Board gives Gunn time for counseling reforms Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jun 13, 2012 at 8:42 am
A Gunn High School committee will have until early next year to develop long-term reforms to the school's guidance counseling program, the Palo Alto Board of Education indicated Tuesday night. Related material: [Web Link Read Barbara Klausner's comments]
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 1:31 AM
Posted by Gunn Alumni, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 13, 2012 at 8:42 am
Dr. Skelly is a tremendous father, man and superintendent. Palo Alto is fantastic city with the best public school system in the United States. I'm not just talking about academics. Palo Alto schools have some of the best journalism, athletic, music and engineering programs in the country. This is remarkable considering that Palo Alto students matriculate based on geography. Let's have some faith in our awesome system.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 8:43 am
This is beginning to sound very political to me, regardless of what the individuals are saying.
This is an election year for the board and they know it. Last time round there were no candidates to contest the incumbents. If the present board members wish to be reelected they must appear to be appeasing the electorate and this sounds very like that.
It will be interesting to see if anyone from WCDB stands for election.
It will be interesting to see what the main election topics will be this time. I predict Gunn counseling and the calendar will be hot topics, both have been thrown into the limelight by this group. If nothing else, it will see just how strong their support really is within the community.
Posted by member, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:53 am
This process should really be completed by September 1st. The School District has heard enough and I'm sure they know problems exist. Several comments indicated problem like this have been going on for at least 10 years. Changes need to be made, they need to be more responsive to all the students on a timely basis.
Posted by Gunn Mom, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:05 am
I have to comment that I have been listening to what amounts to emotional diatribes in these meetings by SOME community members. I'd like ask us all to be more civil, carefully factual, and respectful of our public servants and elected leaders. While we sometimes disagree, it is very important to be professional, considerate and thoughtful about what we say to each other.
After this Board and Superintendant, we will need another. If we mistreat these people, who will want the job in the future? Let's be thoughtful about how we interact with our community leaders.
That said, I would like to respectfully request that the Gunn administration give serious consideration to some variation of the Paly concept. Gunn is a WONDERFUL school. My child generally is having a good experience there--though occasionally stressful. Our experience with the Gunn counseling staff so far has been positive. Our child's counselor is excellent, BUT she is extremely busy--stretched far too thinly, and it took persistent, disciplined effort on my part to get meetings scheduled and get the ball rolling. Not every child has a parent who can do that. That needs to change somehow. I'm not sure what the specific solution is, but I think we can do better.
Thanks to the Board Members, who are community VOLUNTEERS, for wearing the mantle. I don't always agree with you, but I appreciate all that you do for us.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:11 am
Member - The District is admitting that the Gunn counseling system needs to be improved. September 1st wouldn't work for a number of reasons (BTW, school starts August 16th, not September 1st). A new system has yet to be decided on. Even if a TA system similar to Paly was chosen today it could not be implemented by the start of school. 30-40 teachers would need to volunteer and be trained. Teachers are gone for the summer and do not have to be back until August 13th leaving no time for volunteering or training. The Gunn students, staff and parents agree that the TA system may NOT be the best fit for Gunn and want some time to work on this. If something is decided by the beginning of the year (January) there is the whole spring to train/plan/implement/sell the program. In the interim - additional Guidance staff is being added, the Guidance staff meeting schedule is being changed to make them more accessible, etc.
Until a new system is decided on, change can't be made.
Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:22 am
It's definitely time for the District and Gunn Administration to put aside their resistance and be more open-minded, responsive to community input, and objective in their analysis of what works best for students.
Skelly's embarrassment at being caught red-handed, undermining the Board's authority was obvious. Hopefully he's learned a lifelong lesson. Ms. Villalobos was emphatic about being open-minded, stating "We're teachers. That's what we do." Let's hope that we can take her at her word.
No one wants to dictate a solution to the school staff. However, neither do we want to have them reject solutions out of hand (especially while claiming in public to be open-minded). That is, frankly, outrageous, regardless of the tactics used by "the other side".
Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm
Nothing develops in the dark but negatives (before digital cameras that is!) and I am so relieved that the board gave clear direction for Gunn to examine ALL the possible counseling models including Teacher Advisory. I found the public input at the board meeting quite informative (well some of it that is) and was so delighted to hear from the district teacher who had taught at both schools and had what she characterized as a very positive experience as a TA at Paly. She really enjoyed that work and I firmly believe that many other teachers at Gunn might enjoy that service to their students as well. Unfortunately, there has been very little real information that has trickled out to Gunn staff, parents and students because of the recent goings on (no need to reiterate any of this.....it's water under the bridge). It seems to me a no brainer that Gunn would love to have a model of TA that is customized to suit the "Gunn culture". Perhaps that is a pipe dream. The wheel has been invented but I am sure their are some improvements that could be made to suit Gunn better. It became abundantly clear last night that there was a huge amount of misinformation (or no information) about changes that have been proposed. For instance, one Gunn speaker got up and said that her understanding was that Gunn would get rid of counselors. This is so off base.......don't know where that info came from. TA is in addition to the regular counseling staff. I just wish that more people (especially the Gunn commununity) had attended the informational meeting conducted by Denise Pope. When the Gunn community finds out about what TA really is and all the misinformation stops circulating we may have the chance of all coming together to affect an improvement in counseling that suits Gunn to a tee. I too hope that Ms. Villalobos follows through with her commitment to be "open minded". Thanks to the board and particularly Ms. Klausner for giving clear direction in no uncertain terms to the Superintendent. I totally agree with her statement, "At this point the governance process has broken down, and only Dr. Skelly has the ability to put it right," I hope that Dr. Skelly will follow through with his promise to the board and all of the parents, students, staff of PAUSD, and citizens of PA. I am counting on him to do all the right things to help move our students towards the best possible counseling model on the planet (hey, Gunn is the kind of place that should be able to brag about that, right?). I am so looking forward to forward movement and the end of politics and mud slinging. As the Gunn tee shirts at the meeting said, "We're All in This Together" and I would add that Together We Can Do Better. We all love our students and want the very best for them.
Posted by a longtimer in PA, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm
Referring to the above comment, I don't think the PAUSD budget is planning to finance both a counseling program and a TA system at Gunn. It seems to be one or another.
I will make one more observation, I am a long time resident of Palo Alto, some 50 years. I have never seen such a contentious debate, or encountered such manipulative participants. I even lived through the 1970 school closures, yes, there were disagreements, but they were fair debates, reported by a press which aired both sides.
It really doesn't matter who is right, the process is all wrong. I think the School Board should retake control of the process, and not let the tyrants rule.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm
I agreed with Ms. Klausner that there is a governance issue; and frankly I feel sorry for Ms. Villalobos and Dr. Skelly. But not too sorry - they poisoned the well by front-running the board and manipulating staff opinion. I don't think the t-shirts were too subtle; clearly there is organized opposition from Gunn. To sit there and tell the board that they had NOT done this was comically ironic.
Now they have to drink from that well - and try to steer their staff back to an open minded process. Problem is, once a mind is closed, it does not re-open again easily. As much as they try, it will be a huge challenge to get a fair examination of many different options at Gunn.
And now they are on public notice that this must be done. They have made a mess for themselves.
Posted by Cissy, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 2:13 pm
I bet if the Gunn administration were willing to put in real effort, they could find a small group of Gunn teachers willing to pilot a TA program as early as this fall. Not all teachers are unavailable over the summer. Some actually want to put in the extra time (and earn some extra pay) to be on the cutting edge. It would be interesting to just try a pilot program with pre- and post-surveys to evaluate its effectiveness. School counselors are trained (in the American Association of School Counselor's National Model) to design, implement and evaluate programs to support students. Wht not utilize the talent you have from within?
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 13, 2012 at 5:05 pm
Mind sharing how you (or Barb Klausner) got from A to B - that Gunn and Kevin Skelly circumvented the board's instruction?
