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Gunn parents surprised by counseling difference

Original post made on May 17, 2012

Several parents from Gunn High School said Wednesday they were unaware until recently that the school's guidance counseling program differs significantly from the guidance counseling program at Palo Alto High School. ==B Watch uncut video of May 16 forum:==
• [Web Link Part 1] • [Web Link Part 2] • [Web Link Part 3]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 17, 2012, 9:53 AM

Comments (42)

Posted by Barbara Slone, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 17, 2012 at 10:37 am

Thanks to the organizers (We Can Do Better Palo Alto) of this most informative meeting. I particularly enjoyed looking at the statistical data (I am not one who usually does "numbers") from the survey. Ken and Michele Dauber put in so much time digesting all of this data and providing it in a clear way even I could readily understand. These statistics are available on the website for WCDBPA. I was shocked to realize that so many Gunn parents were not even aware until very recently that there are major differences in the systems between the two schools. All of the participants at the meeting were there for the same reason. We all want to see positive change for our precious children. I hadn't really understood why there has been so much resistance from the district and certain people posting to PA Online. After attending the meeting last night and hearing from some of the Gunn parents I realize that they have been cloaked in a shroud of feeling that all is well at Gunn and that the WCDBPA group was a bunch of rabble rousers trying to stir up trouble. After seeing the presentations last night I am so grateful to this group of highly skilled and caring parents that are willing to dare to suggest that there is a better way. Truly, we can do better Palo Alto. I only wish that more Gunn parents could have come to the meeting to see for themselves that this is a real issue worthy of deep exploration. I hope that the Gunn parents who did attend will tell other Gunn parents about what they learned. I want all of our children to have the very best. After hearing about the merits of the Teacher Advisory system I would hope that all Gunn parents would want the same. Thanks WCDBPA for your presentation.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

No mention of the number of attendees. Anyone who was there care to estimate the attendance?

Posted by Wish I could have been there, a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 17, 2012 at 10:52 am

There may have been fewer parents than expected last night because the meeting conflicted with JLS' Open House/Portfolio night, which is for all grades of the middle school.

Would someone who attended the meeting please describe if there were any outcomes from the meeting? Was it recorded by any chance? Did Katya Villalobos or anyone else from Gunn Administration attend?

Thanks very much.

Posted by MBS, a resident of Ventura
on May 17, 2012 at 10:57 am

I have always felt that this difference was unfair. My two oldest children went to Gunn and found the counseling system to be severely lacking from a practical information standpoint and downright damaging from an emotional standpoint. There are too few counselors and they are too rigid in the services that they provide. Particularly for my learning disabled child who, while he received special learning help outside of the counseling center, needed different kinds of information from the counselors to help him make college and career decisions. They were ill equipped to help him, did not have time and I am not sure were even interested in helping him. I sent my youngest child to St. Francis primarily because there were not integrated counseling services to wrap around the child's education at Gunn and because there is absolutely no emphasis on values at Gunn. Without sounding too much like an advertisement that was the best decision that I ever made. . . . that child is on her way to becoming a doctor. . . the other two are still struggling, doing their best but struggling.

Posted by Barbara Slone, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2012 at 11:02 am

I believe that the presentation was recorded. Perhaps the group WCDBPA can put it up on their website? I am not a techie but they seem to have that end covered. There was one Board Member there (thanks for attending!). I can't tell you about Gunn Admin. as I don't know them but nobody was introduced as being from the Gunn Admin. Hopefully this will be a big first step towards ending the divisiveness in our school community. The meeting had a very hopeful tone. I wish there hadn't been a conflicting meeting at JLS. I would estimate the group at 50-75 (not good at crowd estimates!).

Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2012 at 11:06 am

As someone who attended Gunn and had kids attend Paly, I assure you there are differences between the two schools. I was surprised and actually annoyed. I had never spent any time at Paly previously and assumed it would be like Gunn.
I think there should be much more consistency between the high schools (yes, some of this CAN be done through district efforts/policies/personnel), however I have been baffled at this notion that Gunn should institute the Teacher-Advisor system from Paly. I had a much superior experience under the Gunn counseling system, though this was years ago, and the one thing that is true is that change is constant, even in our school district, and it is difficult to compare schools even a few years apart, owing to changes in leadership/administrators and curriculum, facilities, etc.
Some level of parity should be maintained.
For Counseling, I recommend looking to models outside this district and implementing best practices.
I think it's time for new BoE disrespect to current ones, but time for a renewal at this level.

