School board votes to change calendar Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on May 11, 2011 at 2:52 am
In an emotional split vote, the Palo Alto Board of Education voted early today (Wednesday) to change the district-wide academic calendar, moving to a school-year start date earlier in August and an end to the first semester before the December holidays.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 1:49 AM
Posted by PA Native, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 2:52 am
What a horrible decision. Messing up the entire year calendar for all to create a supposed "Xmas break". There are other ways to set up a homework free vacation. I guarantee you those "polled students" will regret their comments once they realize exactly what the new schedule entails for them.
Posted by parent and teacher, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 4:55 am
Actually, for teaching and learning at the secondary level, there is no doubt in my mind that this was a wise decision. Students will take their final exams while the material is fresh in their minds and then be free until January.
Scheduling around May finals is very workable. APs happen early-mid May-- finals will be later in May. SATS are offered In March, early May and June. It's really not that big a deal.
Posted by MAT, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 6:33 am
It really is amazing that a decision for basically Gunn HS would be allowed to impact 12,000 students throughout an entire district.
No, it is NOT the best option. It is the easiest for the board to face and claim that they are "doing something."
So who will have to sit in those HOT classrooms in August, Who will pay for the airconditioning, who will have to go a full semester without one break other than Thanksgiving which will now certainly be for studying?
Of course, we all want the best, but don't pass the "hot potato" and leave it in the hands of our kids and teachers.
Posted by Very disappointed in the Board, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 7:06 am
Very disappointing. It was very clear from the start that a couple of the board members had their minds made up despite all of the information and comments to the contrary. I consider this poor performance from elected officials. I certainly dread November and December now. Stress should rise significantly in our house. To the elementary school parents: just skip school while you can if you have a conflict. It won't hurt your child and the school board might be forced to listen.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 7:31 am
Paly Parents - I consider myself very much "family orientated" and not at all a "tiger mom" and I support the decision. Yes, change is hard but I think this change is needed and certainly worth the trade offs. I appreciate the time and energy that people with all perspectives spent on this issue, but as a district we really need to move forward now that a decision has been made.
Posted by for PA resident, a resident of another community, on May 11, 2011 at 7:48 am
This is great! The high school I teach at is in the second year of the schedule and everyone loves it. I spoke with sophomore the other day that was glad she was never in high school with finals in January. It has really cut down on stress and no one has brought up changing it back. I asked my class about it and they barely remember what it was like before, they love it now.
Posted by Listening, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 7:48 am
How is this going to alieve pressure...I am listening!! I am putting my shoes in the feet of our students. For example, right now in the month of MAY for example: High School students have SAT test (Juniors), AP exams (Juniors/Seniors), Star Testing, SAT Subject Test, Soon to be Class Final Exams and Graduation for Seniors.
Help me to understand going from the second week in August to November with out ONE single day break from class instruction.
Posted by Dissapointed, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 8:05 am
Sadly the district did not do its homework. The only one who took the time to ask students at Gunn was Jessy a Gunn student, he found out that 75% of our students want the calendar to change. The students must be very stressed out to give away their two weeks of summer in order to have finals before winter break. I believe the district did a poor job at asking the opinion of ALL parents. Dr. Skelly is good at sending e-mails to remind us about PIE donations, but he does not informs everybody about what is going on when something this nature is being vote on. We needed a new leader yesterday, but now we needed more than ever. Jessy (Gunn Student) for president. He does a better job.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 8:05 am
I have just told my children this and they are upset. Next summer (my sophomore's last school summer) will be 2 weeks short. We will not be able to attend our annual family camp in August. We will not be able to get involved in annual Christmas pageant. We will have far less fun during the holiday period. And they will be off school in January when there is nothing fun to do. We can't have Christmas themed activities in January!
This has caused them to go to school today feeling very upset. Perhaps I shouldn't have told them, but I expect they would have found it out when they got there.
I am not against relieving stress, but I do want August and Christmas for my family. This is not about putting finals before break, it is about destroying life outside school in August and December. Finals could be moved without destroying the calendar as several Paly teachers have pointed out last night.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 8:12 am
This vote for a bad calendar was simply because some board members were afraid of a vocal minority at Gunn. Paly parents, students, and teachers were unified in saying this was bad for their high schoolers...the Paly rep on the board probably made the most insightful comments of anyone sitting at that table--against the change--and yet was ignored by folks who had their minds made up months ago. And the statement by Klausner that she was only supporting this given assurances by the district that they would come up with a plan to deal with the compressed first semester homework load, senior college apps, and hot elementary classrooms--Skelly practically told her that he had no way of doing that, but she read it as, OK, we'll fix it later, and voted for the change. Ridiculous.
Posted by Dissapointed, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 8:27 am
The school officials care so much about the social and emotional health of our students, and they said students need to sleep because many are sleep deprived. Well last night our Paly student stayed after 12:30. This is abuse, they are preaching but they are not doing it. I hope the Paly student stays home and sleeps, we do not want another sleep deprived student because the officials took so long to decide what they already had in mind. And I mend to say, Jessy for Board Member because he took the time to ask all students at Gunn their opinion. Yes Paly student also did a great Job, and even went home to do his homework later than midnight.
Posted by Let's Make Pre-Break Finals Work, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 8:32 am
The decision is done. Let's now make it work.
The stress that Paly students have about college apps would be reduced if Paly adopted the Gunn model of requiring paperwork earlier and writing the college essay in Junior year English classes rather than Fall semester Senior year. Gunn's guidance program does a much better job of preparing students for college. Paly's program gives good regular teacher contact, so maybe we should take the best of both worlds.
Since Gunn guidance does such a good job preparing students for college apps, along with the essays in Junior year, Gunn students are overwhelmingly in favor of the proposed calendar.
That Paly's college app process is broken leads to less satisfaction with the proposed problem. Let's fix Paly's college guidance problem and make pre-break finals work.
Posted by Let's be honest, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 8:34 am
To Paly Parents and Very disappointed... I find your comments very unfair to the Board and just plain untrue.
This Board listened, and listened, and listened - for at least 6 or more years. They've also witnessed the incredible and ever-increasing load that high school students struggle to deal with. They've heard from the students themselves - for years. Et cetera and ad nauseum (will spare you the laundry list).
It was time to make a decision. It was divided. It was a very tough call -- BECAUSE they listened - and there were so many very real concerns to balance - but someone had to ultimately and finally make that call.
Whether we agree with their individual vote (or not), each and every Board member has shown they care deeply about the welfare of children and families in Palo Alto, and Palo Alto schools. They give their time, attention and best effort.
In my opinion this decision - after so many years of voting no on pre-Break finals - came down to a sober recognition of just how serious and unhealthy the stress levels are for our high school students. And at the end of the day - all voices heard, valid issues raised and points made - they felt this was the right thing to do.
No other agenda was being advanced here. Thank you, School Board for your time, consideration and ultimate delivery of this tough decision.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 8:38 am
But the Gunn students according to scads of research data are apparently less happy with their guidance process than Paly's, perhaps one reason why they're feeling they have more stress issues. So the above is confusing. Change for changes sake without understanding the repercussions is not a good idea, be it in a calendar or a counseling system that probably could work better, but isn't necessarily broken.
Given the Gunn survey wasn't presented to the public, and we have no idea about the context in which it was framed, it's hard to see how it could drive a decision. I would guess, yes, more Gunn folks want the change; but it was clear at the meeting that the Paly community doesn't.
Posted by the final school bell has rung, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 8:54 am
Interestingly, the change folks (primarily) want to hide behind the "do what's best for the student." I think everyone wants that. Hard to know if this decision is sincere to that and will actually fix the “stress problems.” If you don't de-emphasize AP, SAT prep class, straight As, and the Ivy League - this is all for naught. As for me, I'm done with the Palo Alto School system and the "STRESS” created by dysfunctional parents. Couldn't be happier.
Posted by Lauren Bonomi, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 8:55 am
Direct quote from a parent and teacher from the 4/26 meeting who has pre-break finals:
"There is no such thing as a work free break. We, as teachers, always can find a way to give homework - even though we say we won't."
The so-called "real break" is a fallacy.
I have no faith that there will be efforts to reduce workload for the students in the compressed calendar. No one is willing to dumb down the classes, reduce content, or homework. Indeed, there are those who say the students aren't doing enough to stay competitive in the world. And so, I expect that the content stays the same, the students will have to suck it up and do more work over 10-12 fewer non-school days.
The year-long courses (75% are year-long), such as Physics, are still free to assign projects each of which take 60-70 hours of work.... just about all the free time there is during winter break.
How could the board sit across the table from a student who said finals are not the problem, it's the workload... (it's the economy stupid)... and still have faith that the calendar will magically address the problem? There is a deep disconnect between what is really happening in the classrooms and what is being reported.
As for the physics project and all projects of that sort, I deeply disagree with the way they are assigned to be completed outside of class. As for me, I would prefer to have the civil engineer design the structure of my house and a contractor build it. It is a rare breed who can do both well.
Furthermore, when the board finds out that
- there is no way to reduce workload, indeed it may be increased,
- there is no way to add college application/essays into the already compressed curriculum,
- there is no way to deal with 2/3+ of the students melting in their classrooms, (that's a lot of wiggly students)
there is no process to go back and revisit this. Talk about being thrown under the bus.
Posted by Let's Make Pre-Break Finals Work, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 9:03 am
From what I understand, the teacher-guidance model at Paly has its advantages, primarily in increasing individual teacher contact. But it is not as effective as Gunn's for the college admission process. Gunn examined the college admission process and switched drafting college essays to Junior year to reduce the last minute rush. And also set deadlines for submitting paperwork to the school to make everything fair to the students, teachers, and administrators. At Paly, the process is too last-minute, so that teachers do deny giving recommendations when they are overloaded. You CAN get the students to start their college app process sooner, IF the high school imposes its own deadlines. Gunn does that and it works.
So we need to consider how to improve guidance at both Gunn and Paly and take what works best at each school. After all, there's a reason Gunn students feel less conflict between college apps and pre-break finals.
Posted by parent , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:14 am
The Barbaras and Dana Tom always go with the teachers. As Barb said, she goes with the "educators." Townsend and Melissa are all blah blah blah, but have zero influence, this was Everyday Math II.
For better or for worse, the process is under the control of the educators, you saw the Teacher's Union speaking in favor of the change, and we wonder why there are no options? They gave us no options. I understand organized labor to represent labor interests, but how does that turn into completely running the schools. These are the same teachers that could not be held accountable for the work free policy for the winter break in the first place.
And if the process isn't already pre-set for what the teachers decide, there's always stuff like the last minute survey from Gunn, that I could not believe was given any weight, but Klausner named it.
This being said, the "care free" break is worth a try. And though respecting the vote is painful, I'm focusing on how that care free break will change the rest of the year.
The change will likely make Spring better.
The part about this decision that is unclear is the divisiveness it has generated. It's perverse, and unnecessary.
It's up to Skelly to bring the community back together and get to work on the option that will both reduce stress and keep August.
Posted by radar, a resident of another community, on May 11, 2011 at 9:18 am
Truly amazing. I graduated from Paly in 1967 and got into a top liberal arts college in the midwest. My classmates went to Harvard, Stanford, MIT and other top schools. We started the day after labor day and ended the first week of June. Some of us from that class are Fortune 500 CEO's and a senator. We did not stress out, we just did the work. I don't remember formal "finals". Each instructor had a formuls for final grades including homework, regular tests, etc.
Maybe you're trying too hard to make high school look like college.
Posted by Heavy Heart, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:28 am
Unless something has changed, we are part of a Unified school district ages K - 12.
There should be absolutely NO question that the decision last night was made to please a very, very small percentage of high school students (let's remember that not even all high school students or high school teachers or for that matter high school principals are in favor of this). Decisions that come before the board need to be thought through as to how they will effect EVERYONE in this district -- not just a select few.
Kudos to the young man who stayed and sat with board members late last night and looked at this issue from a point of common sense. His parents should be proud of him.
Thank you also to Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend for keeping an open mind throughout this process and understanding the serious trade offs for many families because of this decision.
Posted by Let's Make Pre-Break Finals Work, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 9:29 am
@ radar: There was SO much less competition for college when you graduated from Paly than now. Don't confuse forty-five year old data with current conditions. After all, what was the cost of a house in Palo Alto then?
