they inquired as to his political views or his views of intelligent design vs. evolution. Heck, you could email Mr. Skelly directly and ask (I spoke to someone the other day who emailed him out of the blue and got a prompt response).

Just trying to move the discussion along...

Fred


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2007 at 11:02 pm

Fred,
Do you have his email address? Please post, thanks.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 17, 2007 at 11:33 pm

Resident,

You're jumping a bit here. I never said anything about "Christians" per se. I am talking about a specific segment of religious/political views.

Fred,

I don't think Anonymous is talking of litmus tests--anon just wants to know who we're getting. So do I. I think the newspapers ought to find out.

I find it a little bizarre, frankly, that people don't think we should know basic things about the guy being hired to run our schools. My guess is that the guy's fine. But anon raises an interesting point.

Political views don't make effective or ineffective leaders, but they do affect the goals of that leader. Do I need the guy's voting records? No. But I'd like to know his views on education.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2007 at 8:07 am

Anon - I don't have his email address (I didn't email him), but I was told she got it off the Poway USD web site.

OP - I suppose there is an investigative angle that the papers could take up. I think, though, not sure, that the story would be of interest only if the result were quite extreme - card-carrying communist, John Bircher (if they still exist), etc. Not much of a story if the resulting headline is "New Super Votes Moderate!" So we'd not know the if the work were done unless the result were extreme.

But I'm still not sure I get it why this info is important - indeed, I worry that focusing on it could itself be divisive. If someone did the work to check the Federal Elections Commission donor files and found that Mr. Skelly supported (fill in your favorite onerous candidate from the last election cycle) would that be an interesting story? Would it make him a bad hire? Would we want to be vigilant against his potential extremist excesses? Of course, keep in mind there are some who would likely find your or my acceptable view a dangerous one to be help by a Super (maybe he supports widely-available abortion, or is against gay marriage, for instance).

While I personally have been disappointed by the leadership of the school board to date, I believe their #1 responsibility is to hire the Superintendent. Hiring a LEADER and consensus builder should have been very high on their list. I hope and trust they have done their job and don't feel the need to double check their work in this regard. If they missed something genuinely terrible (specifically, educational philosophies way outside the mainstream) then we fire him and pay the price for their incompetence. But otherwise, I would say we judge him by his actions.

Fred


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2007 at 8:28 am

I am still against all this. What the guy's political views are are his business,not ours. I was under the belief that a person's vote is secret and made public only if he wants it. Yes, he may be registered as a voter one way or other (in my view not keeping your vote secret) however, his stand on political issues are not to be taken into account unless (a) he is running for political office or (b) he has made public his views which may mean being a member of a political group for which there is a public membership list and it is not an illegal organisation.

The guy's political views, although may sway him if it comes to something contraversial when it comes up, is not on the cards here. He is not a publicly elected official. He is just getting a new job. It is illegal to use many things when considering someone as a candidate for a job. His political views, should remain out of bounds, unless it can be proven from previous actions that he has outwardly used his job to canvass others.

How would you like it if your future employer wanted to know all your voting records - regardless what kind of job it was. You would be affronted. Now leave his political pursuasion and his religion out of it like anyone else starting a new job.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2007 at 9:03 am

Building on Resident's good points, I would ask this - if we hired a teacher from the Poway area, should the interviewers make sure the he or she doesn't have extreme views? Should we make sure of this for all our teaching hires? Arguably they have more direct influence on children's thinking than the Superintendent. This sounds like a litmus test to me - if they follow the curriculum and do a good job otherwise, what does it matter?

I think it is fair to ask a candidate about his or her educational philosophy (just as it would be fair to ask the above teaching candidate), but not his or her personal views on political issues. OP, your posting were a little ambiguous, in that you talk about political views and then say views on education (which I think can be different things). Anon, you specifically focus on intelligent design, but also talk about political views. Whether ID should be taught in the schools or whether "all possible theories" should be represented in science classes seems like an "in-bounds" educational philosophy question, not really a political one (relevant for a Super, not so much for a teaching candidate). What he thinks personally about social political issues (gay rights, abortion) seems out of bounds, as does his general political leanings.

I am sure (I hope) that we will find out more about Mr. Skelly's philosophy on education as he begins to communicate with the district.

Fred


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2007 at 2:40 pm

"I am sure (I hope) that we will find out more about Mr. Skelly's philosophy on education as he begins to communicate with the district."

Always time to do it twice, never enough time to do it right, eh Fred?

Again, why is everyone going off on all these tangents? I didn't ask for the guy's voting record. Perhaps I should get back to the original question -- has anyone asked him how he feels about teaching evolution and intelligent design in schools? Or, how does he feel about the groundswell of support in Poway schools for teaching intelligent design and for dismissing evolution? That's a non-threatening, relevant question, and how he answers could tell us a lot. It's not the only question that would be relevant to his functioning as our superintendent if he did have extreme political views, but it is a good example.

So Fred, you seem like a really reasonable guy, maybe a bit too reasonable when it comes to trusting our school board...


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Anon-

First, thank you - "too reasonable" is one of the nicest things I've been called in a while ;-)

Sorry, though, I think I am missing your point. I believe the diligence is done and he is hired. So I'm not thinking we save time by pushing it off till later - the deed is done. I am think we show the guy respect to let him present his philosophy and vision his way, at which point we can ask him questions.

You are certainly able to investigate and query as you see fit. I respectfully suggest starting with the school board though rather than going right at the new guy - it was their job to interview him and hopefully they found out relevant stuff. I have found some (though not all) of them are responsive via email.

FWIW, you did say a few posts above that you were interested in his POLITICAL VIEWS (your emphasis). I still think that's out of bounds. But his educational views are relevant if you don't feel comfortable relying on the board.

Fred


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 19, 2007 at 12:44 am

Fact is Fred,

I don't trust the school board at this point. As for a newspaper article, it doesn't have to be investigative, it just has to be an interview--something that's completely typical. It's a high-profile position and the last holder was basically forced out.

Resident, no one asked for the guy's voting record. We're asking about his views on education. In other words, about his job, not his private life. He may not be elected, but his position IS one paid for by us.

Would I care if the last super hadn't been such a disaster? Probably not, but she was and because of the issues Callan leaves behind, I think getting a clear read on Skelly would be a public service.

Furthermore, I'll bet Skelly wouldn't even mind the questions. The school admin types I know are pretty diplomatic and can handle a few questions.

If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't find offensive to be asked about, say, working in such different districts.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2007 at 7:27 am

OP, I'm sure the assignment editor at the Weekly has an interview with Mr. Skelly on his future articles list, so I bet you are likely to get your wish. I'm sure he would welcome potential "hot button" questions like the ones that interest you. Is the question "How do you feel on topic of teaching Intelligent Design vs. Evolution in the classroom"?


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2007 at 10:50 am

FWIW, I spoke to an acquaintance who moved up here from San Diego earlier this year. She didn't live in Poway but nearby, and had considered it when they moved there 5 years ago. Her view was the Poway may have been redneck in the 1970s (it was more rural then), but was viewed today as a standard high-end suburb with excellent schools, one of the best in California. She didn't have any view of their politics, but thought the schools were outstanding.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2007 at 2:57 pm

Thank you, Fred, that's the first encouraging thing I've heard, though just a single data point.

The reason to know now is that if the board has made some horrific lapse of judgment (which I wouldn't bet against with this board anymore), at the least the guy hasn't moved up here yet.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 19, 2007 at 3:13 pm

See Fred,

It's not that thorny an issue. Susan Hong gets on the phone, asks some questions. You did a little background check and we can not worry about Mr. Skelly's noneducational record.


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