Posted by Former Gunn Parent, a resident of another community
on May 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

Be careful what you wish for. The push for adopting the A-G requirements for graduation came from parents at Paly whose kids were not getting sufficient college "guidance" by their TA advisors, and did not take the UC/CSU required courses. Now all of the kids at both schools will have to jump through the extra hoops to graduate.

Paly's system is not the perfect model--take what is the best of both systems and merge them and you will get an even better system for both schools.

Posted by local gurl, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

@MBS -- I had the same issue with my learning-disabled child at Gunn. The best resource for us was his "resource teacher" who followed him very closely and recommended colleges to us. That was above and beyond her job requirements, and it was critical to my son's success.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2012 at 11:32 am

> doing their best but struggling.

And you blame the counseling program at Gunn for their "struggling"?

Posted by kudos, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2012 at 11:35 am

Wow, this group "We Know Better Palo Alto" really seem to have their act together.

Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online
on May 17, 2012 at 11:47 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

Barbara: Yes, the presentation was recorded and we will be posting the video (in three parts) by the end of the day. The video will also be available on YouTube. We will post links this afternoon.

Posted by Barbara Slone, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Thanks Tyler! I urge community members who have any interest to take a look.... particularly Gunn parents and those people who wanted to attend but had conflicts. The program was exceptionally informative. I would also like to say that this is an opportunity to meet some of the WCDBPA folks. Not forgetting the young people who spoke about their experiences with Teacher Advisory.

Posted by Sally Bemus, a resident of Community Center
on May 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I am one of the Paly parents who spoke last night to share my family's experience with the Paly guidance model. The Paly model has evolved over twenty years. It is not perfect but pretty good considering our limited financial resources. Our principal and staff are currently working enthusiastically on improvements to address the recommendations that came out of the counseling consultant's report to the district.
When I speak with Gunn parents on this issue I find that most of them are operating under a perception that teacher advisory will replace the Gunn guidance counselors. When I explain it as additive to the services their students are already receiving they are open to explore this option. Gunn is full of students who are happy, successful and well served by the current guidance system but even these students would benefit from additional support services. Whatever model the Gunn community decides to choose, I hope this meeting will spark positive collaborative conversations on the Gunn campus that will result in forward movement to better support Gunn students.

Posted by Paly parent 2, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm

The Paly model works very well and we are happy with it. Please don't change the Paly model for the sake of having the same system in both high schools.

Posted by Sally Bemus, a resident of Community Center
on May 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm

@ Paly parent 2

To clarify my comments, Paly is not changing their guidance model, just exploring ways to improve it.

Posted by a parent, a resident of Terman Middle School
on May 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Paly parent,
I just want to ask you to consider the enrollment growth that has happened at Gunn since you last had contact with the counseling there. I have heard many complaints from parents within the last few years, quite apart from any public discussion about it.

Posted by Colleen Dunn, a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm

The guidance program is just one of many differences between Gunn and Paly. Our kids went to El Carmelo and then JLS. JLS families go to both Gunn and Paly, and when I compare notes with my friends about their kids' experiences, we find the schools are very different, from start/end times, schedules, guidance, programs offered, etc. Even AP BIO, which you might assume would follow the same curriculum at both schools is different. Paly kids didn't have to do preparatory work for the class in the summer while Gunn kids did. I think the cultures are very different and this is not just a simple matter of transplanting the Paly guidance model to Gunn. Obviously, there are kids who do well at both schools, and others who feel very underserved at both schools. I hope the school board looks at what's working at both schools and try to bring more consistency across the board so more kids benefit.

Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online
on May 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

Due to the running time of the videos (and a lengthy exporting process), they will not be posted until tomorrow (Friday, May 18). They should be online in the early part of the day and we will post links as soon as they are available.

Posted by Mary, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Give Gunn counseling dept. the same money as Paly receives and more counselors could be hired. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Oine staff.]

Posted by Sally Bemus, a resident of Community Center
on May 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm


In rough numbers the ratio of student to counselor at Gunn is 325 to 1. By leveraging academic guidance through teacher advisory the ratio of student to adviser/counselor at Paly is 40 to 1. You would have to hire 42 more counselors at Gunn to obtain that ratio through the traditional Guidance system, or for the equivalent of one new counselor you could have the 40 to 1 ratio at Gunn.

For information about the agenda of WCDBPA see Web Link Our Vision: For Palo Alto public schools where all children thrive emotionally, socially, and academically.

Posted by Ken Dauber, a resident of Barron Park School
on May 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Making snide comments about my children is out of line.

