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Editorial: High school counseling reforms inch forward

Original post made on Mar 22, 2013

For those who don't have kids in the schools or don't carefully follow the nuances of school policy and governance, it must seem surreal that the subject of high school counseling is still an unresolved and controversial topic in this community.


Read the full editorial here Web Link posted Friday, March 22, 2013, 8:54 AM

Comments (46)

Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:25 am

Obviously, progress is being made and Palo Alto Online continues to publish it's HIT pieces. Who wrote this "article" - what are you afraid of?


Posted by board watcher, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:34 am

It looks like the Weekly and WCDB have just given up on getting equal treatment for Gunn and are just accepting this 3 year "inching forward' timeline as "about the best we can hope for." That's very disappointing. The board focused goal was for comparable services by the end of 2013-14. Now Kevin Skelly says he doesn't know what "comparable" means, and Mike Milliken says he just "decided" to "take it off the table." These are the same guys who also don't know what "civil rights" means or what "transparency" is. As the editorial says, this is "upside down" as is the board's relationship to Dr. Skelly et al. But then the editorial kind of throws up its hands and says "best we can hope for." That's a lame conclusion, editorial writer. Here's a substitute last paragraph:

"The board has reached the end of the line with Dr. Skelly's intransigence on Gunn counseling. After three years, seven board meetings, a faculty committee, a district-led multi-stakeholder process, two surveys, three consultants, more than a dozen focus groups, and two reports we aren't any closer to comparable services between Paly and Gunn. Meanwhile Gunn students continue to graduate having received lower quality services than the district offers just across town. The board has tried asking nicely, cajoling, praising, encouraging, and begging in private. None of that has worked. The board has to call Dr. Skelly's bluff and if that means replacing him, so be it."

That's the way you should have written it. Not "oh, well. Best we can hope for."


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:55 am

> Meanwhile Gunn students continue to graduate
> having received lower quality services than the
> district offers just across town.

And yet, Gunn students post higher scores on standardized tests. Gunn generally is ranked within the top thirty high schools in the US. Paly is ranked at 100-150.

So—just how important is Paly-style student counseling to high academic achievement.

How many Gunn students are denied access to college because of deficiencies in their counseling?

How many Gunn students fail to graduate from college—because of their not having a Paly-style guidance program available to them in high school?

How many Gunn students end up being homeless in later life because of not having access to guidance counselors that meet the WCDB expectation?

Anyone know the answers to these questions?


Posted by board watcher, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 22, 2013 at 10:15 am

"Wondering" is wondering"How many Gunn students end up being homeless in later life because of not having access to guidance counselors" because that is apparently now the test of whether or not the district should provide equivalently good services. Or maybe it's Stanford admissions -- lucky for Gunn that faculty kids, with their admission preference, live in the Gunn attendance area. Born on third, thought they hit a triple again.

Unless the Weekly thinks that the benefits delivered by Dr. Skelly, Milliken, and Young somehow outweigh dishonesty, incompetence, federal civil rights investigations, cover-ups, intrasigence, ruined community relationships, and not knowing the definition of "comparable" 2 years after you suggested it (reminiscent of Kevin also not knowing the definition of "connectedness" at St. Mark's -- a definite pattern!) -- then why isn't the Weekly telling us that this is the "best we can hope for" instead of "show him the door"?

What is the calculus here? As Wynn Hausser said a few weeks ago when the OCR story broke, if any normal manager was to disobey direct instructions from his superior on a regular basis like this he'd be gone. Weekly, enlighten us as to why this "is just the best we can hope for" in the richest district in the state?


Posted by prospective Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

It's time for the Board to stop accepting intransigence and inaction from top district officials and a principal. These officials should be meeting clear performance metrics or their should be consequences to their positions.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2013 at 10:53 am

@Alphonso:

>> Obviously, progress is being made and Palo Alto Online continues to publish it's HIT pieces. Who wrote this "article" - what are you afraid of?

Hogwash!


