High school shakeup: Paly's Adam Paulson to resign, Gunn's Kathie Laurence to leave for district job | News | Palo Alto Online |


High school shakeup: Paly's Adam Paulson to resign, Gunn's Kathie Laurence to leave for district job

District announces major leadership changes at the high schools, promotion for Sharon Ofek

On Jan. 24, Palo Alto Unified announced leadership changes at Palo Alto High, where Principal Adam Paulson (left) plans to leave his job, and Gunn High Principal Kathie Laurence (right), will take a new position at the district. Courtesy image of Paulson. Photo of Laurence by Veronica Weber.

Both Palo Alto and Gunn high schools will lose their principals at the end of the school year, the district announced on Friday.

Paly Principal Adam Paulson, who has led the school since 2018, plans to resign. Principal Kathie Laurence, a longtime district employee who took the helm at Gunn in 2017, is not going far, however. She'll be the district's new director of secondary education services, overseeing all major initiatives at the middle and high schools, including curriculum and instruction, assessment, professional development and equity. The district administrator currently overseeing secondary education services, Sharon Ofek, is being promoted to associate superintendent of educational services, pending the school board's approval next Tuesday.

In a message to Paly staff on Friday morning, Paulson said resigning "was a difficult personal decision for me, but one that I feel is best for myself and my family." He declined to share further information.

"It has been an honor to spend the past six years as principal, assistant principal and dean of students at Paly," he wrote to staff. "The best part of my day is always the rich interactions I have with the students and our exemplary staff."

He did not answer questions about what he will do after Paly and whether he plans to continue working in education.

Paulson, a former teacher and Paly administrator, was appointed principal on an acting and then permanent basis in 2018. He replaced Kim Diorio, who took a sudden medical leave and then resigned following upheaval over the school's improper handling of two cases of student sexual assault in recent years. (Some parents urged the district against appointing Paulson as principal given he was involved in one of the cases.) Both Diorio and Laurence were issued formal disciplinary notices by the district for their handling of a Paly student's report of sexual assault in 2016.

"Over the past two years our leadership team has restored an environment that fosters connection, trust and learning," Paulson wrote in an email to the Weekly. "I am proud of the team that we have in place and I know they will continue to accomplish great things."

Laurence, who has more than 22 years of experience in the district, said Superintendent Don Austin approached her before winter break with the idea that she move to the district position. She said she decided to take the job for the same reason she left Paly for Gunn: to effect change in a new way.

"When I have changed jobs in the district I have done it because I thought I could help in a different way," she said. "When I came to Gunn, I felt like maybe I could be the right person for Gunn. I think this is really a unique opportunity for me to work with all the secondary schools to continue the work on the Promise (the district's plan) and keep us aligned."

As a director, Laurence will be part of the superintendent's cabinet and report to Ofek. Assistant superintendents, by comparison, are part of the smaller executive cabinet, report directly to the superintendent and assign tasks to directors and coordinators.

Austin said Laurence will provide invaluable support as a mentor to the two new high school principals when they're hired. New school leaders could provide an opening for more standardization across the two campuses, a desire that's felt in particular by students, Austin said.

"It will take a little time to determine what should be common and where it makes sense to be different," he said.

Laurence taught social studies at Paly from 1995 to 2010 before she was promoted to assistant principal. At Gunn, she was largely seen as bringing stability to a school in rocky transition. She replaced Denise Herrman, whose years at Gunn were marked by both progress and tumult, including a new bell schedule, conflict with the teachers union and student deaths by suicide.

Laurence said she feels she's leaving Gunn as a more "relaxed" and "open" school where teachers are exploring new approaches to teaching and learning.

"I leave with a tear in my eye," said Laurence, herself a Gunn graduate.

She will receive an annual salary of $198,131 with the new job, a 0.89% increase over her current pay, according to the district. If approved, her new position will be effective July 1.

Austin said he hopes the leadership shakeup will bring a hierarchy and greater coordination at the district level, while also providing an opportunity for fresh leadership at the high schools.

The current, less traditional structure of education services, with two people separately overseeing the elementary and secondary levels without a single person to manage the whole department, often created confusion, redundancy and disorganization, Austin said.

"We have noticeably lacked a single person tasked with coordinating, facilitating and leading all aspects of educational services. This is a role I had in Huntington Beach and have missed having a single contact to drive and monitor the biggest priorities of the district," he said.

Ofek first came to Palo Alto 20 years ago as a middle school mathematics teacher and has held various administrative roles since then, including assistant principal at Greene Middle School and principal of JLS Middle School. In 2016 she moved to the district office as chief academic officer of secondary education under former Superintendent Max McGee.

In her new role, Ofek will be charged with executing the district's highest level goals from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. This position was last in place in Palo Alto Unified during the 2016-17 school year, according to the district.

If approved by the board, Ofek will start the new position immediately. Her current annual salary is $225,538. Under the new position, she will shift to step 2 of the associate superintendent salary schedule, which is the same amount. The following year, she will earn $232,305, which is the raise she would have received as an assistant superintendent.

Assuming the school board approves the personnel changes, the district will immediately begin its search for new high school principals, as well as a public input-gathering process. The district is planning to meet with students, parents and staff at both high schools and include representatives from those groups, as well as union representatives and district staff, in the interviewing process.

Austin hopes to announce new hires by March.