For the data that I presented at last night's meeting, see: Web Link

For the voices of Gunn students on counseling, see: Web Link

For a comparison focused on minority students, see: Web Link

Other data and documents are linked at: Web Link

Please join our Facebook group (Web Link) or visit our site and send us an email to get involved.

Posted by Moira , a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2012 at 8:10 pm

My kids are at Gunn, my good friend's kids are at Paly. She kept referring to these meetings her son was having Junior and Senior year about college requirements, packets to fill out etc before I had heard of anything like this at Gunn. I thought my son was not telling me what was going on, or I was out of the loop. Turns out, Paly kids were indeed meeting with teachers and counselors more than my Gunn student. It's a UNIFIED school district, both high schools need to provide the same services.

Posted by PA Long time Resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 18, 2012 at 9:52 am

"We Can Do Better Palo Alto aggressive lobbying has been criticized by some Gunn parents who say the group is trying to force a system onto the school that people there have not been given time to adopt for themselves." Quote from today's article.

This is certainly a railroad job... the actions of the We Can Do Better Group and the Palo Alto Online Newspaper are employing both unfair and biased reporting.

Last week, it was the article written by a former Paly student, touting the merits the Advisory system. Was a Gunn student given a chance to tell their story...I certainly didn't see an article representing Gunn. The sensational title on the on the web page for We Can do Better....The Missing Table from March 2012 PAUSD report... implies a sinister plot designed by the District to withhold information damaging to Gunn. Who says that is true?

Regardless of the outcome, this process is definitely flawed. My wish is that PAUSD would stand up and call it for what it is, that parents examine the information for themselves and reach their own conclusions, and that Palo Alto Online and Weekly report fairly and accurately. We as Palo Alto residents deserve nothing less.

Posted by parents, a resident of Southgate
on May 18, 2012 at 9:55 am

Was this all about race that using this to supress asian?

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2012 at 10:22 am


You can see 1621 current Gunn students telling their story about their experiences with counseling here:

Web Link

Posted by Wow!, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2012 at 11:35 am

Why weren't these numbers made available sooner? Why are parents at our school so resistant to getting more support for our students? These numbers are shocking! This is about the health and well being of our students. We need to look carefully at the work this group is doing!

Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm

If I understood correctly, Gunn made a choice to spend the money on keeping English classes small and Paly chose to spend it on student advisory. It is not an issue of Paly having more money/resources than Gunn.

Posted by Another Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I don't know these people or this group but I am seeing lots of comments on different boards like the one from PA Long time Resident. They all say the same thing. It's a railroad job, it's not fair, it's attacking Gunn. None of these people post about the actual data, which is posted on this page. Long time says "My wish is that PAUSD would stand up and call it for what it is, that parents examine the information for themselves and reach their own conclusions, and that Palo Alto Online and Weekly report fairly and accurately." That is exactly what this group wants, for parents to examine the information for themselves. Why don't you? I did, and it's really shocking. But just SCROLL UP THE PAGE, and then post some actual facts here.
I think it's a very good question why we have to learn about this from parents rather than from PAUSD. Apparently the consultant's report about this (that we all paid for, by the way) did not compare the data from the two schools. Why not? I read that the district told the consultant NOT to compare them. Why don't you get upset at the people who are actually NOT telling you information? I have seen an incredible amount of nastiness and personal attacks on the people who are actually telling us what is going on. I am not seeing that from them, I am seeing facts. Why is that?

Posted by Wow!, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Another Gunn Parent: Thanks for articulating these important questions. Perhaps someone from PAUSD could tell us why the consultant was told not to compare the data from both schools. I am really at a loss to try and figure out why there are so many attacks on those that are trying to give us information. There should be more people questioning why the district has not been upfront with us and by providing us the information that we PAID for. It would appear that If it were not for the work of the WCDBPA we would probably never have received the information. I am grateful to this dedicated group of parents who are attempting to provide us the information we need in order to make the best decisions regarding improving the counseling at Gunn. After viewing the website I see that they are trying to improve both schools counseling. There is always room for improvement. Why is it that so many people who post in this forum believe that Gunn has no room for improvement? Look at the links above if are ready to learn what has been researched regarding all of these issues. We can back it verify these statistic by looking at the research that we paid for! I very much doubt that WCDBPA is making up all of this data. Thanks to this hard working parent watchdog group. It is disappointing to know that we need this group to get information for us that the district should be giving us. Indeed, why is this? Would anyone care to venture a guess to a reasonable answer to this? It is a baffling question.

