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Board to discuss new classes, boundary change

Original post made on Jan 29, 2013

The Palo Alto Board of Education tonight will vote on an elementary school boundary change, consider newly proposed classes for 2013-14 and discuss a recommended $70 million bond authorization.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 9:40 AM

Comments (19)

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2013 at 10:36 am

Palo Alto Schools continue their downward slide, hampered by teachers' unions and an apathetic bureaucracy.


Posted by Ha ha, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2013 at 11:54 am

Programming for mobile devices? Hooey. Don't blame this stuff on the teachers' union. Teach the kids how to rig phones for more effective cheating opportunities? PAUSD is rare in allowing phones in classrooms.
Please, call out Phil Winston on his refusal to punish cheating. Previous to his "leadership", there penalties for cheating on exams, plagiarism, & other forms of classroom dishonesty. PW refuses to discipline offenders. Parents plead with him for leniency and he grants it. How can honest kids & conscientious teachers maintain morale & academic standards when there's no enforceable penalty for cheating? Is PW just trying to woo parents of miscreants into supporting his higher career goals? Superintendent next?


Posted by Yup!, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm

That's right, give courses in things the kids already know how to do so they can get a false good grade in it. Then their GPAs will be further inflated and they can apply to colleges they have no business going to, taking the position away from someone who really earned it!


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I know of a kid who was caught cheating and was sent to the "alternative school" to finish his/her senior year. Phil Winston was the principal at the time.

As for "false grade" - the UC's have restrictions on what can or cannot qualify under the A-G requirements. So I don't think you need to worry about that. Further, if you know anything about mobile device programming, then you would know that a successful programmer must know Java, C++ and a few other goodies...then apply those skills to the program, as well as create an appropriate GUI. Not easy and certainly not common place among teens.

Kids are already offered Java, website design and AP Computer Science. Offering mobile application development is a great alternative and will provide meaningful skill development. It could even be considered vocational training in today's workplace environment.


Posted by UC Rules, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm

The UC restrictions are implemented when the course is first accredited--after that, it requires an audit to determine whether it continues to qualify. Audits are incredibly rare. How rare? Considering Winston's comfort in granting an interview in the Campanile in which he clearly suggests exploring optional finals (UC accreditation requires a cumulative final) suggests just how rare such audit are.
Furthermore, the 4-week flight that is happening when some students first see their grade is something other than an "A" (because the "B" is the new "F", don't you know?!) also suggests that learning via trial and error (you know, the way learning actually happens) is less important for sections of our campus.


Posted by ditto, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Ditto to all of the above. Mr. Winston's administration has allowed students to cut class and cheat with impunity. He has cowed to parents to such a severe degree (at Kevin Skelley's direction I'm sure) that now the parents are even more out of control than they were before, and curriculum and standards to be watered down. He is not following the rules of Ed Code or UC's and eventually this, combined with the pressure he puts on teachers to inflate grades will eventually sink the academic reputation of Palo Alto High School.


Posted by Paly parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 29, 2013 at 4:34 pm

First of all - expanding the literature we teach is a great idea.
Second - why is Gunn the only high school adding interesting classes? Is that where their Pie money goes instead of to counseling?
Third - I don't think Mr. Winston is pushing grade inflation, just grading fairness. Two teachers that are teaching the same class should be grading on the same criteria. Students who get a 5 on their AP test should not be getting a B or C in the class. Perhaps Mr. Winston just understands that high school is really about grades and building a college resume.
Fourth - Lest someone thinks that "Ditto" is kidding about B's being the new F's - I heard a parent describe "B" students as "struggling students" a few days ago...


Posted by Ha ha, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm

@Crescent Park Dad - If Wilson took that action in the 2012-13 school year, the student was guilty of far more than cheating. This year, Wilson has flatly contradicted and over-ruled teachers' efforts to enforce the PAHS cheating policy, saying it's "too harsh." That leaves students & teachers with no guidelines, since the written policy hasn't been changed.
There is a written policy and a protocol for enforcement. When the principal overrides that in response to complaints from some parents, it undermines the entire concept of academic honesty. It devalues the work of the honest students, the responsible parents who don't make excuses for their kids behaviors, and makes it impossible for teachers to accurately grade student work.
The community & school board need to decide exactly what life lessons they want students to learn. If kids can cheat their way into college, can they stay there? I pity the honest child at Paly under Phil Wilson's reign.


Posted by Ha ha, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Sorry for typos above - Winston, not Wilson.


Posted by Ana, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm

....which is why private school applications are at an all time high.... just ask any elementary school principal..... the number of applications to get out of PAUSD is skyrocketing.... I would love know how many kids leave for private school after 5th and 8th- and perhaps more importantly - how many TRIED to leave but were not admitted.


Posted by No complain, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 29, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Don't complain too much about Kevin Skelly. He won't be going anywhere soon, the board gave him four more years last year. That's a commitment well over a million dollars, not including any home loan. Does he have a low or no-interest loan? I heard that he does, but I hope the board rethinks that. Phil Winston is no dummy, he won't do anything of substance because he doesn't want to end up like McEvoy. Skelly's mandate is clear: do nothing and prosper. As for the teachers, don't blame them until they ask the board for more money, could be three percent or higher, isn't that what Prop. 30 was for? I am looking forward to Wendy Plew from CTA and Teri Baldwin from PAEA complaining about the high price of gas for employees who earn $100K.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 29, 2013 at 8:59 pm

What a shame about Skelly staying. He is basically a cardboard stand-up who has no leadership skills. Perhaps he doesn't want to ruffle feathers so he can keep his cozy job.