Posted by Lauren Bonomi, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:41 am
Putting college essays into Junior year might work, but I'm told that the developmental assets survey indicated that Junior year is the lowest point for students. Why don't we just put them in Sophomore year? We have already pushed curriculum down quite a bit by requiring Kinders to meet 1st grade standards. What's another year?
"There is no such thing as a work free break. We, as teachers, always can find a way to give homework - even though we say we won't."
Posted by Phil Mahoney, a member of the Nixon School community, on May 11, 2011 at 9:41 am
Let the RECALL begin! Our so called 'representatives' failed to listen to overwhelming parental rejection of this calendar even when given a time tested trimester approach alternative. Think there are some 'angry voters' out there, you bet! Destroy family bonding time, force working families to hire daycare in June and Jan when the real world works, and force college apps to happen during finals, nice work Board. Hopefully , you will soon be a former Board ! Your arrogance is trumped only by your lack of flexibility. Your sending K-8 kids to hot August schools is very insensitive. You threw away a chance to deal with the real causes of stress ; too much homework and not enough sleep. Now you deserve to be dismissed from class.
Posted by former Paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 10:04 am
One more thing, I watched the meeting on TV, I noticed audio was strangely unavailable when Ken Dauber (someone I don't personally know) was speaking during public comment period. I would have liked to have heard what he had to say as he seems to be intelligent and a thoughtful person who cares for the community and students.
I prefer people who look out for the community and students.
Posted by Hallelujah!, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 10:09 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
EIGHT days earlier school start is not much earlier and the school year ends earlier. I would actually prefer more days off scattered within the academic year and add days to the end of the year.
A Harker teacher posted on another thread that their school has pre-break finals but seniors have no finals. Sounds like a good idea!
Our School Board has Mitchell, who always supports educators, and the others hold Ivy League degrees. Next time, let's please vote based upon experience rather than on the impressive Ivy League degrees. How can we reduce stress in our schools if the BoE is comprised of Ivy League degrees? They do well with stress!
Posted by MIchael O, a resident of Stanford, on May 11, 2011 at 10:26 am
Does the board actually think that stealing summer away from children will reduce stress? The problem is the ridiculous and competitive atmosphere at Gunn, and this will do absolutely nothing to change that. It is bizarre that the entire school district has to change its schedule because of first semester finals in high school. How about eliminating finals in the first place? The stress level of the high school students will remain the same, and we'll have the same problems we always had. You'll see.
Posted by MTMOM/TEACHER, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 10:38 am
Is there a link to the proposed calendars? I'd like to see the start and end dates for both school years and the dates that school lets out in December and resumes in January. I teach in another local community and am curious to see how the dates align with my district.
I don't mind the earlier start date in August so much (it is now the same as the district I teach in) but I don't like the May ending date! I now have to try to find (and pay for) two weeks of daycare for three young children at a time when very few camps/options will be available! What has PACCC said about how this affects their after-school centers? Will they offer camps right after school lets out in May? I seriously doubt that many other camps will be available -- many still have to train their counselors (not all colleges are out by then) and so I imagine that finding daycare in early June will be a nightmare!
I think moving finals to December IS a great plan. I think it could have been done without significantly altering the calendar or affecting any curriculum -- in the Semester long classes all teachers need to do is give their final in December and then teach the rest of the curriculum with another assessment/exam/project in January. Year long classes just need to move the final a few weeks earlier. Teachers need to be held accountable for NOT assigning any work or projects over break or having any due dates the first week back. Not difficult at all.
So sad that the Board couldn't see the obvious, simplest and least disruptive solution. What a mess this will be in June for the majority of families (with younger children). Many of the district families have two working parents -- the childcare/camp issue is significant.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 10:44 am
As I see I have had some comment deleted I assume that I have offended and for that I apologise.
But I feel as if I have been offended too. I have been told that my family Christmas traditions don't count any more. That is offensive to me and my family.
When we moved to Palo Alto with a preschooler, we liked the small schools and the atmosphere of community. At that time there was no large scale developments apart from remodels around town. As our kids have grown the schools have got bigger numerically. The only conclusion I can arrive at is that some of the newcomers to town (those that moved here within the last 10 - 15) years have caused not only the schools to get bigger but the culture of the schools to change.
Our values are now no longer held by the majority of people who live here. We are told that June is cheaper to travel but the fact that we can't and don't want to travel in June is a cost we have to pay. We are told that stress in December with all the Christmas festivities doesn't matter because we can have January stress free instead. We can't celebrate Christmas in January but that is the cost we have to pay.
These are not the costs we want to pay. We are told if we don't like the changes we can move. That is offensive.
I apologise if I have caused offence to others. But I see nothing to apologise for the offence caused to me.
Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 10:50 am
I fully support this calendar change. Glad the school board stuck it out despite the always-present and vocal opposition. I watched last year as my daughter who supposedly had no homework over the winter break work on a Physics project and other homework anyway. She definitely did not have a real "break" before going back to school only to have finals around the corner! I've spoken with friends in Menlo Park about their pre-break finals and they are very grateful for the change. They managed to adapt and are happy about it...so can we!
Posted by Give it a try, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 10:51 am
Don't get so upset & frustrated. The sky won't fall off because of this. Give it a try first, maybe it's a good thing we try and we find out we like it. We can request to change it back if things don't work out.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Mountain View, on May 11, 2011 at 10:51 am
Whew, it was about time to come. No matter what the outcome, it would not please everyone. I'm just happy that the Board moved forward with what I believe was the right decision. Come on, it's only for a 2 year try. Realistically, I think it should have been for 3 years and then re-evaluate..... Havinng been there, I'll bet that most everyone will be pleased with the results.
The transition year will be difficult for some as change is disruptive. Remember, success personally and professionally comes with being able to move with and through change. Think about it, we live in Silicon Valley and without change or trying something new, we would not be where we are today. This is a good lesson for our children, our future. Let's not hold them back.
Again, congrats to the Board and thank you to all who struggled with this difficult decision for the Palo Alto community.
Posted by changeup, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 10:54 am
YEAH!!! HOW CAN WE MAKE IT THE STANDARD FOR ALL SCHOOL YEARS?! Hopefully we won't have year round schooling any time soon!
Let's all think about education in a clear, constructive way and plan ahead and keep a routine. Plus, AP classes assign homework to be completed in the summer; so starting classes in August makes a ton of sense. Sports teams start practices in the middle of August. We pay for the schools to be open; so lets use them. We pay teachers well, give them ten year even if they aren't good at teaching, health care and life time pensions; let's keep them busy educating the next generation of teachers, professionals and politicians.
Posted by heretotellyou, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 10:57 am
As a parent of a graduating Gunn Senior I am here to tell you that no matter what our Superintendent or our English IS says, my child went through four years of English instruction with no mention whatsoever of a college essay from that department.
Since my child's counselor knew this was the case, the counselor gave my student help outlining and editing the essay.
The counseling department has no power over what individual English teachers include in their class.
The English teacher was very good about issuing a letter of recommendation for my student. I also believe that the English teacher would have gladly helped my individual student with the essay.
But College Essay writing is NOT included in all of the required English classes at Gunn - it is totally teacher dependant.
Posted by Jim H., a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 11:00 am
Many colleges, including Stanford, are on the quarter system. Why can't PAUSD do that? Start late Sept. Finals before Christmas. 2nd quarter finals before Spring Break. 3rd quarter finals in June. The only challenge is the 1/2 year classes. Those classes can have finals in mid-late January, switch classes and then second half finals are in June. That also has the benefit of eliminating one final from the picture before Winter break and moves it to after the break.
The majority of classes are full year classes, so only a small percentage of classes are affected. No affect on elementary schools, and only affects 1/2 year electives for middle school.
Posted by changeup, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 11:02 am
Wow, it's unfortunate that a person feels that the change was made to disrupt their religious holiday! Hanukah moves around on the calendar, so how can this decision be so personal?! Christian's could say the same thing about homework, projects, and college applications during their religious holiday - and how long has Palo Alto had the current calendar? YIKES! Get a grip and stop thinking about yourself. Selfishness is how the world gets into so much trouble. Come Together Right Now.
The decision is about EDUCATION and STRESS! Thank you School Board members who voted for the new calendar. You can count on my YES vote if you choose to run again for the school board.
Posted by One Gunn Mom, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 11:05 am
Camps will fill the need in June before you can spell "money". Most college kids are out by late May (or earlier) and will be available to work.
The problem is not Gunn, it is High School and the expectations of parents to get into the right college. I am sure there are a lot of Paly kids who want this, they were just not as vocal. I am proud of the board finally doing the right thing--it just took them 6 years to do it and my kids will not benefit because it will not happen soon enough.
Oh and if you want to reduce stress, limit the number of AP courses kids can take per semester--after all this is high school and AP are college level courses.
Posted by BP Mom, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 11:32 am
I think that board made a difficult but wise decision. We have been discussing this issue for years. We will never know if this a better solution if we don't try it first.
I have worked with HS students for the last 9 years. The stress levels are consistenly high during the winter break. Let's give the kids a chance to recharge and enjoy their break no matter when it is.
Posted by former Paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 11:33 am
I have a kid attending a university on the quarter system - it is much more stressful than the semester system, plus they start and get out later than many other colleges and universities. In some ways, that late schedule isn't great (for summer jobs, internships, etc.) That quarter system idea won't help PAUSD.
The one thing I believe all universities do is pre-winter break finals!
Gunn AND PALY are both stressful.
"Give it a try first" like a poster above said about the new calendar - after all, you will be joining such fine schools as Los Altos High School, Monte Vista
Posted by Ben Gurion, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 11:37 am
Yes but i do care about my Jewish holidays too. In Israel we do not change school calendar because couple of students are stressed out with exams. Why are they stressed out in the first place?
School is no joke, they just need to get their act together and study like we did when we were young. We never complained. Why is it so different now? is it because the parents stress their kids out more than necessary?
To me this sounds like the parents are stressed out not the kids.
Posted by District Parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 11:38 am
PARENTS! WE DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE OUR KIDS TESTED BY THE STATE. READ SECTION 60615 OF THE STATE ED CODE. A NOTE FROM HOME EXCUSES KIDS FROM STAR TESTS. TAKE THE POINTLESS TESTS OUT OF OUR KIDS LIVES. THAT WILL TEACH THE DISTRICT TO EXPERIMENT ON OUR KIDS. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FALLOUT WILL BE WHEN SCORES OF STUDENTS DO NOT GET TESTED? THEY CANNOT FORCE KIDS TO TAKE THESE TESTS. SECTION 60615 IS CLEAR. WAIVERS ARE ALLOWED BY PARENTS. GET RID OF THIS FARCE NOW. TEACHERS DO NOT EVEN GET THE RESULTS OF THESE TESTS IN ORDER TO IMPROVE INSTRUCTION. IT IS A FARCE. OPT OUT NOW. MAKE THE SCHOOL BOARD AND DISTRICT PAY FOR NOT LISTENING TO THE COMMUNITY.
Here it is:
California Education Code Section 60615
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent's or
guardian's written request to school officials to excuse his or her
child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant
Posted by qbak, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 11:50 am
Too bad teachers who are breaking the rules now face no consequence. They have poisoned it for us all. The current rules prohibit homework over the break, they are just ignored. Weak principals, Instructional Supervisors, and the culture of Palo Alto do not allow for punishing people who break rules. Instead, we reward them by changing policy to fit their transgressions. Why can't some leadership be exerted? Why not find out who the teachers are that assigned homework over the break this year (easy to do--ask any student) and write them up officially? Have their names made public at board meetings as being out of compliance with district policy. Make it grounds for dismissal.
Posted by saul, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 11:54 am
There's a reason anything out of Gunn is dismissed outright by most members of the community...look at their staff. There's not a veteran among them who has enough experience to foster the kind of change that helps kids. Case in point, they have an inferior college advising system; no one questions that fact. They have had it for years. Years. Years. Years. Years. So what do they do about it? Absolutely nothing. That's professional!
Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 11:56 am
Paly kids believed the tradeoffs were not worth it and the change would create more problems for them than it would solve, and spoke strongly against the change. They had survey results that opposed the change, the Paly rep on the board spoke, student government reps spoke, and individual students spoke. Paly did not want this.
Posted by when, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 12:01 pm
Just when is that next school board election, by the way? Potential candidates, please consider running. You will have my support. Oh by the way, these meetings that drag on into the night? I believe you are the only school board that does things this way on a regular basis. Someone ought to get trained in parlementarian rules to force the board to change its ways.
