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School board boosts staffing with new funds

Original post made on Mar 13, 2013

With a rosier budget outlook than they've had in years, members of the Palo Alto Board of Education Tuesday night unanimously voted to add $2.6 million in expenditures to its roughly $160 million operating budget, including a controversial $150,000 allocation to hire a "district communication officer."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:10 AM

Comments (108)

Posted by Disappointed-In-The-PAUSD-Board, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:43 am

The Daily Post quotes Skelly: "Not an attempt to 'spin'".

What the #$%^& does any public relations person do but "spin" his client's situation to make it look a favorable as possible.

If the District were in need of such a person--where is the job justification documentation? No large organziation that is professionally managed just hires people without a need. Strange that right on the back of a situation that probably should have resulted in a vote of confidence by the Board to determine the continued employment of this Superintendent--a $150+K person is hired. What else will she be doing by "spinning" Skelly's future mistakes.

This is one more example of what happens whan an incompetent oligarchy ends up running local governments. Hacks leading hacks.

Sadly, too many of the district's voters will probably not remember much of this come the next election.


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:17 am

"In addition to the $2.6 million in new spending, Mak said she intends in the near future to propose a new $5 million "professional development fund" to be set aside for a three- to five-year professional development project for district staff."

The millions going to professional development have been a mystery to me.

Weekly,

Please consider a story on the amount of money going into PAUSD professional development. Who are the vendors, how do we get sold on them, what is the focus, which grade levels or core subjects are receiving most of the proposed $5 million, how is success measured for this spending. What are the teacher reviews? Would teachers rather just get paid better?

How much has been spent on professional development during Skelly's time, how much has spending on professional development grown since he started. How does PAUSD's spending on professional development compare to other schools?

Surely the new PR person will have all this information readily available. And it would not hurt to have an easier view of PAUSD budget and spending. Not the 20 pound version, a summary with basic views of the last 5 years, enrollment, per school site, and so forth.


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:29 am



I just noticed that the $5 million will be "set aside for a three- to five-year professional development project for district staff" All on district staff? district staff?

How many people are there at Churchill to spend $5 million in professional development? Is this remedial professional development? Does it include the Board?

I would first get rid of the people who cannot do their job, hire more competent ones, and possibly save millions on this item, that could go to the classrooms.


Posted by read the article, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:42 am

@D-I-T-P-B,
It clearly states: "Members said the position is needed to provide "timely information and transparency" to a public making a high volume of information requests to an overwhelmed staff."
What that have to do with "spin" client's situation to make it look a favorable as possible?


Posted by read the article, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:46 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:51 am

"Members said the position is needed to provide "timely information and transparency" to a public making a high volume of information requests to an overwhelmed staff."

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

PR people are not the right professionals for legally fulfilling requests for information in a school district so that the laws are followed, privacy is maintained, and that transparency is maximized. PR people massage information to make it more palatable to the public.

TELL THE TRUTH FOR ONCE! This person is being hired to cover Skelly and Young's very exposed behinds, and that's a misuse of public funds.

Hire a librarian for the district if the problem is requests for information. Tell the truth and deal honestly with parents, and you won't have most of those requests in the first place.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Gucci,, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:12 am



read,

Skelly attributed the "mistakes made by the district" to communication, to the missing PR person. The Board is accepting his excuse for hiding the OCR violation. What more spin do you want?


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:17 am

@read the article

In my view, Dauber's requests for information have successfully illuminated Skelly's cuckolding of the Board wrt the Gunn Advisory proposal. It's clear in that case that Skelly took one position in public and a different one in communications to his staff. The losers in that case are the Gunn students who are deprived of a values-based discussion of the best counseling solution.

The latest public records request has come from the Weekly in connection with the bullying case, in which Skelly again cuckolded the Board by concealing a very important and embarrassing agreement with the OCR. The losers in this case are the victims of bullying, one of whom made a heartbreaking speech of his own experiences at Gunn (and his now pending deportation) because of inaction by school and district staff on 3 occasions.

If the district had nothing to hide, the public records requests would be a waste of time, and those requesting them would find something better to do.

Sadly that is not the case.

And I could not disagree MORE with your position and your (in my view) shamelss, personal, vindictive attack on those who seek to bring daylight to these dark facts.


Posted by Disappointed-In-The-PAUSD-Board, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:23 am

> It clearly states: "Members said the position is needed
> to provide "timely information and transparency" to
> a public making a high volume of information
> requests to an overwhelmed staff."

Well .. let's start with what constitutes a "high volume of information requests"? Are we talking ten a month, ten a week, ten a day? At the very minimum, making claims that there are "high volumes" without producing any documentation to that effect, would be an example of "spin"—if not a down-right lie!

Oh, and how would any Board Member know what the monthly requests for information might be if there were not some kind of report provided by the Superintendent? Can you produce such a report? Can Skelly produce such a report?

Sadly, anyone who would ask this sort of question, has no idea what information structures in large organizations should look like. Oh, and by the way—if the District kept its information on reasonably well-designed databases, retrieving this information would be a lot easier than it might be in the paper-based mode that the District seems to favor.


Posted by Disappointed-In-The-PAUSD-Board, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:30 am

> If the district had nothing to hide, the public records
> requests would be a waste of time, and those
> requesting them would find something better to do.

Sorry, the world doesn't work this way. All organizational management reviews data, reduces that data into some form that is easier for the next level of management to understand, and ships the consolidation up a level, where the cycle repeats.

Public Information Requests are necessary for people to review both the data, and the consolidation/review process. There are always other ways to look at data—and the public should have access to all data in order to allow individuals/groups to look at that data in different ways.

For that reason, Public Information Requests will always have value.


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:32 am

read,

The high volume of requests would not exist if there was no reason to doubt Skelly. Unfortunately, he hid stuff from the board and the community, and likely did so to mislead the public to fudge with the election you keep bringing up.


Posted by Palo Verde parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:35 am

@ gucci

"I just noticed that the $5 million will be "set aside for a three- to five-year professional development project for district staff" All on district staff? district staff?

How many people are there at Churchill to spend $5 million in professional development? Is this remedial professional development? Does it include the Board?"

This is another example of people who don't really understand the workings of a school district and board making comments that lead to rumor. The "district staff" they are referring to is the entire district: teachers and all administrators (site and district office). Yes, the district spends a lot of money on staff/professional development. I don't know how much is required by ed code but I am willing to guess at least some of this is required. Even if it is not required I am glad that our teachers are having the opportunity to pursue development to stay on top of the latest technologies and research.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:36 am

I think a communications person might be a good idea. Since the district stopped snail mailing important things out to us I have seen a steady decline in the amount of information I receive. The website for the district and the schools are hard to navigate and important information is well hidden. Emails are either duplicated or don't cover the information well and the newslinks are full of irrelevant information.

There are plenty of feel good emails and too few emails with relevant information.

Additionally, I would like to get more information from the schools about police activity type problems, I would rather hear this from the school than the local news tv.


Posted by read the article, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:51 am

@David,

There has been no value in any exposure by Ken in his PPRs. Nothing, nil, nada has come of those request.

Look at the number of PPR requests and who they are made by: Web Link They are fishing expedistions, nothing more and have cost the district significant resources to fulfill.
Look at this one: Web Link What on earth has that to do with anything that could benefit the district? All it does is show why the district nesds a communication officer.


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Palo Verde parent,

"I am glad that our teachers are having the opportunity to pursue development to stay on top of the latest technologies and research."

Since you are in the know, can you share what new technologies? And what new research is changing the classrooms?