Was it the email Gunn and Superintendent Skelly sent to Gunn parents a month or so ago?
I am a Gunn parent and got that email. It told us what was going on with guidance, thankfully, because all the noise around this issue was making lots of us fearful that our kids' counselors would be re-purposed or fired and our child assigned to some TBD TA who would be announced when school started - changes we didn’t understand and had no say in.
That letter didn't commit to what would or would not happen at Gunn regarding advisory. It just said don't worry, while you are gone this summer your child's class schedule won’t be rearranged and his classes won't be enlarged and, don't worry, your child's counselor will be here for him/her when school starts in August too. If I remember correctly, it also said there will be no surprises; we’ll have a chance to share our thoughts on how to improve guidance too.
It was extremely kind of Dr. Skelly and the Gunn principal to realize that parents might be concerned by the rumors and to go to the trouble of sending us a letter calming our nerves.
If it is that letter which earned Superintendent Skelly the honor of Ms. Klausner's public reprimand, I’d like to publicly apologize to him on behalf of others.
Even if there was a second interpretation of that letter, why would Ms. Klausner choose to just focus on the negative one? Why wouldn’t she thank staff for communicating with families – that’s a good thing – and just ask them to clear up her confusion by asking what they meant by it?
Shouldn’t board members employ strategies to get the best out of district employees? Tearing employees down publicly doesn’t do that.
It sure sounds like the way Ms. Klausner handled this troubled Camille Townsend who asked for a stop to personal “attacks that go beyond the pale.”
Posted by another parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm
@ make nice, you are so right. i was reassured by that email that my student would not come back to an unrecognizable master schedule and an amature counselor. thank you to ms. v and dr. s. the shenanagins of wcdb threw us off so far that as a community we forgot to point that out. glad ms. v reminded us.
Posted by Midtown resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm
Community members need to realize that the 20 Paly TA's are released from one period of teaching to be advisors. They teach 4 classes and have a release period for advisory duties. Full time high school teachers are hired to teach 5 periods, so if the TA system were implemented at Gunn the school would have to cover at least 20 teaching sections by making class size larger and/or by hiring part time people. Teachers would be pulled from the academic areas where they are needed and put into an advisory situation for which they really are not trained. Helping students plan out their 4 years of high school, analyzing their transcripts, and advising them on the courses to take for graduation and acceptance to college is a huge responsibility. This job should be done by professionals who are trained in guidance. The quality of academic advising at Paly is not very consistent. How can a social studies teacher advise a student on which math classes to take or which electives to choose? There is a lot of inherent bias built into teacher advisory and no one seems to be talking about that.
Posted by Do your homework, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm
@make nice - No, that letter is not why Ms Klausner read Dr. Skelly the riot act. There are dozens of emails that show the insubordination of Dr. Skelly and others. For a chronology see Web Link
All the original documents have been posted on the district's web site. The Weekly has been following these developments. There is plenty of information out there.
Ms Klausner should be applauded for saying what needed to be said. And all the board members other than Ms. Mitchell acknowledged their agreement with her comments.
I appreciate that people want to give the benefit of the doubt to district and school officials. But the facts are indisputable in this case that they actively undermined the board. Hopefully we are back on track and can get the focus back on better serving our kids by makIng the necessary changes at Gunn.
Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm
@Do your homework and @"make nice"
@"make nice"I was surprised by the fact that you apparently didn't really understand what has transpired in the past couple of months. I guess there are so many people in the community who really don't know what is going on and reading the link provided above by @Do your homework puts it all in perspective. It greatly helped me make sense of how things spiraled out of control. Perhaps you will take the time to absorb the facts as well before you make your next comment.
@Do your homework: Thanks for posting that link which should make it abundantly clear that there were very good reasons for Ms. Klausner to call out Dr. Skelly for insubordination. I strongly suggest that any Gunn parents (or anyone who is trying to wrap their minds around this whole fiasco) read this chronology. It will put to rest any lingering doubts about what has transpired. It's all there. As mentioned before, it's time to move forward. Dr. Skelly has agreed to follow the Board directives from here on out and that should help us all move forward toward a better counseling system for Gunn. Thank you again Ms. Klausner for speaking out on a topic that was in deep need of addressing. Thank you to the rest of the Board as well (excepting Ms. Mitchell) for backing up Barbara Klausner and giving us a chance to move forward without any further ado. We truly appreciate what you do. If anyone deserves an apology it is the Board by Dr. Skelly. I guess admitting that he could have "provided better leadership" is the best he could do combined with a "thumbs up" when Ms. Klausner extracted "a pledge from Dr. Skelly that he will ensure "the right conversations will take place" as Gunn moves to improve its guidance counseling program." Please all......do your homework and read the link above before criticizing your hard working Board members. The Board deserves to have parents who have educated themselves on issues before they take shots at the Board.
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm
Just because someone doesn't agree with you doesn't mean that they are ill-informed. It just means that they don't agree with you.
The chronology is not accurate so hard to trust everything/anything in it, i.e. "the school board responded to a history of years of similar results from surveys of parents and students at both high schools." Didn't Barb Mitchell just last night read from a 2008 survey where Gunn beat Paly on almost every social emotional measure?
The whole linked to Chronology reads very conspiracy-theorist-like to me. Lots of guessing. Lots of shaded interpretations.
The school board members should hold themselves to a higher standard. They need to do their homework before chastising someone.
And even if all of what the Chronology said is true (which it isn't) there are far more effective ways to work with employees than calling them to task on TV, before those whom they manage, and in front of the newspaper reporter.
How would you feel if your job evaluation was announced over the office intercom? That's effectively what Ms. Klausner did.
Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 8:53 pm
@make nice: Did you attend the School Board meeting? Just curious.
I feel that the Board was treated disrespectfully by Dr. Skelly. I guess it all depends on your perspective. Unfortunately only way to put an end to all of the shenanigans by Dr. Skelly was to do it publicly. It is unfortunate but at least Dr. Skelly has his marching orders now and hopefully will do what the Board directs. That is the way this whole thing works. It is unfortunate that it had to come out this way but had he been doing the job he was entrusted to do Ms. Klausner and the rest of the Board would have had no issues. If Dr. Skelly is not doing the job he was hired to do the public has the right to know. Sorry but I can't agree with you on this. As I said before I applaud. If you have material evidence that the facts stated in the chronology are not true please bring that evidence forth. I would like to see it. Let's just accept that Dr. Skelly feels sorry that he didn't follow the board directives and give him credit for buying into following the rules from here on out. He may have many wonderful qualities but just admitting that he didn't provide very good leadership is not enough. That was very ambiguous. I hope that the chronology will put an end to the ambiguities that have arisen around this whole mess. The School Board and Superintendent are public servants that is why things should be done openly and in public. Sorry that I can't feel sorry for Dr. Skelly on this one.
Posted by Do your homework, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm
@Make nice - you were the one who asked whether Ms. Klausner's comments were related only to the letter, so you were by your own admission misinformed.
If you don't want to believe the chonology then read the emails on the PAUSD web site yourself and draw your own conclusion. I have read every single one so I at least have an informed position. You do not. To be clear, that is a factual statement, not an insult. I just suggest that, before you and others make assumptions you should do the investigation first.
It might also interest you to know that the Supt had his private performance evaluation last week, so it was probably not the first time he heard these comments. And I'll turn around the question: how would you like it if one of the people who reports to you had actively gone against your direction and publicly embarrassed you? The fact is that this kind of visibility comes with the territory of being a supt. and Dr Skelly understands that.
In the end, he has no one to blame but himself. Now he has publicly agreed to put his reputation on the line (and I'm guessing his career). I'm willing to let bygones be bygones and move forward. But make no mistake: Ms Klausner was completely justified and should not be attacked by people who haven't done the research.
Posted by Julie W., a member of the El Carmelo School community, on Jun 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm
All this blaming of Dr. Skelly. I don't get it. I think both the Palo Alto Weekly and the WCDBPA should also apologize for the steps they took. I'm not too proud of them. The WCDBPA pushed so much it was to a point of harassment.
