Skelly nudges Stanford for facilities help

WIth middle-school headcount growing, district aims for land near Terman

Palo Alto school Superintendent Kevin Skelly is making a pitch for Stanford University to help in facilitating classroom space for Palo Alto's growing middle-school population.

In Skelly's ideal scenario, Terman Middle School would expand to the adjacent 1.67-acre property currently occupied by the private Bowman International School on Arastradero Road, and Stanford would provide an alternative site in the Stanford Research Park that Bowman could move to.

Stanford so far has rejected the idea, saying it wants to support the district but does not want to provide land as part of that support.

But with Palo Alto's middle-school enrollment expected to bump in the next three to four years and then dampen, expanding Terman – now considerably smaller than Jordan or JLS – is a "vastly superior solution" to other options, including building a whole new middle school at the 35-acre Cubberley Community Center site, Skelly said.

Skelly and the K-8 Bowman International School -- which wants to expand to a 4.5-acre site -- have been discussing a possible deal for the past year. But Bowman so far has come up short on finding a suitable expansion venue.

In school board study session on enrollment growth and facilities planning Monday, board members told Skelly to continue to pursue "mutually beneficial options" with Bowman but also to consider other middle-school options "with a sense of urgency."

Several said that despite murky growth projections, a fourth middle school, somewhere on the Stanford campus or elsewhere, may be needed soon. Currently enrollment at Terman is 717, compared to 1,025 at Jordan and 1,015 at JLS.

The district considers 1,100 to be the maximum desirable headcount for a middle school. This year's district-wide middle-school enrollment is higher by 48 students than last year's.

In pitching for Stanford's help, Skelly cited the university's plans to develop 180 faculty-staff housing units off upper California Avenue in the former Facebook location. Stanford also is developing 70 "affordable" apartment units on El Camino Real between California Avenue and Page Mill Road, but those units will not be restricted to Stanford-affiliated tenants.

Stanford currently generates 681 K-12 students in the Palo Alto school district, up from 603 in 2009-10.

The university and the school district have a long history of cooperation, with five local public schools on land once owned by Stanford. They are Palo Alto High School, Gunn High School, Escondido and Nixon elementary schools as well as Oak Knoll School in Menlo Park.

In other business Monday, board members reviewed demographers' data projecting little or no elementary enrollment growth in the near term even as the district is making plans to open a new elementary school.

But members said the demographers' projections failed to take into account new housing that -- while not yet in the development pipeline -- is likely to occur.

Board member Barb Mitchell noted that the City of Palo Alto, under heavy pressure from state and regional planning officials to add housing to address the city's jobs-housing imbalance, is conservatively projecting 3,000 additional housing units being built in the city between now and 2030.

District demographers are only projecting 500 new housing units, albeit for a shorter time horizon, she said.

"I don't think we should ignore (the city projections), especially when the demographers admit they don't look at data unless it's in our pipeline," she said.

Board members agreed to look more closely at new-school possibilities in another study session in January, at which Skelly said he would provide a range of options. The board has said it plans to make a final decision by June on location and programming -- traditional or specialized, such as Spanish immersion -- for a 13th elementary school.

Chris Kenrick


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Why doesn't PAUSD give Bowman a long term lease and they move to Cubberley? Then Terman can expand to the Bowman site? Cubberley is a dramatically underused facility at this point.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm

This is really good news--even if it turns out that Stanford stiffs the PAUSD's request for help. With per-student spending pushing higher every year, it would be even better if the PAUSD started asking for financial help, too. The so-called Stanford/Terman Agreement, signed before Terman was reopened, saw the PAUSD agreeing not to ever ask Stanford for any more financial help beyond the $10M it received at that time!

Additionally, Stanford, at one point, suggested that it might, over time, be adding more children to the PAUSD's headcount--increasing the number of students living on Stanford lands to somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400. With per-student spending headed towards $20K/student,that would increase the cost of educating Stanford-based students to $24M to $30M a year.

Stanford is a propery tax exempt entity, so the cost of educating these children falls on the other property owners within the District, since about 70% of the District's funds come from property taxes.

It's way past time for the Board of Education to take a good long look at the funding sources for the District, and recognize that Stanford needs to help with the finances.

> with five local public schools on land once owned
> by Stanford. They are Palo Alto High School

The property where Palo Alto High School is located was obtained via an eminent domain lawsuit sometime in the 1950s. Stanford was not cooperating with the District at that time--requiring legal action to acquire the property. It would be really nice to know how each of the school sites were obtain, the cost of the properties, and if there are any rights that Stanford holds as to the disposition of the properties/buildings, if those schools were ever closed.

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Posted by Stanford prof
a resident of Nixon School
on Dec 9, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Faculty and staff housing at Stanford is subject to property tax, as Wayne Martin knows. So his statement above is not correct, except for student housing.

As to Mr. Skelly's request for help from Stanford, I support it. But I also know that Stanford does not send its student teachers in math and science to PAUSD secondary schools, because the teaching methods in use are so poor as to not be a good model for Stanford teacher training students. Stanford sends its students to neighboring districts instead. Stanford has offered help to improve math teaching in PAUSD, but Mr. Skelly has rejected it.

Now would be a good time for Mr. Skelly to accept all of the help that Stanford has offered.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm

> Faculty and staff housing at Stanford is subject to property tax,

Never said that they weren't. I said that Stanford (itself) is a tax-exempt entity--with a roughly $7.3B exemption this year.