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2013 at 10:58 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2013 at 11:27 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Stranger than fiction, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Funny thing is, all these Chinese immigrants want to be in the Paly district. We have told many of them that Gunn scores are far better and have been for quite a while, but they say, no, no everyone in China knows Paly, never heard of Gunn. Sad, but true, go figure.


Posted by Slowly Skelly, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I cannot believe that this month they had very close calls (suicide attempts) at Gunn Campus, and Skelly, board members and Villalobos still taking their sweet time to improve the broken Gunn counseling. Skelly and his officers work at the speed of a snail. May be they forgot that we still in crisis. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Slowly Skelly, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2013 at 4:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by you're kidding me, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Wait, we have a Superintendent, an Assistant Superintendent, and an Associate Superintendent? More than one Associate Superintendent? Anymore blankety-blank Superintendents around making more than the governor of the state of California each? And we can't afford more counselors or a full-time nurse at any of the elementaries or middle schools?

While we're on the subject of revisiting procedures, do we have any mechanism at all for streamlining and improving the very expensive administration of this district? (Aside from the board, we all know how that works out.)


Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm

I am a recent Paly grad (now in college) and do not believe that the TA system at Paly is superior to the traditional college counselor system employed by Gunn and most high schools. Most of my friends would agree with this assessment. I posted a similar comment last week.

The quality of TAs varies tremendously and most TAs, with the exception of two or three, were poorly trained and had little understanding about the college admissions process. TAs didn't get to know their students well since TA sessions are infrequent and simply involve TAs reading off a couple announcements. Very few TAs are actually familiar with the demands of the college admission process — we received little advice about teacher letters of recs and how to approach the common app essays — and most do not understand the importance of letters of recommendation: one page of boilerplate with one or two anecdotes is no going to cut it when students at other schools are receiving 2 page, personal letters.

When Gunn has far more students getting into top schools than Paly (even though the two have nearly identical average test scores), I find it difficult to believe that the TA system is working. In fact, the year I was applying to college Paly's SAT scores were better than Gunn's and our top students were just as or even better qualified. But only a handful got into Stanford (as opposed to 25+). At Harvard, we had one admit versus over 10 at Gunn. 3 or 4 at Princeton versus nearly 20. The same applied to almost any other top school. And any good student at Gunn or Paly would tell you that Gunn students were not any better.

What's most unfair about the TA system is the inconsistency. Even with training this is not going to change. Some TAs are lazier than others, some are not as good recommenders, etc. Almost everyone who got into at top college my year had the same TA. She was a much better recommender than the others, even called schools of students behalf, talk to teachers who were writing recommendations for her students, edit student essays, and had done private counseling. Meanwhile, other TAs provided boilerplate letters of rec and little to no assistance.

If anything, traditional college counselors, if trained properly, are superior to TAs. There is more consistency since they all work together and they understand the system (if properly trained). It's also their job to provide good counseling. (There is less accountability with TAs.)

The college admissions system is getting increasingly competitive and it is a shame that students at Paly with 2300 SATs are getting denied admission to Berkeley, UCLA, and even UCSD. Ideally, we would not have a TA system, but 12-16 guidance counselors that students can meet individually with weekly or bimonthly. These counselors would be professionally trained, would work with professional college consultants to better understand the workings of admissions offices, and would promote Paly and Gunn's excellence to colleges as well as its relative difficulty. (This is what private and magnet schools do. Most colleges do not realize that grading at Paly is much more difficult than at other schools.) They would edit students' personal statements and work to make sure they complete their applications correctly. In other words, they would provide the services that external paid college consultants usually provide. BUT they would provide them to all students, so that not only those whose parents can afford or agree to professional consulting are at an advantage.


Posted by Gunn grad, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 22, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Hi Paly grad, I too am a recent high school grad away at college but avidly following the issue of counseling at my old high school. Like you probably I'm headed out to a party soon but thought I would post to old PA Online first.

A lot of my friends are attending Stanford, and they get to see their folks a lot because they are on the faculty. I didn't see much of my counselor, but Mom and Dad paid for help for me. Wow, you really want a lot of counselors! Sounds like real empire!


