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School lawyer: 'We are not rehashing this any more'

Original post made on Mar 12, 2013

Calling the controversy over a federal civil-rights investigation a "tiresome, distracting and an unproductive loop," the attorney for the Palo Alto school district has advised her clients to "send the message that we are moving forward."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 9:29 AM

Comments (56)

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 9:43 am

So the District's Attorney now seems to be telling the District what to do and say? So--why do we need a Board of Trustees?

Well .. someone has to be the "strong one" in any organization. Guess we know who that prerson is at the PAUSD, now.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:26 am

I agree that it is time to stop dwelling on why this happened, fix the issue and make sure it does not happen again.

On another topic in the article - why does a public school district need a $150K PR person? Or any PR person?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:27 am

$150,000 for a PR person???? That's how my parcel tax is being spent? Come on, school district, you need to show more fiscal responsibility.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:00 am

Good for Laurie Reynolds, telling it like it is! Yes, this endless set of attacks on the District and its leaders is indeed a "tiresome, distracting, and unproductive loop." The guest editorial by board members Tom and Mitchell also made some good points, although not as strongly as they needed to be made. In particular, the Office of Civil Rights is not the Supreme Court of the United States, or any kind of court, and good people should be able to disagree with some of its interpretations without being vilified.

It would be a good and productive step if the Weekly and the people with what appears to be a never-ending vendetta against the District would offer to help be part of the solution, instead of using every problem as a way of getting what they couldn't get at the ballot box!


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:03 am

While I think clear and constant communication is essential for the success of any organization, it's really helps a lot if the organization is doing things right in the first place.... so that a PR person isn't necessary because there is no need to manage or do damage control of the image.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

"At its meeting tonight, the school board will consider a proposal to immediately hire a district public relations person at an estimated salary of $150,000 a year as part of a package of new expenditures made possible by an improving financial picture."

Historical. THIS should be embarrassing for Skelly and the board. This is the first thing they can think of for an improving financial picture? Hiring a PR person for 150,000 is insane.

The only possible reason the district can justify this is because they will need to defend themselves from continued litigation (goodbye improving financial picture?), or worst they cannot handle their jobs.

It should NOT happen but whoever is being hired should consider it a temporary fix until we can hopefully get an honest Superintendent and a more capable board of education.








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Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:16 am

Don't spend money on PR (unless Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost intend to pay)! What a waste.... Folks need to be held accountable and we need to move on to fix this thing. The attorney continues to cause the PR nightmare with this latest email. Didn't your mother ever tell you "don't put something in writing unless you intend for it to get published in the paper?! Seems like a bonehead move for a "partner". Maybe a seasoned attorney with their name on the door should take this one over before you cause anymore damage to PAUSDs public image?


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Posted by Waiver waiver waiver
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:47 am

This guy literally cannot do anything right. It would be funny if he wasn't in charge of our kids' education. As it is this is just pathetic. Who puts privileged communication on the web. Reynolds should fire the client they are trashing her reputation with their idiocy. She's not helping of course but seriously? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:57 am

In addition to district PR, if this PR person can help develop and implement a comprehensive district-wide communications plan, I'm all for it! Inconsistent PTA sponsored communications leads to all sorts of miscommunications.


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Posted by GladToLiveInPA
a resident of Ohlone School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Don't need $150k to have a PR person tell the district how to Do the Right Thing:

- communicate transparently and expediently;
- take ownership of mistakes;
- take decisive action on improvements.

(...as much as is possible within the confines of the law and Ed Code.)

It's not complicated. We teach our kids these ideas every day. Easy. And free!


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Of course they want to move forward. So would any axe murderer.

In short, let's skip the accountability phase of this issue.


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Posted by Roswitha
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 1:29 pm

If they really want to make sure this does not happen again, they need to expel the children , permanently, who do these bullying things, and fire Kevin Skelly. It is as easy as that. Zero tolerance is not what we have been getting, despite claims to the contrary.


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Posted by Jon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Given litigation and a settlement are being prominently highlighted above as a possible outcome, I'd love to know which school programs the above commentators would like to cut to accommodate that.


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Posted by Waiver, waiver, waiver
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm

@david Pepperdine this is just wrong on so many levels. Her advice is from the playbook for corporate accidents. But PAUSD isn't BP or Union Carbide or Ford Pinto. PAUSD is a public agency under local democratic control. So while Reynolds might have decent advice for an axe murderer or a toxic spill she has horrible advice (stonewall the public) for a public school. Poor school board they are like a toddler play group trying to solve a particle physics problem. This is almost too painful to watch


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Posted by Waiver waiver waiver
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Isn't it obvious Jon? Whichever ones your kids are in. Please fw the list to Laurie Reynolds so that your self-regard can be properly considered. Be sure to include a statement about how you care so deeply for the victim in this case. Somehow that was omitted from your post.