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135 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2020 at 11:41 am

Neither Kathie Laurence nor Adam Paulson should ever have been promoted to be principal. Both were implicated in the sexual assault incidents at Paly, and neither actually followed the law. Yet PAUSD promoted them. Now Laurence is promoted again. The PAUSD culture --- no accountability. Wonder why administrators who don't do the right thing by students are rewarded at PAUSD.

Ms. Ofek apparently plans to promote standards based grading (which a number of teachers spoke out against at a recent board meeting) and phasing out letter grades in middle school -- and maybe later in high school. Wonder how college admissions offices will view this lack of a GPA.

She also broached expanding blended learning classes (less instruction for students possibly as often as once/week less instruction) to middle school so middle school students can have less instruction, just like HS students. BTW the CAASPP results for middle school students, particularly SED students, is not good. Apparently Ms. Ofek thinks less instruction will help them? Maybe someone wants to work less for the same pay? Since no one is held accountable for student academic performance, perhaps this is the result.

Also, Ms. Ofek has been involved in holding back advanced math students to benefit the 6th grade math teachers, who don't have the certification level to teach more advanced math content--- since who would they teach if a significant cohort of students advanced beyond 6th grade math content? Apparently for Ms. Ofek, job security for the 6th grade math teachers is more important than letting students advance, so she assists in holding students back.

Along as she plays ball with the teacher's union --- upward she goes!

35 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2020 at 11:56 am

Why is it that we can't keep principals in PAUSD? Particularly the secondary schools but not only them.

When my kids were in elementary schools the principals seemed to remain for a very long time although occasionally they did shuffle around. Nowadays principals seem to be hired and gone within two or three years!

80 people like this
Posted by See Sth Say Sth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2020 at 12:05 pm

PAUSD is sliding further into the abysmal anti-intellectualism disguised in "brain science," "growth mindsets,” “conceptual understanding” and so forth, by promoting Sharon Ofek and by consulting with Jo Boaler, Linda Darling-Hammond, and David Foster to "reimagine" its math program. Barbara Oakley, the NYT bestseller who turned from a mathphobe to an engineering professor, covered PAUSD in her recent newsletter Web Link. Highly recommended!

16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2020 at 12:07 pm

Posted by Don't do anything extra, a resident of Downtown North

>> Ms. Ofek apparently plans to promote standards based grading (which a number of teachers spoke out against at a recent board meeting) and phasing out letter grades in middle school -- and maybe later in high school. Wonder how college admissions offices will view this lack of a GPA.

Can someone explain what they plan to do? "Standards based" -- which *standard* ? The standard for graduating from a high school is a C in Algebra I, basic English, etc. That will get you into, e.g., Foothill. The standard for CSU is higher. The standard for UC is something that on the order of 10% of students achieve. The standard for getting into UCB or UCLA is a lot higher still. The standard for Harvard or Stanford or MIT? There is no single standard of achievement for all students, and there never will be. It is one thing to pass the high school leaving exam, another to get into UC-whatever.

31 people like this
Posted by Grew Up Here
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2020 at 12:25 pm

Parents in Palo Alto are very outspoken these days. Back in the 70s-80s, principals stayed for a long time. Palo Altans have always been outspoken but teachers back in the day were better, stayed to teach at lunch, after school, were more organized and structured. They really enjoyed teaching, or at least felt their job was to help students succeed. Now, some of the secondary school stress is due to the disorganized teachers. This past week, a teacher posted on Schoology at night time that there was a quiz the next day, expected students to see it. Poor planning by many teachers these days. And the English teachers back them were outstanding, whereas now, they don't teach students to write.

Aside from the digression, Adam Paulson was overwhelmed. Best wishes to him.

Do we parents have a chance to send input to Austin? I can think of many who seem like they would be good but would be terrible. Just because they've been in they system for years, it shouldn't be assumed that they would be good principals.

13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2020 at 12:26 pm

Posted by See Sth Say Sth, a resident of College Terrace

>> PAUSD is sliding further into the abysmal anti-intellectualism disguised in "brain science," "growth mindsets,” “conceptual understanding”

You are quite incorrect in using "conceptual understanding" this way. It is something that can be and should be measured objectively, and it is very important. I understand your frustration: there are lots of watered-down textbooks with names like "conceptual physics" that are, you know, physics for, like, psych 1A students. Insufficient emphasis on calculations makes such textbooks and courses inadequate for further advancement.

But, conceptual understanding of anything in science is difficult, and, it is quite possible to be good at calculations and have a poor understanding at the conceptual level. Misconceptions are a common, major roadblock in advancing to the next level in the sciences. Fluency in doing calculations is also necessary, but, not sufficient.

Go to Google Scholar, search "Hestenes Force Concept Inventory", and work your way forward.

Summary: not calculations OR concepts, but, calculations AND concepts.

40 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 24, 2020 at 12:41 pm

My current junior will have had a minimum of 7 principals in 7 years at Jordan and Paly IF the next one lasts for a full year. And I'm not sure I should count the one after Diorio that we never saw.

23 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2020 at 1:00 pm

I bet there is a wealthy board member from Stanford or such that wants to experiment with Paly students for favors or recognition or more money. I am betting there will be all kinds of "research"

We are not there anymore. For the district to place AdamP and Kathy L. when they failed to protect a sexually assaulted female and even stated it was consensual if memory serves was evil. [Portion removed.] Promotions I guess they made the mark. My kid who graduated years ago will be so happy one more person is gone that made a sexual assault victim's life worse in such a deliberate way.

11 people like this
Posted by No
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2020 at 1:05 pm

[Post removed.]