Way to hide yourselves from the public. It was 12:27AM when this decision came down. That's not in the public interest unless you are hiding from criticism.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm
@saul and the rest of the community:
We Can Do Better Palo Alto is actively working to bring an advisory system to Gunn High School, as called for in Section P-8 of the Project Safety Net suicide prevention plan. We have complied a mountain of evidence showing that parents and students in Palo Alto are twice as dissatisfied with the Gunn counseling system as comparable parents and students at Paly. The scholarly research also strongly supports advisory over the Gunn guidance method.
Paly has had advisory for over 20 years, while Gunn has refused to make the change. They have continued to refuse in the face of overwhelming evidence that parents and students do not like the current system. They have continued to refuse in the face of an unprecedented suicide contagion and epidemic levels of depression, anxiety. They have continued to refuse in spite of the fact that the developmental assets survey found that 47% of our youth are at risk or vulnerable. They have continued to refuse, most likely because they fear that it would reduce the size of the counseling staff and do not want any attrition or redundancy among the staff. We have to put kids first.
As Ken said at the Gunn Site Council during our presentation on this topic earlier this week: the results of our 20 year natural experiment are in, and they are definitive. We need an advisory system at Gunn and need it sooner rather than later.
To learn about how you can get involved in this effort to increase social-emotional wellness in our high school students throughout the district, please visit
And come to our next Public Meeting, Tuesday May 17 at 7:00 pm at Cubberly in Classroom A-6.
Posted by Parent and Teacher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm
I commend the board for their decision. It was a tremendous amount of work. The teachers are doing everything in their power to ease the stress on our students while continuing to fulfill the high expectations of the community. Let's support this two year pilot.
Posted by Lauren Bonomi, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm
No one wants to believe this quote from a parent with students in Palo Alto and who teaches at Mountain View HS (which has pre-break finals):
"There is no such thing as a work free break. We, as teachers, always can find a way to give homework - even though we say we won't."
The so-called "real break," "care-free break" or (your euphemism of choice) break is a fallacy.
I have no faith that there will be efforts to reduce workload for the students in the compressed calendar. No one will be willing to dumb down the classes, reduce content, or homework for the fall classes because they won't be equal to the spring classes. They will be perceived as making our high performing schools as too easy. Many say students aren't doing enough to stay competitive in the world. The content will stay the same with 4 fewer teaching days. The students will have to suck it up and do more work over 14-16 fewer non-school days.
"We, as teachers, always can find a way to give homework - even though we say we won't."
Year-long courses (75% are year-long), are still free to assign projects which take 60-70 hours of work.... just about all the free time there is during the "care-free" winter break. These projects don't necessarily go away.
Nothing has been done to address the workload, in spite of the students repeatedly and overwhelmingly stating that homework and projects are the main sources of stress. I have no faith that it will change under the new calendar. None.
There has been no effort by the board or the administration to address this very issue. Zero. For all the talk, there has been zero effort to stop the piling on of homework or projects.
"We, as teachers, always can find a way to give homework - even though we say we won't."
I look forward to hearing the report to the board in November when teachers "say" they will cut the workload, when, surprisingly, the students are back to the same old workload to be completed in less time. There is no way to enforce it.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm
@Michele--but now folks are saying that Paly would be happier about pre-break finals if they had the Gunn counseling system, not vice-versa. This is truly a mess, and no changes should have been made before sorting out the issues. Paly did not want calendar change; maybe Gunn should have tried some of Paly's stress solutions first, before forcing Paly to do something that the kids there feel is going to hurt, not help, them.
Posted by Annette, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm
The longer I live here and the older I get the more I appreciate what my parents must have loved about "the day". School schedules were set; no divisive discussion; end of story. School started the day after Labor Day and ended in the middle of June, usually on a Thursday. Somewhere along the way we have managed to complicate almost everything.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm
I agree that one reason for the difference between Paly and Gunn students and teachers on this issue is that Paly students have access to numerous stress-reduction measures that Gunn students do not. They have advisory (most important difference) as well as block scheduling and later start times. Gunn students not only lack any of these innovations but they also are struggling to cope with a suicide contagion and the loss of many classmates.
Ken said as much last night in his comments but the district cut the audio feed during his comments (and he was the only speaker out of the 60 who spoke who had his audio cut). I am sorry you did not hear his remarks because this is what he addressed.
I think that is based on uninformed "grass must be greener" thinking. I don't think those comments about the Paly kids wanting the Gunn system are accurate or informed by data. The data from numerous district surveys conducted over the past decade including WASC surveys and strategic plan surveys, including thousands of parents and students that Gunn parents and students are twice as unhappy as Paly parents and students. Here are some facts:
2008-09 WASC survey at Paly and Gunn
Percentage of students who disagree that “a counselor/advisor is available to help me select courses and plan for the future.” 7.5% (Paly) 14% (Gunn)
Percentage of parents who disagree that "a counselor is available to help my child select classes and provide guidance in planning for the future.” 13% (Paly) 32% (Gunn)
Percentage of parents who disagree that "there are effective procedures in place to support communication with teachers." 13% (Paly) 21% (Gunn)
PAUSD Strategic Plan Surveys
Parents dissatisfied with counseling services (2008) 21% (Paly) 39% (Gunn)
Parents dissatisfied with counseling services (2010) 17% (Paly) 33% (Gunn)
Parents dissatisfied with availability of counselors (2008) 14% (Paly) 32% (Gunn)
Parents dissatisfied with quality of counselors (2008) 20% (Paly) 39% (Gunn)
Parents who say their child did not receive effective
college counseling (2008) 25% (Paly) 48% (Gunn)
Students dissatisfied with availability of counselors (2008) 16% (Paly) 39% (Gunn)
Students dissatisfied with quality of counseling services (2008) 22% (Paly) 38% (Gunn)
You can download our entire Counseling Gap Fact Sheet at Web Link
Or come to our public meeting Tuesday April 17 at 7:00 Cubberly Room A-6 and hear the powerpoint presentation and pick up your own copy of the slides.
Posted by why, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm
Why should Project Safety Net be able to dictate our counseling system? Are there any Gunn counselors or Gunn parents on the steering team? I doubt it. P-8 is just a list of words informed by disgruntled people. They are not a district funded organization. They are just another outside group, administrators from Churchill included, that has never even come over to learn about the campus. We parents like our system and so do the students.
Posted by Go Bears, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm
I think Klausner, Mitchell, and Tom have just ended their political careers. Good luck trying to get reelected or run for any other office after you blatantly ignored over 60 members of the Palo Alto community who were willing to sacrifice their entire Tuesday night to try to make their voices heard. Your constituency will not forget this.
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm
Midtown Dave: As a Basic Aid district, PAUSD doesn't get money from the state based on attendance. High absenteeism in August won't cost the district anything, it will only hurt the students who can't catch up from missing the first two weeks of school.
Posted by former Paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm
RE: calendar change positive results
RE: high school counseling
Case: Los Altos High School
Friends who are finishing with 3 kids graduating from Los Altos High (experiencing before and after of calendar shift to earlier calendar with pre-winter break finals for 1st semester)have calmly indicated everything has been just fine with the new calendar/schedule.
With regards to counseling, I think improvements at both high schools are in order. I was surprised to hear, last year or so, from my LAHS friends that they ALSO get a once-per-year parent/student/counselor meeting. I was told how useful and important this simple action was for them (remember, 3 children through high school).
They discussed substantive issues, classes to take, general college plans. I am sure the student gets additional meetings with the counselor,
I don't know all the details, HOWEVER my point is that there are OTHER basic models of high school counseling that produce happy, satisfied students and parents -- we are done with high school but I suggest you look into the practices at Los Altos High School since we have always heard of high satisfaction there.
Posted by Marie, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 1:10 pm Marie is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I'm surprised at all the people with extended family vacations in the last two weeks of August as we had to move our family campout (people were coming from Berkeley, Palo Alto, Pleasanton, Burlingame, Redwood City, Whittier and more) to the first two weeks of August 10-15 years ago to accommodate college/elementary schools/high schools starting mid-August. According to earlier posts, almost all surrounding high schools and almost all colleges everywhere have switched to finals before winter vacation. The only real difference in schedules are for colleges on the quarter system (start in September, end in June) and those on the semester system (start in August, end in May). I'm amazed this is an issue since most people are already affected unless all their extended family is in Europe, where they all take August off.
As far as Jewish holidays go, they have always conflicted with school calendars since they move around so much. I've always just coped (I'm Jewish). I'm just happy that it is rare today to have a college have its only registration day on Yom Kippur, as happened my sophomore year at UCSB in 65.
I attended several different colleges in the 60's when they were first experimenting with the quarter system - and much preferred it when finals were before winter vacation, although I didn't like having 3 sets of finals much. There are pluses and minuses to every change. I think it is definitely a step in the right direction, but just a step. There is much more to be done to reduce stress in our schools.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Mountain View, on May 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm
You know, this happened in Mountain View-Los Altos a few years back, with almost no discussion. It was initiated by students at Mountain View High, and implemented there on a trial basis for one year. There were some skeptical teachers, I believe, at first. But the first year went so smoothly and that it was implemented at Los Altos the following year. I think the concerns about the testing becoming more stressful are completely misplaced. Finals in spring are not scheduled around AP or SAT time. And in the case of AP classes, studying for the "final" and for the "AP test" are pretty much the same thing, so it's not as if they have to study for two completely different exams. Finals in the fall are done before the break -- that's the whole point -- so I'm not sure why it's more stressful to do that.
As for "giving up part of the summer" -- we live in the Bay Area. We have a LOT of months of summer weather, beginning sometimes in April; and as long as the total amount of time off is the same, what difference does a week or so in either direction make? Zero. It's just a matter of adapting to (a very small) change.
And disrupting families seems pretty minimal compared to MVLA. Unlike PAUSD, our HS district is separate from the two feeder districts, so if parents have kids in HS and in elementary, they have different start dates. The feeder have been shifting their calendars to start earlier in August to try and better align with the high schools.
Finally, I don't think it's the responsibility of school districts to make sure that they accommodate families who have a "favorite" vacation week. We had to stop going to the family camp we had attended for years when my kids joined marching band, because of a conflict with band camp. Should I have asked them to change the date of band camp? No. That's life.
Posted by PAUSD parent, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on May 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm
The school district exists for the provision of primary education to the students, and it exists to satisfy the needs of the students. Colleges and universities complete a semester prior to winder break, and now our PAUSD students will be better prepared to face that reality.
Accomodating the schedules of the students' families/parents should not be a concern for PAUSD. Student education --- rather than managment of students' busy schedules outside of school -- has been awarded priority with the Board's decision. I applaud the outcome.
Completion of a semester prior to a winter break during high, will mirror what students will face if they
Posted by Happy with trial, a resident of the Greendell/Walnut Grove neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm
To those disappointed with the process or who brought solutions at the last minute last night...
this has been YEARS in the making. The process has been nauseatingly slow,cumbersome and long.
There has been plenty of opportunity to come up with solutions that work. This was the best one so far. It was time, as my father used to say ( only a little more colorfully) to poop or get off the toilet.
I am very glad the Board ..um..well, can't continue the analogy!!
But, I am happy to at least TRY it. I look forward to hearing, with open ears and mind, the students' reactions next year.
Posted by JC, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm
I like the switch, I never liked finals in January and vastly preferred pre-break finals when I got to college. It seems like PAUSD was lagging in moving this direction; besides Los Altos, Monta Vista, Lynbrook, and next year Saratoga, I believe private schools like Harker, Castilleja, Bellarmine, and St. Francis also end their semesters before winter break.
Posted by Emma, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm
To have final before winter break is good, but to have a semester begin in the early part of August is not good. Lots of summer programs for the kids have schedules set during August and the PAUSD students won't be able to attend.
Posted by PA parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 2:57 pm
To the PAUSD Board: Commendable decision on a contentious issue. A community's most valuable and precious resource are our children. And while no policy is universally popular, the schedule changes are not unreasonable and have the potential to improve the lot of all of our students over time; the new calendar deserves a trial based on the evidence, surveys, anecdotes, and research.
To the children and young adults of Palo Alto: You are loved and cherished by your families, friends, and teachers. Work hard, play hard!