Posted by Paly parent, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Paly Grad
Many so-called "professional" independent college counselors do not have experience working in admissions nor a school counseling office; they helped their own kids through the application process and decided to go into business because of the (sometimes needless) demand. While many might have attended Cal, UCLA or UCSD certificate programs in college counseling, that doesn't mean they have experience or expertise--nor relationships with colleges. Unfortunately, several cite incorrect facts and give bad advice--and get paid a lot for it. Please do not assume independents would be better than professional, certificated teachers and counselors--especially since the goal of a Guidance department includes much more than college counseling. One of the main reasons many want TAs at Gunn is about student-adult contacts, not college letters.
And, at Paly there are college advisors who provide expertise on the college admissions process (they have been trained by deans of elite colleges and continue professional development as well as visit colleges) who interact directly with college admissions, provide tools and suggestions for colleges exploration, will review college lists, and discuss and review college essays, and offer lots of workshops for students. Sounds like you did not take advantage of this service.


Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2013 at 11:50 pm

@Paly parent: Many professional, independent college counselors may not have experience working in admissions, but most in the area do. Take a look at most of the professional college consultants in Palo Alto and Menlo Park and you'll find many former Stanford associate admission deans. Yes, their assistants may not have admissions experience, but the actual consultants do.

At Paly, it was no secret that many, if not most, of the top students had private college counselors. Almost all of these consultants had worked for years in top admissions offices and cost anywhere from $4,000 to $12K+. Almost every person who got into Harvard, Yale, Princeton my year had a professional college consultant. I'm not saying that these private consultants still have relationships with colleges, but they do have tremendous expertise in helping students with personal statements and the application process that the guidance counselors at Paly simply didn't have.

Yes, there are guidance counselors at Paly, but because we have the TA system, we only had two guidance counselors. Meeting with them was difficult and interactions very rushed. They also had little advice about the actual application and did not look over applications (as do private counselors and guidance counselors at some private schools). While they met with college admissions representatives and visited colleges, so do guidance counselors at any HS. What they did not do was explain to colleges how much more difficult grading at Paly is than at others schools in the Bay Area or the state.

Perhaps the TA system at Gunn will be better, but as I explained there was little to no student-adult contact in the Paly TA system. We met every other week. The TA passed out hand outs, collected hand outs, made announcements. That was it. We had no one-on-one meetings, never went over our applications, and never discussed possible colleges.

I agree that student-adult contact is extremely important. That's why I strongly believe there should be no TAs, but 10-16 guidance counselors. Each counselor should have 25-30 students and meet eventually with them individually for an hour every other week. They would review college lists, discuss and review college essays (as you suggested they do and I believe they should). The difference is that with 10-16 counselors they could actually do this, as opposed to the two overwhelmed counselors we have.


Posted by Paly Parent 2, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 23, 2013 at 8:02 am

"Paly Grad" sounds more like a Gunn teacher. He/she doesn't seem to have the facts straight about Paly, which is kind of a giveaway. For one thing Paly has 4 guidance counselors not 2. They have a college counselor for each class who loops with that class. Paly also has 2 college counselors.

Paly grad writes that "Meeting with them was difficult and interactions very rushed. They also had little advice about the actual application and did not look over applications (as do private counselors and guidance counselors at some private schools). While they met with college admissions representatives and visited colleges, so do guidance counselors at any HS"

This is super interesting since the guidance counselors at Paly don't even do college counseling at all, they do social emotional counseling.

Finally, I read over the GAC report and low and behold, the 10-16 counselor plan that "Paly Grad" proposes is the same plan that the Gunn counselors proposed. I wonder what 10-16 counselors would cost? Oh, over a million dollars a year more than what Paly spends. And how will they try to drum up support for that? By fearmongering among Gunn parents that their kids won't get into good colleges like those dupes and dopes across town who just have to go to Foothill instead of Princeton because TA is so terrible.

Get real. It's over. Paly has a good system and we are not hiring 16 counselors at Gunn so that we don't have to make the switch.