21 people like this
Posted by Staying Young Through Kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2020 at 1:19 pm

@Paly Parent Hallelujah!

What is it with Secondary Education administrators within PAUSD?

Seems like we cant keep them in place!

Are we hiring people who aren't qualified? Is the district or school culture so terrible that employees don't want to stay? Perhaps some of the cultural issues are due to entitled, often wealthy, parents who wield too much power at each site and at the trustee level?

Or....perhaps it's all of this?

Hopefully Dr. Austin has a plan to change things for the better.

As for Standards Based learning, it has been employed across every one of our elementary schools for YEARS. It works! The district is FINALLY examining the growing disparity in nearly every academic discipline between 5th and 9th grade. Kids who were good learners are suddenly failing. It is appalling and the teachers and administrators at our Middle and High Schools should be embarrassed.

And, one big reason many High School teachers are against Standards Based education is the increase in work that comes with tracking each student and the personal accountability the teachers will shoulder for the instruction of every student. But, isn't that how it's supposed to be? It’s how every elementary classroom works and those teachers (teaching & grading every subject) aren’t complaining!

I really hope these personnel and accountability changes will lead to some much needed improvements for all types of learners in our Secondary Schools.

Our Elementary Schools pave a beautiful path for our children. Our Secondary Schools, through laziness and poor administration, allow it to deteriorate. Sadly, the PAUSD path becomes less and less passable for many kids as they travel through 6-12 grades.

As of right now we're leaving way too many Middle & High School students behind with very little accountability for the teachers or administrators.

12 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2020 at 1:24 pm

[Post removed.]

43 people like this
Posted by See Sth Say Sth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2020 at 1:35 pm

The "conceptual understanding" touted by math reformists is really a kind of "rote understanding" to hold back students at trivial things, resulting in no time for them to learn real math and advance to the next level.

American K-8 math has been nearly completely ruined by math reformers over the past decades, with Jo Boaler being the foremost influencer. Please read Barry Garelick's essays: Web Link, Web Link.

Stanford University has been doing immense harm to local and global young learners, because its glorious fame has lent undeserved great credits to its SGSE faculty members like Jo Boaler to advance their dumbing-down math reforms.

43 people like this
Posted by Carla Smith
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2020 at 2:53 pm

I would like to understand what is being planned for the middle and high schools. At the last 2-3 School Board meetings, there were many resolutions introduced about changing the math programs, discarding grade weighting, and changing lanes, among other things. But, there has been no explanation for these changes and very little basis for them. For instance, if you actually look at the materials they provided for the changes to the math programs, none of them provide much evidence that they work better than the current system. Also, I thought we already went through a decision making process and decided that weighted grades worked to reward students for challenging themselves. Isn't that what we want for our students?

Overall, it would be nice to have some communication from the PAUSD Board and Administration as opposed to just ramming through these changes. With the contemporaneous departures of the principals, it feels like something is up. But what is it?

11 people like this
Posted by Anonymous1
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2020 at 3:16 pm

Adults that have no notion of the world around them . That is what is up. Parents tell them but they will not listen. They only ask and listen to their small inner bubble. Small bubbles are difficult to pop.

14 people like this
Posted by Just Sayin..
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2020 at 4:39 pm

[Post removed.]

27 people like this
Posted by Truth
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 24, 2020 at 5:07 pm

PAUSD Principals leave for a variety of reasons:

1) this parent community is ruthless
2) students’ behaviors unchecked
3) tough teaching staff
4) incompetent district office
5) they’re not good admins

42 people like this
Posted by Just Sayin..
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2020 at 5:08 pm

I would ask you, the Weekly, to reconsider what you count as unreasonable public comment about the promotions vs. performance of a paid public official, in this case Ms. Ofek, making nearly a quarter of a million dollars per year.

Your forum, your rules, I guess... but just sayin..

14 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 24, 2020 at 6:09 pm

@Just Sayin', embarrassing/shaming rank and file employees of any organization in a public forum by name is destructive, and I thank the Weekly for not permitting it. They are people hired to do a job; they didn't sign up for public embarrassment in the paper.

If you don't like something they do, don't embarrass them, complain to their bosses, like the Superintendent or the school board. If the big cheeses screw up, feel free to call them out by name; they know what they are getting in to.

16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2020 at 6:23 pm

Paly and Gunn principals the last 15+ years have either retired, been promoted, or (mostly) been moved out by the district office. None left to take a similar job elsewhere.

So while, yes, the community can be challenging, that shows up as ineffectiveness more than discontent, at least for the high school principals. IMO, the turnover is largely a sign of weak pipeline development and support by the district office, which hopefully Austin is working to fix.

18 people like this
Posted by GraceBrown
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2020 at 7:01 pm

I am hopeful that our community will take time to reflect on these on-going leadership "transitions." Many teachers have navigated five, six, seven principals during their service in our high schools. How does this serve our youth?

How many of you have dealt with such disruptions in your professional spheres? Check our PAUSD teachers' professional accomplishments - MORE than 2/3 hold a master's degree and some hold a doctorate. Credentials, education, and experience matter. If you don't buy this claim, simply look to other local Bay Area districts' AP scores and college admits.

Additionally, listening to our youth, I've heard from some that discussions include student reactions to the news of Mr. Paulson's resignation that seem to be trending toward "our parents" as the source of these turnovers. Most professionals will understand that "kids are kids" yet there may be a common thread here: WHAT do we want from our schools? A golden ticket? Enviable property values? A level playing field? Productive citizens?