Weekly,

If you consider doing a story on this very large item in the budget, it would be interesting to know what technologies and research the teachers are using in the classrooms associated with this very pricey professional development.

Example, students and parents have asked for teachers to use Infinite Campus, and many teachers refuse to use it.

And how much professional development is actually required by ed code?

Of course professional development is important, but how is it being used exactly in the district. What are the areas of focus and priorities?


Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Maybe the PR person can spin the fact that there was a suicide attempt on March 1 on school property during school hours. Please spin the fact that Gunn counseling is awesome and the fact that they found her before she died on campus is a fantastic sign of how well SOS is working. Nothing to see here move along. I guess the secod task would be how the fact he we have a close collaborative relationship with OCR means that we are strongly committed to civil rights. Nothing to see here move along. Please don't forget your PIE money! Want to see pictures of the new gym?! It's super! Want to see pictures of the new counseling center? There isn't one.


Posted by Disappointed-In-The-PAUSD-Board, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm


> No value to Dauber's Information Requests.

And you have read every one of the documents/datasets provided in the District's responses? Unless you have, and can, under penalty-of-perjury, make that statement in a court-of-law, you should perhaps offer the rest of the PAUSD parents and taxpayers a little respect, and say: "In my opinion, .."

By the way, this web-site actually seems to document the number of Information requests seems to be for a roughly two-month period in 2012:

Web Link

There are just under 50 responses. What is missing in the District's web-page is how many employee-hours were required (even a rough estimate would be helpful) in fulfilling these requests.

There are no requests posted for 2013, so presumably there might be a couple more not yet posted. (By the way, there is no reason that a simple App should not be written which updates this web-page, that would allow the person in charge of fulfilling these requests to easily update the status of this page.)

Fifty requests for information a year is hardly "high volume".


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 12:14 pm



read,

Volume of records requests - 6-8 requests in May of 2012, one in June 2012, a couple in April 2012. Where is 2013? This doesn't exactly look "overwhelming", it looks like too little actually.


Posted by Blame Game, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I blame the Weekly. A free press only goes so far. If the press is going to do all these requests for information from the district lawyer or write editorials against our leaders then that should be stopped. It's annoying. Press freedom isn't a excuse to just ask for information from our hardworking leaders. We have to put limits on the press freedom.


Posted by read the article, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 2:08 pm

@D-I-T-P-B,
It's simple. What benefit to the district has come from these PPRs? Unless you can answer that you have no argument.
@Gucci,
Yep. It got so much they stopped updating the page. That the Weekly's recent PPR isn't listed there should have been a hint to you. (see Web Link). That's why they need to the communications officer.
It takes months of someone's time to deal with these unbounded PPR requests. Think of the $,$$$'s spent on this request alone: Web Link Do you really think this is a good use of district money and resources? Again, that's why the district needs a communications officer.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 13, 2013 at 2:32 pm

@read the article

> There has been no value in any exposure by Ken in his PPRs. Nothing, nil, nada has come of those request.

That's only your opinion. And there are plenty of people who disagree with you. What has come of those requests is that the Board and the District Administration is much more aware of their accountability to the public. Skelly is now aware that two-faced behavior or concealment is not going to work. And the board is now painfully aware of the fact that when Skelly's lips are moving, they need to look more closely for the facts.

Very tangible benefits.

So you are absolutely, 100% incorrect!


Posted by read the article, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm

@David,
Thanks for showing that you can't provide any concrete example. All that you've managed to do is show the board is right to hire a communications officer.
So, yes, I am 100% correct.


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 2:48 pm

three elementary schools have more than 500 kids and NO assistant principal. These are:
Escondido
Ohlone
Walter Hays.

All other children in the district - elementary, middle and high, all have 300 kids per administrator. These principals have asked for assistant principals... the District claims they are out of $$$$

It's time for PAUSD to support elementary schools!!! over 500 kids and one principal, and 1.5 people in the front office is RIDICULOUS!!!!!


Posted by Interested, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Lisa, Thanks for sharing this very interesting tid bit. El Carmelo Elementary also has almost 400 students, and only one Principal (who clearly desperately needs help from an Asst. Principal).

In addition, my understanding is that classroom aide time that was slashed years ago with budget cuts, has never been fully restored at any Palo Alto elementary school. I recall hearing that at some point, elementary classroom aide time was between 10-20 hours per week per class. Now it's 6-8 hours, plus parent volunteer time. Do you know if that's correct?


Posted by Disappointed-In-The-PAUSD-Board, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm

> You have no argument ..

And you have no idea what you are talking about. You have demonstrated no understanding of the basic American system of government that is based on checks-and-balances. You also seem to have absolutely no idea about everyone's rights in California, under the Public Records Act:

Web Link

Web Link

> The District stopped updating their Public Information page
> because there were too many requests.

Says who? It's clear that there were not that many requests, at least in 2012. While the time to compile this information has not been offered up by the District in a credible way, even a rough estimate would have been helpful.

The code to update a the Distric's web-page is about four lines of HTML code. Attempts to demonstrate that code in this post have been defeated by the Weekly's anti-spam code, so it's not possible to conveniently demonstate how ridiculously simple it is to add an entry to this file. However, all it takes is adding the name of the requestor, and the file location for the response.
Any one should be able to make these updates.

There is no reason that a Junior, or Senior, who can program, could not whip out a small App to do this updating. (Of course, that leaves us with the basic question—what is the IT department doing?)

Back to the Public Records Act. People have a RIGHT to request information/data from any/ANY public agency—including the PAUSD. They do not have to beg, or somehow justify their requests to the Agency. The Agency has an obligation to respond, one way or another. Failure to respond can result in legal action.

The more we see of this guy Skelly, the less impressive he becomes.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2013 at 4:52 pm

As a local taxpayer who no longer has children in the schools but who naturally cares about the schools, I am disappointed the district is choosing to spend a huge sum, $150,000 for a PR flack. A disreputable and unnecessary expenditure of my hard-earned tax dollars.
I am not a supporter of this superintendent and I am baffled by the Board.
Once in, I assume this new staff position will be continued (not a one-time expenditure), though the benefits and necessity of the PR flack are highly questionable. A symbol of bureaucratic government.
I also would like an accounting of the specifics of the professional development expenditures, which seem high to me, but once again, I hope the local press will continue to do a very good job of exposing what is going on in this district. Thank you, local press.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2013 at 4:56 pm

And out of curiosity, how many other districts - let's say "top districts" have a PR flack they pay 150K/year? How about some real benchmarking. I am tired of the district crying "poor" when meantime they add to the bureaucracy for a totally unnecessary reason.
I assume we will have to give special housing benefits and clothing benefits to a PR flack as that will be expected. (No, I hope not, but based on past experience with PR types, I'm sure s/he will advocate for such. Just outrageous.)


Posted by District insider, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm

The PRAs last spring from the Weekly and WCDBPA revealed Brown Act violations (including the Barron Park Spanish immersion case) and that Dr. Skelly told Gunn not to follow the school board's instructions about counseling. They also showed the resistance at Gunn to the board's direction, also encouraged by Skelly. That's what led to Barbara Klausner's complaint to Skelly in June that he was ignoring the board. It also led to putting on the web the weekly memos from Skelly to the board.

Since then, WCDBPA has not done PRAs but the Weekly and other papers have.

You will have to judge for yourself if the information is worth it. I think forcing people to do PRAs rather than just tell them what is going on is a bad PR strategy. It is also very expensive.