Posted by Gunn teacher, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I am interested in learning about TA but I am afraid to get into something that has become so political at work.Denise Clarke Pope from Stanford is supporting TA but now they cancelled Challenge Success which worried me.I hear that the Paly teachers get a prep period for TA.Is that true?Do they get salary increases also?It is hard to get information about this but I am open to learning. I think most of the teachers are willing/interested to learn more about this but there is a vocal minority against including administrators.

Posted by Paly teacher, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 18, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Just so everybody has the correct info:

The Paly TA program works in slightly different ways depending on if you're talking about 9th grade or 10-12th grades.

9th grade TAs have around 30 students (advisees) and meet with them a total of 29 times over the course of the year. In addition to the schedule planning/registration work that is done in the fall, 9th grade advisory involves a lot of topics designed to ease the transition to high school. 9th grade TAs do not receive a release period, but do receive a stipend for their work.

10-12th grade TAs (of which I am one) have about 25 advisees for each of the other three grades and meet with them about 10 times throughout the year (fluctuates depending on grade level). The curriculum depends on the grade level: we do a lot of college application work with seniors in the fall and financial aid work in the winter, juniors start to get college info in the spring, sophomore advisories are distributed fairly evenly throughout the year. 1012th grade TAs receive a release period (meaning that we are paid 20% of our regular salary), so most full-time TAs teach 4 classes instead of five. We do not receive a stipend in addition to the release period.

As it was explained to me (and as I've experienced), 10-12th grade TAs get a release period to allow them the time necessary to do the work that the position requires, particularly writing counselor letters (as the counselors of record) and putting together college application packages in the fall/winter.

There is quite a bit of info on the Paly guidance page; in particular, you can look at the "Advisory Schedules" links for very brief descriptions of what's going on in advisory on a weekly basis.

Web Link

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2012 at 8:18 am

My kids went to Gunn and college counseling there consisted of telling them which UC's they could get into and which were a "stretch." Counseling amounted to about 10 minutes. My kids toured the schools with their friends and were happy with their choices but I think parents can do a better job with counseling than the counselors!!!

Posted by Apparent, a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2012 at 9:02 am

The Paly advisory system is wonderful and the teacher advisors are absolute heroes. They keep the kids on track and well-informed throughout high school. Emphasis is keeping them on a college-track (So why change the high school grad requirements? But that's a different topic.), but alternatives are also explored. The amount of information that Sandra Cernoburi and the guidance staff dispenses is amazing. Parents are kept in the loop and the kids are able to handle their high school course selections, testing schedules, and college deadlines pretty much on their own and if they do have questions, they always have an advisory class coming up. Getting into college isn't was it used to be, especially with the public universities in such dire financial straits and I can't imagine keeping up with all the ins and outs of the process. Not that it's their fault (because they haven't experienced anything else), but I don't think Paly students necessarily know what a good thing they have, but as a parent, I'm eternally grateful.

Posted by gunn teacher, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 21, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I would be very careful about how you interpret the data. I was also very concerned about how the questions were worded. Many more Gunn students actually participated in the survey, and only students who attended advisory took the Paly survey, in reading it, we found many challenges. The key is that Paly's system shows no real evidence that it is better. 1 percent (of a rather skewed statistic) is not means to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Luckily, the dedicated staff at Gunn are moving forward to come up with great ideas to make sure our kids (and your kids) are getting what they need. I would be interested in seeing ideas from both Paly, the district and Gunn working collaboratively to include all students. Forcing a change is never the way to get things done and unfortunately this group is being a bit overbearing. This is something that needs the buy in of the entire community, not just parents, but teachers, students and support staff as well.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Thanks Gunn teacher. I too hope it works that way. Keep doing the incredible job that you do!!!

Posted by CrunchyCookie, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 21, 2012 at 11:18 pm

CrunchyCookie is a registered user.

Yep, Gunn's counselors are a pretty useless bunch [portion removed by Palo Alto Online]. Back in the late 90s, my counselor of four years (Suzy Drake, who handled the 350 students in the last quarter of the alphabet) met with students only on occasion, usually speaking in generalities and with an apathetic tone. I remember once coming in to ask about college planning and getting directed away, as she said to just wait a few months for the point when all of us 11th graders were supposed to do that anyway. When the day finally came, she basically checked a few boxes on a piece of paper filled with some arbitrary list of schools and told me to apply to those, with little elaboration and even less useful advice.