Posted by Also Gunn Grad, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

I graduated in 2011 and I saw my counselor 4 times during all of high school. Gunn counseling sucks. Anyone who says it doesn't is either a total kiss-up or a liar. No Gunn student thinks anything about it. Those counselors have no idea who you are or what you want. They just tell you to go to Chico even if you could go o a UC. My friend was so upset after her meeting with a counselor she cried for days. Her counselor [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] spend 3 minutes with her and told her to go to Chico and then her parents got a private counselor and she went to Davis. Are you kidding? Srsly. I know a hundred stories like that. They are useless. If you want to improve Gunn counseling you should start over with people who care for a start. The reason for all those Stanford admits is faculty parents plain and simple. That's obvious. The rest is BS. Any real Gunn student will tell you counseling is a joke that's the fact.


Posted by District insider, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by wonderfulworld, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

why weekly is running the school these days???


Posted by Paly parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2013 at 11:17 am

Paly Parent 2 -

Depending on when "Paly Grad" graduated, many statements were true. Having 4 guidance counselors is recent, as I believe is 2 full time (vs one full, one part time) college counselor. Paly has chosen to devote a significant amount of money to the Guidance program as a whole. Gunn (I believe) spends more money on keeping English classes small because they have a large ESL population.

What "Paly grad" said about the TA system is still true. Most TA's do little more than hand out forms. My daughter graduated in 2010 (I have a current Paly student also). Her TA never met with her one on one over the 3 years she had him. He actually forget that he was her TA during an unrelated meeting her senior year. He never discussed what classes she should take, whether she was on track for A-G or even if she was on track for graduation. (Mom and Dad took care of that).

Paly's 4 guidance counselors (one for each grade) are there for social/emotional issues. The handle IEP's and 504's and are actually quite available to the students and very helpful. The guidance staff at Paly is terrific.

The 2 college counselors are very well informed, one works with the juniors "loops" with them, the other with the seniors (also a newer thing).

Most TA's are more of homeroom teachers, there to pass out forms, get them enrolled in classes, etc.


Posted by weekly reader, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm

So it looks like Paly has 6 counselors and a bunch of homeroom-TA teachers. Gunn has 7 counselors. Why doesn't Gunn get 10 counselors and keep the small English classes? That would put the ratio at 1:190 about the same as teachers have (1:150) without the teaching load. What is the point of changing systems? It kind of looks like Paly counseling is quietly going over to the Gunn model by hiring more counselors. The TA's don't really seem to serve much function. Also, why is Gunn catering to ESL when the money should go to all of the students for social/emotional support?


Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm

@ Paly parent. My apologies. I meant 2 college counselors instead of 2 guidance counselors. I honestly didn't know there was a difference, since none of my friends or me ever met with any of the guidance counselors. I'm sure the guidance counselors do great work, but they don't really help out with college counselors. Again, sorry for confusing the two.

We did meet with the two college counselors, but again, meeting with them was difficult, infrequent, and often unhelpful, since they simply had too many students to keep track of. And what Gunn Grad says is true. Students who could definitely get into UCs were told to apply to Chico and community colleges. I ask my counselor to go over my personal statement, but she just looked at it and said it looked fine. No feedback, no suggestions on what to improve. The college counseling system is not good as it is, but if staff is increased and the counselors trained effectively it will be much more consistent and effective than the TA system.

I still don't get what the point of the TA system. You meet with a teacher here and there, get hand outs. They barely know who you are, do not go over your essays, or help you with your college list. (One TA did which was unfair to students who had other TAs. Again, she was a private counselor on the side with a very good track record, which made it especially unfair.) Why not have the adult-student relationship with a college counselor who you meet with one-on-one for two years, who looks over your essays, helps you finalize your colleges, is actually knowledgeable about the process, and provides you a level of service that is consistent with what other counselors are providing?