Reaching out to these parent-partners: please, please, please, opt into a conversation/debate with OUR schools!

With respect,


10 people like this
Posted by former PAUSD student
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2020 at 7:45 pm

It has been sadly typical since I was a student going through PAUSD, that no principal of any school in the district seems to last more than 2-3 years on average.

Now that I am about to send me own child to school here, it does concern me even more...

28 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 24, 2020 at 8:10 pm

The incoming Paly principal needs to be held accountable for the awful student behavior that has become all too common. It's not acceptable for students of your school to be banned from the local drug store due to rampant theft. It's not acceptable for students at your school to terrorize the city yearly with mindless "egg wars". Gunn never had these problems. Paly had these problems because of poor leadership. Now is a chance to correct that.

4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2020 at 8:51 pm

@ resident
I think Scott Laurence, former Paly principal is a principal up in San Mateo
Kevin (gentleman from Chicago area) is a district superintendent up there.
I think both hold “similar jobs” in the general region

10 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2020 at 8:53 pm

One idea former - district parent here - would it help to put 6th grade back in the elementary schools? Isn’t this how the elite Los Altos Elementary School District does grade levels? I think so -

47 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2020 at 12:10 am

"associate superintendent of educational services"

This sounds like a made up title for an unnecessary position.

54 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2020 at 1:41 am

It's tough to be a principal at a Palo Alto high school. Many of the parents, despite knowing nothing about education, are over the top with pushing their ideas about what is best. I'm amazed we can attract anyone to the position.

15 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2020 at 8:41 am

I think the problem is that administrators in PAUSD do not listen to the person who knows the child better than they do. Especially when a child has special needs and the district refuses to asses or accommodate them, year over year this can have serious negative emotional, educational, and developmental impacts on the student and family.

Parents know what a child needs better than administrators with motives (that may even be illegal) to freeze them out. Years ago I had a conversation with a top administrator that left me with a strong impression that he barely knew his own kids and thus expected that same shallowness of acquaintance in all parent-child relationships. And it seemed to also be prevalent in Churchill.

People homeschool their kids successfully all the time without knowing anything about education. The level of knowledge about education is almost irrelevant. The whole point of education in the first place is that people can learn.

Often I wonder if that is the point of education to our administrators, so perhaps they don’t get that.

31 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 25, 2020 at 9:45 am

Our children are in these public schools. Our tax dollars finance them. We have a perfect right to speak up.

39 people like this
Posted by See Sth Say Sth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2020 at 10:14 am

Why are many teachers, administrators, parents, and students in PAUSD stressful? Why is PAUSD lagging behind other school districts in improving the academic achievements of the disadvantaged students? A key reason is that PAUSD has been long captivated by the progressive education dogmas prescribed by the elite educationists; therefore, many teachers have been practicing the equivalent of a Cargo Cult in teaching reading, writing and math. Ultimately, the essentials -- training in vocabulary, grammar and style, arithmetic facts and skills -- are missing in PAUSD's most classrooms.

Please read "How Self-Expression Damaged My Students" Web Link and "How Has Jo Boaler Been Transforming U.S. K-12 Math?" Web Link to learn more about the educational Cargo Cults.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Please speak up to stop PAUSD from experimenting with Jo Boaler's profound anti-intellectualism that would devastatingly fail the disadvantaged kids!

32 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 25, 2020 at 10:43 am

Mr. Paulson is a great principal and leader of our school. He will be missed. He is fair, calm, professional, and very well respected by the teachers and staff members.

19 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2020 at 11:12 am

What is your vendetta against Jo Boaler? She is not responsible for the mess Palo Alto math is, in fact, they'd be better off if they listened.

PAUSD math got seriously derailed when they took on Everyday Math. It was sold to parents as a supplement, and then as a way to use different approaches for different kids. The reality is that they stunted the progress of lots of kids by making them slog through a needlessly blathering and almost empty-of-math pedagogy. Then in middle school, they picked up the kids with no acknowledgement of how their own program disadvantaged those who couldn't afford outside tutoring. That, and the fact that by then 2e kids weren't compensating well for their unrecognized learning disabilities and the district's bad attitude towards special needs and working with families made things worse for many. (Administrators like Sharon Ofek [portion removed] encourage an emotional estrangement from families, mistaking that for supporting independence. For the most vulnerable ones, this is a toxic and false choice, between developing a mature loving relationship with their families and being independent.

None of this has anything to do with Jo Boaler. I know someone who took his kid out of school because of math and pretty much let him do what he wanted. The kid got a PhD in math from Cambridge. You only need to be a task master to kids who have been made to be dependent on constant direction because the school has done that to them.

I am in agreement with you that some kids really want and need a very stripped down math-centered advance as fast as I can with math principles kind of approach, and that many are hurt by our districts utter failing to teach the basics. This is not Jo Boaler's doing. I do think the district would benefit from learning how to support independent advanced math learning. The idea that all kids or groups of kids have to learn the same thing at the same rate is so industrial-revolution, and holds most of them back.

13 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2020 at 12:26 pm


Trying to keep things positive while not glossing realities over too much.

At least as of Sharon Ofek's tenure, at JLS, during the mental health crises, when the kids got into middle school, the school really took on framing parents as adversaries and use parents' desire to encourage their children's independence as a way to diminish parents' power in the school dynamic, not actually encourage the healthiest independence. It's just a fact that they were basically encouraging estrangement as the path to independence, not the healthiest independence.