And why is the Palo Alto Weekly demanding Dr. Skelly to stop his emails and not just report the news. They're not lawyers. I work for Hewlett Packard but I don't put in articles stating that Hewlett Packard demands WCDBPA to stop their 'attacks'.
Posted by Leadership, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:06 pm
I am so proud to see a true leader finally come forward, say what needed to be said and insist on professional standards, greater transparency and accountability within the District. Barbara Klausner displayed strength, integrity, sensitivity, courage and leadership. We have been well-served.
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 14, 2012 at 7:38 am
OK. I’ll bite.
Do your HW,
I'm not misinformed. I was just not fully informed.
You cannot prove anything by what was not said or what you haven't seen. But I suspect you know that.
Palo Alto Parent,
Read below. The Chronology does not put to rest any lingering doubts about what has transpired. You'll see in my post that despite your claim that "It's all there," it isn't.
Last night I read through the first batch of emails the district posted and see many things that show that Dr. Skelly and through him Gunn had an open-mind and did not ignore the board ie did exactly what it was asked to do:
- Katya Villalobos approached New Trier to talk to it about its advisory program.
- Gunn’s computer science teacher (a data person) looked over Paly student TA survey results.
- Gunn charged its guidance review committee with this task for 12-13: “researching methods and models”
My gosh, Gunn took the board so seriously that it started its guidance review work within a week or so after the board’s first meeting on guidance.
Did you all and Ms. Klausner miss these?
About the condemning statements cited in the Chronology - they are pulled out of context. Nowhere did I read that Gunn leadership said no to TA. What they said is that they were riled by WCDB’s strong arm tactics and didn’t want to be forced into TA. They wanted to have time to figure out what is the best direction for our school.
Ms. Villalobos echoed that when sharing her position with staff: “I have publicly stated I do not support bringing any program including Paly advisory, until we go through our own process and review our counseling program.” “I do not support the bringing in of a system, such as an advisory system or another system, because of a few comments and statements.”
They weren’t saying that Gunn shouldn’t or wouldn’t change to TA, and they weren’t mounting an anti-TA campaign as the Chronology accuses. They were just saying that Gunn shouldn’t change just because a few parents say they should, it is important to hear and respect varying views, and no school should be rushed on something this important.
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 14, 2012 at 11:01 am
Ms. Klausner's support for accusations against Gunn:
#1 “I do not support the bringing in of a system, such as an
advisory or another system.”
What Ms. Klausner did not read to the public was the second part of that sentence: "... [just] because of a few comments and statements.”
#2. “…we need to be mobilizing the parents who aren’t interested in having advisory at Gunn…”
Ms. Klausner did not add the second part of that teacher's comments either: "..just so there is another counter-voice" to the one-sided WCDB groups' push for one model.
# 3. “…we, as a school leadership team, are not interested in
bringing Paly’s TA model to our site.”
The leadership team referred to here appears to be the department heads who, I surmise, said this because they do not want to be TAs and might have polled the teachers in their departments and knew there wasn't enough support for that in the ranks too. Did she talk to each IS at Gunn to see if they agreed with this one teacher's statement and, if they did, make sure it was because they wanted to ignore the board before she made claims of insubordination?
I can see how Ms. Klausner could have concluded what she did if she just read the Dauber's sound bites, but doesn't every board member know by now that the Dauber's materials are reliable?
From where I sit, far away from the offices where all these things happened so admittedly without any insider information to shed light on it, it still looks to me like Gunn folks were doing their jobs carefully and with concern for all view points.
Posted by Community member, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 11:20 am
I can see that you are a kind and caring person. Barbara Klausner is also a kind and caring person. Having read through all of the documents I would suggest that what you read in the first batch is just the tip of the iceberg. The purpose of Ms. Klausner’s statement was to reset the dial, to move away from the governance issues and focus on what is in the best interests of Gunn students. All but one of her colleagues supported her from the dais and there was no push back from Superintendent Skelly. In an earlier post you suggested that Camille Townsend’s comment about personal attacks was directed at Ms. Klausner. Ms. Townsend agreed with Ms. Klausner and has been equally frustrated with governance issues as evidenced in her emails. Ms. Townsend’s comment was directed to the public arena.
I think once you have read through all of the documents you will have a better understanding of what lead Ms. Klausner to read her statement and why the Board concurred. Maybe you will have a different view, but I hope you will be able to take Ms. Klausner’s message to heart, move forward and focus on the task at hand.
Posted by Nice, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 11:33 am
You are essentially arguing that there is too much pressure, based on superficial analysis and cherry-picked or spun data, for a quick change to TA, so Skelly's been doing pretty much what he should be doing.
But many see a different scene. First, the issue is years in the making and the data you are looking at is indeed a concentrated summary of supporting info for the point of view that the board's decision is unheeded.
But what riles many is that instead of hearing, "this situation is more subtle than it appears and we need more time to plan the best action" the board was manipulated by its employees who violated the spirit and possibly the letter of the Brown act, which allows for balance to employees' perspectives and interests with that of the larger community.
I can see no doubt or spin that can change this interpretation.
The board represents the community and gives guidance to employees. Yes, good employees will point out mistakes and suboptimal decisions, describe the problems with an approach and suggest alternatives.
But that needs to happen transparently and it did not.
Posted by Gunn Mom, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 11:39 am
Make nice: you can't just say that the Dauber's info is unreliable. What evidence do you have for that? Just because you disagree with them on counseling or the calendar or whatever doesn't mean they haven't been reliable. They are the ones who found all this info that we never would have known if not for them. We wouldn't know the comparative data or even the existence of the kid's comments. We wouldn't have the email trail showing that the staff tried to thwart the boards direction or the way that Dr. Skelly organized opposition at the school. Are you kidding me? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] If not for wcdb and the weekly we would all be totally in the dark.
I think nice is a teacher. And I am personally tired of paying the salaries of staff who don't want to be accountable to the public and use my own money to try to trick me. My thought is that wcdbpa has done a valuable community service by bringing all this out into the light. Meanwhile the PTA has banned them from using the lists to put out information solely because they don't agree with them about their policy positions which is just censorship. Those wcdb members who were sending out info are also PTA members and we are all entitled to an opinion. [Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Of course our own staff are digging the holes and offering us to place our heads in there. Come on people stop trying to silence information. You don't have to agree and you aren't going to melt from reading it. You are lucky someone took the trouble to get it.
Don't you think that klausner, caswell, and Tom know whether they have new misled better than you do? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm
I am not a PAUSD employee. I am a voter concerned about civility.
If you read my post you'll see specifics on the few WCDB posts I read that were misleading and inaccurate and why. That was with a quick read. There may be more.
As for Dr. Skelly's silence I don't know what he was thinking nor do you. I bet he was unhappy with how he was being treated but was professional enough to keep his feelings to himself and take it on the chin for the district. That is not an admission of guilt. That is keeping decorum and having character.
I also don't know what the other board members were thinking. But they did not harshly reprimand Dr. Skelly or force him to stake his career and reputation on what seems to be false accusations for the reasons I mentioned. For that Ms. Klausner will have to take full responsibility if they turn out not to be true.
Posted by Ouch...., a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm
I wonder if we can all focus on the issue and not try to assign blame.
Gunn counseling has been under discussion for several years internally and with parents. Numerous comparisons have been made between Gunn and Paly. Some PALY parents like the TA system and some do not--there are plusses and minuses--more touch points but a lot a variability in the TA's. TA's cannot get to know a vast array of colleges so they supplement it with a staff of about 40 parents working (for free) in the college and career center. And how well can an elective teacher (one who does not teach required courses) advise on curriculum and laning? Also, the A-G graduation requirement started with parents from PALY whose kids did NOT get good college curriculum advice from their TA.