The PR officer is not about the PRAs. That's a clerical task with some legal advice thrown in. It is about putting someone between Dr. Skelly and the press and making sure he doesn't send things to board members that won't look good in the paper.


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm

We Can Do Better Palo Alto has not made any PRA requests of the district since June 2012 as reflected on the district website. The district stopped updating the website at that time, suggesting that the entire purpose of that website was solely to shame We Can Do Better and the Weekly for making those requests in the first place. Kevin and some members of the Board particularly Barbara Mitchell made a very explicit argument at the time that these requests cost the district money, including announcing publicly and repeatedly how much they felt it cost to respond to the requests, in order to deter future requests.

It is regrettable that the district does not update the site and continue to post the board and "cabinet" correspondence that it delivers to Bill Johnson every week, as there is a lot of interesting information in there that the public should see in but which it is not receiving unless the Weekly happens to write about it. For example, in the 2/15 packet, Kevin illegally redacted the name of the donor for the gym out of the packet in violation of the PRA and issued correspondence showing that he chastised other community members not to email Mr. Peery's name to him. This only matters if you think that the law applies to everyone even billionaires and the end doesn't justify the means.


Posted by news flash, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2013 at 6:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by news flash, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm

"The PRAs last spring from the Weekly and WCDBPA revealed Brown Act violations (including the Barron Park Spanish immersion case) and that"
And the final result from the lawyers was that there was no Brown Act violation.
#1 waste of money.

"Dr. Skelly told Gunn not to follow the school board's instructions about counseling. They also showed the resistance at Gunn to the board's direction, also encouraged by Skelly. That's what led to Barbara Klausner's complaint to Skelly in June that he was ignoring the board. It also led to putting on the web the weekly memos from Skelly to the board."
And the final result was for the board to agree with Gunn Kids, Teachers and parents at the school and not WCDBPA.
#2 waste of money.


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm

@"newsflash", you wrote: "And the final result from the lawyers was that there was no Brown Act violation."

And the final result from the district's other lawyer, Laurie Reynolds was that PAUSD wanted to do more than OCR requested. The district's own lawyers who are ethically bound not to say publicly that the district made any mistakes have said publicly that we did not make any mistakes! It's all unicorns, puppydogs, and rainbows because the district's own lawyers have said so! Are you naive or dishonest?


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm

@newsflash "And the final result was for the board to agree with Gunn Kids, Teachers and parents at the school and not WCDBPA."

The final result was actually that the school board insisted on comparable services, created a committee (the GAC) and on that committee all but one of the parents voted for an advisory-type model, and all the staff voted for a traditional model, meaning that the commitee stalemated on selecting a model and instead recommended a package of reforms that amount to adding an advisory (Titan 202, 303, 404) type period, as well as other things (mandatory tutorial, curriculum delivered by "coaches"). Now we know the answer to my question above.


Posted by Chuckles, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:16 pm

"...cuckolding of the board...". I could not have said it better, nor could any professional writer I know, short of the inimitable Dylan Thomas.

made me laugh for the first time in weeks!


Posted by I Thought There Was No Money, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:38 pm

The teachers are trying to survive with the very little raise they got, wich was way lower than Skelly's. Couple of weeks ago the teacher went to the board meeting to ask for a raise, they had already ask but they were told that there was no money. One of the teachers who spoke at the meeting, asked them to find the money. So I guess, after all there was money to give a higher raise. How can we believe Skelly when he lies, and lies. Where is the salary of this PR going to come out, of course of the students services, they will get less, and the teachers will take longer in getting a raise. Teacher, no you know there is money, but you are not worth it to use it on you. We have to use it to cover Skelly's mistakes.


Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:39 pm

err, news flash
the superintendent and the board are two different things
the superintendent of the PAUSD - Mr. Skelley
the BoE (board of education) of the PAUSD - the elected board


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:41 pm

err, news flash
I disagree with both the superintendent AND the Board in recent years


Posted by data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:46 pm

@public is not the problem,
Wow, that's an interesting take. Where is this voting information published?


Posted by The public is not the problem, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm

The meetings were public. It is not a secret. Lots of people know where those bodies are buried. No PR flack is going to fix that.


Posted by Greener, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:02 pm

@Disappointed-In-The-PAUSD-Board
I don't see anyone claiming PPRs should be stopped. The question on the table is the value that has been received from the PPRs.
Just ask yourself if you can justify the cost to the district for this PPR Web Link

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Nothing recorded? I would have thought this would have been highlighted in the report.
It really was a simple question of "Do you want TA at Gunn?" and it was voted down by the Gunn teachers over the parents?


Posted by The public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:17 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I'd really like to know whether parents at Gunn really did vote in that way. If so, this is the sort of issue that should definitely be in front of the board. Is there is such a breakdown in agreement between Gunn Parents and Teachers, that's exactly where the board should be involved.
Please provide the numbers.


Posted by the public is the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:30 pm

The vote was 5/6 parents for an advisory system (I believe this was proposal 2 3 both of which were basically advisory) versus all staff plus one parent for proposal 4 (Counselors in the Lead). The deadlock could not be broken, therefore the GAC did not recommend a model. Instead it recommended a package of reforms that when implemented will approximate a form of advisory as well as many other support improvements.

We Can Do Better provided the impetus for this GAC study and report, which would never have happened without their persistent and consistent calls for studying advisory models and making Gunn comparable to Paly. Instead of criticizing them, you should understand that these changes would never have been made without the pressure they applied for the GAC to be formed and to study advisory in the first place. And it was Gunn parents in WCDB who were in the lead including the Daubers, the Haussers, Kathy Sharp, and Rajiv Bhataja. All of these WCDB leaders are experienced Gunn parents and all of them worked hard despite a lot of opposition from the district to bring these improvements to Gunn. Thank you WCDB. It's too bad people don't understand the importance of standing up for what you believe and persisting in the face of resistance. Future generations of Gunn students will benefit.

Just like future generations of disabled students will benefit from the work you are doing now to bring to light the problem of disability bullying and ensure that the policies to address it comply with the law. We clearly need watchdogs and activists with all this dishonesty and spin.


Posted by data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm

And the parents didn't run screaming to the board? What are they ther for? Web Link
Proposal 2 is: "Expand Titan 101 structure to cover all 4 years of high school. Small group of students assigned to one staff member who would meet in a non-academic setting at regular/frequent intervals. This group would be consistent (adult/student pairing) from 9th through 12th grade"


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:54 pm

The parents on the committee performed a valuable and time-consuming public service and they worked collaboratively with the staff to formulate a list of proposals that had consensus. That list includes many of the aspects of advisory. Compromise is a virtue once all avenues have been explored. No one ever gets everything they want. There is much in here to like. I commend them.


Posted by Data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:05 pm

If Gunn parents can show 80% support for proposal 2 they should just front up to the board with what they want. That is what should have been presented.


Posted by Parent and out of district teacher, a resident of Addison School
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I guess a PR person needs to be hired because there is something to hide. Maybe looking at private schools makes more sense unless there are some changes in the leadership.

It would be great if they spent some of the money on leadership training versus PR....


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I suggest that the Palo Alto schools produce above average results primarily because the students start off above average, and also some good teachers find a rewarding calling here. The school administration is a joke, doing nothing more than limiting the potential of education.


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm

data please -- I can't tell if you are serious or sarcastic but I will tell you what I think. The result was foreordained by the makeup of the committee (with staff outnumbering parents) and by which staff were selected -- most were drawn from the most aggressively anti-TA members of the staff, who had gone into open (well, open after exposed by those PRAs) rebellion against the school board and refused to even consider it. As soon as the committee was named it was not going to be possible to get TA. Parents I am sure wanted to get along, compromise, and get whatever improvements to the system they could. And they got a lot of agreement on recommendations -- a stunning amount given the opposition of the staff to any comparison with Paly.