As one friend put it, it's like they want to take them (the kids) away from you (parents), sever the emotional bond. It makes their lives easier at school if the kids are sheep that follow THEM. The whole educational setup inculcates dependence, the schools just want that dependence to be to them (people whose emotional connection could never be as rich as a normal family's, no wonder this is hard on a lot of kids).

[Portion removed.] Ofek has no appreciation for true intellectual independence of students, she believes in homework as a good in and of itself and thinks students' time after school is over should be at the disposal of the school, not under the control of the student and not important for the child to maintain family connection and a normal life. (From her own statements, it's clear only students who can run the treadmill easily deserve to do this without sacrificing their academic life. "Let them fail" is her motto, as if the failure is the student's for not trying as opposed to the district's for studiously ignoring the child's glaring learning disability and the parents for making the mistake of advocating for the child and believing people involved in education would care rather than retaliate.)

19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2020 at 12:31 pm

I'm deeply saddened to find out both principals at both high schools within PAUSD are leaving at the same time.
Such high turnover is neither good for student morale nor the teachers (whom principals provide administrative support to).

I'm also confused why Palo Alto Weekly broke the news of the principals leaving first before the PALY parents heard of it first tome the principal and district office first. This is now how a district should be run.

To not give reasons why PALY principal is leaving is not conducive to making it a better learning environment for anyone. That is a bit dismissive of the outgoing principal at PALY and does not give enough credit to the PALY parent and student community. That is saddening as well.

The lack of transparency is confusing as well. Where do all our tax dollars go to? What are the salaries of all the administrative staff at 25 Churchill Avenue? Where is the accountability?

There needs to be more transparency and more accountability at the district level. Huge sums of tax payer dollars go into their salaries and benefits, but there is such turmoil and churning going on within the school system.

Math is being overhauled at the middle school level with little evidence to back things up. Can you imagine the burnout math teachers face at the middle school level? Ongoing changes in curriculum every 2-3 years.

instead of starting from scratch, why not look to our neighbors (Cupertino or Los Altos) and see what is workin for them in mathematics?

As a PAUSD parent, I'm disheartened. I do NOT think it was right that the Palo Alto Weekly Newspaper broke the news that PALY principal was leaving before we even were notified by the Superintendent or PALY principal.

That is so backwards in how the news got disseminated, it is a symptom of a greater issue - how things are not working well even in communication between board and administrative staff with regards to the PALY parent community.

31 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Maybe I am missing something, but I did not see how these changes at the district office will help students in any way. It seems that each new 'shake up' in the district office also simply reinforces the observation that PAUSD is a very top heavy organization, again with no metrics I am aware of to show that any of this benifits students, especially, as some have commented, that once front line staff go to the district office, they basically disappear. I'm waiting for the next round of begging from Pie asking for $$ that the district just can't seem to find for students.

32 people like this
Posted by Hard to find good help
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 25, 2020 at 2:05 pm

The last 13 years of scandals and suicides have had a serious effect on PAUSD's ability to find and retain high-quality administrators--despite paying more than most of the Bay Area districts. I don't know why Adam Paulson is leaving but it is hard to believe that it is for a good reason. It is sad to see Kathi Laurence kicked upstairs with a raise, when in fact she has demonstrated very little high-quality work. And I do not know what standard is being used to demonstrated the competence of Sharon Ofek, but it sends the wrong message to parents to keep moving her along and up.

39 people like this
Posted by See Sth Say Sth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2020 at 2:23 pm


Your comments are correct except for those about Jo Boaler. Please read "How Has Jo Boaler Been Transforming U.S. K-12 Math?" Web Link to learn about her unmatched bad influence on today's American math teachers, especially the K-8 teachers, and the unfathomable calamities she has brought to American students and even international students--because many countries have been tragically lured to copy American K-12 math.

Jo Boaler is the leading preacher for the Common Core math and discovery-style math learning, the approach embodied in Everyday Math, Investigations, CPM, and other notorious math programs, including the mediocre Big Idea Math currently in use in PAUSD. She dismisses the multiplication table and other arithmetic skills as rote-learning, equates traditional math (virtually the only way to learn real math) with elitism, and alienates students from math by forcing them into the endless boredom of explaining their "conceptual understandings" through "visual models." Truth to be told, one can never go far with math without mastering multiplication table and other basic skills.

A couple of years ago, Jo Boaler gave a talk to a full auditorium of parents at then Jordan Middle School. Her YouCubed advertisement was repeatedly printed on the back of PAUSD students' homework sheets and handouts. Jennifer DiBrienza, a former student of Jo Boaler and a participant at YouCubed, almost successfully ushered in Investigations, a notorious program worse than Everyday Math, to PAUSD in 2016-17.

Jo Boaler has mightily postponed algebra and detracked the students in the San Francisco school district since 2015, fulfilling the progressives' sacred goal of equality in outcomes. She is campaigning to displace algebra 2 with so-called "data science." Apart from preaching pretend-algebra, now she is teaching pretend-calculus at Stanford! She will not stop until America collapses...

Folks, dumbing down math is ruthlessly perilous. Remember the tragic crashes of Boeing737Max, which is arguably linked to America's perennial severe shortage of qualified engineers? A friend of mine repeatedly complained bitterly about the poor math skills of his students at his aeronautics department.

Now, PAUSD is consulting with Jo Boaler, Linda Darling-Hammond and David Foster to "reimagine" PAUSD's middle school math. PAUSD is becoming Boaler's new target to fulfill her ambition in closing the achievement gaps through watered-down curricula, detracking, standards-based grading, formative assessments, open-ended questions, and all sorts of progressive dumbing-down tactics.