The 2 systems are not revenue neutral. An earlier poster mentioned that each TA teaches one less class (4 classes of 30 as opposed to a full load of 5 classes of 30 students). For 2000 students, Gunn would need ~60 teachers to be TA's (special Ed kids would not likely be included in the TA group as they already get other services). That would mean 12 additional full time teachers (60 TA sections divided by 5 classes/teacher). Based on the annual teacher salary survey, most high school teachers are making over $100K in Salary, but let's assume they hire neophytes to come in and teach. Fully burdened (with health care and other benefits), assume 80K per teacher. The added cost would be $960K/year. Now with the TA's you would not need so many counselors--go from 8 down to 4 so take away $400K (assume the counselors are experienced and are getting a higher salary). So, now it is down to an extra cost of $560K/year. Maybe the estimation is high, but you need to ask how much will this cost and what bucket it will it come from. You will have to give up something to get this, but that's OK if it is deemed to be worth it. But you need to have the conversation!
So there are strengths and weaknesses of both systems. Let's let the Gunn community (parents and staff) to figure out what will work best for them and support them when they do figure it out.
Posted by Ken Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm
The reason that we created the chronology (at Web Link) of events around counseling at Gunn and provided links to documents for every statement is to enable readers to assess the facts for themselves. I encourage everyone interested to do that and to read the documents themselves. They will find that our statements are accurate and grounded in the documents.
I think we both agree with the point that Barbara Klausner made, that the directive from the school board that Gunn develop a plan for comparable services and strongly consider teacher advisory in doing so never made it to the Gunn staff. Instead, as the chronology points out, Gunn staff heard about TA as something that outside groups were trying to impose, not something that the school board told Gunn to look seriously at. Similarly, Gunn staff heard about comparing Gunn's guidance effectiveness to Paly's as a tactic employed by members of the public, rather than a directive of the board. That's why when Dana Tom asked Villalobos why he should trust Gunn to follow the board's directive this time, she responded by telling him that the board's directive didn't include TA or comparability at all, and so Gunn had done what it was asked. This doesn't inspire confidence that the next round will be different, though I think bringing some sunlight into the process will help.
The idea that Gunn would have looked at TA seriously except for the involvement of We Can Do Better Palo Alto is impossible to square with the facts. Our involvement with the process consisted of bringing forth facts to the school board. The school board directed Gunn to respond. Our oft-mentioned "tactics" consist entirely of bringing forth data and facts in an effort to demonstrate that some questions (e.g., counseling at Gunn) ought to be on the agenda, and that the process that is used to consider them is fair and open. That has created a strong counter-reaction on this question, mostly because Dr. Skelly disagreed with the school board but apparently didn't want to have that discussion in public. None of this controversy would have happened had senior district staff conformed to the directive of the school board and had they run a fair and transparent process.
Given that the school board is giving Gunn a second chance, I'm hopeful that we will now have an open and fair process. We think that process should have several features: early and frequent updates to the board and the community, not a Big Bang next February; involvement of parents from elementary and middle feeder schools, in addition to Gunn; and full transparency in selecting parents and in the committee's work, including ensuring that all meetings are public. That process worked well for the homework committee, and it's a useful model for this one.
Posted by One more mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm
I agree with make nice
I will also say that the constant harassment of the board and of Mr. Skelly by some groups, including WCDBPA, probably played a role in the whole chain of events that led to potential private communication between board members and Mr. Skelly, if it indeed happened.
So, in the future, before pouncing on the board and/or on Mr. Skelly, maybe those groups, and WCDBPA, could do a little soul searching and decide to become more civil in their interactions with the school district.
Posted by Jim, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm
One more mom,
I so wish that would happen too but I don't see it. The WCDBPA is too strong in their beliefs. They no longer can openly listen. They won't be satisfied if it is not 'the' TA solution. Anyone that doesn't agree with their solution is flawed. This is so discouraging to me. We are working so hard to relieve the stress of children only to BUILD it so much in these children's parents. Wish it was different. I don't think there is anything we can do to get them to stop.
Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm
Dr. Skelly himself confessed to a "lack of leadership" on this issue. So much for your characterization of unfair criticisms of him by Barb Klausner.
Anyone [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] can read the emails and see that Skelly undermined the Board's directives and was playing a double game. The reason he was so quiet and simply accepted Barb Klausner's statement with his tail between his legs, is that he was caught with his hands in the cookie jar / pants down / pick your metaphor. In fact, Klausner was pretty gentle with him.
It's clear that you don't like what WCDBPA is doing. Or maybe you just don't like its tactics, or the people behind it. You don't have to. However, that doesn't justify Skelly's now obvious two-faced actions. Our students deserve nothing less than an open-minded, honest evaluation of the counseling options. And any elementary school kid can tell you that's not what Skelly and Katya tried to do before. Maybe they will now.
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm
I quote support for my positions so we differ in that I don't base my analysis on supposition.
Ever considered that Mr. Skelly's "lack of leadership" might not have been a confession of sins but just wishing that he could have contained the WCDB folks better so his employees had more time to do the work we taxpayers pay them for instead of reply to emails from the Daubers and post documents on the district website?
Frankly, Ms. Klausner's actions puzzled me until I realized that this is an election year for her. Perhaps she is posturing to gain something politically for her reelection.
Expect an endorsement from the Weekly to start and maybe a campaign where Dr. Skelly is blamed for her unpopular votes.
I hope Gunn leadership can ignore the politics, keep its focus, and do what they think is right for Gunn kids.
They will need nerves of steel. A thread or two ago a We Can Do Better parent threatened the district if the board did not decisively force Gunn to adopt the TA model this week, saying that anything less will set in motion things that will make the problems WCDB has created for the district so far pale in comparison.
Could Ms. Klausner’s public reprimand of Dr. Skelly be Act II, Scene 1?
Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:48 pm
I understand that some are unhappy with the tactics used by WCDBPA. But sometimes strong tactics are necessary to break through bureaucratic resistance and a failure by people within those bureaucracies to be responsive. I and others associated with WCDBPA would have been much less confrontational had Dr. Skelly not undermined the board's direction. But I truly believe the counseling issue would not be this far along -- and certainly Dr. Skelly's tactics would have remained out of public view -- if it weren't for the efforts of people associated with our group. And we have received far more thanks from people who have contacted us personally than criticism.
Let's face it: there have been hurt feelings on all sides of this issue. But it's time to put those aside and move on. As I said at the board meeting Tuesday night, I am personally committed to working constructively through the process that has been laid out now that we have been assured it will be an open and transparent one. And I promise to do it with civility and respect. The other people related to WCDBPA are expressing the same sentiments. That doesn't mean we won't continue to educate and advocate. And I reserve the right to raise flags if the process again goes off the tracks. But it is my sincere hope that won't be necessary.
I still believe that some form of Teacher Advisory (TA) is the way to go at Gunn and that we will end up there. That's partly because Titan 101 is already a move in that direction and I think more education will calm many fears of what we do and don't mean when we use that terminology (for example, I don't think anyone is advocating getting rid of the guidance staff though that's claim I've heard often used in opposing TA). Once we get everyone's thoughts and concerns on the table I'm confident we can come up with a Gunn-specific program that addresses people's concerns while providing the best possible support for our kids. And I'm optimistic that we will come together as a school community around that common goal in the process.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm
@make nice - the summary of failings is simple, while there were a lot of small steps which added up to a disconnect between Katya's actions and the boards directions, the big left turn occurred Apr 24th when Katya accepted Kristy Blackburn's direction to mobilize parents against TA. That is the point when Katya should have said: "No, that is not what the board asked, they asked us to look at everything, including TA. Everything is on the table." Of course Katya did not. Katya accepted the more convenient direction suggested by Kristy, rather than the more correct direction given by the board. Maybe her own bias against TA was valid, and maybe she values the input of her staff more than the board; but at that moment she took action in opposition of the board's direction.
Perhaps Katya thought she could change the opinion on the board; but in fact, the board simply asked them to look at options. No decision had been made at the board.