There is no readily available headcount from the PAUSD as to how many chidren live in the Staff/Faculty housing, and how many live in the student area--so this is information that would be helpful to better understand how Stanford might help with financial contributions.

Basic Aid school districts are difficult to explain to many people. In order to make the finances work, all of the property needs to be taxed. Stanford's huge exemption pushes a lot of cost of educating children onto the property owners in the surrounding areas (Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills).

Time for a change, I submit.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Palo Alto: Stanford isn't the source of your growth problems...even with the slight increase in the SU student body (split between undergrads/grads...the majority of whom don't have children in Palo Alto schools).

The source is Palo Alto's growing pains is the growth and prosperity of Silicon Valley industries.

Palo Alto's economic boom will generate more pressure for change to the city. You can't stop it -- the landscape will change one way or another. But, you can plan to accommodate growth in a more orderly fashion.

Palo Alto is a wealthy city that can pay its own way. The constant moaning and proposals to go to the Bank of Stanford are disingenuous.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I would rather them go to the bank of Stanford than the bank of residents through more bonds or parcel taxes.

Really, the developers of these new housing communities should be doing more than they are doing. These developers pay an impact fee to the school district, but they should be doing much more to counteract their impact. Not only are they building, but they are building without providing enough parking for their residents and their visitors. Loma Verde at Bayshore is a parking lot and there is no way for the school children in these homes to get to middle and high schools apart from a long bike ride, or a ride in a car.

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Posted by No bonus for Skelly!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Cost to taxpayers of discrimination, OCR complaints, and noncompliance: $280,000 (two years of FFF fees).
Willingness to soak Stanford for the bill: priceless.

Taxpayers: Did you know that the board is poised to give Kevin Skelly a $10K bonus tomorrow? If you are unhappy about wasting taxpayer funds, rather than try to get money from Stanford, please send an email to the board of education urging a no vote on Skelly's bonus. Email to,,,,

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Posted by parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm

I know this sounds strange, but it seems like it would be cheaper and less disruptive for Palo Alto to build office space somewhere less expensive and move some of those jobs there instead of having to pack in more housing in the most expensive place every...

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Posted by parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm

@ No bonus,
I would have agreed with you in the past, but actually after a greater acquaintanceship with the district, I would give Skelly the bonus and fire Charles Young and a few others to pay for it...

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Posted by No bonus for Skelly!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm

@parent Well Charles Young also got a raise and a bonus, so you can write your email about that. I think his raise/bonus total was 8%. [Portion removed.] BUt more to the point, Skelly didn't inherit these people, he picked them. And even more to the point, Skelly is the one who retained them and gave them raises and bonuses. It goes without saying that Charles Young does not deserve a performance increase or bonus. That's obvious. The man who gave it to him should not receive a bonus because that decision shows a manifest lack of management judgment.

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Posted by Skelly-Young seeking employment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Kevin Skelly and Charles Young have been looking for an exit strategy for some time. Skelly has two years left on his contract, but he reads each and every comment about him on this forum, as do Tabitha Hurley and Kathleen Ruegsegger. He knows his time is up, but he is looking to land somewhere where he can start his unique cycle of acquiring increases in pay while things around him deteriorate.. Weirdly, Young is hoping to do what Michael Milliken did, which is escape to a superintendency in another district. The East Bay is high on his list, including Pleasanton, where he was an administrator before coming to Palo Alto in 2011. Ruegsegger was a trustee in Pleasanton some years ago. It would be nice to see the Weekly start a thread for tomorrow's raise for Skelly. Just my opinion, but in no way do I agree he should get a raise tomorrow. Would be nice to see some charade at least of one or two board members voting against it. I'll copy what I've written here because I've noticed that posts about PAUSD employees Young and Ruegsegger get deleted. Just not a lot to respect right now in terms of leaders.

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Posted by Too expensive
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 10, 2013 at 10:04 am

Skelly et al are costing us far more they they are worth. The cost of the lawsuits, the cost of inflated wages, the cost of hiring a PR person to clean up after them, etc, make it more efficient and cost effective to simply terminate them all. They really have not done anything positive or productive to be worth their salaries alone.

I am really curious about how the Board of Education came to hire Kevin Skelly in the first place....did they not meet him in person? Did they not do the required background investigation? Doing either one would have told them not to hire him.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2013 at 11:46 pm

I understand why people are upset with PAUSD, Skelly et. al.

But making things up about an individual or speculating without an ounce of proof/fact does nothing more than make anyone look like a whiner, malcontent or simply an unhappy know-nothing loudmouth. And most importantly it detracts from the reasonable, well-intentioned and factual criticisms that should be considered as plausible reasons why certain individuals should be dismissed.

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Posted by Just the facts
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 11, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Most of us with children in PAUSD are aware of all the terrible things that Kevin Skelly has done in the last five years, most especially the last three. In most cases, any one or two of these would get a person in his position canned. Yet, here he gets a raise, an extension of his contract, and possibly a bonus ( sure hope not). In terms of trouble he has caused, and lawsuits and possible fines as a result of his poor performance, it would really be financially smart to let him go before he causes even more damage.

It would really be healing for the district if he and Charles Young would just resign, or failing that, be fired.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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