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Posted by If, if, if
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2013 at 1:59 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I agree with Retired Teacher. The Weekly does not appear interested in improving the situation at all - terrible journalism. The reason the district needs to waste money on a PR person is because the local paper seems to hate the school district and the teachers for some reason - I wish they had the guts to tell us why.


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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2013 at 2:32 pm

As a union rep in my former district (not PAUSD) I would have been opposed to hiring a PR person for a high salary. But given this district's poisonous atmosphere from a minority but a very vocal claque of scapegoaters, hiring a PR person seems like a wise choice.

To those who accuse the district of stonewalling the public--I'm part of the public, and I don't feel stonewalled. I voted for the current board members, along with a majority of voters, and not for Ken Dauber, and I feel well-represented.

Let's hear it for moving on, being positive, and above all, realizing that difficult problems like bullying and stress should not merely serve as an excuse to attack our hard-working school people. Instead, let's work together to improve the situation for everyone involved.


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Posted by Blame Game
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2013 at 2:42 pm

"Historical. THIS should be embarrassing for Skelly and the board. This is the first thing they can think of for an improving financial picture? Hiring a PR person for 150,000 is insane."

Actually, no, the people you need to blame are those waging the vendetta. This action is required so the board can get it's message out. If the board is being continually attacked at every turn if they don't do what special interest groups want, the best option is to get their message out to counter those attacks.
This is purely a response to this special interest group who, as Retired Teacher stated "[are] using every problem as a way of getting what they couldn't get at the ballot box!".

So, if you're going to blame anyone for wasting the district's money...


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm

@ neighbor/Greenmeadow: Parcel taxes cannot be spent on such items. Parcel taxes have specific uses that were outlined in the creation of the bond measure. We have two parcel taxes going - one for supplementing the costs to run programs such as art, music, etc. The other is for the construction programs across the various campuses.

I think the lawyer is the one that needs a PR professional - anyone could have written that memo without (whether intentional or not) coming off as a rat.

Be careful what you ask for...re: Zero Tolerance. Where do you draw the line and then who develops the endless list of interpretations and examples?

Not to offend anyone by this example --- A kid says, "You're fat!" Expulsion for that? Someone will consider this "hate speech". Someone else would say it was an ignorant remark that can be addressed with the student & parents.

I don't want to make light of anyone's concerns - but at some point, we need to be practical in developing appropriate responses to children doing dumb things (and I say it because most kids have no idea what they're doing without education to say otherwise).


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm

A couple years ago the Board decided that they would not spend $200,000 to hold an election because there were no candidates for the Board. Elections are one of the mechanisms for people being able to learn directly what is going on at their local schools--from the point-of-view of their elected officials.

If this PR person is hired, the taxpayers will be now paying $300+K every two years--with little hope of ever being told the truth about what is going on in the District.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!


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Posted by Jordan dad
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm

This is a classic case of circling the wagons, with a healthy dose of blame the messenger thrown in. Although in this case the messenger is the federal government with its pesky civil rights concerns. I was definitely entertained to learn that the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is not the Supreme Court, and so we can safely ignore it. I left the Deep South thirty years ago, and I feel like I'm back.

Unfortunately Laurie Reynolds decided to lie in public for her client, and it turned out to be checkable. She would like to move on. School district staff decided first to hide the investigation and then also to lie about it, both actively and by sitting passively while the district's lawyer lied to the public. They would also like to move on. The board is scared of its own shadow. They would like to move on.

The point of figuring out what happened is not "heads will roll". Although maybe some people should be fired and if so we will be better off as a district without them. The point is to make sure it doesn't happen again. There is also the basic fact that this a public agency.

Once again the coverup is (probably) worse than the crime.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martin L
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 3:00 pm

This issue, and many others where transparency has been non-existant, is why you guys needed an independent thinker on the Board. You had a chance to elect Ken Dauber, but you missed it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blame Game
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm

"This is a classic case of circling the wagons, with a healthy dose of blame the messenger thrown in."
That comment is a classic example of sour grapes. The board has as much right to get its message out as you have to attack it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by La verdad
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Just when you think it couldn't get any worse, the district's lawyer advises the board to stonewall on public requests for transparency, so we can move forward. This is the same lawyer who misled the public at the last board meeting Web Link
and appears to be complicit with district staff in hiding the OCR settlement agreement from the board, in violation of Board Policy 2111: SUPERINTENDENT GOVERNANCE STANDARDS :