Later, choosing to excite the community around the 'threat' of TA was political; it was an attempt to generate public opinion against TA, when really the board only wanted them to develop a plan for a plan (including examining everything).
At that point, the parent lobbying undermined the board's goal of looking for the best outcome, and narrows the scope of options publicly down to looking at options excluding TA.
I can see why the board was frustrated. Their job is hard enough, without having the staff lobby the public against their own direction, and planning in secret methods to undermine the board's direction.
Of course, Dr. Skelly knew this was happening, but did not stop this. One can only guess his bias for an outcome did outweigh his responsibilities to lead in the direction set by the board.
Posted by talk about civility, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm
Talk about civility. This was posted recently as part of the request for information. Please go to the ninth email, May 15, Emails about homework. This goes far beyond "strong tactics" that Wynn Hausser mentions. Ms. Dauber insists she has been nothing but civil. This is not how I define civil. Why would they want to work with her?Web Link
Posted by True, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm
Ms. Dauber is a rude person, no doubt. I imagine she would admit it and doesn't care, or thinks it is justified. I think her (and her colleagues') intentions are good (mostly), but their tactics and style are more divisive than constructive - "us" vs. "them" as the emails show. This isn't a war and we don't have enemies - we are a COMMUNITY and literally all in it together.
The email accuses Dr. Skelly of seeing them as enemies - they did write an op-ed piece in the weekly that he should be fired over a year ago, as what seems to have been their opening salvo. That kind of attention getting approach is often going to be divisive.
Posted by True, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 6:52 pm
@Just Wondering - I don't see Klausner as an opportunist. I think the friction between some board members and the super have simmered for a while, and came to the surface when there was a clear case of not following through on what the board intended (even if he thought it was mistaken). If you let that kind of thing pass, the message is that it is ok; if you call it out, the message is that it is not ok. If the Board wants to maintain its role, it can't let that those incidents just go by.
Posted by public records, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm
@talk about civilty
WOW! That mail is worth in-lining.
I wanted you to be aware of some emails Charles received yesterday from Michele Dauber. I have cut and pasted her responses.
"If you do this you will delegitimate your own work. We are trying to help you but you are not making it easy. You have choices here that are better than just taking a red pen to what the committee did. You are delegitimating your own effort. People will not trust you if you do this, and we would like the community to see you as trustworthy. Agh. This is such a dumb mistake.
Just bring it to the board as is, and say that you are respecting the integrity of the committee's work and the community consensus so you are bringing this as is. If the principals object to the limits, then they can say that. This task force is advisory to the Board. You cannot just edit what was done. That's not your role and it makes you look unreliable and untrustworthy.
If you want more time with the committee then choice 2 is to reconvene and make your case. But to just send a unilateral email saying "fuck you committee and your unanimous vote" is not worthy of you. And in terms of unfairly characterize us (the entire system) and our efforts in a very negative light
You don't send your kids to these high schools and until you do, don't presume to lecture me about whether or not my characterization of the environment over there is unfair or not. If you want to drink the PAUSD kool-aid and join Kevin in his Nixonesque view of his "enemies" go
ahead. Makes it easier for me not to constantly have to figure out how to defend you. Nope. As Sally pointed out the sites had representatives on the committee. Every site was represented. They had a chance and the vote was unanimous. You can have whatever view you want of this, but you picked these folks, you worked with them all year, you set the agendas, you timed the votes, you managed the process. The people have spoken, INLCUUDING THE SITE REPS. For you to go an undo it by fiat is unworthy of you. And obviously there will be consequences with the public legitimacy of your process, your recommendations and your reputation. You are putting your own rep as an honest broker at risk and over nothing. First you tried to stack the committee with sycophants then when that didn't work you by fiat cancelled the effort of the people. If you can't predict what that is going to look like to the community then you should go back to Pleasanton.
We have been trying to get a good homework policy in PAUSD for TWENTY YEARS and you are throwing out the work of many people over a 20 year period right now. If the sites don't like what their reps agreed to then that is what public processes are for. THey can come to the board meeting and say that. Then the board can decide. This is what democratic governance of schools looks like. This is an issue in basic democracy. If you don't like it then go work at a private school. You all may think that you are entitled to run this like a private school but it isn't.
Fuck it I give up. Get ready.
I hope Kevin is paying you extra to be the spearcatcher on this because you are walking into it probably without being fully aware of what is really going on. This is my last message to you about this. You are making a terrible mistake. People are very angry about homework practices. This had good consensus support. It was a compromise. It had homework for first graders even thought here is no basis for it, for example. When people find out and it is in the Weekly that you did this you will be the only person at the district more distrusted than Amy Drolette. I am trying to help you. But have it your way."
Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a member of the Palo Verde School community, on Jun 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm
@ True - You must have read my mind! This is exactly what I thought when I read Wynn's post. Now he wants "onward and upward" since I would bet that he will soon announce his candidacy for school board. I can guarantee you that I for one see right through this new moderate stance.
Posted by public records, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm
You underestimate Wynn. Re-read his post; he's stating that whatever Gunn implements, PAUSD will call it Gunn's version of TA and then everyone wins. Nice finesse, Wynn. Hey, Gunn could even call their current proposal TA and they can go on vacation for the summer!
Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 7:26 pm
@True: Please don't put words in my mouth. I didnt say and don't believe that we "acted badly" and I didn't apologize for our tactics. I personally believe that government and institutions should be responsive and called on it when they're not. It's part of the civil rights work I do every day. You don't have to agree but there is no need to be disparaging.
I know that by putting my identity out here people will take shots. So be it. As I said, I'm moving on to work with others who want to bridge our differences and get this process back on track for the good of Gunn students. I invite you to join me.
BTW, I do agree with your response to @just wondering.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 8:10 pm
Since my email is being quoted (actually different pieces of several emails cut and pasted together in order to create a worse and less coherent impression I will respond. I definitely regret this chain of communication and long ago sent Charles an apology (which Kevin did not forward to the Board).
But here is the context for those interested. These emails concern the Homework Committee. The committee (after he first attempted to fill the parent slots through PTAC) had met for months and had unanimously voted to put in the National PTA and NEA stqndqrds of 10 minutes per grade of homework. Then, suddenly after the committee ended, but before the policy was brought to the Board, Charles sent an email on May 14 to the Committee members telling them that he was unilaterally excising the time limits from the policy.
This decision touched off a wave of protest from committee and community members. This convinced Charles not to make the cut but to leqve the li,its in. I think it is interesting that Kevin fowarded this to the board with no context.
Posted by public records, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm
I think everyone understands the context, though most would respond that it doesn't excuse those emails.
Your contrition might even be believable if it wasn't followed up by Ken's subsequent public record request: Web Link
"Since I haven't received any requests from district staff to alter the tone or content of our interactions (to the contrary, I have a number of emails from Charles Young encouraging frankness), I'm puzzled by this. I would hate to believe that our school district employees believe that it is an appropriate use of staff time to complain to Board members about members of the public. What legitimate Board policy concern could such communications possibly be relevant to?"
Did you really feel your behavior was acceptable since no-one told you to alter tone? And then try to claim to be victims?
In case I'm not being clear, there is a huge difference between being frank and that email chain above.
Posted by True, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm
@Wynn Hausser - sorry, I gave you too much credit - I thought you were trying make amends. Even when your group had good points, your tactics and behavior (including Ms. Dauber's language, spamming PTA email lists until they had to instigate controls, inflammatory editorials, etc.) were just a real shame. But hey - onward and upward!
@Michelle Dauber - it was good of you to apologize. But you can't resist throwing barbs while doing it, right? Did you apologize to Dr. Skelly for calling him "Nixonian"? That kind of wild characterization and bitterness is, I think, the core of what make your group's activity so divisive.
