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Reforms may demand change to Gunn 'bell schedule'

Original post made on Mar 20, 2013

Gunn High School's daily "bell schedule" may have to change in 2014-2015 to make time in the school week for full delivery of a prospective new guidance-counseling curriculum.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:31 AM

Comments (44)

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Posted by board watcher
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:04 am

Good story, however it leaves one crucial part out. The board's charge to the GAC was to establish a plan for comparable services with Paly so that Gunn students receive the same high-quality service as Paly. That was the board's 2012-13 focused goal: establish comparable services at the two schools by 2013-14. Dr. Skelly himself was responsible for the idea of "comparability" as an alternative to "equal" or "identical."

Yet the GAC never addressed this important question. Michael Milliken the board that he had directly disobeyed the board and taken the issue of "comparability" "off the table" at the first meeting. He looked very uncomfortable and was talking in incoherent word salad but fortunately none of the board members seemed bothered by this act of resistance and he will probably get a raise and a promotion. Maybe he'll be the new district compliance officer.

Dr. Skelly then told the board that he didn't even know what "comparable" meant.

Mike Milliken said it would take him at least until fall to figure it out.

The board seemed very unhappy with this state of affairs but once again they are between a rock and a hard place with a Superintendent who insists on simply ignoring them when he doesn't like their direction. How much of this kind of direct disobedience are they willing to tolerate? We haven't found out yet how many licks it will take to get to the center of that Tootsie Roll pop.

The bloom was definitely off the rose between Kevin and the board however. They seemed very unimpressed with his resistance on comparability and insisted that he come back with a detailed plan for it. The problem is that this is the third time they have insisted on that same thing and they still don't have it.

Meanwhile Gunn kids keep graduating without parity. Last night four senior boys from Gunn each told the board that they have only met with their counselors between 2 and 4 times during their entire four years.

As Gunn mom Kathy Sharp said at the meeting, the time for study is done. We need some action now. As the GAC parents said, we need leadership that can get the job done.


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Posted by Wondering...
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:18 am

Couldn't the Board and Superintendent simply require parity between the two programs then lay out what needs to be done to make that happen? Seems to me that is their job, now that the GAC has presented its report. The principal, counselors and parents will never agree on which changes to implement and when. The board needs to take the reigns, because the cart is leading the horse.


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Posted by Dean
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:19 am

Why doesn't Gunn just go to the same block schedule that Paly uses? My kids think this schedule is much better than Gunn's, as the longer classes give the kids more time to learn, plus they have less classes most days so they can focus on different homework on different days.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:30 am


Kind of funny the comment about creating a combined website for career and counseling services. I'm not bound to just the Paly website. Nothing prevents me from reading other counseling websites. I regularly study information off of Gunn's new website, St. Francis's website, Castilleja's website. There are about 30,000 public and private high schools in the U.S. and they all have a website of information that I can read. Most don't require log ins so the sky's the limit. Seems like a wasted effort (and money).


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:12 am

It is so frustrating that everyone assumes that Gunn's current system is a bad fit for all the students. It isn't. My kids have thrived in the current Gunn system. Paly's current system won't be a perfect fit for Gunn. You need to take the time and figure out what will work for the most students, and just dumping Paly's system on us isn't the answer.


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Posted by Another Gunn Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:29 am

Hopefully the change in bell schedule does not mean a move back to a 7:55 a.m. start time. The late start has been a real winner for almost all of the high school kids I know including my own. Hopefully my second child who won't start at Gunn until 2015 will still get the same late start time but with more access to counseling.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:30 am

Unfortunately, I think the Gunn teachers have overestimated the effort being a TA takes, you meet with a group of kids once a week for 45 minutes (it rotates between the 10, 11 and 12th grade), hand out papers, make sure they filled out any forms correctly and know how to use all the tech stuff available to them (like Naviance). They also write 20-25 college req letters a year. In return, they have one less class to teach. Not too tough.


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Posted by not again
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:35 am

@Gunn Parent - thank you. Having TA forced down our throats will force block schedule which will force project learning and probably lane collapse on us too. We do not want to become Paly. Let them be who they are and let us be who we are. Project learning is just another way of opening up wider cracks for the most needy students to fall through. Yes, it reduces stress for a while, until they have to pass an exam or take a standardized test.


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Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:37 am

@Gunn Parent

The Gunn Advisory Council has specified 40 changes to the Gunn Counseling model. I am happy to hear that your child has had a positive experience and with the implementation of these changes the parents, teachers and administrators who participated expect that the counseling system will continue to improve.

There are clear recommendations in the GAC report and in the PAUAD Board Report. There is no requirement to "dump the Paly model" on Gunn. Please take the time to read the report to better understand the proposed changes.

Last night, the Board specified that they are expecting Gunn to create a 3 year full implementation plan including dates, roles and responsibilities, required budget and metrics as appropriate.