In fact, the district and school staff still refused to consider the board's key directive which was to deliver a plan that would bring Gunn's counseling program up to providing comparable services with Paly's. If one thing that the board wanted was clear, that was it. Recall that WCDB felt that we had enough evidence to justify moving to advisory last year, and the board decided instead that Gunn had to become comparable to Paly but that the GAC could recommend how to do that, including timetables, metrics, and a defined plan.

Well, that didn't happen because district staff refused to submit that question to any consideration. There was never any discussion of it. Search the minutes in vain for that one. It never happened.

The devil is going to be in the details. If this plan is fully implemented and if metrics for comparability are put into place, this could be what students at Gunn need. Gunn parents invested their good will in compromise and hopefully the district will now invest its in implementation and metrics.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:25 pm

I have copied, pasting below, samples of confidential correspondences written by the Superintendent that made available after public records request. Obviously - I did not read all.

Few highlights:
1. The first one below is a an example, I think, to the way past patterns are practiced. The community and staff are cued, so it was is written. And most likely practiced, as the OCR report reveals. Unfortunately.
2. PR is not news - was mentioned in 2011.
3. ..crazy Sacramento bills...
4. .. legal counsel strongly advises that we do not say anything. If you are called, please refer them to the superintendent's office.
.."As I often say, the community and staff take their cues from us in terms of how they relate to each other." 9/2010

.."As I often say, the community and staff take their cues from us in terms of how they relate to each
other." 9/2010

.."They need to make the decision, and he firmly believes the community will accept the decision and move on.
This seems accurate and it reflects what has happened on other issues, like MI. It seems to me that when the board makes a decision and moves forward, the rest of the community will accept the decision and move forward. I guess this is a long way of saying, if we lead, the community will follow"...10/2010

..."As you know, we need to have some board policies and administrative regulations with regard to the
Romero Open Enrollment Bill. Attached you will find the legal opinion on this topic from Lozano Smith (this will not be included in your packet). Some things are harder than expected. This one is
significantly easier, after one wades through the legal gobbledygook. Here's hoping that it goes smoothly on Tuesday night. The less time we spend on crazy Sacramento bills, the better! " 11/2010

"..The discussion at St. Marks Church was unpleasant, and I don't think productive. In hindsight, I
can see some things we could or should have done better, but I think the deck was stacked against
us. I am going to sit down soon with Tim Dyson, a CEO of a PR company, to seek his wisdom on
how we can better address the clear frustration some people have with our work. " 02/11

"...The Press and Claims It seems another area of our work is being exposed as the press asks for the claims against the
District. There is nothing wrong with this, but we need to manage them as best we can.
We have been talking about the best approach and believe we need to agree to have a policy of
not commenting about PENDING litigation, and this includes claims we have rejected. This can
only prejudice the case and our legal counsel strongly advises that we do not say anything. If you
are called, please refer them to the superintendent's office. If the case has been accepted,
particularly if it is the minor cases we have seen these past few years, we will answer them directly. " 03/11


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Lisa,

Thanks for pointing out that we have huge elementary schools that lack administrative support--not only are Escondido and Ohlone huge, both of them administer two types of programs.

Why is having a flack more important to the district than providing the basic support needed to run our elementary schools?

As far the bickering about We-Can-Do-Better--frankly, it's a distraction. Enough with the blame game folks. This is actually all pretty clear-cut. The PAUSD is publicly funded so, yes, we DO have a right to know what's going on with our kids and our tax dollars. You may not like how some people requested information, but from my perspective the divisions arose because our board is weak and our district bureaucracy has an us v. them mentality that predates Skelley--Callan was awful that way.

Or let me put it this way, does anyone not agree with Lisa that any extra district funds for employees would be better spent adequately staffing our elementary schools than providing the district with a public-relations officer?

Which will be of a greater benefit to more students? Vice principals who can help administer dual programs at schools with more than 500 kids or someone to handle PR for the district bureaucracy?

What's better for our kids? It should *always* come back to that.

The district and the board need to focus on that and so do we.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:05 am

The county office of education has oversight in the area of money and budget. Can we complain to them if we are concerned about runaway administrative costs and a top-heavy administrative structure with no oversight? What recourse is there?

Better for our kids?
In my experience, administrators like Young are your quintessential slick, petty bureaucrats who, as you say, have an us vs. them mentality with families, and a disturbing habit of using their position to satisfy small-minded vindictiveness against families who dare to cross them. Even when it creates liability for the district and hurts families these guys are supposed to be serving, as it did in this bullying case. We need new, more ethical and committed administrators, not to spend millions trying to fix these after what they've done to us. (Skelly sets the tone, he shouldn't be so surprised that this direction causes his staff to treat parents like the enemy, and consequentially creates many enemies among parents. It's so unnecessary, wasteful, and hurtful in a school district.)


Posted by member of public, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 6:31 am

Were there any student votes for TA?


Posted by data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:15 am

If the parents have shown what they want it is up to the board and principle to work with the teachers to address their concerns to make that happen. If the board is ignoring the wishes of 80% of the parents then we have a problem.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:34 am

@parent who called Charles Young, "slick and petty", have you ever actually met the man? If yes, I'm guessing you may not have gotten what you asked for. They can't actually grant every request as the budget is not unlimited.


Posted by member of public, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:55 am

No students voted for TA is the answer. Are we going to take the student wishes into account?


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:08 am

Village Fool, you have really found a nugget there. The quote you have found from Febrary 2011 is Kevin Skelly's "confidential" report to the School Board following the disastrous meeting at St. Mark's Church about the suicide cluster in February 2011. It shows that it was that event that catalyzed the decision to hire a "Communications" director (otherwise known as a PR person:

"..The discussion at St. Marks Church was unpleasant, and I don't think productive. In hindsight, I can see some things we could or should have done better, but I think the deck was stacked against us. I am going to sit down soon with Tim Dyson, a CEO of a PR company, to seek his wisdom on how we can better address the clear frustration some people have with our work."

This is a shocking correspondence on many levels. The meeting was one in which the community was reeling from the loss of 5 children by suicide. Parents were hungry for answers about what action the district was taking to address core problems in the schools and keep the children safe. The district's presentation was jargon-filled, often rambling and incoherent, and very disappointing. At one point a parent interrupted a slide show listing all the programs at every school, most of which were pre-existing programs, to ask "what was new," that is, what was being done to address the crisis. Parents wanted to do something about stress, homework, bullying, and other issues that did not seem to be on the district's radar at all.

You can read for yourself Kevin's "confidential" unguarded and unedited view of that situation. He felt that "the deck was stacked" against him, and that the solution was not to try to address the community's legitimate concerns but to consult a "PR company" about how to manage the community's frustration. So you see what we have come to and why. The Superintendent should have responded to that meeting not with defensiveness and anger but by hearing the longstanding and deep concerns in the community about important issues of stress, bullying and workload.

It was this defensive reaction to this meeting that precipitated the formation of We Can Do Better Palo Alto because it was this reaction by the Superintendent that persuaded some members of the community that board advocacy would be needed in order to move the needle on these issues.

For those of you who have leveled the charge, some with great venom, that parents who advocated for change should work "within the system" to cooperate, read Dr. Skelly's really nasty somewhat paranoid email to the board -- written about a MINISTER and some nice north PA Episcopal parish ladies and ask yourself how likely it seems that without political pressure of some kind any change would have been possible?