Posted by Vicky Erikson, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 23, 2013 at 3:33 pm

One thing I have found in my tenure as a Paly parent is that things are never static. My youngest child is reaping the benefits of continued improvements that staff and parents have worked hard to implement. Block scheduling, later start, tutorial, link crew additional counseling staff and an increased role for TA's are just some of the improvements implemented since my oldest child attended Paly. Some of these improvements were borrowed from Gunn. Paly administrators told the board they are closely reviewing the Gunn GAC report to see if some of the recommendations might be a fit for Paly.

Last year Paly added an additional counselor so that there is now one counselor assigned to each grade. That counselor follows our students throughout their time at Paly. Each year the counselors only need to focus on one grade level and the challenges that are particular to that grade. The Paly guidance staff is also implementing structural changes that do not cost money like adding one on one appointments with TA's. This was a response to the recommendations that came out of the student guidance surveys last year. According to my child she is required to meet privately with her TA at least once each year. I also like that TA's are working directly with the guidance staff to identify students who may need additional support in areas of academic or social emotional needs. Often students who are most in need of help are the least likely to seek help.

The Paly system is by no means perfect but the TA's add an extra set of eyes that I find valuable in a large high school population. I think the TA services go far beyond the homeroom teachers I had, but if that was all they were providing that would still add value. As a parent I also appreciate that my child's TA is available to answer my questions or refer me to the staff member who can answer my question. I get better service and this frees up valuable time for the guidance counselors.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm

@weekly reader
I think the question of eliminating small English classes came up because. As Paly used additional dollars towrds guidancee improvements Gunn was funding smaller English classes. The board has made it clear that they will increase funding to improve guidance. With a focus goal on improving A-G I assume the board will want the small English classes to continue to support the ESL students. In the big pictue funding for Titan coaches is not a big number.


Posted by Paly Parent 2, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 23, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Paly Grad, if the college counselors were so bad and so poorly trained then why would you want to hire 16 of them? How will hiring 16 more make them better trained or have them explain to colleges that Paly has harsher grading than other schools? Why should PAUSD have harsher grading anyway? That sounds like a separate issue of fake "rigor" that is hurting our students. How will hiring 16 counselors at the cost of over a million dollars per year including benefits solve the problems you identify and how will it create more relationships with more adults for students?


Posted by Just Drop It, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm

@wonderfulworld:
> why weekly is running the school these days???

Well no one else is. Skelly is running it into the ground. And the Board is fiddling watching him do it. So someone needs to step into the vacuum. Why not the Weekly?


Posted by song and dance, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 23, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I watched the board meeting, and this is what I learned:

There are 2 types of counseling

1. College & Career counseling:

2. Guidance counseling:

VERY different counseling functions- like worlds apart, but when people talk about counseling, they mix it up all the time.

Just to point out how different experiences can be...The young lady student on GAC, a transfer student gushed about how fantastic her counseling experience has been at Gunn. She mentioned she's been at Gunn 8 months. A Junior. Of course her experience has been wonderful. For starters, she was not here for 9th and 10th grade, and she is practically an adult right now. She likely receives Junior level college counseling.

That is SO different than our regular warriors of PAUSD - surviving middle school homework, entering HS with thousands of students as a relatively young adults. All this "growing up" is going on, and not everyone is perfect. 9th and 10th graders obviously don't need to have Junior level college and career counseling, but there's the planning ahead and explaining how things work in HS.

So, the reality is that whenever people point out their "personal counseling experience", they should first clarify, is it College counseling or Guidance counseling? What grade level, what specific needs?

And then, people need to think about the fact that needs will vary - there are students who make mistakes, who may struggle emotionally or academically, or socially. Maybe they have a parent who is ill, or they have lost a family member, or parents are divorcing. Or maybe they are discouraged because they are not as good as they would like to be. Or maybe they have financial pressures at home. I know, you want to say, suck it up! But the whole point about counseling is to support students who need the support.

The student on the BOE suggested students to drop in on the counselors. Is this a College and Career counselor or a Guidance counselor? For college counseling, good suggestion. Skelly was nodding his head at this, again confusing the two types of counseling.