To the families whose vacation time is adversely affected in August: There are/were families who ski together as part of quality, family bonding. The two years with 'Ski Week' built into the academic calendar were memorable and invaluable for family and relatives. The consensus changed the calendar. Are there families who would make yearly trips to Arizona to watch Giants' spring training if vacation week in March were created by community mandate? Or truly sacred journey/pilgrimage for Easter, Ramadan, Yom Kippur or Chhath with time time was carved out in April, May, October or November? Sacred family time is valued by all of us in Palo Alto; it is timeless and needs no appointment. And as for the August classroom on the Peninsula, there are Midwestern or Southern transplants who might attest to truly hot weather.
Posted by Get over it, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm
"Board members had their minds made up"? I hope they did! If they went to the meeting on the fence, not having researched or contemplated beforehand, that would be more disappointing! They had months to brew on this. I am relieved they made the right decision for the students.
Camps will work around the schedule and most end by the first two weeks of August anyway. Change can be good. And if it isn't, they can reconsider.
The bigger injustice was their decision to adopt Everyday Math which actually affects the math learning of elementary students. Easier for parents to work around vacations than re-teach their children math. If you look at the voting, the votes were exactly the same on both, which is indicative of the School Board personalities.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 3:22 pm
To the parent who mentioned the student/parent/counselor sessions at LA and MV HS ... if you are referring to college counseling, these meetings are also available at Paly (don't know about Gunn). The only thing the college counselors ask is that the initial meeting should be between just the student and the counselor. They require that the student prepare a profile and some other items (templates used on annual basis) and also makes some entries into the Naviance system before their first meeting.
Posted by humblemom, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm
There are several other alternatives that would satisfy the vast majority of our district's needs. It is unfortunate that the board and Calendar Committee did not do more to explore creative solutions. I am a Gunn alumni and "back then" (really not too long ago), we started after Labor Day, our finals were later in January, and school ended around June 12th. We still had 180 instructional, balanced semesters, lots of semester courses, honors, AP's, etc. The culture of our district has changed which is unfortunate.
While I don't think the district is willing to revert to the calendars of old, there are still plenty of viable options such as trimesters. For anyone interested in learning how trimesters work and how it benefits ALL students refer to the following website: www.trimesters.org There are several schools in California that have moved to trimesters or are in the process of moving to trimesters...but honestly, most of the research is coming from other states which rank much higher overall in education than our state. I believe our state is behind the times here and there will be a growing trend towards trimesters over the next several years.
Although my high schoolers are able to enjoy a "true break" over the winter break I do understand there are some in our community that can not. IF teachers did what they were told regarding work over break and kids were still not experiencing that real break, that is a family issue, not a community issue. But I'm not opposed to trying PBFs, just not at this cost.
Many of you keep mentioning our neighboring districts that have made this switch and how great it is....but what is not being mentioned is that our neighbors are all getting out by December 16th-ish whereas PAUSD goes until Dec. 22nd-ish. We also don't have that entire week in February off to break up the 2nd semester. We also aren't looking at semesters that are as unbalanced as our neighbors. AND, Fremont and Cupertino still start later in Aug. (23rd-ish), end the semester Dec. 16th-ish and get out June 10th-ish. We really can't compare ourselves to them...
The bottom line is there is a better solution out there. The board isn't even super excited about this calendar and yet they passed it anyway. This isn't going to go away and I think it only right that the board exhaust other options before asking our community to give up so much.
Posted by Its all about vacation plans, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm
At the end of the day, I think that the parents who want to travel over winter break are the ones who prevailed, over parents who hold summer vacations important... European parents would rather have August off because much of Europe is on vacation then. Many Asian parents want to be able to travel over winter break...
I feel in the end, the debate between parents boiled down to this...
Otherwise there would also have been a debate about spring break and its need to be a real break, and it did not happen.
I am on the losing end of the debate. Welcome to the new face of Palo Alto schools. My only consolation is that we will have two years only to put up with the new crazy calendar... then we'll be done with PA schools for good, not a second too soon.
Posted by Wrong recall, a member of the Walter Hays School community, on May 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm
Hey need a lawyer,
Go for it. Problem is, you're trying to recall two of the only intelligent members of our board. Switch the recall to the ones who voted against the calendar, and who back out of every other vote, and you'll have yourself a recall!
60 parents at a board meeting isn't abnormal for an issue like this. It hasn't happened much lately because there haven't been really contentious issues up for votes, but it used to happen all the time and meetings normally ran until at least 1 a.m. What is abnormal is that the board didn't cave to the parents like they normally do! A very surprising twist.
Posted by Susan , a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm
It's important to teach our kids about optimizing and adapting, and this a great opportunity for us to lead by example. We will try it for a few years, measure the results as best we can, permanently adopt or modify the decision and then move on. I appreciate the thoughtful discussion by the school board. Everyone's intentions are good in this situation.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 4:50 pm
Yes, I have had time to think and reflect and will try and post my thoughts again.
Of course we will do what we have to do to bide by the decision. Yes, other districts have tried it and loved it. Yes, it is not the end of the world as we will adjust.
But, the point is that we have no choice in this and the board, having had eons to discuss this, have not discussed any other option other than calendar A and calendar B.
We are supposed to be leaders in education, but I see very poor leadership. I see sheep following other sheep, not innovators.
From the way I remember it, the Board asked Scott Bowers to come up with a calendar to see what finals before break looked like. He reluctantly put together a calendar and brought it before the board almost apologising because it looked so horrendous. I don't think he expected anyone to take notice of it because of the very early start in August, the finals so close to Christmas, almost a week off in January and then finishing school in May. His words may have said one thing, but his body language and his inflections gave the impression that this was a vague attempt to see what it would look like. Lo and behold, people wanted it. I feel that one of the most surprised in all this is Scott himself.
Many emails and comments to the board about trimesters, finals before break and unit tests in January without altering the semesters, were never ever discussed. This is what is poor leadership. There has been no discussion of anything other than a dreadful new calendar or the status quo.
If you ask me, and I know you're not, the board want to be seen to be doing something to alleviate stress and suicides. This is it. It is all they can come up with. And when they come up for reelection or after another suicide (hopefully not) they will proudly say "we care" and "we did something to help. It is not our fault."
Posted by Lauren Bonomi, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm
I am deeply disappointed because the questions that the board asks continue to be left unanswered AND the board accepts that as ok. The "clauses" that the board attached to the vote are just an attempt to show everyone they know these are major issues with the adopted calendar. But there is no way they will hold anyone accountable.
The rest of the community is assuming that things will magically adjust without any further attention. And the discussion, thus far, continues to ignore these facts.
- Still left out there is what will happen to the curriculum, because the teachers now have the uneven semesters that they lobbied against from the beginning.
- Still brushed aside is the fact there are fewer days to learn the (same amount?) of material taught with one week less class time. There is no way to ensure students work loads don't increase.
- Still no certainty that the college application essays will be added into the compressed curriculum.
- And we all know that there are no plans or funds available to cool all the K-8 classrooms. My guess is they'll suggest buying a bunch of coolers filled with ice, so kids can sit with bags of ice on their heads.
There is no accountability and there is no recourse. It will be swept under the rug and the students, who have said repeatedly that homework and projects are the main sources of stress, are not heard.
Posted by Maya, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm
Bad choice. FYI - teachers will still assign long term projects due after the break, say mid January. Students will still use the break to study. How can they not? There is no such thing as a "break" if you are enrolled at Paly or Gunn.
Posted by Curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 5:51 pm
"We Can Do Better Palo Alto is actively working to bring an advisory system to Gunn High School, as called for in Section P-8 of the Project Safety Net suicide prevention plan. We have complied a mountain of evidence showing that parents and students in Palo Alto are twice as dissatisfied with the Gunn counseling system as comparable parents and students at Paly. The scholarly research also strongly supports advisory over the Gunn guidance method."
As to the quite above, who are you asking? I have been involved with Gunn, my students and two different counselors for many years. My two graduates had different counselors and were not at the "top of their class" but they chose a balanced high school life. Their counselors worked with them through the years and helped each of them focus on the programs for their college choices (rather than what popular colleges to apply to). They each helped them with college applications and checked in with them on campus when they saw them. My students had a definite relationship with their counselors. My students found universities that they are completely happy with and they hit the ground running and are loving their college lives.
My current Gunn student has a great relationship with a Gunn counselor and has had no problem dropping by or emailing to ask a question when needed. There is very much a feeling of support.
So, in my household, that is three out of three supportive of the Gunn counselors. Oh wait, I asked my husband and I have a correction to make. It is five out of five in favor of the Gunn counselors. So again, who are you asking?!?
Posted by Gunn Sophomore, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 6:37 pm
As a sophomore at Gunn, this calendar change will be implemented my senior year and I couldn't be more excited to have finals before break; this is a much needed change that the majority of students (AND TEACHERS!) are looking forward to. Having finals before break will ensure that the material is still fresh in our minds and that our break is actually a break.
To the disgruntled parents of elementary and middle school children: Yes, this change does affect the entire district, but sooner than you know it your kids will be the ones relaxing on their winter break because they have just completed first semester finals. Try thinking of it from a high schooler's point of view because one day, your kids will be in our shoes.
Posted by Cathy, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm
To Gunn Sophomore, try to think what it was like when you were in elementary school, having most of August to have fun and be a kid. Try seeing it from their point of view. Also, I thought the whole point of education was to actually learn and retain material, not just taking tests "when the material is still fresh in our minds".
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm
Our last child will graduate in 2012, so we will not have to deal with this issue from a personal point of view. However, I guarantee that the 3 that voted for this mess will not receive my vote the next time up --- nor will they receive my vote when they decide to run for something else such as city council, etc. in the future.
Posted by Midwest, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm
I am from the Midwest and we started school in mid August and finished the first week of June. Our classrooms did not have A/C so we not only have to suffer through the heat but the humidity as well. Even with that schedule I had no problems applying for colleges and taking the SAT.
Posted by way to go, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm
Why would anyone run for School Board after the hateful conversation on these and other threads. There are always two sides to an argument and the losing side always blames the school board. Get over it. The board members you want to recall would probably love to not attend these endless meetings where every parent thinks their issues are the most important. Good example to set for the kids. I just hope that the hate and vitriol you all are spewing is not being done in front of your kids.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 8:53 pm
Way to go - well said!
In November we had an election for school board and the two board members who were up for re-election ran unopposed. I hope that all the people who are saying such outlandish and incredibly hurtful things will consider running for the school board so they can experience it from the other side. There was no way to please all people on this debate. There was not one calendar (including "B with a twist") that would have been universally embraced by our community.
Posted by member, a resident of the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm
After looking through the comments, I noticed that students dont seem to be complaining. Many of the arguments against the change have come from parents of younger children. I wish to remind them that in just a few years their children will be in high school. The students who spoke out in support the change know what they are talking about. We are only trying to help your kids so that they don't have to go through what we have had to. Remember that school is for the education of children not for the connivence of parents.
Posted by parent, a resident of another community, on May 11, 2011 at 9:24 pm
I think the students are busy doing homework.
I have attended numerous high schools (moved a lot) and college/grad schools. I experienced pre and post break finals at all places. Comparing high school student experiences to college experiences is apples and oranges... unless you are trying to make high school a college.... which, with all the emphasis on APs, kinda makes you wonder.
The rollover calendar with a twist was a proposal from teachers to have pre-break finals in a manner that would not subject the K-8 community to this experiment.
Posted by Gunn Student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm
This comment thread shows that the conflict exists between the parents of elementary students and the high school students themselves.
From the article itself:
•Currently there is "concern about homework overload, day-to-day stress and the hours of lost sleep by our high school students."
•The new schedule will include "problems of overheated classrooms in August."
Palo Alto is a fortunate, but spoiled, neighborhood. While the board's decision may have favored the high schoolers, it is important to keep things in perspective. Hot classrooms are no where near as big of a problem as the stress and anxiety that is experienced in the higher grade levels. Parents of younger children have to step out of the rocks they've been living under and understand the problems faced at Gunn and Paly.
Posted by parent, a resident of another community, on May 11, 2011 at 9:37 pm
Not really. It's not conflict between elementary parents and high school students. It's about effective ways to address "homework overload, day-to-day stress and the hours of lost sleep by our high school students." Nothing in the calendar is going to reduce homework and that is what the board essentially stated with their caveat mentioned in previous posts.