A progressivism-driven revolutionary who can barely do much real math has been mightily devastating the K-12 math education in the U.S., Canada, Finland, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries. What a dark age for K-12 math it is!

Again, "How Has Jo Boaler Been Transforming U.S. K-12 Math?" Web Link has all the evidence. Check it and judge it for yourself!

42 people like this
Posted by A sewer as usual
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Wow. What a pile of ill-informed, negative attacks on everybody in sight. Reminds me of Kathy Jordan's last school board campaign. Could it be the silly season again, with another election coming in the fall?

43 people like this
Posted by Insider/Outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2020 at 4:52 pm

PAUSD could save money if it eliminated the position of Associate Superintendent of Educational Services. Seems like this position is the addition of a bureaucratic layer whose sole purpose consists of a person creating flow charts that stipulate who is doing what. Could use a computer program to do this instead of allotting Ofek 6 weeks to do this.

This is another instance of a hands off approach that ignores substantive educational policies to benefit students and parents. Ofek is good at spouting the jargon, but comes up short. Most importantly, her leadership does not value the importance of discussion and listening. Her leadership is "my way, or the highway.' Ask JLS teachers.

And... Austin, I suggest looking outside of the District when looking to hire new admn. Fishing in the backyard pond just produces the same old, same old.

34 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2020 at 6:36 pm

Good to see Ms. Ofek getting a nice raise and promotion before her recommended math rebuild unfolds. One must suppose that results don't really matter, or the district isn't really taking any of this math controversy, that they fueled, very seriously. Very interesting to see that she is still pushing an impractical grading paradigm that her superior, Mr. Austin, basically put on life support in his most recent newsletter, "The topic of standards-based teaching and learning and standards-based grading were introduced during the policy revision proposal. While loosely related, there is no current discussion or plan to expand the Board Policy overview to include standards-based grading. While some of our teachers have organically embraced the principles, we do not see prescription of a large-scale shift to a new model as viable, practical, or universally beneficial at this time". Is there a communication issue at the district office, or do they find confusion a useful tool? Either way, I would say get your house in order before you start promoting folks, bestowing hollow new titles, and giving unwarranted raises. Our students and parents deserve better.

11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2020 at 7:14 pm

"Good to see Ms. Ofek getting a nice raise and promotion"

Looking at the contract amendment in the board packet, there's no raise involved - she's being paid the same as now. Not sure why people spread misinformation like that. To quote @Yuri, "Do they find confusion a useful tool?"

This completes the job that started with putting special education under Ed Services last year - now there is one person responsible for student learning, where there used to be three (elementary, secondary, sped). This should cut out the finger pointing and silos, and give Austin "one throat to choke" for curriculum and instruction.

9 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 25, 2020 at 7:26 pm

"I do NOT think it was right that the Palo Alto Weekly Newspaper broke the news that PALY principal was leaving before we even were notified by the Superintendent or PALY principal."

Principal Laurence at Gunn sent an email to the Gunn community (addressed to students and families) at 10:16am on Fri, about an hour before this story was posted. I don't know when Paulson sent out his notice to parents, but presumably he knew when the district office was making its announcement and could have done the same as Ms. Laurence - maybe he did. Since he's quoted in the Weekly's story, he had time to email them and knew the story was running.

Practically speaking, once the principals notify the parents, the Weekly will have the story within an hour - the email just gets forwarded to them. So, many people are going to end up seeing it in the paper before they read an email from the district.

24 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2020 at 8:35 am

My mistake. Her increase of $7,000 happens contractually no matter what she does, which gives her carte blanche to experiment on students and teachers with things such as misguided grading schemes. In this case, "standards based grading". Although it seems to be a workable elementary model, clearly that is not the case at the secondary level, yet she spent years trying to ram it down the throats of middle and high school teachers. She also did her best to stifle any questions and or concerns through the use of her site principal and IL surrogates, as well as paid presenters, whilst she never once addressed a whole staff or department on her own. One must assume she was afraid to do so and did not want to answer any questions. As far as I can tell, she never made any real effort to inform the student and parent communities of the "sweeping changes" either. This is why the idea was eventually quashed by the board and superintendent.

I can guarantee you there is never "one throat to choke". The folks at 25 Churchill know how to circle the wagons and cover their own backsides which is why they continually get away with road to nowhere, costly projects, such as "standards based grading".

24 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent of Three
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2020 at 9:12 am

Although the turnover in principals is concerning, honestly, Mr. Paulson seemed disengaged towards students and parents. He refused interviews with the student paper, and at rare instances when he did comment, it was disappointing: In response to a valid question about how Paly would deal with a record number of incoming freshmen and potentially overcrowded classes, he said the students were smart and would figure something out. When we were dealing with absences due to health issues, he never responded, despite the inundation of auto/system-generated emails sent expressing the administration’s “concern”

10 people like this
Posted by Anonymous1
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2020 at 9:50 am

Sad to see a person who treats parents so poorly still in a leadership position. Would nice to get staff with higher academics and a heart for service. Re inventing teaching is a waste of time. Know your kids and parents. , get good texts and then ... wait for it... a check back yourself and communicate with the goal of excellence. Works every time. Human daily response without egos.

28 people like this
Posted by Anonymous1
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2020 at 11:22 am

I don’t think anyone noticed the paly principal unless the asked him for help or to enforce edcode. Then they would just notice his silence or refusal to respond oto help a child.