9. Understands that authority rests with the Board as a whole; provides guidance to the Board to assist in decision-making; and provides leadership based on the direction of the Board as a whole.
10. Communicates openly with trust and integrity, including providing all members of the Board with equal access to information and recognizing the importance of both responsive and anticipatory communications


I agree with @GladToLiveInPA. We don't need an expensive PR person, we need people in positions of responsibility to take ownership of their mistakes. We need corrective action to ensure that this does not happen again. Then we can move on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Taxpayer
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Hire a PR Consultant?! Seriously? There really is no money for this! If there is an excess, put it in the bank for the next time the district needs money! Yikes! It's coming down the road!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Engineer mom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 12, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I am so disappointed to read the comments of those who are trying to excuse dishonesty from our school officials. I would not accept this behavior from my children for a minute. I certainly won't accept it from our public school leadership.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by An observer
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Excellent continuing work by veteran reporter Chris Kenrick and the Weekly! They are
shedding light on things a public agency wants hidden. That's local journalism at its best. The district should try transparency and honesty instead of spending $150,000 for PR spin.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nice try
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Skelly is attempting to divert his incompetence to the lawyer by releasing her email. It's very slick but still insults the intelligence of any rational voter. Stay slick, Kevin, but you need to go. If you are still here July 1, then the board needs to go.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Spiro Agnew
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

The press and the nattering nabobs of negativism are trying to destroy our leader.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Blame game,

"you need to blame are those waging the vendetta. This action is required so the board can get it's message out. If the board is being continually attacked at every turn if they don't do what special interest groups want

Someone is being hired for nearly as much as what a SCHOOL PRINCIPAL makes, please list all these scary special interests groups you are referring to. The usual group the board and Skelly get mad at is WCBPA. I will assume you are referring to them.

What is $150,000 annually going to buy?t Communications with WCBPA to stop them from asking for a better Advisory program at Gunn?

You have nailed it though - this is likely about handling parents the Skelly way, the Poway way

Is this what we are heading to?

SKELLY IN POWAY
Web Link

"A total of 25 kids with "learning differences" are involved in lawsuits with the district, 10News reported.

According to Skelly, that's not a lot. "To have 25 unhappy parents out of 3,000 -- that we have not been able to resolve with -- I think is very good," Skelly said.

Parents and students said more people are afraid to come forward because the district has a record of retaliation.

"In my opinion we are retaliated against," Smith said.

Retaliation like lawsuits, orders to gavel down parents at school board meetings to quiet them, and security personnel following parents on campus."



 +   Like this comment
Posted by mom
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Blame game,

"This action is required so the board can get it's message out."

This action of hiring someone for $150,000 is not the requirement "for the board to get it's message out."

As I posted before, unless this is about continued litigation, you cannot possibly say that special interest groups are preventing the board form getting their message out.

The board talks plenty, and they are the only ones preventing themselves from getting their message out. I hate to think it's because they are this stupid and have nothing to say, and even scarier to think it's because they are in such big doo doo.

This PR 150,000 hire scares me because it spells Skelly has gotten us in a heap of trouble.

Messing like this with the community is terrible.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old timer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Frank Benest. I'm just saying.


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Posted by Charlotte
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm

If they really want to end this, the logical end to it all is to make sure the bullies have been permanently expelled for their heinous behavior. Then, as a true finale, show Dr Skelly the door.[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PAHS Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Please stopped bullying Dr. Skelly.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sara
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 9:09 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blame Game
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2013 at 9:41 pm

" please list all these scary special interests groups you are referring to. "
They know who they are and they know the system. There is nothing to stop them continuing doing as they have. But wasting time on them is simply that, a waste of time for the district. It's much more efficient to get an agent to deal with them and get back to the business of running the district.
They've failed twice at the ballot box and wasted enormous amount of resources for no discernible benefit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by waiver, waiver, waiver
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Holy cow, they are actually voting up the PR guy. This is an unfixable FUBAR trainwreck. Who puts their lawyers privileged communications on the internet, making public PR advice to stonewall the public and refuse to answer "tiresome" questions from the press, and then turns around and the same day hires a PR officer. It's not fixable. Whoa. I thought I was unshockable. Obviously the fact that the feds have intervened twice in the past year is not a coincidence. We deserve whatever happens now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by See It Yourself
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Here is the right link for the Skelly scandal in PowWay School District, where our smart superintendent used to work: You can see that he did not do an excellent job there either. To Bad they got rid of him and sent him to our District.
Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Johanna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I think Skelly made this mess without help not because he needs a PR flack.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Hey Blame Game and waiver, waiver, waiver,

You guys may be neighbors, both Adobe-Meadows.