Posted by Leadership, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 10:01 pm
As of Tuesday night, Gunn has agreed to follow the direction given by the Board. Without listing all that that entails or what came before or why, this is a turn of evenets that we can all get behind & celebrate - Gunn has everything on the table and will engage their school community in a thorough process, with clear expectations, improved timelines, etc.
We have an opportunity now to combine energy and work together toward a common goal. How we conduct business and communicate with each other is a choice, plain and simple.
I appreciate the calls to move forward, recognizing the opportunity in front of us - at last.
Posted by Do your homework, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm
@Sharon: OK, we get that your word of the week was psychobabble. Where is your "objective scientific evidence" that the current Gunn system benefits our kids--it may in fact harm our kids?
@public records: I think this thread proves that most people aren't aware of the context and don't care about the facts because these things might get in the way of their righteous indignation.
So interesting that all the hate on this thread is being sent by people who are objecting to other people's incivility. I appreciate that Michele has both apologized and shared the context of her comments. It's too bad forgiveness does not appear to be a shared value here.
I'm willing to give everyone a clean slate at this point, except those who continue with mean-spiritedness. I'm with Leadership - let's take advantage of this opportunity and welcome everyone who is willing to work together. The others are better off left behind.
Posted by Politics , a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:22 am
Michele is not Ken they are different people and have different styles. I don't think we should discredit all of WCDB because of her emails. Plus this is politics. Sometimes people say things -- I think Dr. Skelly has apologized for getting emotional about things from time to time to time. It was pretty bad that Dr. Young was taking away the time limits from the committee if that is true. Is it true that he tried to do that? If so that is also bad.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Jun 15, 2012 at 7:14 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
After all this discussion of Gunn vs Paly I was interested to see the just released State Academic Performances Indices and that neither school came out at the top. Are the Gunn vs Paly issues overshadowing more important State wide performance issue?
Posted by publc records, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 8:21 am
I guess you're willing to excuse any behavior if people apologize.
Unfortunately the harassment continues and the district must treat this as an HR issue. The onus is on the district to provide staff with an harassment free environment. Harassment isn't limited to co-workers, it also deals with any required interaction.
Persistent acts committed by a person that makes another feel uncomfortable, offended, intimidated or oppressed fall is the very definition of harassment. Communications and other interaction in the above style create a hostile work environment within the district and the corresponding HR policies should be enacted.
Posted by parent, a member of the Terman Middle School community, on Jun 15, 2012 at 8:39 am
How did this whole conversation turn into what he said, she said? Let's get back to kids, and let's focus on improving the existing programs with positive feedback. Let's be good examples to our kids with our smart, innovative, positive ideas and with respectful communication. I think that is what really matters.
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:34 am
Wynn Hausser and Politics,
Politics may cause people to want to act badly but it does not excuse their behavior if they follow through.
Has there ever before been a PAUSD school board member who publicly humiliated a district leader and employee, to advance his or her political career or for any other reason, before Ms. Klausner did Tuesday night?
If Ms. Klausner felt her complaints needed to be public, at least she should have put this on the agenda so the district employees she accused could have been prepared to respond and defend their actions, the other four board members could have added their own detailed perspectives, and the public could have had a say too if it wanted to. (Just wondering – Is a board member discussing something at a board meeting that is not on the agenda a Brown Act violation?)
Instead, she chose to take a private personnel matter into her own hands, apparently without giving anyone notice, presumably so she could have full control of the message, tone and outcome.
I cannot shake my disappointment that one of our board members would intentionally misquote her own employees' (our teachers) words so she would have a reason to dress them down.
An apology is in order, at the very least.
The only thing that gives me some comfort is that what goes around often comes around. Tuesday night's incivility may unravel Ms. Klausner's political future more than anything she has or has not done on the board up to now. That won't ever take away the hurt she inflicted but at least it will stop it from happening again.
(To True - I believe that the board's closed meetings are where employee reviews and reprimands are discussed.)
Posted by True, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:09 am
Maybe I missed something - who did Ms. Klausner call out aside from Dr. Skelly? I took her comments to be directed at him and focused on whether he had communicated what the Board had directed. She might be right or wrong, I don't know, but she clearly felt strongly about it and said her piece.
Since one of the Board's main functions is to be the 'boss' to the Super, that seem like the kind of thing they should be doing. This wasn't a personnel matter, this was governance. Personally I generally like what Dr. Skelly is doing, but the Board and Super have their respective hobs to do.
FWIW, I'm not sure how focused she is on 'her political future' - I think of her (and most if not all of the others) more as a well-meaning person stepping up to serve in one of the more demanding volunteer roles in our community.
Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:25 am
I can understand why Skelly felt the need to cull different sections of Ms. Dauber's emails and quote them without context after her apology.
That makes him look Nixonian.
If Skelly honestly wants to look at the root causes of this tempest, he need look no farther than a mirror. It's his rigid attitude towards input from others (including the Board) that causes such strong reactions. His lack of leadership (his own admission) have hurt his credibility and his ability to lead. We need people who can listen to diverse voices and bring the community together, not stonewall.
Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:27 am
You are casting aspersions on Barbara Klausner's motives -- pure speculation. BTW, 3 other board members agreed with her about the governance issue in the meeting. This calls into question your objectivity.
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:43 am
Was Ms. Klausner also critical of Gunn staff? Yes.
# Ms. Klausner complained in her comments Tuesday that the Gunn principal misinformed Gunn staff when she told them that their work was "impressive" right after the board meeting that the board told them they had to improve.
That email did say "impressive" that but I believe it also said that the guidance review report had both praises and criticisms in it and staff would hear more after leadership had time to digest it.
What Ms. Klausner did not share Tuesday was that the day before Ms. Villalobos sent her email to staff she received an email from Ms. Klausner saying "I hope you, Tom and your guidance department did not interpret the suggestions for change to be a negative reflection on any of your work thus far. As I stated last night, after reading the report and finally understanding the way the Gunn system works, I am that much more impressed by what our counselors ARE able to achieve. I also recognize that you and Tom already have been working very diligently on a variety of fronts to improve the current system at Gunn."
Looks like Ms. Villalobos may have lifted the word "impressed” from Ms. Klausner's email.
# She was also critical of the Gunn guidance leadership teams' statements which she took out of context as I mentioned a few posts above.
# And, somewhat Gunn staff related I suppose, she blames Dr. Skelly for Gunn staff feeling "real pain, a hit to morale, and a sense of defeat.”
Is anyone surprised that Gunn counselors felt that way?
I could be wrong, but my guess is that their crushed feelings had little to do with the TA or not TA debate but had everything to do with something much more serious and deeper - the barrage of hits they were getting to their value as counselors.
There was probably nothing that Dr. Skelly could say or do to offset the hurt they felt from WCDB's relentless personal attacks campaign alluding to their part in and some even suggesting that they were to blame for the tragedies a few years ago. I watched Tuesday’s board meeting from home and heard a WCDB parent say it again that night. As if that wasn’t hurtful enough, WCDB repeatedly publicized critical student survey comments addressing their worth as counselors too.
Posted by True, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm
@make nice - I'll have to go back and listen to Ms. Klausner's remarks to understand them a little better. To the extent they were focused on Dr. Skelly, I think they made sense.
Overall, I agree with you, that is a much beleaguered group, and I think undeservedly so. My experiences with them have been quite positive in terms of professionalism, knowledge, and responsiveness. To link them, or the 'culture' at Gunn to the tragedies is a huge dis-service to them and the community - if only it were that simple!
Posted by Do your homework, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:07 pm
@make nice - I agree with David Pepperdine and True. And maybe you should live up to your name. The only person who seems to be continuing the attacks is you. It makes one wonder if this isn't personal. Maybe you are feeling defensive because you are a Gunn staff member and upset that the process will now be open and transparent and include parents? Or maybe you are a PTA parent who feels you are the only parent who should have any say in how the school operates? In any case you seem to be taking this very personally. Yes, I am speculating but at least I'm not presenting innuendo as fact.