44 people like this
Posted by slow motion Railside train wreck
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2020 at 11:39 am

Jo Boaler and her You Cubed consulting firm, along with Ofek, are driving the new "Reimagining" middle school math.

Look up "Boaler railside Milgram” on Google to see the controversy behind her research. Her work consists of cherry-picked data and shoddy statistical analysis.

As a Rock Star Stanford professor, she has only written 2 peer reviewed papers between 2012 and 2020, but has authored a ton of popular books. I guess she is too busy being on the speaking circuit to do real reasearch.

This excellent video about the consultant who is the driving force behind dumbing down America and PAUSD:
Web Link
The entire video is worth watching.

You should be worried.

21 people like this
Posted by A sewer as usual
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2020 at 1:38 pm

[Portion removed.] A cursory look at Boaler's website shows many research publications: Web Link. Milgram's Railside "article" along with Bishop, I guess a co-author, seems to have been "published" in a wacky assortment of blogs and academic vanity outlets.

PAUSD's math teaching could use an upgrade. Whether it's in Boaler's direction or not I have no idea [portion removed.]

24 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2020 at 5:51 am

"Associate Superintendent of Educational Services" is not even a title listed in the "Contracted Management 2019-20" Salary Schedule. There is "Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, and Assistant Superintendent". If Ms. Ofek is remaining on the "Assistant" pay schedule, why the new "Associate" title? Ego? Window dressing? Semantics? Leadership by confusion? Hard to get any honest answers from 25 Churchill.

28 people like this
Posted by See Sth Say Sth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 27, 2020 at 2:32 pm

@ A Sewer as usual
I have researched US K-12 math for more than three years and have read hundreds of papers and documents. I am happy to provide you and all folks with more information.

1. Jo Boaler's bold "reimagination" of SFUSD math, including detracking, banning algebra from middle schools, supporting the notorisous EDM and CPM, adopting "formative assessments"... is presented here: Web Link.

2. Jennifer DiBrienza, a member of the author team of an older version of Investigations, a textbook even worse than Everyday Math, tried to push this infamous textbook into PAUSD: Web Link.

3. Wayne Bishop was mentor of Jamie Escalante, the legendary math teacher commemorated by a 1988 Hollywood film, Stand and Deliver, and a 2016 Forever stamp. Wayne Bishop was honored by Escalante at the premiere showing of the film.

4. Jim Milgram was the only academic mathematician of the Common Core validation committee, but he refused to sign the Common Core math standards, which targets at algebra 1 for high school graduates (Boaler is carrying out a campaign to get rid of algebra 2 from high school requirements). He warns that students equipped with algebra 2 will have a mere 2% chance to attain a STEM degree. Milgram was one of the four Stanford mathematicians who wrote the 1997 California math standards, which had guided the significant improvements in math performance by California students, especially the disadvantaged kids, from late 1990s until 2014, when the Common Core impact started to kick in. BTW, has everyone noticed the dismal 2019 NAEP and PISA results? Please read: "First Common Core High School Grads Worst-Prepared For College In 15 Years" Web Link.

If you are not sure whether PAUSD should follow Jo Boaler, a good reference is the 1999 open letter signed by 220 mathematicians and scientists, including 7 Nobel Prize laureates and Fields medalists Web Link. This letter clearly opposes the reformist approaches and textbooks, including CPM, Investigations, and Everyday Math, which Jo Boaler stood behind and earned fame.
(to be continued)

30 people like this
Posted by See Sth Say Sth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 27, 2020 at 2:33 pm

Jo Boaler is extremely talented in twisting scholar's words to advance her own dumbing-down reform math -- She often starts with something true and then jumps onto a false conclusion. Yes, real math is not about speed and performance when mathematicians think over hard questions. But if kids can't do basic arithmetic fast and right by 6th grade, pre-algebra and algebra will become formidable to them. She preaches no timed tests, no time table, no homework, no need of correcting mistakes or paper-and-pencil drills... All these will surely cause academic anxiety for the students tragically short-changed by reform math. Seeing students who can’t calculate daily, university STEM professors tear their hair out!

The progressive reformers first transformed the content and structure of math textbooks, then went on to transform the assessments, including SAT and PISA, now they are transforming college math. Over the recent two decades, Jo Boaler has been the leading revolutionary in this abysmal anti-intellectualism crusade. If Boaler were associated with a less prestigious college, would her reckless imaginations and re-imaginations still be so much adored?

If Jo Boaler’s reform could help the disadvantaged kids to learn real math, I’d let her even at the cost of holding back my own children. The truth is Jo Boaler’s reform math will dumb down all students and devastate the disadvantaged kids, who rely exclusively on school education, the hardest!

Math, if taught the right way, is easier than you think and is attainable for most students regardless of race, gender and background. Please read this fascinating story of Barbara Oakley, "How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math."Web Link

"...the educationist is someone who can take an easy subject and make it difficult." —Dr. Laurence T. Peter.

Again, "How Has Jo Boaler Been Transforming U.S. K-12 Math?" has all the evidence. Check it and judge it for yourself! ** Web Link **

22 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 27, 2020 at 4:41 pm

[Portion removed.]
District office is where your problem lies , principals have to follow the orders from district office.
The district office has too many chiefs and not enough Indians. ( not politically correct but accurate.
[Portion removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by Anonymous1
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2020 at 8:55 pm

dis the district office tell them not to report abuse. How did that story end?