Very young adults are not as organized to put it on their agenda to seek help. They sometimes don't even know they are hurting, or that they need help. Sometimes they may be so stressed they are not thinking straight.

The BOE asked for metrics, PLEASE always distinguish the different types of counseling. Both types of counseling are important, and they are intertwined, but you cannot measure all counseling based on the colleges kids are getting into. Or create a system, which is measured by the wrong metrics.




Posted by song and dance, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 23, 2013 at 10:14 pm



In my previous post, I assumed the definition of Guidance Counseling as focused on broader needs than college and career counseling. While it also involves school, obviously, It's about more than that.


Posted by song and dance, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm


one last clarification to my post,

Very young adults are not as organized to put it on their agenda to seek help (from a GUIDANCE counselor). They sometimes don't even know they are hurting, or that they need help. Sometimes they may be so stressed they are not thinking straight.

They may actually go to a college counselor, and not know they should be going to a guidance counselor.




Posted by Paly Parent 2, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 24, 2013 at 10:15 am

This just in, mercury news calls for Skelly's termination citing dishonesty and "memory problems." Are we there yet?

Web Link


Posted by song , a resident of Community Center
on Mar 24, 2013 at 10:43 am

Paly Parent 2

Mercury news article you posted

"Was the superintendent's job at risk? Nope. At a February meeting board members were as cordial and deferential as ever while Skelly, his administrators and lawyer explained away the incidents.
Instead of taking Skelly to task, the board will spend $150,000 to hire a "communications specialist."

At the recent BOE meeting, Skelly or someone called improving counseling a journey? That sounds painful, a "journey" with Skelly and this board. That's one of their many problems, everything is a journey. Is it really that complicated?

PAUSD Superintendent and the district have not identified any problems on their own - they are so busy self-congratulating. Counseling reform, zero action until a community group demanded change; now a harassment and a bullying policy only after there is an OCR violation, nothing on the achievement gap until it was a public issue.

The board is irresponsible and reckless to make taxpayers pay for incompetence from a key leadership position. Skelly's communication mishaps waste valuable time, and spill over to staff. Nobody talks straight anymore. Nobody.




Posted by Dog and Pony Act, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Why aren't the two high schools given equal treatment? Why does seemingly every school in the district have a separate set of rules? This isn't San Jose Unified with its "magnet school" that have been such a failure. Every kid at every school should have comparable programs and equal access to counselors. How did the district get so disorganized? I have lived in five states and three different countries and I have never, ever seen a school district where schools are treated so unequally.

Never, to my knowledge has there been such an ineffectual tail-dragged as Kevin Skelly. He should resign before he is fired, while he still has a slim chance of finding employment elsewhere. He is certainly too out of touch and dishonest (and withholding) for his current employment.


Posted by Samegrade, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm

It's like the Paly system has a C- and Gunns counseling system has a D-, and people are like: why can't Gunn be more like Paly. It's obvious Gunn's system needs to change, but the answer based on the responses in the survey isn't necessarily to be like Palys


Posted by Paly Parent 2, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 24, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Paly gets more like a B+ than a C-. Paly's system is great and improving. It has a good enough baseline to iterate on for improvement. Gunn's system is broken and dysfunctional. The fact that they Gunn staff believes it can only be made comparable by hiring 10 more counselors should alert you to the fact that we have to start over.

Right now the PAUSD has a crisis of leadership. The editorial for this thread calls it a "leadership vacuum." The Weekly calls it 'surreal," "astonishing," and points to a "disconnect" between board policy and staff action. Today's Mercury News calls Skelly dishonest and all but accuses him of a cover-up of the multiple federal civil rights investigations and findings. How long is the school board going to allow Skelly's lack of leadership, dishonesty, "surreal" performance, and 'disconnect" from the board to tarnish the PAUSD reputation for excellence. He's a regional story and the board appear pathetic and exposed as not being in control. The whole thing is starting to push the envelope on acceptable.

Please board, take control before there are more scandals, lawsuits, and more embarrassment. Our whole community is suffering because you are unable to pull the trigger. Is this, as the Weekly says, "the best we can hope for?"


