Palo Alto school district to fill leadership vacancies

First-ever community outreach coordinator among new appointments

The Palo Alto school district has hired a new chief business official, two new principals and created a new position focused on community outreach for minority and low-income students and families.

Carolyn Chow, currently the chief business official for the San Mateo-Foster City School District, will replace Jim Novak, who is retiring at the end of the school year. Chow has worked in district finances since 1993, when she started as payroll specialist in the Redwood City School District, according to her resume. She served as chief business officer for the Las Lomitas Elementary School District for nearly a decade, from 2007 to 2016.

Superintendent Don Austin is asking the school board to waive its two-meeting rule and approve a two-year contract for Chow at the upcoming Tuesday, May 28, board meeting. Under the contract, her starting salary will be $240,000. She will receive health, dental, vision and other fringe benefits; and expense and transportation reimbursement related to work. Austin will evaluate her performance at or around the midpoint of each year of the agreement.

Chow is expected to begin the job on July 1, pending release from her current job.

Miguel Fittoria, currently the program director at Palo Alto tutoring nonprofit Dreamcatchers, will fill a new role for the district: community outreach coordinator. The position is Austin's reconfiguration of the district-level equity coordinator, a job the superintendent described as too broad to accomplish the complex work of closing the district's persistent achievement gap. He decided not to fill the position after the second person to hold the job left midyear in 2018.

Fittoria, who was born and raised in East Palo Alto and attended the Palo Alto Unified school district, will be tasked with bringing minority and low-income students and families more into the fold in Palo Alto, Austin said in an interview Friday.

Fittoria will report directly to Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Strategic Initiatives Lana Conaway (whose position is to be renamed assistant superintendent of equity and student affairs) and help shape the district’s direction on its equity work, Austin said.

The district also announced Friday two new principal hires, which are subject to board approval. Leslie Crane, currently the principal of the TK-8 Clifford School in Redwood City, will replace Chris Grierson at Duveneck Elementary School. Grierson is leaving to become principal at JLS Middle School. JLS Principal Lisa Hickey is moving to the district office to become director of certificated human resources, effective July 1.

Crane was also director of human resources of the Redwood City School District for two years and a principal, vice principal and teacher in Los Altos and Menlo Park schools, according to her resume.

Annora Lee, the assistant principal for Escondido and Ohlone elementary schools, has been promoted to principal of Palo Verde Elementary School, where Principal Hillary Miller has resigned due to personal reasons.

Lee started as a teacher in the Evergreen Elementary School District in 2001 and also worked as a Title I specialist, instructional coach and administrative designee in that district. She has worked in Palo Alto since 2016. As an assistant principal for the two sites, she shares administrative responsibilities with Escondido and Ohlone's principals, oversees the Spanish and Mandarin immersion programs and monitors student progress and campus climate, among other responsibilities, according to her resume.


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5 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2019 at 11:43 pm

@Miguel Fittoria-
Welcome to codeswitching on a daily basis. Keep your head low, play the game, don't involve yourself in the hypocrisy, do your job out of the radar, and you'll be golden. Good luck running the maze.
Sincerely, another colleague from across the traintracks....

3 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2019 at 11:19 am

Jim H is a registered user.

In 2017, Carolyn Chow had a salary just over $198K. Why did PAUSD feel it was necessary to pay her $240K? Guess there's plenty of money to give to those at the district office AND the teachers AND management.

They also have found money to fund a General Counsel position and an admin for that General Counsel.

Next year be prepared for stories of a cash-strapped district. It's an endless cycle.

4 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2019 at 12:17 pm

Miguel Fittoria was so ineffective. When is the DO going to be serious about how they integrate EPA students into the district? Look at the stats regarding GPA, who does not graduate, and the percentage of those who go on to college.

6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2019 at 12:40 pm

@Jim H, if that was her salary in 2017, it is now 2 years later (since we are talking about next year's comp); she was probably onto a new contract, and salaries throughout the Bay Area are going up. Until they start developing their own people, PAUSD will always have to pay top dollar to attract outsiders (just like sports teams paying free agents).

From what they have reported, the GC position is saving money by tightening the screws on use of outside counsel, which is pretty much as expected.

@Observer, "Miguel Fittoria was so ineffective" - at what? Dream Catchers? I don't think you'll find any DC families who feel that way; he is very well-loved there. I'm not sure if it will work or not, but assigning an Asst Supt (Conaway) and an very effective Tinsley alum (Fittoria) to improving performance of low-income and minority student seems like a good next step.

Like this comment
Posted by we were already overpaying
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 26, 2019 at 2:01 pm

And in 2016, Chow's salary was $136,429.68

@Parent, what has Chow done that makes you think an increase in salary from that to $240,000 in three years is worth it?

1 person likes this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2019 at 7:02 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

Chow worked in San Mateo/Foster City. She's already in the Bay Area. It's not like PAUSD had to entice someone from Idaho or even San Diego.

When PAUSD forwarded the idea of the GC position, it was never mentioned that the position would require its own admin support.

Do you not believe that some of this money could be better spent on programs or even teachers instead of DO employees, or heaven forbid save it.
PAUSD spends money as quickly as it comes in (and sometimes before). Then when things get less profitable, they wonder how they got themselves in that position.

Not sure I would ever use a sports team/PAUSD analogy in any form. I have no desire to watch Carolyn Chow crunch budget numbers, nor do I believe that Carolyn Chow is going to make PAUSD a more valuable district. Free agents are paid based on market conditions and skill, not on location. Bay Area franchises do not pay more than Indiana or Texas teams because of the cost of living.

2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2019 at 9:47 pm

@Jim H -

1) No, it did not occur to me that a general counsel would not require admin support. Nor would I think it worthy of mention.

2) I do think that a $250+ million organization with a $2 million (?) outside legal spend should have at least one in-house lawyer. I doubt you could find many (any?) others that do not. The question isn't whether they should have one - it's why did it take so long?

3) If you are recruiting for a key role, either 1) you can pick among those who have lost or hate their jobs, and pay them the same or less as they made before; OR 2) you can pick among those who already have good positions, in which case you have to pay them more than what they will be making to get them to move. I generally don't see (1) work out very well, though goodness knows it has been tried. If you develop people internally (the "farm system" in baseball) you can get good talent for less - otherwise you pay the free-agent premium.

4 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2019 at 10:42 am

Jim H is a registered user.

A bigger question would be why is PAUSD spending $2M in legal fees. Obviously, they have some systemic issues to deal with.

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

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