A couple years ago (post-college) I was feeling a bit directionless, so for the heck of it I dropped in hoping to talk to someone. After a nice mutual introduction, that meeting pretty much turned into a one-way exchange, with the counselor seemingly on autopilot, spewing out a 20-minute rant of commonsense advice and total horsecrap, then concluding with the recommendation that I set up a meeting with a personality testing company in San Francisco.

Guess some things never change.

Posted by Sally Bemus, a resident of Community Center
on May 22, 2012 at 9:55 am

@Gunn teacher

Yes, yes, yes!!!

"Luckily, the dedicated staff at Gunn are moving forward to come up with great ideas to make sure our kids (and your kids) are getting what they need. I would be interested in seeing ideas from both Paly, the district and Gunn working collaboratively to include all students. "

I am so happy to see Gunn and Paly teachers sharing ideas on this forum.

I know this is a busy time of year but I hope you can make time to watch the video of the parent ed event at St. Marks. The message was about collaboration, sharing ideas across the two schools, and working within the school communities to improve guidance at both schools. At the March 27th School Board meeting the board asked Gunn staff to work with Paly staff to share ideas and come back with a plan for Gunn that would provide similar qualities and as many student adult touch points as the Paly system. The parent meeting was planned to inform parents and augment the work being done on campus.

In regards to the survey data, from my perspective I don't need data to see that Paly students are getting more guidance services. By leveraging teachers to teach guidance curriculum, Paly has a ratio of 40 students to 1 adult versus Gunn's model of 350 students to 1 adult. A Paly a student is assigned three adults who share the guidance responsibilities of academic counseling, social emotional counseling and college counseling. At Gunn a student has only one adult who must provide all of these services for 350 students.

I also want to clarify a misnomer that Teacher Advisor's would replace guidance counselors at Gunn or that TA's are doing the heavy lifting on social emotional counseling. Paly has 6 traditional guidance counselors to Gunn's 6. While many TA's make strong connections with their students, the model is for them to act as gatekeepers for higher level counseling. TA's often refer their students to the guidance counselor or other on campus therapy services.

There are many variables in advisory programs, and a wide variation in funding. The Paly model has evolved over 20 years and is still a work in progress. Paly has chosen to use more of their discretionary funding for guidance than Gunn. Paly funds their program through stipends for freshman advisors and release periods for the three year advisors. Jordan Middle School requires all of their teachers to participate in weekly advisory with no additional funding. It is all about choices but it needs to be well informed choices.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2012 at 11:10 am

@Gunn teacher

It is not accurate that many more Gunn students participated in the survey than Paly students. The N for Gunn was 1621 and at Paly was 1456. I have no idea what you mean by a 1% difference. The difference in satisfaction between these two models is often on the order of 50 percentage points, not 1 percent.

Of the 136 measures on which the two schools can be directly compared, Paly exceeded Gunn by 5 or more percentage points on virtually all of them, including college counseling, social-emotional support, and academic support. Gunn exceeded Paly on none. One problem in addressing this issue is that the district is not giving accurate information. This has forced a parent group -- comprised of people with jobs and kids and busy lives - has had to develop all the data ourselves. Here are links to the facts:

Web Link

As shown on this data, which was collected by PAUSD itself, Paly students report far more connections and better counseling services than Gunn students. This is simply an indisputable fact at this point. For example, 48% of Gunn students, compared with 86% of Paly students state that they have an adult who supports them when they feel "generally stressed." 53% of Gunn students versus 88% of Paly students feel that they can get support when they are struggling in a class. There are many many gaps of more than 30, 40 and even 50 points. It should really be upsetting to Gunn parents. You may not realize it but you are not being treated fairly by the district and your student is not being treated fairly by the district compared to those who live in the other side of Oregon Expressway.

This is in no way a criticism of the staff at Gunn. This is a criticism of the system in which these excellent staff do their jobs. Frankly I think all this talk about tactics is a red herring and a distraction. Nobody is perfect and I am not perfect. I get frustrated, just as others do. But we need to have our eye on the ball here. Our primary "tactic" has been data-based advocacy. We are bringing data to an issue where there has to be blunt been a lot of obfuscation and not very high quality data analysis by the district and its consultants.

I really encourage all parents to look the data over for yourselves. Do not be distracted by sideshows over personalities but decide your view based on the services you would like your students to have. Do you think it is fair if the school board provides services that are SO much better for Paly students than Gunn students?