Phil Winston, however, is an amazing principal who sincerely cares about student's mental health and is always trying to improve the school, which he already has by leaps and bounds.

There is no rampant cheating at Paly. I hope Mr. Winston has the sense to flunk any student who cheats despite any threatening of a lawsuit. How could any parent possibly win a lawsuit? There is a code of ethics in place.

And if there is cheating, then it leads to the teachers grading too harshly or assigning too much homework. In my child's math class, only 6 "A"s are dispersed. Do you know how difficult it is to earn an "A" in some of these classes? One hiccup and it's "B" time.

Paly will never be "watered-down" and lose its reputation and it's preposterous to even suggest. To those who believe this, send your child to Menlo or Bellarmine, although most likely, you will find other reasons to complain. Remember, PAUSD is a public school and has to be reasonable for all students.

I am happy to hear that parents are fleeing PAUSD - we are overcrowded anyway and we don't need your negativity but we could use your property taxes.

We have Paly alums claiming Paly prepared them well for college and "college is easy after PAUSD". We don't need to increase the challenge for our students in the classroom. If anything, we need to disperse more "A"s, which is NOT dumbing-down the curriculum, just presenting our highest students at face value.

I spoke to Stanford engineering students at the barber who said they get so much more sleep in college and are so much more relaxed than they ever were in high school. What a shame.


Posted by Ana, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 29, 2013 at 9:41 pm

@ Paly Parent

While I agree it's good for everyone when negative people leave PAUSD - I'm more concerned about the number of positive, involved parents with great kids pulling out of PAUSD after elementary school. I know quite a few well meaning, wonderful families who never complain at all, and then poof - end of 5th grade and they accept private school placement. I'm talking about PTA presidents, school PiE chairs, Site Council Chairs.... and not just on this side of town....

,,... and if you think it's easy to get a spot in private school, you're wrong.... it's become very competitive and many of the private schools don't take the annoying families... they cherry pick the high PiE donors, the baseball coaching dads, and the super volunteers, the Stanford families... It's a trend and it seems to be increasing.


Posted by member, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 29, 2013 at 9:47 pm

What a sad state some of you are in to do nothing but complain, complain, complain. I pity your children who must hear this negativity reinforced at home.

Paly is a fantastic school, with many devoted teachers and staff. We are thrilled with our child's Paly experience so far. She works very hard and feels good about the grades she brings home. More importantly she feels a real connection to a number of her teachers and is inspired by much of of her classroom experience. Working with teens as a teacher, counselor, or principal would be challenging as well as rewarding. We would all do well to support these very important people in our kids' lives.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm

@Ana: Some people chose private schools because they think their children will have a better chance at admission to higher end colleges, and perhaps they do. Menlo has dedicated counselors who know admission directors. We only have two college counselors at Paly for 500 students. Being admitted to a top tier college is much easier coming from some of these private schools rather than fighting through the forest of public school competition. The private schools are not necessarily academically easier, but the students are more taken care of than in public schools because public schools are larger and have rules. Private schools can do as they choose. If they want to teach how to score high on the SAT, they can. The people you mention who don't complain and then "poof", leave? They are competitive people who don't let others know their plans.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Actually, correction: we have two college counselors for juniors and seniors = 1000 students.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 30, 2013 at 9:25 am

Paly has 2 college counselors plus a career counselor for about 900 juniors and seniors. Each of those students also has a Teacher Advisor they work with from grades 10-12 to help them prepare for college (in theory). Gunn has one College Counselor for about 900 juniors and seniors, their guidance staff helps with college counseling too. Private schools (and private college counselors) can of course provide MUCH more support in the college search process and teach to the SAT/ACT vs. STAR tests...

Regarding the exodus from PAUSD, the families who are often leaders in the schools - Pie and PTA volunteers - are often families who have the disposal income to allow the parents time to work in these VERY time intensive volunteer roles. This same disposable income allows these families to afford private schools. BUT if you look at the actual enrollment numbers, about 5% of the families leave for middle school and then the numbers come back up in high school. That of course does not reflect the numbers of Chinese and Taiwanese families who move into the Gunn district just for high school.

Mr. Winston has done a great job of turning Paly from a "guilty until proven innocent" place to a happy high school. Dr. Miliken did the same while at Jordan. Dr. Skelly gets credit for hiring some terrific staff.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:39 am

Well said, paly parent!


Posted by Fred, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 30, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Some people like private school. That's fine, and off they go. Some people like private school for middle school (like Girls Middle School). That's fine; off they go and then many return for high school. The district has been bursting with growth at the lower levels, and is actively adding middle school capacity - so they are not exactly lacking for customers.

As for Dr. Skelly being so bad, but Winston good - well, Skelly was the one who hired Wiston, right? Hmmm, that's confusing ;-)


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