Would we have finals before break, a homework policy with time limits, a new anti-bullying policy that might eventually comply with the law, or advisory-type system at Gunn without that agitation? Has this situation improved at all since the time more than 2 years ago when Dr. Skelly wrote this sent this defensive note? Since this time we have seen deep resistance to members of the community who have advocated for these changes, demonization of those who wanted TA at Gunn, withholding of information fromt he public, knowing misstatements by district counsel, and an increase in litigation.

All of this can really be traced back to that meeting, and to Kevin's defensive reaction to it. Rather than hear the community's concern and adapt to it, he stiff-armed people who had genuine concern about stress, suicide, bullying and other issues and viewed it as a problem of messaging and PR.

The board is now weaker than it was in 2011 with the replacement of Barbara Klausner with Heidi Emberling who seems far out of her depth and naive beyond all imagining. Her quote of the Dali Lama on the importance of transparency while voting to hire a PR man due to the fact that she does not undertand that "communications director" means PR man was sad and surreal.

Watch the video of that meeting: Web Link

Story:Web Link


Posted by member of public, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:21 am

Part of people's reluctance to take recommendations wholesale from we can do better and other groups is that they often do not think things through. The new calendar has been awful for Seniors and presents such a crunch in May that their finals will become a second act to all of the AP testing for the elite students and the traditional celebrations. This was not foreseen or accounted for in the discussions. Feedback was not accepted respectfully and these preventable problems were not addressed. The groups who think they have stress-reducing solutions often don't get to the heart of the matter - local culture manifesting itself in the schools - it is usually a band-aid instead. I'm hoping we do not see an increase in the instances of students having their admissions revoked due to grade problems.


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:28 am

The calendar is another issue where Kevin's inherent defensiveness and the board's ineptitude and failed management have alienated a segment of the community. WCDB advocated for finals before break (along with Stanford's Denise Pope, another anti-stress advocate who has been demonized unfairly). The Board and Kevin mishandled how they brought that about and that is not the community's fault. I am sure that somewhere in the bowels of district IT there are many emails about how the calendar issue was also one of PR and "messaging" in which the "deck was stacked" against him.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:33 am

Paly spends significantly more on their whole Guidance system than Gunn does. in order for Gunn to have a compatble system, they would have to eliminate what they spend $$ on, smaller class size in English classes because they have a significant number of ESL kids, many who started their US schooling at Gunn.


Posted by He is paranoid, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:52 am

Kevin Skelly's comments betray him. If he is not attempting to spin the "situation", why the timing? Why hire a spin doctor? Why be so defensive? If the board really wants all this brouhaha to stop, put an end to it by firing the inept superintendent.

Listen to the people you were elected to serve!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:54 am

<<system, they would have to eliminate what they spend $$ on, smaller class size in English classes because they have a significant number of ESL kids, many who started their US schooling at Gunn. >>


Interesting, this is underscoring what we already feel is happening. We are getting foreign students arriving here with no English and I suspect they are from mainland China. I would strongly urge the PAUSD authorities to look into these students. Are they living here on their own in apartments while their parents are out of the country?

If this is true, then it is illegal to leave children on their own in apartments.

This is an atrocious practice and I hear anecdotally that it is happening. We must get this stopped not just because they are clogging up our schools and taking our resources to teach them English to get them into Iveys, but because children living on their own is illegal and abhorent.


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

The district informed the GAC that money would not be a problem. I wonder if "paly parent" could tell us why she is so concerned about Gunn parents' choices and school budgeting process. I am sure that we in the Gunn community can work that out for ourselves.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

@parent from Paly,
No, I called Charles Young slick and petty because of his slick and petty behavior. I should have also included often dishonest to satusfy his petty urges. His capriciousness has been on public display over and over again, such as when, for no good reason (other than his upset at the Daubers), and one he has never enlightened the public about, he was going to sink the new homework policy the homework committee worked out. That pokicy is now one of the things many parents cite as their reason for liking PAUSD over surrounding districts.

I'm guessing you have a too-close personal-connection bias. It's all too characteristic for this administration to blame all their own failings on others - in slick and petty ways...

Interesting you would speculate about budget on this thread about the topic of the board and district spending lavishly on things that are by all rights non-priorities for a school district. We get a PR person and millions in administrator development instead of school nurses at school sites, or real cafeterias instead of bused in junk. We get expensive administrators (who make a lot more than the governor of the atate) who don't bother to follow law that is central to their jobs as administrators as to seem to not even know the law, then hire PR people to smooth over their misdeeds, instead of assistant principals at overcrowded schools.

We have plenty of money, just bad leadership and the wrong priorities because of them.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:29 am

@member of public,
School districts in this state are almost entirely autonomous for the purpose of local control. Not for the purpose of small-minded, insular bureaucrats to serve themselves. The system is working when parent groups like WCDBPA have input, because that's local parent control the system was set up for.


Posted by Disappointed-In-The-PAUSD-Board, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:54 am

> The question on the table is the value that has been
> received from the PPRs.

It's not a valid question. CA State LAW gives everyone the right to ask for whatever data/information/documents that is considered to be in the public domain. The value of the data/information can only be determined by the requestor--not the District, or individuals not directly associated with the District.

If you want to ask some questions, then stick to valid/legal questions, such as:

1) How long (in employee hours) did it take to answer each request?
2) Does the District keep all of its data on-line, or is it stored on paper documents that much be searched by hand, to find the requested items?
3) Who is in charge of creating an up-to-date Information Management system at the District?
4) Should District IT functions be merged to reduce the cost of IT, and provide a uniform data management system for all local schools?
5) Are District Admins/Directors/Principals/Supertintendens aware of what IT is, and how it should be implemented to provide state-of-the-art information access?
6) Is there anyway that District data can be on-line, so that people can search for what they want--rather than request support from District employees?

These are the sorts of questions that people living in the middle of the Silicon Valley, in 2013, should be asking.


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:06 am

parent,

"Interesting you would speculate about budget on this thread about the topic of the board and district spending lavishly on things that are by all rights non-priorities for a school district. "

Not to mention, the sky is the limit - when there is a crunch, there is PIE, PTA, "Anonymous donors." Oh and bond measures.

The "we have no money" is a standard excuse, not a real answer.

Ohlone Par,

"does anyone not agree with Lisa that any extra district funds for employees would be better spent adequately staffing our elementary schools than providing the district with a public-relations officer?"

I agree with Lisa that extra district funds are better spent in staffing schools. It's also time to scrutinize items like professional development where millions (millions!) are going and we have not a clue what it's about.

Not one dollar of professional development averted a civil rights violation.

There are things that can be done for much less money, and certainly much less complication.

The budget needs to be scrutinized, and by the way, the board already approved the PR person. We may as well get this person to have a better view of the budget online, and start tracking what they say to what they spend on.


Posted by Not part of WCDBPA, a resident of Hoover School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:15 am

You have to wonder what "dirt" Dr, Skelly has on the 5 Board members. An unspoken agreement, is the only thing I can think of to explain the Boards not firing him already.


Posted by Disappointed-In-The-PAUSD-Board, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:38 am

> I agree with Lisa that extra district funds
> are better spent in staffing schools

Every penny should be spent in the classrooms has been a long time mantra of the PAUSD and its supporters—which turns out to be little more than code for higher salaries, shorter hours, and less accountability for teachers and staff.