I watched the board meeting, and sounds like Blame Game has the inside scoop - they really are overwhelmed over there at Churchill.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]









 +   Like this comment
Posted by support
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:26 pm

i stand behind Skelly and the district. It's a shame that an obvious vendetta by the group who backed those who were not elected is now championed by the PA Weekly.

This is why I don't donate to the PA Weekly. Too biased. Too much of an agenda.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lost at PAUSD: moral compass
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 13, 2013 at 1:42 am

Is anyone in Sacramento following this mess? I thought if a school district couldn't manage its affairs well, state reps would step in. Are we there yet? And 150k to manage PR problems created by Skelly and the board? Outrageous insult to injury!! Massive vote of NO CONFIDENCE.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PAUSD supporter
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2013 at 6:44 am

I support the district and the 12,000 students who attend school there. I am not so committed to specific employees as some of the people on this board. I definitely don't support the district's lawyer.

Thanks to the Weekly for reporting on this. When public officials aren't playing straight with the public, we need local journalism.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blame Game
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:10 am

@mom,
"...they really are overwhelmed over there at Churchill."
Glad you agree. However, "overwhelmed" isn't the word I'd use. More like out of patience with groups abusing process simply to further their own agenda.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:41 am

Of course the district wanted to do the training itself rather than have the OCR do it -- they couldn't have teachers confused by training so antithetical to this administrations' policies and biases toward special needs parents.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:43 am

I recommend watching the replay of the Board meeting.
I guess I missed the part of them voting for the costly PR person. I did see the open forum and there were some very compelling speakers from the public.
There should be an open investigation into this bullying mess.
If I am correct from what I read here and they DID hire the PR person, that is a mis-spending of taxpayer dollars and an outrage. Everyone should remember this, and also we need more people to run for school board, which is much easier for the incumbents to do, but we need new and varied viewpoints.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:45 am

Wow, our own little "We've given all you people need to know"


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:49 am

So this hiring of a PR person brings up an interesting issue for me. What oversight do parents have to ensure the administration in this district doesn't become insular and top heavy? That includes the board, they don't seem to be functioning as our watch dogs. I mean, the governor's salary gets reviewed and re-set, even reduced by a citizen committee. It seems to me we have twice as many administrators as we need, and they're paid an awful lot. And now they are hiring a PR person at our expense to whitewash their performance misdeeds.

What recourse do we parents have to reorg the admin and cut the dead wood and serious liabilities?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:02 am

@ "retired teacher"
"this endless set of attacks on the District and its leaders"

I support our district and our kids, just like the Weekly is doing, by holding incompetent leaders accountable and calling for better leadership with the higher ethical and professional standards our families deserve.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:09 am

If the district hires a PR person to whitewash our administrations' professional misdeeds, isn't that "misappropriation of public funds"? Isn't it wrong for us to be paying for the district lawyer to be covering for the administrations' failings, rather than protecting the district (on behalf of families, for whom the district exists to serve)? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Blame Game
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:17 am

@parent,
It's not to "whitewash our administrations' professional misdeeds". It is to deal with the waste of time and resources.
What would you prefer the board do: "Run the district" or "Spend all their time countering attacks"?
You can't make the SIGs stop, that's the point of having a public agency under local democratic control. They have as much rights to talk, email, make PPRs and waste district time as anyone else.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PR is Election Funding
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:18 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm

village fool is a registered user.

Thank you! I can not recall who shared the link to list of public records - Web Link
Last request is listed from June/2012. Not too many requests. Or, does another public records requests needed in order to have the list of the requests submitted after June/2012 listed on this site?
I think that knowing of public records requests is a tiny, good step. I feel that the family who came forward to the weekly with the OCR agreement, triggering this whole "Lawyer" issue and many others, did that knowing that there may be interest in the OCR investigation. I doubt the family would have done that if the info about attempts to shed light were not out. I can never know, of course.
I think it is important to remember that all the latest "awareness" in the district approach happened ONLY because of the family who came forward.
Nobody - including PAUSD board - was on the "to know" list of this investigation/agreement. So it seemed.

@editor - would it make sense to have this thread listed also under school & kids in Town square?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2013 at 4:35 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

When a person who has the credentials ( see my other comments on this issue ) shakes her head and said that she wouldn't touch this job, you KNOW the PAUSD has a BIG problem with the people at the top. The news has been so bad that the antics are on a par with the " Harper Valley PTA " song and are almost as entertaining if it wasn't reality.

" This is just a little Payton Place and you are all PAUSD Hypocrites "

( with apologies to Jeannie C. Riley and Tom T. Hall )

And Palo Alto is supposed to be the home of some of the most successful people in the world....I will not go into what the rest of the nation says about Palo Alto...South Park already did a good job on describing the SFBA.....and YES, there is a real South Park, CO.....


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