Posted by Just Wondering, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm
My "just wonderings" about Ms Klausner posturing and being a political opportunist has to do with my own observations at board meetings and from following threads on this board. Up until Tuesday night, I had never heard directly in a public meeting how outraged Ms Klausner was. This sudden turn had me "just wondering" when this transformation occurred. Sorry to disappoint you, but I have no "inside" info as you imply.
Posted by Klausner is a leader, a resident of the Esther Clark Park neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm
Nice: These attacks on Barbara Klausner are really scurrilous. Talk about incivility. Klausner raised governance issues that under the Brown Act must be discussed in public. She did exactly as she had to do. And she did it in good faith in the execution of her job so whether you agree with her about TA or the calendar (which I suspect is the root of your feelings about her and WCDB) you have no basis to suggest any bad faith on her part.
You are just making stuff up about we can do better. Please supply a single example of anyone associated with that group attacking any guidance counselor at Gunn. You say these attacks were personal and frequent so cite one example.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Jun 15, 2012 at 2:21 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Congratulations to Klausner for being the first elected member of this board to break the wall of silence - that step is a courageous one and doing so will always result in being attacked by those in favor of the status quo lack of transparency. There is no really nice way to tell your colleagues that they have broken the public trust.
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm
I'm not really intending my comments to be personal attacks but I am trying to figure out what motivated Ms. Klausner to use such harsh and uncomfortable words against PAUSD employees, especially since the examples she used when you dig deeper don't support the point she was making.
Exchanges like the one on Tuesday are very unsettling, not only for Dr. Skelly and staff I suspect, but for those of us listening in (and probably worse for those who are sitting in in the board room). So if my few words on this forum will cause board members to pause before doing something like this again, I'll consider that my small contribution to civility in the world.
As I said before, I am not an employee of the district and I am not trying to present innuendo as fact except my speculation as to why Ms. Klausner did what she did since it hardly ever, maybe even never, happens in a public school board meeting.
K is a L,
You make a good point.
What is the difference between a "governance" issue and a "personnel" issue and which is this or could it be both?
If “governance” that needs to be discussed in a public meeting, would the Brown Act require it to be on the agenda so it can be discussed?
Sounding a bit like a broken record here but again, since the reasons for the scolding that were shared on Tuesday don't hold up, they don't equal "good faith" for the reasons I mentioned in my posts above.
As for proof of We Can Do Better's unkind actions - just search for "Dauber" and "Gunn" on Town Square and lots of their personal accusations should pop right up.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Jun 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
"Exchanges like the one on Tuesday are very unsettling, not only for Dr. Skelly and staff I suspect, but for those of us listening in (and probably worse for those who are sitting in in the board room)."
Change agents are seldom welcomed with open arms by those who are defending and enjoying the status quo. And perfectly polite change agents are seldom listened to and almost never effective. Just listened to the language of our Founding Fathers as they attacked King George - no one said Dear King please give us our independence because you are such a just and wonderful person.
Posted by Better yet, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm
On TA system: Teachers are asked to volunteer to teach one less class (less homework, tests or papers to grade) in order to be a TA. If a committed, great teacher volunteers then 30 students miss out on their teaching style for each semester that they are a TA. Do you know how hard it is to find teachers that "make the grade" in PA? In science alone I have seen two teachers released from their first year of teaching in one year. If a less committed teacher volunteers so that they can teach one less period (for the same salary) then have we really helped the students?
Quote from Wynn, "I still believe that some form of Teacher Advisory (TA) is the way to go at Gunn and that we will end up there. That's partly because Titan 101 is already a move in that direction" Did you read all of the comments from the kids that thought Titan 101 was a waste of time? Are we not supposed to be listening to what the students are saying?
Since Ken Dauber asked for all of the emails from the district be made public could someone ask for all of the WCDB emails be made public so that we can see how they have been addressing the board and PAUSD folks?
Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm
The main focus at Gunn should be science and math--students can pick up liberal arts later with ease--if they do not have proficiency in science and math in HS they never catch up.
As a nation we are way behind in science and math competency.
We need to do much better to compete and thrive.
This bureaucratic squabble about TAs and board politics is a dangerous distraction.
Families pay a premium for homes in Palo Alto because we want excellence in education for our kids--we are not getting it because of these silly bureaucratic squabbles and the political appetites of some board members
Enough is enough
Given the quality of our teachers and the demographics of Palo Alto we should have the best rated HSs in America--we do not-we are way behind
Gunn is rated only 71st nationally
Paly is rated only 178th nationally
And they both rate behind in California statistics on academic excellence
We have great teachers at Gunn-let them make the decisions and do what they do best to further our kids best interests and their parents best interest.
Posted by Klausner is a leader, a resident of the Esther Clark Park neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2012 at 3:48 am
Nice: I just did a search and there is no example of WCDB saying anything personal about any of the Gunn counselors. I found a lot of examples of them saying that the counselors are hardworking and dedicated but overworked and unable to be as effective as the students need them to be because of the high student/counselor ratio at Gunn. If there are so many examples then post one. You are making stuff up and it is bad for the community for you to just keep repeating things that aren't true.
Sharon:no one agrees with this narrow version of how to run a high school, not even Dr. Skelly. If you are a teacher we are in trouble.
Posted by make nice, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 16, 2012 at 11:09 am
K is a L
It would have been constructive if the Daubers had said that the problem is that Gunn guidance staff is overworked and just left it at that.
It got destructive and hurtful when they chose to publicize students’ very personal and sometimes quite hurtful comments, without their permission btw.
Here’s an article: May 18th Palo Alto Weekly “Paly, Gunn students detail dissatisfaction with counseling programs.” In a post Michelle Dauber says that some students blame the problem on staff. She urges “all community members, especially, Gunn, Terman and JLS parents to visit this website to read" all of the students’ comments. (Ms. Dauber dropped in 5 or 10 negative ones into in her post.)
In addition to posting all the negative comments on their public website, they sent the comments to district and Gunn high school staff. They sent word of how to find access them to the parent networks I heard. They had them read out loud at board meetings too.
How could Dr. Skelly have been able to do anything that would have taken away the embarrassment and hurt that the Daubers and their group inflicted on Gunn’s guidance staff when the Daubers chose to abandon the high road and went critical and personal with their message?
You might be used to seeing underhanded tactics like these in a presidential election but that doesn't make it right or nice.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm
Make nice's comment highlights a serious problem with these anonymous forums, which I have been telling you about Bill. Above, she posts that we have made a "relentless personal attacks campaign (against Gunn staff) alluding to their part in and some even suggesting that they were to blame for the tragedies" and that the Gunn counselors' "crushed feelings had little to do with the TA or not TA debate but had everything to do with something much more serious and deeper - the barrage of hits they were getting to their value as counselors."
Other posters repeatedly asked for any evidence that WCDB had ever criticized Gunn counselors, pointing out that WCDB members have never done so but have repeatedly praised the counselors but criticized the system in which they are overworked. When pressed, the "support" for this really nasty allegation turns out to be that I urged all PAUSD parents to read the results of PAUSD's own survey. That's it. That's the full evidence for my supposed frequent personal attacks:
"She urges “all community members, especially, Gunn, Terman and JLS parents to visit this website to read" all of the students’ comments."
At this point, the untrue allegation that I or anyone else in WCDB has run a relentless campaign of personal attack on counselors at Gunn should be deleted. That never happened, period. I am really tired of being lectured about incivility by anonymous posters who feel that they can literally make stuff up with impunity.
Posted by parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 16, 2012 at 5:53 pm
I have just read through more of the emails that have been made public. It is becoming clearer to me that the Daubers are really trying to run the district. They are unreceptive to looking at any viewpoint other than their own. I really encourage the Board members to stop responding in such depth to them and their interpretation of the data. Just say thank and move on to making your own decisions. That's why I voted for you. Please take the time to read through the emails below.
I am including a couple of them below that illustrate my point.
