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School board, supe apologize; cuts could affect students

Original post made on Sep 13, 2017

All five school board members and Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Max McGee on Tuesday night apologized for their lack of oversight that led to a contractual error that will cost the district $6 million in unbudgeted pay increases for unionized employees.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 9:53 AM

Comments (68)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2017 at 10:10 am

Now will they stop the expensive non-issue of renaming schools!

If they go ahead with this namechanging now in light of this fiasco they all ought to go get their heads examined.

Posted by Read the Contract, Jerry
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2017 at 10:32 am

McGee can and should be fired for cause - negligence and dishonesty - with no severance. Or the board can just release him in December after a second (presumably) unsatisfactory performance review. Read his contract.

The cost of firing him is WAY WAY cheaper than what he's cost us the last two years, in screwed up contracts and legal bills!

Why anyone thinks this clown won't make things even WORSE in his last year is beyond me. Every six months, it is some other screw-up.

Posted by Frank
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2017 at 11:01 am

Max should be fired!!!

We need a superintendent who truly cares about kids and education, not a politician who cares only about his career and retirement benefits

Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2017 at 11:12 am

I agree with "Resident" above that we absolutely need back-burner the added cost burden of renaming Jordan Middle School.

Some things you want to do, but you simply cannot afford. This is one of them, given this $6 million budget mistake that will "unavoidably be felt by students in the classroom, several board members said."

I seem to remember that PiE (Parents in Education) fundraising contributes about $6 million annually to the District. So this means we have effectively given away this year's PiE funds to the teacher's union?

Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2017 at 11:17 am

It's wonderful to see Superindent McGee, "take responsibility..."

It would be better to see him decline a substantial portion of his compensation, as the buck stops with [McGee]".

Of course, instead we'll be paying him his pension for years to come.

Posted by PiE was wiped out
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2017 at 11:26 am

Yes @Barron Park Dad, last year PIE gave about $5.9 million to the schools, based on the year-long efforts of over a hundred volunteers and thousands of donors. Wiped out with one stroke by Max "Oops!" McGee.

Well, PiE donors can be happy they got to donate windfall pay raises to teachers I guess. Please give generously again this year!

Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2017 at 11:29 am

Was there no discussion at all of asking the teachers' union to forgo all or part of this raise and bonus, which - afterall - were a result of a mistaken, negligent lack of notice? Are Palo Alto teachers really so greedy and so uncaring about the welfare of the students they teach that they just take the money and run all the way to the bank?

And even if the teachers are all greedy, what's in it for me, types, has there been any discussion of contacting a lawyer to see if this clearly mistaken "raise" would be subject to legal revision in court?

Why should it be a given that the $6 million is lost? Shouldn't some consideration be given to whether it can be recovered? You almost think the board and McGee are in secret cahoots with the teachers' union.

Posted by solon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2017 at 11:45 am

board members and superintendent have personal financial responsibility

they should be and probably will be personally SUED and held accountable for full amount from their own pockets -- it is coming from YOUR pocket!

they all have E&O Errors and Admission insurance for gross negligence

and UMBRELLA homeowners to cover this -- prob $1,000,000 each

also may have been INTENTIONAL -- fbo teachers union, re election money etc!

also teachers union seems DISHONEST here, at least not FORTHRIGHT

best to just take it out with interest and lower pay next cycle

makes clear CTA teachers union is ANTI STUDENT and pro MONEY

even legislators ADMIT they do not even READ the laws they vote on!! HUH?

Posted by Dumbfounded
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 13, 2017 at 11:55 am

Fire McGee for cause. Block him from receiving every penny we can. He has no business running a business and now right to rewards for his failures. The same goes for those found culpable on his team and on the school board. We have to start enforcing a culture of accountability. God knows its missing in so many areas of Palo Alto government and city services. Start here and set a clear example.

Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:01 pm

to PiE was wiped out: you're mistaken about how PiE works-- donations do NOT go directly to salaries-- they go to support programs and grants that affect the classroom directly. PiE donors are not paying for "McGee's mistake"-- and I put that in quotes because it's not his mistake alone-- the whole Board and DO negotiating team dropped the ball, so to blame it solely on him is inaccurate.

Also, the District experienced a shortfall in property revenues a year ago, but THIS year it experienced a banner year's income [portion removed due to inaccurate information.] The Board just needs to step up and publicly acknowledge the increased income and quit moaning about giving teachers much-needed raises.

Palo Alto USD needs to pay competitive salaries in order to stay in line with neighboring districts and attracting the best and brightest of a dwindling teacher pool. The high cost of living in PA and nearby cities already means that it's difficult to attract new staff; a significant percentage of staff endure long commutes to work here. Regular and appropriate salary increases are imperative for continued success in our award-winning district.

Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:06 pm

The problem with academic professionals like Mcgee is they dont see themselves as teachers or administrators or even executive leaders. Instead, they see themselves as social justice warriors.

Budgets, contracts, staffing or even students are not the priority. Running down the long list of historical wrongs is the soul obsession (pun intended).