Before one more penny is spent on the PAUSD, a complete audit should be performed to determine if other budgeting models would reduce costs, and produce better academic performance. As it were, since the PAUSD scores very well on standardized tests, it's very difficult to expect too much more from the students at the top. There is some reason to perhaps rethink how money is spent on kids at the bottom.

Making the budget more meaningful, such as providing breakouts for expenditures—such as legal fees, and consultants—would be a very meaningful start. The current approach masks far too many expenditures—requiring Public Information Requests in order to find out how the District is spending its money.

The District is current spending over $13,000 per student. Increasing that amount by paying teachers/staff more is neither a good idea, nor a good use of public money.


Posted by aonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:37 am

Parent, Palo Alto High expresses concern about our district resources being spent on foreign students living in apartments without parents here. I don't know of anyone doing this currently, though it is possible since it was done in the fairly recent past. If this sounds wild to some, some of us know that mostly high-end people in past have maintained apartments in PA for a PA address while these apartments were not truly the family's residence. They just stop renting when the last kid graduates out of this district. It's a kind of game, and I resent their not paying property taxes that support this district while I sure pay a lot.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

If you look carefully at the elementary schools you will see that they are vastly underfunded - elementary school is a time when children learn how to behave and earn how to be good citizens. This is a time when the love of learning should be fostered.

One principal for 500+ students at Esconidido, Ohlone and Walter Hays (and I gather 400+ at El Carmelo) is not sufficient.

Our principal (one of the big schools) works non stop - is in meetings non-stop. Spends weekends working at school, spend hours and hours and hours all times of day trying to foster an environment that works for all children. It's impossible.

The District needs to spend more $$$ on Elementary schools so we can identify kids in need - both academically and socially - and get them on the right path BEFORE they get to middle school. Many, many parents volunteer constantly in the classrooms, and that helps, but we need an assistant principal who can handle some of the day to day stuff so that our principal is freed up to design and implement the sort of programs that will benefit ALL cihldren.

Instead we have a PR person!!! Are you kdding me!!!! Most elementary school parents are exhausted from their little ones and many have toddlers and babies and are in the world of diaper changes.... PAUSD counts on elementary school parents being too physically tired to get to a school board meeting - and so they leave us in the dust.

PAUSD is failing our elementary schools and the results are showing up in the middle schools.

Some of you veteran parents - ADVICE PLEASE!!!!


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm

My understanding is that the teachers are receiving a small raise and it's been some time since there's been an increase. Given the high cost-of-living here I don't have a problem with that.

I made a comment about the us v. them mentality that the district bureaucracy has. I think when criticizing the board and the administrators that we don't have too much an us v. them mentality in turn. I'm not impressed with Skelly, but I don't think he's evil incarnate.

His comments about the St. Mark's Church meeting, for example, disappoint me, but they don't shock me. To me, they indicate someone who's in over his head and who reacted defensively. And, you know something, I get that. My impression of the WCDB group is that they had some very valid concerns, but the legitimacy of these get somewhat buried because of everyone's grief, anger and frustration.

In what is actually a very grey and mysterious situation (Each suicide had its own non-school reasons particular to that individual--I've never heard, for that matter, that academic stress *or* bullying were involved. And, yet, on the other hand, it was a cluster--same school, same (mostly) place and technique.) the debate has been too black and white--with the emphasis being put on particular solutions. (I, for one, dislike the school calendar change. It was a quick fix that doesn't really "fix" the issue of school stress and then creates other problems--it's superficial.)

I don't know that there is *one* solution--or if there is one that it has been found. Because, among other things, the situation demands more than a "gotcha" approach toward one side or the other.

In some ways, it's easy to just say Skelly should be fired, but would we really get someone better? Is the current board capable of that? If not, how do we deal with the situation that we have?

As it is now, I think Skelly, like Callan before him, falls into a particular sort of educator error--he thinks of us as a group he has to control--an uber-classroom of sorts. *This* is what struck me about his comment.

The attitude, naturally, makes a lot of people angry--however, the expression of that outrage tends to make Skelly and co. go even more into classroom-management mode.

This is why I think getting someone better is an issue--I suspect the vast *majority* of school administrators are like this. It's their training, it's their experience. (Though, boy, I'd love to have someone better.)

This, though, is why we need a better board and better candidates--because, ideally, the board would consist of grown-ups who represent our interests, but also have good communication with the district bureaucrats.


Posted by JSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I find it very interesting, after reading the article and scanning through all of these responses, that not a single person mentioned the 50% boost in per-student discretionary spending. That could have just as easily been the headline or co-headline point of the article.

Controversy sells in P.A.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm

JSD,

Controversy sells *everywhere.*

Lisa, what you're really getting at is school overcrowding--the board has procrastinated on opening another elementary for years--they love the rents they get from school sites used by private schools. Basically, you need to group with some other concerned parents and make the matter a "cause". As you may have noticed, we don't have a pro-active district when it comes to managment. You might also ask the principal for some advice on how to get through the district bureaucracy. But, in my experience, it's all about being a squeaky wheel--being persistent is the key thing--you don't have to be rude. That's why it helps to have a group--you get to take turns then.


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm

wow Ohlonepar those are fantastic and thoughtful comments. Maybe you should run for BoE. Seriously. Just a few quick thoughts in response: one of the moms of a child who died by suicide was very vocal that he was a special education student who had experienced bullying. In terms of counseling reform, many Gunn parents believe that adopting an advisory model will put more eyes on students by leveraging more staff at the school to spend time with them and by developing non-evaluative relationship with adults through Titan Time or whatever they choose to call it. More adult contact is better given the workloads of the 7 counselors. Homework and stress reduction are about improving social-emotional health of all students, which will benefit kids with depression and otherwise vulnerable kids. No suicide has "one" cause. But no one said it did. That was a straw man floated by Kevin, or maybe just a case of not hearing correctly what was being said. All parents at St. Marks and WCDB have ever said is we need to have better metrics, information and strategies for reducing stress and promoting health. It's hard to feel relaxed when you are up until 1:00am doing homework. I take it that since you are an Ohlone parent you probably do like SEL based-strategies but I am very interested in your take on that. But let me be totally clear -- no one has ever said that these specific kids died due to stress. What was said was that these schools are too stressful and we need to reduce that academic stress and pressure to improve our kids emotional health across the board. For kids who are already depressed all that stress can be very dangerous. But it's good for no one.


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm



JSD

"50% boost in per-student discretionary spending"

Would you happen to know what the previous dollar amount was for per-student discretionary spending? Is it the same for Elementary, Middle and High School? By discretionary, does it mean that it's the Principal who decides how to spend the money?

Would this money be the money that could go to hiring an assistant principal at the schools that don't have one?

It will be helpful to know if the amount went up from $20,000 or $200,000.



Posted by wondering, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm

the public is not the problem,

"Would we have finals before break...or advisory-type system at Gunn without that agitation?"

1. The verdict on the wisdom of finals before break: NOT GOOD from what I've heard. Thanks to the anti-stress folks who successfully pushed to move finals to before break and the board members who hoped that they were right, finals before break was h*ll for many seniors who were under so much stress that their semester grades tanked, they weren't able to finish the semester on time, and they did not complete college applications on time either.

2. That TA at Gunn is a good thing is not apparent either. Paly was not spared a spate of tragedies a few years before under its long-running WCDB hailed TA system and I recall a few months ago 2/3s of Paly students would not check a survey box indicating that TA was a valuable use of their time.

There are plenty who care a lot about student stress and think that those 2 much-ballyhooed "anti-stress" efforts made things exponentially worse for their kids.