Posted by kate- district teacher & PA voter, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:44 pm
Paly Parent and Humblemom – I agree with you; we will do what we have to do. We need to step back and realize how luck we are; we could be having a very different conversation if we were in Japan trying to decide how to educate students whose schools were destroyed or are being used as shelters…
Some random thoughts:
That being said, the lack of leadership with this issue is *incredibly* disappointing to me. I was shocked to hear that KS was just recently researching the trimester option. This is the kind of stuff that should have done months ago! Where’s the vision?! The board voted on the lesser of two evils, so to speak, when there could have been other, more innovative options if people had done their research.
Also, what I heard last night was Paly has implemented a later start to the day, block schedule, and a seemingly more effective counseling program than Gunn – and the demand for an earlier start with finals before the winter break were coming from mostly from the Gunn community. Why didn’t Gunn try something else first?
I, too, had the feeling that the Board and Admin want to appear that they are doing something yet are not looking at the global picture. To me, the homework overload needs to be meaningfully addressed.
[I worked in a district (not in CA) that really worked hard to think outside the box; they had trimesters yet also had some semester courses… and block scheduling, alternating weekly schedules (for the high school) and a six-day schedule (for the middle school), small learning communities, more options for electives (6 vs. 4), etc. (98.5% graduation rate, 90% to 4-year college, 5% to 2-year or post-grad, etc.)] It can be done, folks!
Posted by way to go, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:47 pm
For all of you that complain about the homework load, please get an honest assessment of all the time your kids are spending on Facebook, Formspring, Youtube and other sites. You might be surprised. Nothing is private on the internet, so please don't use that as an excuse to not monitor your kid's pages.
Posted by Cathy, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:48 pm
Gunn Student, presumably you were an elementary student at some point in this district. How would you have felt then if you didn't get to run around with your friends or extended family in August because you had to go back to school, or couldn't enjoy the run up to Christmas with your family because you were still in school? If you have working parents, how would you have felt if you had to spend the first weeks of your summer vacation in the equivalent of daycare because the big name summer camps hadn't started yet?
I am fully aware that my child may have different priorities when she gets to High School but I sincerely believe that I will feel the same way about the calendar. Personally, I actually like the idea of post break finals because it gives a student the chance to really absorb and understand the material over time, rather than just regurgitate it onto an exam paper the moment it was taught and then forget it. Maybe the calendar is good for passing exams but it is not good for education.
Posted by amom, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 9:52 pm
I agree with above.My kid in Junior year spent most of his time playing games or chatting with friends online,usually did not start work until 10:00pm.Do not get me wrong,he still got all As in as many AP classes as possible.
Posted by gunn soph, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 10:11 pm
Having spent the past half hour reading through these comments, I must say that I am slightly shocked at the level of immaturity shown by parents in the community. Yes, I understand that some of your summer and winter vacation plans will need to change. However, I can assure you that this was taken into consideration by the Board. Having personally spoken with a member, I can also assure you that they considered ALL the pros and cons for ALL parties involved, something I'm sure the majority of you haven't necessarily done.
Was their decision correct? We won't know for sure until it's been done for a year. But consider that other school districts that have switched to this calendar have enjoyed it immensely. Consider that the Board has been debating this topic for the past 6 months, and you for the past what, month or so? And consider the example you are setting for your children when you do something as petty as insinuating the removal of the Board members from their positions simply because they voted for something you didn't agree with.
I'd also like to address the aggressive proposition presented by We Can Do Better Palo Alto. Their presentation involved statistics that measured the "happiness" and "satisfaction" of parents with Gunn's counseling system; these statistics were taken from a 2008-2009 survey including less than 300 Gunn parents. In a much more recent survey, done with all 448 2010 Gunn graduating seniors, satisfaction and approval of the counselors was consistently in the high 90% range for all questions asked. This is not to say that Gunn's system is better than Paly's. In fact, I believe that every suggestion must be taken into account. However, I would like to suggest that what works at Paly won't necessarily work at Gunn, as we've seen from the opinions on the calendar.
Last thing- I would like to congratulate ALL the members of the School Board for sticking to their votes. I can only imagine how disappointing it must be to see so much hate from the community.
Posted by It's all about vacation plans, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm
@ gunn soph from Barron Park
It is very presumptious of you to assume that people commenting here have been interested in the calendar issue only in the "for the past what, month or so"... What give you the right to assume that? Many parents have been interested in this for much longer. In my case, I have been keenly aware of school calendar issues since you were still only a toddler, maybe not even born, as I have had children who have long since graduated from local high schools. Actually, this whole calendar shifting dance started years ago, as we used to start after Labor Day. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of another community, on May 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm
@ It's all about vacation plans
Hmm. Seems rather presumptious of YOU to argue with one of the students that we are supposed to be trying to help. Oh, right, you only care about your vacation and you views. It's nice to see students who are involved.
I remember when the calendar changed in Palo Alto to a pre-Labor Day start--it was 1999, after the toddler years of any sophomore. Do your research.
Anyway. I'm sick and tired of hearing the elementary parents who are complaining about losing "family time" and then complaining about lack of childcare and summer camps in the same post. Summer camps are rarely with your student's friends, and they aren't "family time". Summer school will presumuably follow this calendar switch, meaning there's going to be childcare available. High school students and college students on the semester system will be looking for summer jobs in June, and you can bet the JCC, YMCA, City of Palo Alto, and other camp providers will see this calendar switch and switch their start dates. It all follows the $$$.
I congratulate Tom, Klausner and Mitchell. Townsend and Cowell are the two I would not want to re-elect, for their reluctance to try something new that could save our teenager's lives.
Posted by Neither Pro or Con, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on May 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm
I find it interesting to see the fairly even split in pro and con positions on the calendar change in these comments. Based on prior articles and public comments that I saw, one would think that there was negligible support for the calendar change, and that Board members who would vote in favor of it were oblivious or insensitive to the rationale of the opposing parents. The Board wasn't ignorant, insensitive or oblivious, 3 members just didn't agree with it to the extent that they saw fit to vote against the calendar change. Grow up - we'll adjust. And run for the School Board if you think you can do better. I for one feel that all the Board Members voted in good conscious. Even in the wake of disproportionate (imho) doom and gloom posts advanced in emails and the blogosphere. For that I respect all their votes.
Posted by David Cohen, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm
I've made this comment before on other threads, but first off, I'd like to thank the few people here who post comments with their names attached.
Having met all the board members and having known some of them for several years, I'd like to thank them for their service. I believe they took all of the viewpoints and information into consideration, weighed the options, reached their own conclusions and voted in what they believe to be the best interests of our students. There could be improvements in the process, and there could be other options; however, to speak of recalling elected officials over a calendar vote that had support on both sides seems like an overreaction that will further distract and divide us, and dissuade some potential candidates from seeking this office.
I see both sides of the issue. With two children still years away from high school, I worry about hot summers and the loss of a family camping tradition in the second week of August, as I'll now be back to work preparing for school. As a Paly teacher and advisor, I know that some of my students and their families like this change and will benefit from it, while others don't like it and won't benefit. On the balance, speaking for myself only, I prefer the current calendar for my own work and for my family. As a staff member, I have no strong opinion. I'll take the calendar we get and I'll make it work.
Now that it's going to happen, could we please try it out for a year or two and see if it really warrants this level of conention? Let's take stock of what we have - great kids and quality schools, and the good fortune to be sheltered from the statewide crisis in public school funding. Elsewhere, California high schools have the worst staffing ratios in the nation. Counselors are almost non-existent and libraries are closed. Elective courses are disappearing. Classrooms cannot get any more crowded; the next step according to one San Jose area superintendent (speaking to the Senate Budget Committee earlier this week) is that they may close schools on May 1st, because to make further program cuts would mean no longer being able to lay claim to the title "school." Considering the plight of other districts and schools, I think we can deal with a calendar shift.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 1:10 am
I thought the calendar change was one of the key measures the Daubers and their so-called "We Can Do Better" group pushed for in an effort to reduce stress for high school students. Now that the Board has finally voted for that change, despite strong opposition from people just as vocal as the Daubers, the Daubers have not expressed any appreciation for the Board, or at least those who voted for the change.
I want to thank all of the board members for their hard work on this controversial issue, regardless of which side their votes came out. Although I personally support the calendar change, I can also understand why so many other families strongly oppose it and why it was such a hard decision for the Board to make. This was far from a black-and-white issue as the Daubers have repeatedly suggested in the past.
Posted by Parent of a Gunn student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 1:51 am
What's this about Gunn students writing their college application essays in Junior year English class, and how did our 2009 Gun graduate (now in college) somehow miss this opportunity?? I remember "weeks of hell" in November/December '08 where our child worked furiously on college applications; having finals at the same time would have been absolutely detrimental.
Now we have another Gunn student, and again; I have still not heard about writing college application essays in class. What will we have to do; call the kid in "sick" during finals week so that college applications can be finished by deadline? That is not an optimal solution.
We have no problem with whenever finals are scheduled for everyone else (yes, at the end of a semester when subjects are still "fresh in the mind" is probably a good idea for grades 1-11), but if exams are moved to before Winter Break, there should be an exception for High School seniors to take them after the break. Why should all exams at all grade levels all be on the same dates?
Personally, I also think mid-August is also failrly unfortunate for a school start date, but that's another topic...
Posted by Parent of a Gunn student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 2:05 am
To Kate (above):
Our Gunn-graduate college student is now on a quarter system, and finds it far more optimal for study and retention-by-exam than a semester system. I think giving trimesters a try (3 quarters class, summer quarter off, perhaps?) would be worth doing. Personally, I like the idea of year-round school with 2-3-week (or so) breaks between quarters similar to what other countries do, but many might find that too radical...
Posted by Let's Make Pre-Break Finals Work, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 4:12 am
@ Parent of a Gunn student: My understanding is that the change to when college essays are written was a recent change, after 2009 graduation class. The 2011 class did write their college essays in Junior year in English class.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 8:18 am
PiE has nothing to do with this conversation. Your lack of support for PiE only affects the kids. No impact on the board. Although, if the decision had gone the other way, I suppose one of those upset parents would threaten to not support PiE so your threat doesn't really matter.
Posted by Marie, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 8:41 am
This is a good thing for PAUSD. I'm surprised to hear the biggest objection to the change being "family vacation traditions". The new schedule frees up time in June. If we are not open to changes (which may or may not work), how do we move forward? "Hot" in the crowded classrooms? THAT is something to think about...
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 8:48 am
You are mistaken that we have not expressed appreciation for the three board members who voted to change the calendar. We sent a letter first thing on Wednesday morning expressing that appreciation. We also provided that letter to the press. In that letter we also noted that the Board seemed quite concerned to establish an "advisory committee" on the calendar to advise the board on such issues as the temperature inside classrooms. We hope that the Board of Education will act with similar urgency to create a committee to study, discuss, and implement best practices for reducing academic stress and increasing student mental and emotional well-being as required by Project Safety Net Section P-8.
While pre-break finals are a step in the right direction, they are only one step. There are many other, higher-impact changes that we feel are more important to the social-emotional functioning of our students and to reducing stress. Those are listed in item P-8 of the Project Safety Net Plan, but they include such things as: homework loads, limits on test and project stacking, block scheduling, later start times, and advisory counseling systems for all secondary schools, including middle schools.
We would have strongly preferred that the calendar was part of a systematic top-down evaluation of the various stress-reduction measures. However, the calendar must be voted on by the board and due to the district's dithering on P-8, the calendar came up first.
It would be helpful if you did not make statements of fact without checking on your facts first.
Posted by Frustrated with Teacher Union, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 8:54 am
parent, Another PA neighborhood,
I used the same handle previously (parent, Another...), so I'm changing mine, though I agree with what you say about PIE.
There have been comments here about victory because for once the board didn't "cave" into parents. I asked that poster to list any measures where the board "caved" into parents and have not heard back yet. That is because there are no measures where the board "caves" into parents.
The board however does always "cave" in for the teachers. I love teachers, but they are not always right, and schools should not be run by organized labor. I would think organized labor is to protect a worker from some injustice, but seeing the Teacher union rep speak on behalf of a calendar change at the board meeting was similar to the block of teachers and principals that stood up for EDM. Parents don't stand a chance in a vote contrary to teacher wishes.
One of the board members voted on the basis that it works for other schools, and they are happy. It probably works for other Teacher unions, and this is an agenda supported by Teacher Unions in the neighboring districts as well.
Palo Alto wanted to find a win-win, but I'm beginning to think that teacher unions, or powerful teacher blocks do not allow for a win-win. They are authoritarian, inflexible, and will always call the shots.