On April 27, 2011 Ken Dauber wrote to B. Klausner
It was really nice to see you today. We didn’t get much chance to be specific outside Barb’s house, but I’d be happy to get together again to talk about what a positive proposal at the board meeting might look like. Just let me know.
Also I added you to the spreadsheet with the math data I that mentioned, let me know if you can’t access it or if it’s confusing, because I put it together initially for my own use.
This exchange confuses me as it appears that Klausner tells Skelly to make it clear that the board did not directly insist that Gunn adopt the Paly TA model. It seems to me that both Daubers seem to say that is exactly what the board did.
Just a quick note, because I just read your email for the first time earlier tonight. I watched the board discussion again and I think it would be accurate and very useful if you clarified that board did not direct Gunn to adopt the Paly TA system. The strongest directive we issued was that the two schools talk with each other and the Paly TA system be included (among many other topics) in the sharing between the two schools. If you have received feedback that the staff if feeling bullied into adopting the Paly system, then you should make it clear that that is not the case. I don’t know how many ties I, the most outspoken of the advocates, said that the Gunn staff should ultimately be responsible for deciding what works best as an effective guidance system. If staff is feeling bullied, they should not be pointing to the board as the source. Do you disagree? Let me know so I can learn from the experience.
I haven’t had a chance to consider specific working revisions to you draft letter to the Gunn community, but I wonder how it will be received because I think there are two distinct groups in your defined audience – staff and Parents – whose needs you are trying to meet. It will make sense to staff, although they may find it not strong enough to reassure them. For parents, it may not make enough sense because I don’t know how many have actually followed the board discussion closely enough to know that you are referring to the idea of considering aspects of the Paly model (TA in particular.
By the way, of course we do not want to adopt a system that is not embraced by staff. I have absolutely no desire to see us foist a TA system on an unwilling staff. I would, however, like to continue to impress upon staff some sense of urgency about the inadequacies of the current system and to leverage this rare possible window of opportunity to shake things up a little more dramatically than we normally do. Counseling has been an annual district goal for the last three years. This should not be drawn out.
On the other hand, I’ve had some interesting discussion and I think that it may be true that so many Gunn families have such low expectations of the guidance support offered at Gunn that they may actually place low stakes on improving a system that they have come to essentially ignore. Please, of course, do not under any circumstances share this portion of my email with Gunn staff. I’m not interested in offending anybody, especially hardworking, well-meaning staff. I don’t think this is a big blind spot for some of the staff at Gunn.
I’ll take a closer look at your letter, but consider whether it needs to be one letter for both staff and parents.
Posted by VoxPop, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2012 at 8:57 pm
Looks like they don't want to be blamed for what they're trying to do. Also note that the "transparency" people don't their comments made public: "...do not under any circumstances share this portion of my email with Gunn staff..."
Posted by Mom, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2012 at 9:06 am
Please don't take those untrue, anonymous allegations to you and WCDB personally.
I know it is hard not to take them personally when they point these allegations towards you.
They are anonymous, after all. I read them, but don't take them seriously.
It is so strange to see you caught up with those comments.
In the past, I sometimes ranted in my comments anonymously when I had hard time in my own personal life.
As you know, most people don't want change. Change always has pain.
We forget the pain after the change if the change results well. Take child birth, for example.
I fully believe Palo Alto education could be a lot better with this tremendous resource. We are underserved. People say Palo Alto education is better than other places, but other places don't have this much resource. I came from other place.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm
Just went through the string of emails available through the web link.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Everyone has their threshold and limits. Personally, if someone used language like that with me, they'd lose all credibility and respect. The BoE and the PAUSD Administrators may not be performing as well as they should or can ... but at least they have had the fortitude to take the high road in all of this.
Posted by Next step, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 18, 2012 at 5:29 pm
I agree with Peter in that the Board and the superintendent are responsible for transparency, responsiveness, and leadership, but is he proposing that we vote in a new Board? Do we need a new superintendent? Would it be a backwards step for a regime change?
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Jun 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
What is needed is a deep and profound attitude change. That can be accomplished with the current board and leadership IF they are prepared to bend over backwards to embrace transparency and citizen involvement. However, it is sometimes very difficult for an existing leadership to acknowledge that it needs to change and to then embrace that change.
And there will be no change unless the citizens demand change - politely of course, but less politely if that does not work.
Posted by parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 18, 2012 at 6:32 pm
Next step and Mr. Carpenter- have you read through every single email that is posted on the PAUSD website? I encourage you to go through them and instead of expressing anger at the district and the board, direct some of the anger at those who caused this whole fiasco with demanding that Gunn adopt Paly's model at all costs; even if is not a perfect model and is not the model that Denise Clark Pope described. And yes, while it may give the kids one more adult they have contact with, less than 20% of Paly students described their TA as someone they would go do. The Daubers never publicize the fact that both Paly and Gunn have equal ratings in terms of % of kids who feel connected at their schools. It's only 50%. If TA were the solution, I would think Paly's numbers would be higher. This is an exercise by two very smart people who didn't get their way. Start with reading the first emails they requested from Barb Mitchell and take careful note of threatening tone in them.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Jun 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
" instead of expressing anger at the district and the board,"
I encourage you to read ALL of my posted comments on this thread - I have never expressed anger at the district or the board. I have never taken sides on the counseling issue. I have repeatedly expressed my opinion of the role of elected and appointed officials and the moral and legal standards to which they should be held. The profound attitude change needs to come from the board and the superintendent.
Quit trying to kill the messenger and start listening to the message.
Posted by parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 18, 2012 at 7:46 pm
Mr. Carpenter, I hear your message. I guess what I'm trying to say is that everything that occurred with the board and the suspected violation of the Brown Act occurred because of the actions and emails of the group We Can Do Better Palo Alto. I trust that if you asked for all the emails prior to the Dauber requests you wouldn't find any hint of a problem. I still don't think the Brown Act was violated but if it was I understand why. The board and the district were under attack. If you look closely enough, Mr. Dauber was sharing board member's opinions with other board members. Is that not a problem in your eyes?
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Jun 18, 2012 at 7:57 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
There is every indication that many members of the school district community feel that the board and the superintendent have long had a problem of operating behind closed doors. I do not perceive this as a recent problem precipitated by the controversy on counseling.
Posted by Next step, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jun 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm
Thanks, Peter, for your answer. The Gunn/Paly TA debate is not that important to all of us. Some of us are ready for a change in the Board and Superintendent positions which is why there are endings to terms and contracts. Let's thank these good people for their service and encourage new ones to apply.
Posted by Community member, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm
@ Next step
I just want to clarify that your last posting about bringing in new blood is your personal opinion, that you have every right to, but not what I see as the position of the Weekly, WCDB or Peter Carpenter. Their shared concern is around best practices for open government. The Board and Superintendent have pledged to improve on their practices and move forward. I don't think our community is ready to throw the baby out with the bath water. Wynn Hausser, a vocal WCDB member, has posted on these boards about his readiness and willingness to work with the current players. I assume that the incumbents who choose to run again will be easily re-elected and will be stronger leaders as a result of what has recently transpired. I think we should focus on the baby.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm
For those who wonder - apparently my opinion was deleted by the moderator. I did not use offensive language, did not name call, did not lie, did not name any organization or an individual.
What I did offer was criticism of the un-named individual(s) who chose to go after the board and/or district officials through unprofessional emails, which included foul language. In my opinion, the emails included subtle personal attacks - somewhat in the same manner that has been criticized (by all sides) in this thread and others. Irony at its best.
Lesson learned - what you put in writing will stick with you wherever you go. And if you choose to lose your temper/poise and get into language/arguments that are below basic civility and decorum, you will lose many open minds that may have given your POV any consideration.
Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly, on Jun 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm Bill Johnson is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Crescent Park Dad,
Your earlier post was edited by the moderator to remove your own disrespectful characterizations of the people you were criticizing. Otherwise, your criticisms were left intact, as is your most recent comment, which does not repeat the words used earlier.