Gunn has now passed the design phase and are moving into implementation


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Posted by hope and change
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:43 am

@Gunn parent and not again: no one is "forcing anything down your throat." The Gunn GAC was composed of parents, counselors, teachers, and students. Parents were outnumbered by staff 6 to 9. Yet all of the members reached consensus on the 40 recommendations. The GAC met 20 times, including field trips and "team building." They worked well together despite disagreements of perspective. In the end, they came up with this plan and they all support it. For you to just poop all over it like that by saying it is being "shoved down your throat" disrespects the service of these teachers, counselors, parents and students.

The school board is finally showing some spine, even if it is only a tiny bit. There was a glimmer of "enough is enough" in there. Board watcher you make some good points about Michael Milliken. He should go, along with Skelly and Young. How many times is the board going to just accept being told to go to H-E double toothpick? Let's get some leaders who want to cooperate for a change.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:45 am

Hmmm...Gunn students only met with their counselors 2 to 4 times in 4 years? That doesn't sound correct to me. My child has had numerous meetings with a counselor-sometimes 4 times a week! Maybe those seniors who spoke last night didn't respond to their call slips!


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Posted by student growth
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:53 am

My kids have thrived in the Gunn system as well. They have never had a problem going to their counselor and making an appointment or just walking in with questions when they needed answers beyond their scheduled appointments. They have had no problem meeting with either counselors or teachers that wanted to talk to when they had emotional issues. It might be helpful if parents would make an effort to explain to their students that they (student, not parent) need to be proactive in meeting with their counselors and developing teacher/staff relationships.


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Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:54 am

I have 5 children who have graduated from High School -- 3 from Gunn, 1 from Paly and one from private school. I always much preferred the Paly counseling and bell schedule to Gunn's. It's about time Gunn got a better system.

That said -- in the long term it doesn't really matter. Parents get so riled up about this stuff. The kids get a good education at either school. Those who are allowed to be independent and self-motivated (instead of having everything in their lives run by their parents) go on to college and successful careers.

Parents, calm down.


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Posted by not again
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:58 am

On the contrary, the work of the GAC was fantastic. I'm just not seeing why the Weekly rinity Klein and Melissa Baten Caswll want to spin it into a block schedule. Modifications to the bell schedule were made to start school later - that did not cause us to need a block schedule like Paly's. Why should one extra half hour of school? It is sensationalism by the Weekly, politics by Klein and who know what MBC is thinking.


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Posted by hope and change
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm

NO ONE at the board meeting ever uttered the word "block scheduling." You are the only person who has said it so far. If anyone is being sensationalistic, it's you with your ranting about things being forced down your throat, kids falling through cracks, project-based learning (oh, the horror!) and "becoming Paly." You sound like a crazy person. And no body ever mentioned block scheduling but if they did it would have been great since that is another thing Paly has that is awesome.


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Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:28 pm

@Gunn parent

If every Gunn student met with their counselor four times per week (as you report that your student does), and each counselor has an average caseload of over 200 students (most have closer to 300), counselors would need to work 400 hours per week assuming a 1/2 hour appointment time. Clearly this is not sustainable or practical.

The format that the GAC recommended, making use of a small groups in addition to 1:1 meetings. The recommendations include the extension of the Titan 101 program and the tutorial period. This is a more scalable implementation plan.


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Posted by gunnparentfrombp
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Thank you so much to the committee that investigated the counseling system at Gunn and compared it with other schools. I read the report and was very impressed. Sometimes parents write into these discussion threads reporting that their students had or are having an excellent time with the Gunn counseling system. I am happy for those families. Most of the rest of us however see how overworked and understaffed the Gunn counselors are, so understaffed that they only may have time to meet with the students a few times in 4 years, unless the students (or parents) push their way into obtaining these counselor meetings. My childrens' experiences at Gunn fully support what the students at the meeting last night reported: at most 4 meetings in 4 years. Some of us have just given up and hope that our kids make it through Gunn and get into a college without a Gunn counselors' assistance. This is the norm at Gunn, unless you are either lucky or have a student who is outgoing and confident.

A request: No matter what is decided for Gunn's counseling system, please keep Gunn's current, late school-day start. It is a huge plus for many Gunn students, and its advantages are supported by scientific studies on teens' sleep needs.


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Posted by hope and change
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I respectfully request that Phil Winston be sent back to be principal of Gunn and Katya Villalobos be placed in another role or given notice. Seeing all the parents begging for "leadership" and saying that they very intentionally placed the "leadership" section in the report was just very discouraging. From the beginning of this process it has been a lot harder than it should have been because she does not have control of the school. Contrasting her with Phil is like night and day -- Phil gets things done. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] She's not going to be able to lead this process. Mr. J is nice but he has no background in guidance. Once they hire a guidance lead, what exactly is the AP of guidance for? Seems like surplus we don't need to spend. And Trinity Klein has no intention of making any of these changes. The IC runs the school and we need Mr. Winston back. We need a new sheriff in town. Please send Phil back to Gunn. We need him more than Paly does.