This time, it took courage for the handful of teachers who offered a win-win option, but it was too late. We can't count on courageous teachers who act outside the pack.
With boards that act with the Teachers Unions, this vote should have been predicted.
Posted by Mike , a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 9:03 am
Amazing the amount of energy unleashed by a tweak to what is clearly a disfunctional school schedule that was designed hundreds of years ago around an agricultural life. If we were starting from scratch today, and education were as important as we say it is, we would have a far more productive, year-round schedule (probably with more frequent, shorter breaks), with much better retention of learning. Imagine the indignant objections that would raise!
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 9:44 am
The Board did cave into parents demands when it came to MI. All it took was a threat (serious?) of a charter school and they definitely caved.
I would like to say that although I like the way "We can do better Palo Alto" is going, I don't altogether agree with everything they are doing just like I don't altogether agree with everything the Board does. I do like the fact that there are parents who are joining together and making inroads to talking with PAUSD administrators on various issues and want to see this explored further. I do thank them all, and also ask whether this group is predominately Gunn parents and whether there are inroads to getting more Paly families involved?
So as well as thanking them, I also want to thank the Board as individuals for giving of their time and energy on all difficult, as well as the easier, decisions that have to be made.
I would however like to point out that although the Board is made up of individuals, they are not professional educators in the true sense and I do think that sometimes they should explore more innovative directions for the professionals to explore. They should be guiding our professional educators to explore innovative solutions rather than quoting statistics of what happens well elsewhere.
I would like to see the Board give Skelly direction to look at options such as trimesters, calendar B with a twist, and other good ideas and make them accountable to find out more and how it would affect us. This is how the leadership should be leading, not acting like sheep.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 9:49 am
Because Gunn principal Villalobos has not made the data from the "survey" you describe public or available to me despite my requests, I have not seen it. So far as I know only Kim Cowell and others in the Gunn counseling office (and one oddly-well informed "sophomore" apparently) have access to that data. Therefore I cannot comment on its validity. I write to correct your misstatements regarding the parent and student Counseling Satisfaction Gap described by We Can Do Better Palo Alto:
The data we cited is based on extremely large numbers of Gunn and Paly students and parents, across several surveys and a five year period. It includes a total N as follows:
Gunn Parents: 1,337
Paly Parents: ~1,130
Gunn Students: 1,469
Paly Students: ~1,300
The Gunn WASC data from 2008-09 included responses from over 1200 Gunn students in all four grade levels.
The most important point is that this is the district's own data. It has been used in its accreditation reports and provided to the School Board and public and represented as accurate. The same items were asked of both Gunn and Paly students and parents allowing perfect comparisons. It will be highly unproductive to question the validity of the district's own data. Moreover, the size and persistence of these gaps make it nearly impossible that they do not represent real differences.
In invite all interested members of the community to the We Can Do Better public meeting on Tuesday May 17, at 7:00 in Cubberly Room A-6 at which all this data will be presented and discussed. Hopefully the Gunn guidance staff will provide its new Naviance data as well so that it can be included in the discussion.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 9:54 am
@ Paly Parent
Absolutely We Can Do Better has just as many Jordan/Paly families in our organization as Gunn families/parents. The Gunn counseling issue came up because "advisory" is one of the structural changes listed in P-8 of the Project Safety Net plan and Paly already has advisory. It is also the case that Paly's administration has been much more receptive to making stress-relief a priority than has Gunn. And of course, the tragic events of the last two years have centered on Gunn and so that elevates it as a priority. But Paly parents are equally involvedin We Can Do Better. Please come out to our meeting.
Posted by yet another parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 9:56 am
Regardless of the roots of the current school calendar being based on the agrarian economies of yore... the cycle of the global economy, and hence, the cycle for working parents, also revolves around an August slow-down, December slow-down and January 2nd ramp up. The district calendar change will not cause the rest of the world to adjust their schedules.
Whether it works for you or not, there are many families that cannot adapt their schedules and will pay a deep price... financially and emotionally. That sacrifice is easy to shrug off if it doesn't affect you, but it engenders a deep bitterness and mistrust in those it does. It has cut the strings to family connections for those who have family far away and isolates the families who live here even more.
As mentioned in previous posts, the calendars proposed were uncreative efforts that satisfied no one.
Furthermore, if students don't really have a lot of homework and are spending all their time on facebook or youtube, then why all the noise about needing to change the calendar? Those comments truly make this whole effort a farce.
Posted by amom, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 10:02 am
It all depends on individual student.Some are fine with either way,some will need this change.But not the homework load,the college board will give out sample tests when it is time for AP tests, a lot of times, some topics are not even on the books,they would test it.So it is very necessary to have all sort of homework to prepare students for the real tests.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 10:06 am
Has anyone considered changing to a quarter system? Start in September-Christmas, January to spring break, end in June, and space for summer classes if desired. It would also create an opportunity to take more subjects during the year. Stanford is on the quarter system, and they do pretty well.
Posted by Dumb school officials, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 10:35 am
My girl attends middle college a foothill. She starts school later than Gunn students, and takes the finals before winter break. How can we have such dumbed officials who couldn't come up with a better solution to this problem. They did not do their homework, the two studennts did Jessy from Gunn and the Paly student who was abused by keeping him up so late.
Posted by frustrated with Teacher Union, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 11:06 am
Looking at many other examples of how people take finals before winter break and start later in August would be logical. Instead of only looking at the people who changed the calendar, and like it.
I'm not sure but I thought I heard in the comments something about uneven semesters would cause Spring English or Social Studies electives to be more popular and kids would not take the Fall electives. I imagine that means that those Fall classes/jobs would be at risk. A constraint that some imagination could also solve.
That's why the process is pathetic. Constraints are not properly clarified to the public, and we're expected to understand why English and Social Studies cannot work with any other calendar option work.
Few can disagree with a care free break, but the incompetence about finding better options than starting school in the dead of summer is sick.
Posted by Geez, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 11:11 am
Wait a sec....all this angst and anger and even vitriol over 8 ( EIGHT) day shift in the calendar? My goodness,I looked it up thinking it must be a loss of 2 more weeks in August...and it is 8 days!!!
Good grief. I wonder what we are raising when there is this much emotion over 8 days for 2 year trial...16 days total shift in 2 years..
I am glad to give it a try. No more skin in the game for this family, but in years past, the lack of rest over Winter Break was a complete and total set up for depression and illness in January and February. It also delayed information to the family that could have helped prevent a very large problem one of our kids had. (If we had the teacher comments and grades a month sooner than we had then..)
Well, no skin in this game anymore, so I care only that perhaps this will help a lot of kids actually REST over winter break, and not break down post break from non-stop worry and work. I realize that is just one story, one view, one family, but it is also experience and wisdom speaking.
Posted by Tired of Palo Alto Negatude, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 11:42 am
I TOTALLY Agree with GEEZ and I do have "skin" in that I have one Gunn High Schooler. Hmmmm 8 days....so much over nothing. And remember folks, kids take their cues from us, if we are "freaked out" by this, they will be too. I'm just saying....let's try it. Personally, I cherish the thought of my kids PLAYING during winter break. :
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm
8 day change = not. True, 8 day change for the first day of class. But it seems that many have neglected to calculate the number of prep days required to start on the new schedule.
- Freshman Orientation
- School registration packs
- ASB organization
- PTSA prep meetings/volunteers for beginning of school
An example - Freshman Orientation. Typically the day before classes start. However the prep work happens the week prior - including training the guides, pulling together the handouts/materials. Etc. If we assume 2012 start date is 8/14/2012, then the *volunteers* required to prepare for this critical program would need to be available for the week of 8/6/11. Look at your calendars - that takes away the only full week of August. For many, if they still choose to volunteer, the entire month of August has now been removed from vacation.
Those families who typically vacation in August will probably still try and to continue on that track - but do so with the time remaining. The calendar change has just eliminated a pool of parents and students who would normally be available to volunteer for these important activities.
So to those who say that 8 days is no big deal - I would say that you've grossly under-estimated the impact.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm
Not sure how you're coming up with 8 days. School in 2012 under the standard calendar would start on Tuesday, Aug 28. Under the just approved early-start calendar, it starts Thursday, Aug 16. That's 12 days by my count. And the new calendar tries to hide what is really a bigger adjustment than that by starting on Thursday rather than Tuesday, as is the norm, not for educational reasons, but to seem more palatable than Aug 14th would have seemed. By my book, it's a 2 week change--those extra two days are pretty meaningless when you're making August camp, education, or vacation plans; you can't send kids to anything that goes into the week that starts August 12th, their summers have to wrap up by then.
Posted by Christine , a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm
We haven't started school after Labor Day for many, many years. In recent years we have started around August 23rd (this past fall it was August 24th), so starting August 16th shouldn't really be such a big deal. Also, taking a vacation in June has advantages because vacation places are less crowded than in July and August. Before our kids started school we would often take vacations in June.
And lastly, let's just try it for two years and see how it goes. It seems a lot of other communities have done it successfully.
Posted by PalyParent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm
We've historically (since post-Labor day was abandoned) cycled the start between Aug 22 and Aug 28; this has to happen because of where winter break falls, and where school ends (second week of June); obviously, because of vagaries in the actual annual calendar, we don't start the same date every year, or some years we'd be starting on a Saturday.
So the fact that the change is being made at the latest point in the cycle may mask the implications somewhat, but it doesn't make them go away. It's two weeks. Which is a big deal.
And just trying it is not exactly palatable to those of us who will have seniors during the "experiment"--there are no benefits to seniors, they are disadvantaged in every way--two less weeks (not a shift, two weeks completely taken away) in their junior-senior summer in which they would ideally want to spend time with their families, attend camps for what will likely be the last time, and have intern or enrichment opportunities only available to folks between their junior and senior years. They will absolutely have give things up. And then they have many less days in the compressed first semester to learn the same material, do their college apps, and maybe squeeze in a college visit or two so they can figure out where to apply--don't say do it early, for many, it's an evolution of thought that just can't be sped up.
So you can tell me that this is such a great thing it's absolutely positively worth it, I may disagree, and ask you to show evidence, but if you truly believe that, fine. But don't tell me to "just try it and see what happens, we can always fix it later." Actually, we can't fix it. Not for my kid.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm
Christine - but as my previous thread points out, the impact doesn't begin on 8/16...it would actually spill into the week before 8/16 for those who have traditionally volunteered to help school staff prepare for the first week of school.
June vacation spots are less-crowded for a reason: beach weather is terrible (June Gloom); any professional who works in sales or finance cannot take a vacation because June is a critical performance month for the fiscal quarter/half-year. In fact, financial professionals, venture capalists, etc. usually are not allowed to take vacations in summer until after 7/10 or so. Back when I was a kid, my Dad was not allowed to take vacation until late July - period.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm
Some real thoughts here. I have been one of those that have volunteered before school started over the years. Who knows if I will be able to do that if it means being back the first week of August.
Yes, Thursday start is different to a Tuesday start. For working parents, that means three days of child care rather than one. Much harder.
For those worrying about childare in early June, I suggest looking at the church camps as they may bring their dates forward more easily than traditional camps because they tend to be staffed by parents rather than students and the training/preparation can be done before school ends.
Posted by It's all about vacation plans, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm
@ Paly Grad, a resident of another community
You seem to be another presumptious young person produced by the Palo Alto aystem, jeez...
My kids started in PA schools well before 1999 and indeed Gunn Soph was no more than a toddler in diapers at the time.
Otherwise, when we are battling stress in school, the last thing to do is to make everything revolve around school calendars, AP exams and so on (and don't get me wrong, my children have taken AP classes). Family time, time with extended family, including across the country or overseas is as important as school, if not more, in the big picture of life.
Like I said, my family will have to put up with the new calendar for 2 years "only", as my last child will graduate in 2014, not a minute too soon. Unfortunately, the said child will be one of the guinea pigs during junior and senior years in high school. I know my child will be OK even though robbed of our traditional summer... but I am sure happy we will done and over with PA schools.
Posted by Frustrated with Teacher Union, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 1:13 pm
As this calendar is being shoved down our throats, let it be clear that this community has spoken up about the real issues and concerns in this community that are NOT constraints against a care free break, but about real issues that impact families with an early start in August.