Posted by Going Rogue, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 24, 2013 at 5:29 pm

During the election (when Skelly was hiding the OCR cases from Dauber incidentally) there was a question at the Terman forum : has the Supe gone rogue? Melissa and Camille praised him, Heidi didn't answer. Dauber talked about the need for transparency and accountability. Prescient. Now we know that it was worse than we even dreamed. Camille Townsend and Heidi Emberling are just going to send PAUSD down the tubes with Skelly. Sad.


Posted by No apologies needed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2013 at 7:27 pm

The board had a chance to send Skelly out before March 15. For some reason, they didn't do it. It is likely that he convinced them that this was all the Weekly's fault, the Daubers' fault, WCDBPA's fault, everyone but the board, which is in charge of Skelly. Every single day that goes by is a testament to the board's ineffectiveness. They will now go down as one of least-talented groups ever. If any of them are thinking of future political office, don't even think about it. As for Skelly, he has made laughingstocks of the entire city. Everything is a PR ploy to him: biking around in his watermelon helmet, driving an economy car on his $750 a month car allowance, or holding a candle for the student who his system let down. I don't know how else to describe this but as a sick joke.


Posted by song , a resident of Community Center
on Mar 24, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Paly parent 2

"Paly gets more like a B+ than a C-. Paly's system is great and improving. It has a good enough baseline to iterate on for improvement. Gunn's system is broken and dysfunctional."

And if they could keep the metrics straight, differentiating between Guidance and College counseling, it could actually all work out fine for Gunn without having to clone the Paly system.

I really liked the Sophomore program that was brought up with GAC. For any counseling, it must all be grade and age appropriate. The "grid" that was brought up should have columns for each grade level, with sub-categories for transfer students, special needs students, and all the lines with all the services distinguish for whether it's a college counseling service or a guidance service.

Clumping all grade levels and all types of counseling together just causes non-stop debate.

I'm sure Paly will have holes to fill in the grid, but I completely agree that what Paly has is a very thoughtful structure to deliver.



Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:00 am

Will the current situation inspire additional people to run for the School Board? I certainly hope so.


Posted by Former Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:57 am

If you want to assign blame for the total school autonomy look to the board. Camille Townsend loves the fact that schools can do their own thing and teachers can express their creativity by using different field trips, different text books (as long as they cover the state standards) in the same grade at the same school. It is an attitude that is pervasive in the district and is supported by much of the board. For Skelly to overcome this, he needs support from the board--and there is none--that is one of the reasons Barbara Klausner did not seek re-election.

There is no board or district leadership to standardize things--like training and procedures on bullying. Each school site has to come up with its own approach to educate kids about bullying. Do you know how wasteful that is???? But again, Principals are allowed to do as they please and be "different" because the environment of every school is unique--give me a break!

Paly may have a better system to help kids get connected, but there are gaps and it does cost >$100K to run it (teachers have to have 1 period free for the TA work)--but not saying the extra $$ are not worth it.

Parents cannot pick the school that their child goes to--maybe that should be changed. If you feel Paly is a better fit, go there, and vice versa. But that would create chaos. So it is time to standardize things--bell schedules, services available (counseling), and resources available (theater, music, athletics). Make it equal.


Posted by Paly Parent 2, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Someone should do a petition to change leadership. All these scandals just don't make sense for a district as prominent as ours.


Posted by Midtown parent, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:49 pm

This site control idea is a real sign that the bureaucrats are running the show and giving the middle finger to the school board members. When the employees start ignoring the boss you have a real problem.


Posted by T Tierney, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm

It would be so nice if this awful situation were to inspire others to run for the school board, but Palo Alto has a lot of dirty secrets. One of them is an email smear campaign that trashes candidates who are interested in reform. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staf.] Palo Alto voters chose — and now deserve — the amateurish board they wanted.


Posted by bs, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Paly Parent 2, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:28 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@editor - would it make sense to list this thread, and editorial also under schools&kids, Town Square?


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