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Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm



My senior son at Gunn was also easily able to see his counselor three times this first half of the year. One was scheduled by the counselor, one was scheduled by my son, and the last was spur of the moment walk in. No pushing, persuading, bribing required.

And there is a plethora of career and college information out there. A little too much if you ask me.


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Posted by more than college
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Gunn college counselling was already considered good from a college perspective. It was considered superior in 12th grade to Paly so I'm not surprised by your experiences.
The focus for parity in counselling between schools went beyond that and more on the touchy feely side such as CHKS student surveys. See the results on the PAUSD Student Connectedness site Web Link.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Dear Soccer Mom, I didn't state that my child saw a counselor EVERY week, just that the counselor was available at ALL times my child needed! And yes, sometimes it was four times a week! These visits were sometimes for 5-10 minutes to help with a transition, or to lend a kind ear.


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Posted by Now we know why
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Another Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Wow! Thanks to the committee for reviewing the many parts that contribute to a guidance program. Many parents seem to assume if the system worked/didn't work for their child it is fine/broken. I'm glad the diverse group brought different perspectives and considerations to the process so that all students may be better served. The final list of recommendations, although lengthy, reflects their thorough work.

Special shout out to Amy Balsom for her constructive influence in reaching consensus when she could have just had TA tunnel vision. Thank you!


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Posted by board watcher
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Amy Balsom for school board 2014! Third times the charm!


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Posted by Gunn dad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 20, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Thanks to the GCA, the school board, and We Can Do Better for everyones efforts to better guidance at Gunn!


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Posted by GunnAlumni08
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm

The Gunn Counseling needs to improve. The PAUSD students should get SEPERATE but EQUAL services.


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:01 pm

In a word Gunn counseling sucks. Not because the counselors are bad but because they simply don't have the time.

When my son was at Gunn, he met with his counselor 3 times for a total of 3.5 hours over 4 years (2 of those hours in his senior year, 1 in junior and 30 minutes in freshman year). The counselor was NOT available to meet more than this.

Anyone who says they get plenty of time with their counselor at Gunn is either in bliss or just lucky.

Do the math on advisor caseloads.
Get a clue.


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Posted by board watcher
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:50 pm

@DavidP. Don't let the commenters who are knocking the change bother you. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] It was all over when Kevin pretended he didn't know the meaning of commonly used words like "comparable" (is it really that easy to get a PhD from Berkeley these days?). Of course we are counting on this board to follow up, so that is always a crapshoot but the fact that there's another election in 2014 should help.


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Posted by weekly reader
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 21, 2013 at 7:26 am

It seems to me like no one is against change. It is just that some people believe a few well placed changes, such as more walk-in time and a some small group sessions may go a long way towards making the systems equivalent. Some of the other schools GAC visited had counselor based systems which seemed a little more efficient with schedules lending themselves to more frequent interaction - mandated and casual.


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Posted by weekly reader
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 21, 2013 at 7:30 am

@Gunn dad - the people to thank more than anyone else are the Gunn counselors. They do more for our kids in one day than the GAC did in 6 months or than WCDB has done in its entirety - even though these groups are sincere.


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Posted by Thanks WCDB
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2013 at 7:59 am

No, we should not thank only the counselors,if it wasn't for the work of WCDB we would have not had this year plan. Ever since WCDB stepped in they have been working on getting better counseling for Gunn Students. They first started by working with Gunn Principal. Yes, thank you WCDB. Also thanks for the counselors who are so very busy, and have no time to answer e-mails or see our kids as they need to. I am not mad at you, I know the workload that you have make it impossible to get back to us and see our students when they asked to see you. My children had been in line for so long waiting to see the counselor on drop in basis. It is not easy. Making an appointment is impossible because they do not have time to reply, or they are always busy.


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Posted by Another Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2013 at 9:32 am

Many of the Gunn parents posting here are commenting on past experiences. The Gunn Guidance Dept and the admin have made changes and with these recommendations will continue to improve.


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Posted by very strange
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 21, 2013 at 9:55 am

Some weird posts thanking WCDBPA.
WCDB just pushed for TA at Gunn. That's all they've ever wanted. No proof that it would make any difference. The board has asked both Gunn & Paly to improve their counseling. So are you also thanking WCDB for changes to Paly when the board pushed Paly to improve as well?
Maybe it's because WCDBPA had two representatives on the Gunn GAC? Amy Balsom & Lori Krolik. Given the number of parents at Gunn that seems to be loading the dice and they still didn't get TA.