A care free break without trampling over community concerns could have been achievable and IS achievable if it were not for the constraints that the district and teacher unions set before the board, and the inflexibility of board members to see beyond what it is.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm
@ Michele Dauber,
You and Ken Dauber have been extremely adept at using this forum at Palo Alto Online to advocate for what you perceive to be the right course for stress reduction, including the calendar change. If your appreciation for the Board's decision to change the caldendar is sincere (which I hope it is), one would naturally expect you to have said something here, for example, a simple "thank you" in one of your posts on this thread. All I'd seen from you before my comments last night, however, was a continued push for the numerous other yet-to-be-done P-8 items, and a complete silence on the accomplishment of the caldendar change - the very topic of this thread.
As a lawyer, you tell me what the implication is. Do I really need to scour the earth to "check on the facts"?
If you have already sent a letter of appreciation to the board members and have "provided the letter to the press," could you please post a copy or a link here if it's publicly available? I just did a Google search and wasn't able to find that letter.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm
Paly Alum. Comparing this year's calendar and the proposed calendar is apples to oranges, because the annual calendars don't line up. I've looked at decades of calendar history, you need to look at past years that matched, or at the proposed rollover calendar. And it's a 2 week shift. Two weeks earlier in August, two weeks earlier in May/June. Perhaps you could better understand this if you looked at the end dates of all the calendar cycles, as well as the just approved shift. It's two weeks.
Posted by So Much Ado, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm
So much ado about so little. And it has virtually nothing to do with how well we educate our kids and little to do, frankly, with their overall emotional/mental health. It has everything to do with the unfortunate suicides (2003 at Paly, 2009 at Gunn) and the pressure to "do something" when in fact there is not much the school officials can do beyond the mental health alertness efforts they currently do. You can tell that Skelly's interest in this whole topic is nil, and rightly so - it is a sop to the "stress reliever" constituency which turned into a huge time sink and distraction all by itself.
And so the world turns here in Palo Alto, where we would argue till the cows come home over a baloney sandwich if given the chance.
Posted by Upset with Calendar, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm
I really hate this calendar change. It screws with my vacation plans. I don't care about students or their perceived "stress", or winter break. I just want August for myself and for my vacation. I need to de-stress. That is why August exists.
Posted by Lauren Bonomi, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm
I'm getting back to the issue of the compressed first semester and how many days of study are available from the moment the semester starts to the moment it ends. Ignoring APs, if you take out the days allocated for CAHSEE, make-up CAHSEE, and Star testing, then the semesters are as follows...
The pre-break finals calendar that was adopted,
- the first semester has 84 teaching days over the course of 128 calendar days.
- the second semester has 88 teaching days over the course of 160 calendar days (you have to include winter break... remember, year-long classes can still assign work/reading over break. If you don't include it, it's 144 days.)
The roll-over calendar that was not adopted,
- the first semester has 88 teaching days over the course of 150 calendar days.
- the second semester has 84 teaching days over the course of 140 calendar days.
For me, an important part of learning is having time for material to sink in and having time to do quality homework... whether you choose to do it over weekends, holidays, or in your sleep. There is significantly less time now in the first semester compared to even the shortest semester (which is the spring semester in the roll-over calendar).
- 12 fewer days to do the same or more homework... essentially two weeks less TIME.
The board should have been able to get clear answers to these the questions. The curriculum is not going to be reduced. The level of homework is going to go up because there are fewer days to complete it. I fail to see how it will reduce stress.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 2:15 pm
It was amazing to me that this problem just suddenly occurred to the board at this latest meeting, and they couldn't stop to actually count the days and consider the implications of this. The fact that one board member said that she was only voting for the change because she was counting on the district to fix this and other issues was mindboggling. What is the district supposed to do? Stop the world from turning for a couple of weeks?
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm
Do we really need sarcasm and name calling in this thread? It's obviously an emotional issue for all involved. Both sides have valid concerns and clearly have strong beliefs about their kids, academics, family time, etc.
No one needs to agree with each other. But there is no need to be a jerk about it either.
Posted by humblemom, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm
Kate, I was also shocked that the committee didn't look into trimesters. I assumed that the months between the meeting in December and the one at the end of April would be used for exploring more creative and different solutions. I almost didn't talk about trimesters at that meeting and only researched it for a couple of hours after school that day up until my son's baseball game. But it didn't take long to see the real benefits of moving to trimesters. I am adding the website I found most useful again for new readers to become educated on this subject if interested. www.trimester.org Trimesters are good for our high achieving students, struggling students and for teaching to retention. I also want to point out that there are 2 "real break periods" between the trimesters. There is even flexibility for both winter break and spring break to be two weeks long if we went a little longer in June. And as far as the "3 final exam periods" complaint, students only take 3 core classes per trimester and their year long courses could be done in 2 trimesters allowing staggering to occur. Trimesters offer so much flexibility and also answer the real issues we need to address.
I have spoken with several teachers, from both Gunn and Paly, and they think trimesters are a good idea. I hope it's not too late to explore this idea more seriously.
I said this in my earlier post and I'll say it again, there will be a growing trend towards trimesters over the next several years in our state.
By the way, Stanford, 8 of the UC's, 5 California States, Santa Clara, Oregon and Oregon State, just to name a few, are all on quarters (or trimesters).
Posted by ConfusedByamom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm
@amom writes: "Can not we see the other school districts have the most to gain from this fiasco?"
This thought is fascinating - I don't see how another district "gains", or how we somehow "lose" from any decision. It is not a race. We don't get a trophy, there is no ribbon or prize. What on earth do you mean by this?
Posted by ConfuseByamom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm
Ummm, terrible environment? Really? I don't think Teachers' moral are low. Survey's of Teachers show pretty high engagement. Students scared may be overstating it a bit. Community not united is pretty much the norm for Palo Alto. As one person put it eloquently: we will argue endlessly over a baloney sandwich. It is the local sport and past-time.
I don't think any neighboring district is going to somehow "win" something from this. Is Menlo Park going to somehow "win"? Los Altos? What do they "win"? Is there a prize for obedient citizens?
To the contrary; good vigorous discussion often reveals more interesting concepts, different options, and interesting opinions.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm
The calendar committee doesn't do research, create surveys, investigate options, discuss pros and cons of calendar frameworks, look at data, talk to teachers, talk to students--none of the above. What it does do is take the framework the district representative lays in front of them, i.e., "pre-break finals with no more than 8 days difference in teaching days between semesters, which means starting at the very latest on 8/16" and discusses the placement of local holidays and staff work days within that framework (Wed off before Thanksgiving, yes, we want that. Minimum day before Spring Break, no, we don't think so). People keep talking about them as the all-powerful all-knowing committee, but that really isn't the case.
Posted by yet another parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 5:31 pm
Exactly. The calendar committee was given a very poorly framed problem with no ability or authority to think creatively. The lack of effort or direction from the board to staff and the lack of questions or answers among the whole lot is truly disappointing.
Posted by Paly Grad 09, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm
Hey, I'm going to admit that I didn't read all of the comments above- it's finals week for me now, so I'm working pretty hard, but I said this before on another thread:
"Posted by Paly Grad 09, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm
I'm a graduate from the class of 2009, and I wanted to throw in my voice in agreement with Junior. I was a pretty good student in high school (honestly, I'm better now, except that I'm writing this instead of working on a paper), and I spent a fair amount of time studying over winter break. The study time was pretty much concentrated at the end, since the first few days were spent sleeping and hanging out with family and friends and the next few went to Christmas. I would study starting sort casually on the 27th or 28th and continue more or less until school started, except for New Years, which I'd take off. Even so, I found that classes started, I was behind where we'd left off. The sort of slow warm-up that happens after every break is a little worse when there's almost a semester's worth of information to relearn.
Now that I'm in college and have a true winter break, I realize how little relaxation I got in high school. I have two siblings currently in high school, and while I was sitting around basking in the feeling of being home, they were studying and working on projects. My family is fairly studious, but not extraordinarily so; there's just a lot of work to be done over winter break as it is now.
I fully support having finals before break, and consider this a higher priority than keeping August for vacation or uneven semesters. I also find it slightly appalling how many people on this thread speak about teachers as if they are the enemy. My teachers at Paly were fantastic; I can name at least half a dozen that I loved learning from and were genuinely fond of as people. I was reminded of this clip:
Anyway, it's back to work for me. Good luck, Palo Alto students! Life's pretty good now- but it gets even better!"
I suppose that I would change that last sentence to "Life's worth living now-but it gets even better," but otherwise I stand by what I said. I'm glad that the school board voted to change the calendar, since it really will help the students, I think. Let's just try this out and see what happens.
Posted by Paly Grad 09, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm
PS. I really like Let's Make Pre-Break Finals Work's contributions to this thread. This person seems concerned with the students, which I really appreciate, and also seems to be one of the most level-headed of the comments I read. Props to you, anonymous ally.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 7:56 pm
Trimesters are intriguing but not something that would be a calendar committee decision or investigation. The calendar committee just makes a recommendation on the start and end date of school and semesters as well as the placing of legal holidays, staff development days and local holidays. It is probably true that the placement of finals is really not a calendar committee decision. It is just likely that the natural thought would be that finals would occur at the end of a semester. Trimesters are a true curriculum issue - one that would go through the curriculum and instruction side of the district - NOT calendar. Don't get me wrong, I am not against investigating trimesters, but we should understand that this would be a HUGE shift in how we deliver curriculum as well as how many courses students would complete in a year. There are a number of hurdles that would have to be addressed, for example, you stated students take only 3 core classes per trimester. In the trimester model, each trimester is equivalent to 1 semester (ie World History would be taught over 2 trimesters instead of 2 semesters). In the trimester model you referred to, each year students take 9 core trimester classes which equals 9 semester core classes. Many, many kids in our district take 12 semester core classes plus PE or other non core classes. Another hurdle would be that some students would take math or foreign language the first two trimesters and then would not take math again from late March to late August, this may be too much "time off" of from this type of a subject. This is not something that could be done by a "calendar committee" this would be a curriculum issue that would need to be looked at in a meaningful way by many members of both high schools. It would be a long process, one that is possibly worth starting, but it would not be in the purview of the Calendar Committee to suggest trimesters.
Posted by sums it up, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm
Posted by paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm
Ok Marie, let's do it the way the colleges do. A dead week (no classes, assignments, nothing)--a full dead week--before finals start. Extracurriculars shut down too. At the end of the finals week, sell the books, throw out your papers--you won't have that class again, you might never even have that teacher again--the teachers couldn't give you homework if they tried. Oh, and do all this when you're living with other students on the same schedule only, you don't have family members who might suggest, oh, having dinner together, perhaps. Unless that's the situation you can put in place here, comparisons to college are meaningless.
If the district had done one, just one, unbiased, statistically meaningful survey, maybe we could have a real discussion. But the powers that be didn't want real data so didn't get it; and they sure didn't want to listen to alternatives. Gunn teachers got what they wanted--May dismissal so they don't have to show up after AP tests are over. Paly teachers were completely ignored--I guess the fact that they've kept their community relatively happy and balanced doesn't mean they have anything to add to the discussion.
Posted by humblemom, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm
Palo Verde Parent,
Thank you for clarification on whose job it is to seek out the alternatives. I have learned a lot throughout this process but still have a long way to go. I just started investigating the trimester model just recently and from what I've come across there are compelling reasons our district should take a serious look at them. I think the biggest reason is the flexibility the trimester model offers. For example you mentioned many kids take 12 core classes a year vs. 9 that trimesters typically offer. Students could take more than 3 core classes per trimester but it is just recommended they take 3, probably in order to manage stress and course load. "Looping" is also an option for classes. That is when the student continues the sequential order of courses and it wraps to the following year. This would be ideal for foreign language as the student would complete 3 years by the end of their sophomore year. More challenging courses could be stretched out over 3 trimesters. AP's would also be three trimesters with the first 2 covering the year-long material and the 3rd trimester would be an AP Prep course giving them 6 weeks to go deeper into the subject, go over rough spots experienced in the first 2 trimesters and test review. After exams the class could continue exploration, do a project if appropriate, or whatever makes sense for that subject. Kids that are in band and choir would take all three trimesters due to the uniqueness of that elective. Kids that don't do well 1st trimester would have the ability to repeat the course 2nd trimester without falling behind and having to take summer school. The electives are opened up as well, which is something I feel most kids have a more challenging time fitting into their schedules. They also are better aligned with the sports schedule and natural seasonal breaks.
I know this would take a tremendous amount of work and wouldn't be something the schools could do overnight but it is certainly worth looking into and hopefully the people that would be able to initiate this change will take an interest in it to see if it would fit in our district.