"It is regrettable that the district does not update the site and continue to post the board and "cabinet" correspondence that it delivers to Bill Johnson every week, as there is a lot of interesting information in there that the public should see"

How is it that you know what the documents the district sends to the Weekly contain?


Posted by data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm

"wow Ohlonepar those are fantastic and thoughtful comments. Maybe you should run for BoE. Seriously."
I'd second that! Thought so ever since her vocal MI stance and going toe-to-toe with Grace.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Gucci - Regarding the discretionary fund, from the article "The largest chunk -- $425,000 -- will go toward boosting principals' discretionary funds from $70 per student to $105 per student. The funds go toward classroom support, supplies, support staff and new programs." The principal (I think with the Site Council) gets to decide how to spend the money.

Public is not the problem - you wondered why a Paly Parent cared about Gunn - I have a number of friends with kids there and my children have friends there too. Its ok to care about kids from other schools... There is a lot of capable staff, wonderful students and parents at Gunn, I'm sure they will figure things out, but the results of the Guidance study was pretty much lots of pages of no decisions.


Posted by Oh brother , a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I can see it coming now -- the report doesn't say anything so we don't have to implement the 43 things it says and recommends. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm

@wondering -- Um, by the stories he writes based on them, and the links he provides to them. Plus through the messages I can get in my teeth if I forget to wear my tin foil hat.


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm



JSD

From PA mom, the discretionary spending increase, $425,000, went from $70 per student to $105 per student. That's not a 50% boost, it's a 42%.? Does this mean that an Elementary School of 500 is getting an extra $15,000?

It should be a controversy if an Elementary school is getting an extra $15,000 increase in discretionary spending in this budget, and we are adding a PR person to babysit Skelly for $150,000. Unfortunately, that controversy does not sell, because if it did, parents would vote the board out, and we would not be having this conversation.


Posted by wondering, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 2:52 pm

the public is not the problem,

Putting your snide comment aside, you posted "there is a lot of interesting information in there that the public should see in but which it is not receiving" and then mentioned a few: "redacted the name of the donor" "issued correspondence showing that he chastised other community members not to email" the name.

Perhaps I missed it but I didn't read anything about that in the articles I saw.

It sounds like you are privy to what is disclosed through the Weekly.


Posted by wondering, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm

anyone can request those files from the district if there is something you are interested in knowing about. Your post made it seem like something was improper.


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 2:59 pm

whoops I meant to type "@wondering" but I made a mistake. Anyway you are quite right in the case of the unlawful redaction of the donor's name off the PDF I requested to see that one; I think that if the public didn't have to make the request but it was just posted to the website as before it would be far better. The public should know what the board knows when the board knows it. In this case, the public should know Mr. Peery's name and it shouldn't be redacted and the Weekly should't redact it out of this post. Transparency should apply to billionaires who are trying to change the district's construction bidding process to no-bid.


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Lisa,

I'm going to pretend that the $425,000 increase in discretionary spending came from the district via our generous PIE donations.

PIE presented PAUSD a check for $4.9 million. It seems like PIE adds a million every year in extra donations, billed to go to classroom aides. Has the new money increased classroom aides? By how many new hires. I read somewhere PIE has donated over $15 million since 2005. We should be swimming in aides.

My suggestion is to follow the money, and see where extra funds that PAUSD is getting from PIE and taxes are going. Ask the new PR officer for a full answer.

Unless someone her can answer this?


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Gucci - I think that PiE has just been maintain the level of aides at schools, kind-of backfilling for other budget cuts. A lot of what PiE has done recently has insulated us from issues that other district have had (like no music or art classes). There was also an article in the Merc News by a San Jose high school student that said her high school didn't have any science labs, so they could only learn theoretically. We're pretty lucky as a district as far as the rest of the state, but I think California is now 49th in per pupil spending.


Posted by data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

OK, after doing a bit of digging the minutes at Web Link show:
The GAC was made up of:
- 6 parents
- 2 counselors
- 3 students
- 4 teachers
- principal/assist principal
- directory of 2nd ed.

On the vote night it was:
- 6 parents
- 2 counselors
- 4 teachers
- assist principal
- +1 absentee vote

GAC selects one proposal to build on using dot voting:
- Proposal #1: 0 votes
- Proposal #2/3: 5 votes(5 of 6 parents)
- Proposal #4: 9 votes (including one absentee ballot)

So, no student votes and a definite split between Teachers & Parents. Very odd. Would definitely have liked the students thoughts.


Posted by Gucci, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:10 pm



paly parent,

Do you know if PIE knows by how much it backfills every year?

Kind of odd that the amount of backfill is exactly the same number of aides over a decade.


Posted by Terman Mom, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm

"Data please" thank you and "public not the problem" for the vote counts. I think this is so unfair. Clearly once the parents heard all the facts and visited the schools they wanted advisory like Paly. Why are there so many more staff than parents? The staff voted as a bloc to prevent parents who pay their salaried from having what Paly has. I can't believe it. It's like they didn't even consider it just got on there to vote it down as a group. What can we do?! I feel so betrayed. This was supposed to be fair but now it looks rigged. The fix was in. Disappointing. I feel like crying.


Posted by Sickend by the B of E, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Funny how, after all the complaints about no money and all the begging letters sent twice a year to parents, $425,000 "suddenly" becomes available in the midst of a scandal! And $150,000 will be spent on a PR person who Skelly says has nothing to spin. Sure sounds like cheesy damage control to me.


Posted by St. Marks attender, a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I was at St Marks two years ago. Dr Skelly was very defensive and I remember hearing that he refused to come back. Now the school board is also hiding behind a wall of PR. Sad days.


Posted by Pay PR Yoursef, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Skelly should pay the PR salary with his own money. He is the one who needs it, oh and his other officials who turned the other way when the victim of bullying asked them for help. That money can be used to hire more reading specialists. Some of them work par-time, when there are so many students who are not reading at grade level, and are already in 4th, 5th and + grade.


Posted by Paly HS Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:26 pm

The posters talking about how the new calendar has been a failure don't know what they are talking about. The informal student poll in the Paly newspaper taken after finals showed an overwhelming percentage (greater than 70%) of the students loved the new calendar. Further, all of the parents I have asked have said the pre-break finals were great.

Be careful of thinking that just because the people in your echo chamber agree with you that means the entire community also agrees. Get outside of your insular circle and talk to other people to see what they think.


Posted by ohreally, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:26 pm

@ data please, those numbers are not quite right. there was a student there.


Posted by And? , a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm

How did the student vote and why isn't it in the minutes?


Posted by data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Here are the minutes when the vote was counted. GAC members present are listed at the top: Web Link

At the top of these minutes:
GAC Members Present: Amy Balsom (Parent), Kristy Blackburn (Teacher), Kathleen Blanchard (Parent), Myesha Compton (Counselor), Alexis
Green (Parent), Diane Ichikawa (Teacher), Tom Jacoubowsky (Assistant Principal), Jovi Johnston (Counselor), Lori Krolik (Parent), Linda Lingg (Parent), Lynne Navarro (Teacher), Jyoti Sahdev (Parent), Lettie Weinmann (Teacher)


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:15 pm

At our elementary school, the principal has told parents that much of the discretionary spending has gone toward our reading specialist - which everyone agrees is extremely important. Individualized help to students early, emerging readers is critical to future success - but what the heck - you'd think a reading specialist would be something provided by the District. One reading specialist - not quite full time - 550 kids.