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Posted by board watcher
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 21, 2013 at 10:21 am

First of all Lori Krolik is a Challenge Success representative not a We Can Do Better member. So get your facts right. Second, all but one of the parent members of the committee voted for advisory at Gunn. But since there were 9 staff and 6 parents, they did not get the votes. Clearly if it was up to the parents, we would have advisory at Gunn. We could debate whether that radical vision of site-based control in which staff can veto the wishes of the parents and taxpayers to have equivalent services on a matter of core educational practices. This is not about letting parents micro-manage the schools. This is a radical idea that parents have no role to play other than cheerleader and donor. That dog is just not going to hunt, and even the school board refused to go along. So that fight is over.

The GAC made its recommendations by consensus and there was consensus among ALL groups on the GAC including parents, teachers, counselors and administrators for the full set of 40 recommendations that include creating an advisory structure from the Titan 101 program by expanding it to all grades and making tutorial time mandatory and in the middle of the day. That is going to be rolled out in the next 3 years and there is going to be a concrete plan to do so. The Board demanded it on Tuesday night. If I were you, I would get on board because that train has left the station whether you like it or not.


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Posted by weekly reader
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

There were 9 non-employee members - six parents and three students none of whom voted for TA.
A small number of parents blocked consensus on the recommendation for a Counselor driven program.


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Posted by board watcher
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Emily Cohen
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

The student members weren't present for the voting on TA and the "counselor-led" model. The whole point of the GAC was to break the power of the consensus among Gunn staff for the low-performing status quo. You could scold parents for wanting better services. Or you could wonder why those staff in authority at Gunn have been so resistant to positive change.


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Posted by weekly reader
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm

There was an opportunity to send in votes without being there. Was that really the point or was it to find the best way to deliver guidance? Gunn staff does not want low-performing status quo nor to they want to rush into another low-performing model. TA did not pass because better outcomes and comparable services may be accomplished with the guidance counselor model.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm

@Weekly reader

So what actually happened is what board watcher said, that all but one of the parents wanted TA and the staff all wanted the status quo with some changes.

All the evidence shows that TA works better than the guidance counselor model. The fact that Paly students are getting better guidance services than Gunn is why the school board ordered Gunn to improve in the first place. The fact is that Gunn staff, particularly some teachers, have been happy with what you admit is a "low-performing status quo" for a long time. I wonder along with Emily about whether that is changing. I hope so.


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Posted by do the math
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2013 at 2:51 pm

board watcher,

Lori Krolik, one of the 6 GAC parent members, is also a member of We Can Do Better. Look at its Facebook page. While she may or may not have officially been appointed to the committee because of that relationship, she was copacetic with WCBD from the start.

Also, you write as if the GAC parent members represented all parents at Gunn. Not so. They were appointed by someone at the district office not "elected" by the parents to represent them. After they were selected they didn't reach out to parents via a survey to see how they felt or get a sense of their preferences so did not speak on behalf of Gunn parents after the fact either.

Even if all of WCBD's 250 Facebook friends are Gunn parents - which they are not - that would equal something like 5 percent of the parents at Gunn.

So it was pretty nice for them to have gotten 1 or 2 voices out of 6 on that committee.


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Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm

The interchanges around individual family's experience with Gunn Counseling and how the GAC functioned make for good gossip, but are no longer relevant. The GAC work has concluded. There are 40 recommendations to implement which will result in significant improvements to Gunn counseling service delivery. The PAUSD board instructed Gunn administration to create a three year plan for implementation of all 40 recommendations. This plan must include dates, persons accountable, any budget requests and a means of evaluating effectiveness. Dr. Milkin and the District administrative staff is tasked to create a means of evaluating comparable services between Gunn and Paly. The Board, with District Office support, is tasked with updating it's counseling policy which is currently "not yet approved." We can all re-hash old issues or we can move forward. It's time for implementation!


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Personally, I don't care if Lori is WCDB or CS or whatever. The GAC was empowered by the PAUSD. They have spoken. The Board supports their recommendations. Skelly blocks with what does 'Comparable' mean. Hey Kevin, when in doubt use Identical. Enough BS already. It's time for implementation.


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Posted by Worst ever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I guess you would have to add Michael Milliken in there with Kevin and Charles. He performed like a used car salesman. These guys are the worst. I have no praise for the board, either. They look like clowns each time Kevin makes excuses. Kevin and Charles are definitely not earning their salaries. Demote or fire, do it now. All of them should count their lucky stars that we could not watch the meeting live from home.


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Posted by Gunn parent of 3
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm

FWIW, my sons had the good fortune to have the same counselor at Gunn who is phenomenal. She met with each of them often: the usual intervals, plus at transition times, and also whenever ideas she comes across or blips of concern appeared on her radar. She emails me often to check in and remind me to remind my sons to do things. She gives great advice tailored to the specific interests & needs of my kids. I am very grateful for her no-nonsense, direct, and caring approach.


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