Thank you again for your helpful information, as well as the earlier comments from Paly Parent. I think a lot of the frustration people are feeling stems from lack of knowledge on the process.
Posted by another Gunn parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 10:43 pm
As Gunn Soph writes above, new survey results from the Gunn Class of 2010 shows very high levels of student satisfaction with the Gunn Guidance Dept. They are similar to Class of 2009 results. Nearly every student was surveyed through the new Naviance system, giving more current and accurate data than what was presented in the WASC document. Results were presented at Monday's Site Council meeting (Is it true the Dauber's group left before the Guidance presentation, even though it was on the agenda? They could have heard the presentation themselves.) and tonight's PTSA meeting. The principal is releasing the results to the Gunn Spotlight tomorrow.
There can always be improvements, but I for one do not want to abandon what *is* working within the Gunn Guidance Dept just so the 2 high schools will have the same system. Over he years I've heard complaints about Paly's advisory system too.
Posted by arty, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on May 12, 2011 at 11:04 pm
to: gunn parent
Ah...I know what you've heard about Paly's program. Effective. Student centered. Thorough. On the other hand there's Gunn...now what is that program? As for instructional time at Gunn..explain tutorial for me...where students don't have to show up and it's counted as instructional minutes. Love to see the supe explain this one.
Posted by gunn student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 13, 2011 at 1:32 am
im just glad im graduating from gunn before this change so that I don't have to hear all this stupid parent quibbling about 'destressing winter break' when the real source of stress is the fact that my competition at this school is people who are taking 8 APs a year and getting straight As. My wimpy honors and 2 APs -might- get me into UC Santa Cruz, if I can maintain my 3.9 GPA, so I can be 30% class rank! whoppee!!
One of the teachers in the STAR test proctoring us today was questioning aloud about other schools who limit kids to 3 APs a year. I wish Gunn had that. Maybe I wouldn't feel like a piece of garbage every time I heard some kid bragging about his 2390 SAT and how he was gonna retake it to get a 2400. And here I thought, my 2150 was pretty good.
I guess I can cross off all ivies and all decent public schools off my list. Community College ain't looking so bad. I guess I'll just have to dishonor my ancestors - sorry guys, I shouldn't have gone to gunn. This school sucks. Work your ass off and be below average. You have to get an internship at Google at age 12 in order to stand out here.
Posted by Let's be honest, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 8:19 am
Gunn student... I hear you and I'm so sorry to read the discouragement (sadness and anger) in your post - but I understand. And to those of us who've been listening to voices like yours - for years and years - you are not and have not been alone. To you and years of graduated students, I apologize for our lack of progress and inability to bring about the types of meaningful change at our high schools that might have made a real difference to your experience - and to student health. (We will keep trying - and believe that the new calendar is one small step in the right direction).
But please consider this: Graduation and college - wherever you attend (truly)- offer you a very different experience - freedom from such a narrow definition of "success", an awareness that smart, stimulating and fun students and professors come from everywhere, an expanded world, and therefore, an expanded view of what matters and what's real. And maybe, just maybe you get to fall in love with learning again. Freedom. "It gets better".
Sincere congratulations on your amazing scholarship and hard work. It will absolutely pay off!!
Thank you for writing into this forum. Your voice does matter.
Posted by former Paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 13, 2011 at 8:23 am
In fact, it's likely that 'gunn student' is highly intelligent and motivated, just doesn't have a Tiger Mother to manage and pay for advance prepping, high-level constant tutoring, private college counseling, and other tactics used to get that extra edge. In current times, these practices are on the rise in competitive areas, but they don't reflect a true picture of an individual student, rather a packaged and contrived one for university apps.
What s/he writes about some students bragging about sultra high scores, which should be personal and private, is also unfortunately true. Some students here have overly high opinions of themselves, especially considering a great portion of their slight extra edge over other peers is owing to parental management and extreme prepping rather than personal initiative, interest, and achievement. That doesn't stop excessive communication about scores and "winning" -- whatever, excessive competitions nowadays, also.
It isn't a great atmosphere at times. Some kids are fully prepped in advance for AP courses, a costly plan that I find unethical (when not disclosed to high school and prospective universities) but which certainly helps a student earn a higher grade, when the differences are teeny tiny but do give that slight edge.
Sorry for the rant, but what I felt was the most negative development in recent years was the me-me-me competitive attitude here compared to in years past and the excessive communication/bragging. A return to manners and reasonable modesty would greatly help, which is why I have advocated numerous times for high school administration to lead with an atmosphere of what I would describe as: inclusive, pleasant, oriented to high achievement, WHILE mphasizing that one should do one's own work (no plagiarism like the PALY grad student speaker 2008, which was uncovered by a Mountain View student) and ETHICS. DO the right thing is more important than cheating.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 13, 2011 at 8:48 am
While reading the two posts from Gunn Student and Grad resident from Meadow Park, I am deeply saddened.
Both of these posts show exactly what is a predominate culture which is growing in our high schools. The first shows a student who is bright and working hard, doing well but in Palo Alto terms is just average. This student is made to feel it by peers and probably teachers also even if the teacher doesn't realise it. The second shows exactly why the first feels like a failure.
Since the first post was in the middle of the night it shows that there must be a lack of being able to sleep and rest and in the middle of the night a desire to just let it all out. I hope it helped and that you were able to sleep. I also hope that things feel better today. If it helps to let it all out here, then please do so. But, do find someone to talk to and get some encouragement from. I want to encourage you and tell you that you are doing fine and have nothing to be ashamed about.
To the second post, I hope you realise that what you said was exactly the type of response we don't want to see from high achieving students. It is people like you that cause those who are doing their best to feel like failures and who knows what they might do as a result. Please grow up and think how hurtful your words are to someone who feels depressed.
Posted by Let's be honest, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 9:20 am
To curious... the answer to your question is "no".
The late start and block schedule changes at PALY had their seeds in the original SOS/Challenge Success team years prior to last year's principal. This effort was led and championed by Susan Shultz, and years of different student, teacher and parent volunteers.
The success of making this change is due (IMHO) to the leadership of Miss Shultz, her genuine love for students and her undeniable dedication to student well-being. But there are many teachers and staff at Paly who feel the same way. This change took everyone - but especially teachers and staff working together - to get organized, communicate, debate, plan and finally decide to make this happen.
McEvoy may have been Paly's principal at the time - but the true leadership was in the Guidance department and in the willing hearts of the rank and file. The credit goes to them (IMHO)- for being open to new ideas, for struggling with the genuine issues of making such a change, and ultimately making it happen.
Refreshing! Awesome! Inspiring! Thank you Paly teachers!
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 9:48 am
I'm with Lets be Honest - the Paly guidance department, in particular Susan Shultz, is an awesome resource for the Paly kids. She truly cares for her students and puts their needs first! We appreciate her dedication.
Posted by amom, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 10:23 am
Once upon a time, there is this clever hunter,he wanted to hunt tigers in a mountain, one day he saw two tigers fighting, so he waited and waited til they were all hurt, now he came out, got what he wanted without any effort.
Posted by Mac Clayton, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 11:49 am
What's this "North and South will never be united" business? I didn't know they were divided. I left the south a long time ago to get away from that kind of thinking. No offense intended, but we are better than that.
The issue of teen stress is important to us all, as the number of posts shows. They are our children. They need the loving support of us all, regardless of our address.
Posted by Hmmmmm, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm
"but all the while - during the long years of fighting, and the eventual exhaustion that followed, their cubs had been left to fend for themselves - competing with each other for food and forever hungry, searching for they-never-knew-quite-what. Their exhausted parents, so tired of fighting, had no energy left to improve conditions for their cubs. For better or worse, everything stayed the same. Many cubs grew up to be excellent (but ultimately exhausted) fighters,too - being faithful observers of their parents. Some questioned themselves and lost what strength they were born with, thinking themselves failures for their inability or disinterest in the fight. But others questioned the constant fighting, set out on their own and were refreshed by what they learned from tigers of other "streaks". They returned to their homeland with what they learned, eager to share it with their streak. They were questioned, and ridiculed for their new ideas - but instead of fighting, they practiced what they'd learned and remained patient and strong, never losing sight of their cubs. Hungry no more, their strength prevailed over the exhausted fighters and they and the next generation of cubs lived happily ever after."
Posted by Hmmmm, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm
amom... save us the suspense... just "who" is the Hunter in this parable of yours?
Who is the one lying in wait for the tigers to fight it out, leaving the mewing, defenseless cubs for the scooping up?
I share a concern for the constant fighting, for its effect on our children and the wisdom not to take our eyes off our prize (which is our children's health). But I do not share such a bleak parable of the future - or the presence of an evil "Hunter" out there. Unless the Hunter represents hopelessness.
Other readers, I shouldn't have taken the bait, but I couldn't resist. Sorry. End of story.
Let's get together Palo Alto. We have so much to be thankful for...and there's good work to be done!
Posted by Jeff, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm
This calendar -- without a clear plan for implementation and resolution of a number of issues clearly raised -- is another example of the extremes reached by the PA mentality of accommodation. Why think it through and do something really smart from the start, when you can spend ten years frustrating and inconveniencing a lot of people and retarding the process? This calendar could work, perhaps to great advantage in solving the problems it tries to address, but it will stupidly victimize a lot of families, students and staff if it is allowed to go ahead without real research and rigorous planning. You should not enact policy based on a nice idea; you should approve a definite plan that addresses all of the tradeoffs. This applies to the school calendar or traffic or development. Oh, what? I don't appreciate the PA process? No, I do not!
Posted by Name is Irrelevant, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm
I see the point that Klausner may have made her decision based on a small portion of the school district, namely Gunn High School. However, PEOPLE CHILL OUT. IT'S JUST ONE OR TWO WEEKS OF DIFFERENCE. The world's not ending, no one's dying. Just take a deep breath and accept the new calendar and move on.
Posted by GHSStudent, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 14, 2011 at 12:04 am
Look, as a current student, damn near everyone I talk to, parent, student or staff would like finals before the break. There will always be that one teacher who decides their class is more important than break, but that's only one teacher. Maybe if Paly had done a study of their own, we wouldn't have this sh!tstorm over their lack of representation. If they really cared, they would voice it anyway. My bet says they would agree with us anyway, and vote to finish finals before winter break. And the question isn't who the Hunter is, but which tigers are luring the rest into his traps.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 14, 2011 at 10:04 am
Gunn Student (who posted at 1.32 am on Fri 13th)
If you are still reading this and still feeling as bad, if you want someone to talk with, who will listen (I can't do more than listen, but I promise to listen) post here to Paly Parent. I can meet you in a Starbucks one day after school. I really understand what you are saying, and I have been unable to stop thinking about you.
If there is someone else you can talk with who understands, go to them. Please don't run yourself down, you have and continue to do great things. Just look around and find the help and support you need to get through this short time in your life. Your future sounds wonderful to me.
Posted by GiveMeABreak, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on May 15, 2011 at 8:03 am
All you people, including the writer of the article, lamenting "hot classrooms in August" must be newcomers to the area. August here is NOT hot. September is by far the hottest month in Palo Alto.
And who cares about vacations with your families "around the world." Talk about the tail wagging the dog!
Finally, I'm astounded that in the city of a world-reknowned research institution, so little research went into this discussion. Erm ... people ... what do OTHER high schools around the nation do? Is Palo Alto so special that you don't even care to find out what others do?
Posted by parent, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 15, 2011 at 6:31 pm
Gunn student understands the game. It matters not a whit about calendars and parents trying to lessen stress. All colleges will only take a certain percentage of their admitted freshmen from a single school. Move to Palo Alto for elementary schools, put your children in private schools for middle schools, and move to less well off districts when they are in high schools so a 3.9 GPA truly stands out instead of being simply average.
Posted by parent, a resident of another community, on May 16, 2011 at 1:29 am
I think the majority of the schools in the US start school after Labor Day... probably the case in Europe, too, where a lot of families will not be able to see their relatives with the calendar shift. Perhaps it's a good thing to finally have an excuse not to visit the in-laws.
Posted by Student, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 25, 2011 at 7:12 pm
I will be starting my freshman year at gunn high school in august, and I know for a fact that it will not be appreciated by my classmates to lose a couple weeks of summer. Even though it will move finals week, it just encourages us to remember everything we learned over winter break. My family was going to go to celebrate my grandfather's 85th birthday, but now we can't.