I found out that if a child comes into PAUSD and doesn't speak English, but DOES speak Spanish, then the District provides language support - BUT if a child comes in who speaks a language OTHER than SPANISH or ENGLISH then the $$$$ to give this child support to learn English has to come from the Principals discretionary fund -we have SO MANY kids who don't speak English or Spanish - Korean, French, Swedish, etc. How can it be that the $$$ to get them up to speed in English comes from the individual school!! How is this okay?

PiE dollars are amazing, but they seem to be just backstopping what the District is not bothering to do for elementary.

The more I learn, the more overwhelmed my friends and I feel about how much a group of us who are still carrying toddlers on their hips can accomplish. It feels like PAUSD is all smoke and mirrors when it comes to supporting elementary children. I'm exhausted from this and my oldest is only in 2nd grade.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Lisa

I think you have opened a can of worms which needs to be opened.

I am with you on this one. I have been in elementary schools here and they are changing as well as growing.

First, start a new thread here specifically devoted to elementary school funding for assistant principal, reading specialist and whatever else you see as needed.

See if you can get someone who feels the same at each of the elementary schools, perhaps by asking those who comment who are in elementary schools to identify their school.

If you are on facebook, try and start a group of like minded people. We Can Do Better Palo Alto and Time to Thrive Palo Alto were both started, or at least used Facebook to get going.

Talk to the PTA at your school and see if anyone there is willing to put effort into this.

I know BoE meetings are long winded but if you can possibly get there and speak at the open forum then do so. If as I can understand it is difficult for you with younger children, find someone who can do it for you, even by mentioning you by name.

Email all the board members individually and Skelly also.

Be polite and courteous when you speak and in your emails, but use the same fervour you have used here.

Good Luck.


Posted by the public is not the problem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Lisa, come to the board meeting with 10 of your friends (a very horrible use of mom's night out I know...) and protest the $150K PR flack instead of an assistant principal for your school. This is a completely valid complaint and it will probably tap into a strong feeling in the community that Dr. Skelly is using our tax dollars for CYA while our kids do not have adequate supervision or administrators to ensure that polices against bullying are carried out. At the last board meeting Ken Dauber said that we could find many better uses for this money, "protecting kids instead of protecting the brand." He cited the need for a wellness center at Gunn. You can give your examples too. It seems to me that if parents all come to the board meeting with a list of what they could spend $150K on at their school, that is a pretty powerful demonstration that the Board is on the wrong track here. If 10 people bring their $150K wish list that's great. If 20 bring one, that's better. If 50 come, it changes the conversation. So consider organizing. Do it soon because this PR flunky is going to be hired soon and then this will be moot. Although the Board will probably go ahead and let Kevin hire this person because they are terrified that he will keep screwing up publicly, they will probably find the money for some of the stuff on your shopping list too out of embarrassment.

"parent of another neighborhood" I agree that Charles Young is a real problem for the district. He clearly is not a good fit in his role as Compliance Officer. Much of the anticipated litigation appears in my opinion that it may be the result of his failure to act in accordance with those responsibilities. He appears to have absorbed Kevin's defensive and hostile attitude toward the public. One thing we might also consider when replacing him is that Kevin has replaced his entire inner circle which used to have a lot of diversity (women, people of color) with white males. It appears he wanted to have his own pickup basketball team. This doesn't make sense in a district that is so heavily Asian, and in which minorities success is an important community value. Furthermore, we should try to have disabled people on the staff in a high level capacity. Role models for our "outsider" students (as Trish Davis put it so beautifully at the last board meeting) are critically important and PAUSD does not have nearly enough minority staff and teachers. The board should take a hard look at Charles Young's performance as Compliance Officer. We will pay Laurie Reynolds double what it would cost to replace him to clean up the multiple messes made on his watch.


Posted by Agree with public, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I can't believe public not the problem finally hit on what the few members in my circle have noted: white males everywhere. Skelly touts his experience working with Latino shoeshine boys and that is exactly how he treats us.

Charles Young? Just watch the board meetings. Absence of even the most basic talent, such as acting on a formal complaint.

Skelly's tenure is in a tailspin and he is taking the district down with him. Thank goodness we have ponied up the parcel tax or the county or state folks would take over. We need to be taken over. The board is not listening. They are simply the worst board ever.

Good job voting for them. I did vote for Heidi, I must admit, but she has no idea whatsoever what she is doing.

Thank you Weekly for exposing these debacles. Each article you post gets at least 100 posts before you close them. I have seen no other Palo Alto get more.


Posted by Survey, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Everyone,

Check your Inboxes.

There is a message from PAUSD - Strategic Plan Survey.

It has a lot of questions that say "Pretend you were the Superintendent, what would you spend your time on..."

Lisa,

This might be another way for you to get your issues on the board's radar.




Posted by fish in a barrel, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:13 am

Public,

Thanks for the compliments. I think I've tried to block some of the suicides from my mind. A fair number of students posted here around the time of the first and second suicides--including at the time of the second one--as in they were realizing what was happening in real time. Ugh. But, anyway, I don't mean to dismiss bullying as a serious issue in the district. The stories have been out there for years.

I don't have a child in high school, so I don't have the understanding that I do of Ohlone and the elementaries. My basic perception, though, is that if you make high demands of students, you need to provide a lot of support. Our students are expected to be "special", but, at the same time, they're in large (and ever-growing) schools and get lost in the crowd pretty easily.

One of my other perceptions is that a lot of the teens feel a great deal of pressure to succeed and, as a sort of a form of self-protection and rebellion, aren't really in the mood to talk to most adults. As a group, we really do have high expectations for our kids and that, in turn, puts pressure on them. So does the personal success of most parents in Palo Alto. Most of the kids here are very privileged compared to most of the world, but it's not easy to be a kid here as I think most of us know.

Lisa, you're getting good advice--I know that a lot of people lurk here without commenting--so if you start that thread parents at those schools *will* see it.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2013 at 2:09 am

village fool is a registered user.

Here it is, again - flood of comments stops once thread made available only to those logged in. Happens every time, especially when it is about kids related issue.
Seems to me that this is very relevant to the discussion about bullying/harassment going on these days. It seems to reflect an transparency-less atmosphere. Parents reflected that they are afraid of retaliation, afraid to speak up. Reasons for this fear were never investigated seriously, as far as I know. I heard many times lately - everybody knows, but nobody talks. Until the OCR came in. OCR can not look into culture/atmosphere/past incidents that were not reported.
I hope there is a way out of this silence catch.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2013 at 9:52 am

village fool is a registered user.

Copying my last posting above, adding Edmund Burke comment posted in bullying related thread - Web Link. I wish I could write this way:

Here it is, again - flood of comments stops once thread made available only to those logged in. Happens every time, especially when it is about kids related issue.
Seems to me that this is very relevant to the discussion about bullying/harassment going on these days. It seems to reflect an transparency-less atmosphere. Parents reflected that they are afraid of retaliation, afraid to speak up. Reasons for this fear were never investigated seriously, as far as I know. I heard many times lately - everybody knows, but nobody talks. Until the OCR came in. OCR can not look into culture/atmosphere/past incidents that were not reported.

I hope there is a way out of this silence catch.

Edmund Burke just wrote in bullying related thread:
There is a connection between the lack of special education 504 procedures (OCR Case #2) and this case (OCR Case #1). That bridge is formed by fear of retaliation. Parents fear complaining because they fear that they will be denied accommodations, an IEP, services, or other special ed needs in retaliation for complaining. In a procedureless world, the arbitrary power of the principal and teacher are magnified. That is why procedures matter. They are not excess bureaucracy. They are the system by which a fair and impartial treatment of every citizen is assured so that all can rest confident in their rights.


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