11 people like this
Posted by Staying Young Through Kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 27, 2020 at 11:07 pm

Perhaps the Weekly could write an article about math education with special emphasis on Jo Boaler's ideas and present both sides? I get the sense there's one or two "experts" ready to chip in their anonymous opinions.

This is a comment thread about our two high school principals resigning their posts and the coming job vacancies. It's not a comment thread about math education in PAUSD. That topic has its own coverage.

Seems we've encountered the Sth Lord...the See Say Sth Lord! He's second cousin to Exar Kun.

7 people like this
Posted by anonymous2
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jan 28, 2020 at 7:47 am

Sharon O. has overseen the math for secondary school and the shape it is in is a topic now that she will oversee the math for the entire district from k-12. Kind of worrisome to be experimenting with "new things" Esablishing a math program takes years and a top person that knows math and know what works already. Look to Cupertino, Harker, San Jose College Prep, Foothill college, Basis School, Proof school for fancy very upper level math and Russian Math school or Art of Problem Solving. Do not have an unknown idea with a leader who has limited math instruction who is totally disconnected from children in charge. In Cupertino, a difference was admin set a plan, set mentors and trained teachers and then looked again and talked to children. Whatever the program is, they can not just only listen each other and never look.

14 people like this
Posted by See Sth Say Sth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2020 at 8:59 am

Ultimately, like her progressive predecessors E. Thorndike, L. Terman, and P. Cubberley, Jo Boaler doesn't believe women and minority students can master traditional math. Hence, she wants to invent a shortcut math to deliver equal academic outcomes for all students.

Most of her 34 journal papers contain "equality" or similar terms in the title.

The following reflections come from Ze'ev Wurman:

All the dumbing-down agenda — including the latest campaign on removing algebra 2, is not because all the leading educationists are stupid. Many are, but many are not. The only way I can, after all those many years, to explain to myself what is going on is that all those educationists -- I don't even want to call them educrats, as this is too complimentary to them -- don't really care about education, and they don't actually believe in the importance of education. The reliance on Rousseau and educational romanticism is, in my opinion, largely fake. What they really are after is equality -- equality of outcomes.

They see all the data that educated people get higher salaries and are more successful and, like in the Polynesian Cargo Cult (Web Link), they believe that if people of every color of skin will have equal probability to show a diploma, all of them will deserve equal jobs and equal salaries. They don't believe that, or they don't care whether there is actual talent, ability, or competence hiding behind those diplomas.

That's their Utopia, and on its altar they don't really care to sacrifice talent or merit. Somehow they believe that the world progresses on its own by the armies of mediocrity, so they role is only to try to arrange for as perfect equality as possible.

This may sound bleak, but I see no other explanation to what we see. The awful results hit those educationists in the face for decades, yet they never correct their course. Why, if not because they have different goals from you and me? After all, not all of them are stupid or charlatans.

The American educational system still has pockets of excellence, but they are being extinguished one by one. Consider the current effort to do away with the specialized high schools in NYC. So while pockets of excellence still exist, the average for the overwhelming majority is mediocre. The only saving grace of our education is the ability to have private and charter schools, and some of them are pretty good.

In any case, this is my (dark) current view of our education. Perhaps I am too pessimistic. Time will tell.

6 people like this
Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2020 at 1:58 pm

A shake up in school leadership can be healthy. The district should look at the performance of all principals, at all levels, each year and see who needs to be moved up, over, or out. The principal at several of schools have past their peaked and are descending quickly. Much rather they get reassigned before more drops in efficiency and education, or we loose quality teachers and students.

1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2020 at 2:14 pm

Posted by See Sth Say Sth, a resident of College Terrace

>> Ultimately, like her progressive

Since you like to use words like "progressive" in this way, I have to wonder if you realize just how many things are "progressive" or "modern" or whatever. You might actually agree with some of them. The "progressives" of the late 19th century were a mixed bag. They brought us antitrust laws, the graduated income tax, the FDA, and women's right to vote. They also were rather racist, generally, and also brought about the ill-fated Prohibition amendment. Lots of things can be "progressive", some good, some bad. So what?

>> Jo Boaler doesn't believe women and minority students can master traditional math. Hence, she wants to invent a shortcut math to deliver equal academic outcomes for all students.

Jo Boaler may be misguided, but labeling here as "progressive" doesn't make your case. Really.

>> Most of her 34 journal papers contain "equality" or similar terms in the title.

>> The only saving grace of our education is the ability to have private and charter schools, and some of them are pretty good.

Are you OK with "pretty good" public schools, or, is this just part of your political agenda?

I'm generally in favor of better math education, but, your constant ad hominems wrt Jo Boaler don't actually make your case. You could make the case that a series of math programs were brought into PAUSD with no evidence regarding the expected outcome. You could make the case that programs at certain (but not all) private schools appear to have much better (by measurement) outcomes, such as Menlo School and Sacred Heart. Instead of going on about Jo Boaler constantly you could ask for evidence that the proposed new programs work.

There is no statistical evidence that teachers talking about the importance of concepts is of any benefit to students. There is a big difference between talking about learning something and learning it. But, talking about Jo Boaler doesn't make a case, either. Talk about evidence that certain programs work and others don't. Post those references.

7 people like this
Posted by Anonymous1
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2020 at 2:15 pm

Funny - women and minority cant master math is an attitude. I think paly has 5 per cent in the top classes and mostly one minority race. Horrible they do discourage kids starting in 6th grade and tell them they have to teach themselves if they want to take the upper classes. Kids with money or math parents have teachers at home. Teaching can bring any kid to any level

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