The issue is pretty clear that people need to decide. Do you agree with the Superintendent that it does not matter whether a student even sees a guidance counselor when they are a freshman or sophomore and the only true measure of the success of a guidance program is college admissions? Kevin Skelly has expressed in writing his view that he does not think that guidance is really needed for underclassmen and that he prefers to focus on "downstream measures" such as college admissions.

We disagree. We, as parents who had students at Gunn who were unable to get good 4 year plans, who felt the lack of human contact and connection with their counselors -- who felt exactly as many of the 755 students who took the time to write out their open-ended responses -- would have really benefitted from the Paly TA system and had we known that it was different we might have sent them there instead. These differences are very large and not the sorts of differences that are typically observed in social science research.

All I can really say is that I really hope that parents will read these data and consider for themselves whether this situation is fair to Gunn families and then vote by contacting the school board and Katya Villalobos.

I also hope that you will read for yourselves the many poignant and pleading comments from students about their feelings of abandonment and lack of connection to counselors at Gunn found here:

Web Link

This is where you should focus your attention -- the empirical evidence. I am sure the district would rather you look at We Can Do Better's supposed "tactics" than at the truth. But that's a sideshow that has nothing to do with the well-being of your kids. Of course Gunn teachers would rather teach smaller classes -- I am a teacher, so of course I would like less papers to grade and less work to do. But does your child need an English class with 22 students (Gunn) versus 23 students (Paly) or a relationship with a counselor who knows their name and face? Think it over.

Michele Dauber
Professor of Law and (by courtesy) Sociology
Stanford University

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2012 at 11:24 am

My Daughter is a senior at Gunn, Thank you Sally Bemus!for explaining to all the HATER'S of the Gunn High school counselor's! My daughter is happy there and it is her last year and she will miss Gunn!!
Maybe if the parent's are so un-happy next year with Gunn, they should go to Paly next year! Believe me Paly has Bigger problems then Gunn! Called Big time Drug problems with the student's! and I bet the parent's and teacher's don't even know how bad it really is!!
love Gunn.....................

Posted by Another Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm

@Gunn parent
You should read more carefully. Sally Bemus (a Paly parent, I think) is agreeing that Gunn and Paly teachers should be sharing ideas. She's also saying that Paly students are getting more and better services than Gunn students:
"In regards to the survey data, from my perspective I don't need data to see that Paly students are getting more guidance services. By leveraging teachers to teach guidance curriculum, Paly has a ratio of 40 students to 1 adult versus Gunn's model of 350 students to 1 adult. A Paly a student is assigned three adults who share the guidance responsibilities of academic counseling, social emotional counseling and college counseling. At Gunn a student has only one adult who must provide all of these services for 350 students."
I have said this before: the only "haters" that I see on these boards are people trying to discredit and distract those who are actually using data and evidence to talk about the issue. (In fact, "Gunn teacher", if it really is one, doesn't make much sense. What 1% is she talking about?). What I have heard from parents who better counseling is that they don't blame counselors for the differences, they blame the differences in the system. This idea that people HATE the counselors is another ridiculous distraction. Do people really think that parents in Palo Alto are that dumb?

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm

To correct a little data:

Paly 9th grade - each freshman TA has about 25-30 students
Paly 10th-12th grade -each TA has 75 students (25 per grade)
Guidance counselors - Paly has 4, Gunn has 6
At Paly, each of the 4 Counselors stay with their class for 4 years (the 9th grade counselor this year will be the 10th grade counselor next year). It looks like Gunn does the same thing with students keeping the same counselor (divided alphabetically, not by grade).
College Counselor - Paly has 2 (one paid for with PiE $$) Gunn has 1
Career Counselor - Paly has 1 (not full time) the Gunn College counselor is also the Career counselor.

Paly kids certainly get more contact with an adult that is not just their teacher on a regular basis. Some TA's are great at getting to know their students, some not so great... PiE contributes to guidance and college/career counseling at both high schools (it's up to the Principal to decide where the PiE $$ go)

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Hi Paly Parent:

Just a little friendly correction to your correction; the 40:1 number that Sally is giving is actually accurate. Paly has 46 TAs and 4 guidance counselors. Not counting the 2 college and career staff, Paly's teacher/student ratio for counseling is thus ~ 2000 students/50 TA/Guidance == 40:1. For Gunn it is ~ 2000 students/6 == 333. That number is sometimes given as 350, sometimes as 325.

So these ratios are accurate and they are alarming to Gunn parents. There is no way to get from 325:1 to 40:1 or even to 75:1 without changing the model itself.


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