What to do when living in a Liberal bubble and all the good causes were resolved 50 years ago? Scrape the bottom of the pareto list ever deeper and deeper in progressive Palo Alto and chase manufactured windmills of greivances.

When injustice is the lifeblood of learning then reading, writing and arithmatic get replaced by building name changes, transgendered bathrooms and Trump protests.

The predictable result is organizational, budgetary and moral collapse. Like a dilapidated juke box stuck on a well worn record of socialism blaring in a dim-lit, sticky-floored, danky, Democratic dive bar, we have been played.

Posted by PiE was wiped out
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm

@Jeanie Smith - sorry, you're mistaken about how the world works ;-)

PiE pays for things so the district doesn't have to. Everyone dollar PiE gives just frees up a taxpayer dollar for something else. If PiE disappeared tomorrow, the district would pick up everything it does (you really think they'd cut Spectra Art? High school counselors?) and cut elsewhere. Why does PiE fund what it funds - because those are the things donors open their wallets for. If they told you your PiE donation went for budget officers, copier repair, or, say, teacher raises, you wouldn't be nearly so generous. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Also, read the financials presented by the district last night. There is a $2.4 million deficit for THIS YEAR - and more deficit next year. Again, sorry to burst your bubble.

Palo Alto people need to wake up. This is what serious mismanagement looks like.

Posted by South side resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Let's not scapegoat our values. Continue the process of renaming Jordan. Not doing so is not going to save us $6,000,000 dollars. I appreciate that many of our good neighbors don't care what name the school has or have an emotional connection to Jordan. We can afford to do the right thing. Also, let's not just give suggestions on solving this financial problem. Let's each of us consider what we can do to help. Talking is cheap.

Posted by Cut 'Em Loose
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Apologies, at this late date, are very insufficient.

It is time that PAUSD severs all connection with McGee and Mak. This is nearly a year overdue!

Same goes for Kim Diorio. The aforementioned people have been toxic to the district, should have been removed a year ago!

Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Although Max McGee is, with good reason, being blamed for this fiasco, not many are also pointing the finger at Scott Bowers, whose job was to ensure that the PAUSD/union contracts were being managed correctly. That's probably because he conveniently retired last year and is no doubt raking in a very nice pension, given his age (66), salary ($219k in his final year) and years teaching in California schools (26 years)--all of this information was in the interview in the PA Weekly last January when he announced his retirement. The STRS retirement calculator indicates that he's getting at least $150k in per year in retirement. Got out in the nick of time!

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Annette is a registered user.

There's plenty for people to be angry about here and plenty for the primary players to apologize for but part of me thinks we voters are a little bit complicit in that we choose the Board that chooses the Superintendent. We clearly need to pay closer attention and do a better job of selecting people who will be the stewards of our school district.

Same thing for City Council.

If an incumbent is connected to failed policies, costly errors, bad decisions, DON'T support that person for re-election. And if a candidate is broadly endorsed by people who are connected to failed policies, costly errors, and bad decisions, think twice before lending your support to that candidate. The first place to make a difference is at the polls. Vote smart.

Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Oh please, it's not that much. Many Palo Alto residents could easily write a check for $6 million and the only thing it would affect is their bank balance - and likely not for long. This community is awash in money.

That being said let's talk about the positive aspects of this "event." Teachers got a raise - a VERY good thing. Even though Palo Alto pays their teachers fairly well the cost of living here is obscene and teacher wages don't BEGIN to approach what they need to be for them to simply reside in the community they teach.

Before lashing out and criticizing Superintendent McGee and / or the Board you should walk a mile in their shoes. The items they have to deal with include No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, student wellness issues, mandatory testing, ESL requirements and a major shortage of both teachers and substitutes. These items, along with many others, have made their jobs nearly impossible. Would it be easy to miss a budget deadline? Absolutely.

Palo Alto has a darn good (nay, excellent) school system so perhaps you should give credit where credit is due.

It's time to let bygones by bygones and let the Superintendent and the Board get on with their job.

Posted by Apologize
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:43 pm

It's too late to apologize(for superintendent).
What he said in his spèech is not a sincere apology but he is just sorry that he can't hide the errors anymore.

Posted by Corey Levens
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:51 pm

While Mr. McGee is ultimately responsible, let's not let the PAUSD attorneys that missed this contract provision off the hook either.

Posted by McGee's strategy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:52 pm

McGee's time-honored strategy:

1 - do nothing, hope things go ok
2 - when something screws-up, ignore, maybe it will go away
3 - if it doesn't go away and people find out, lie about it ("there's no problem!")
4 - if they figure out the truth, blame it on somebody else (preferably a subordinate who has left, e.g., Young, Wade, Bowers, Herrmann, soon Mak? )
5 - if they don't accept that excuse, show what a stand-up person you are by apologizing (make sure to say "the buck stops here!")

Good grief, are we actually still falling for this?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Echoing Annette's call for people to vote smart re the School Board and City Council.

She's right that there's plenty to be angry about. Many people have opted out of the school parcel tax specifically to send a message to the city for its outrageous spending and disregard for the needs of residents. So the first PAUSD budget deficit was not unexpected to those paying attention.

Yes, I know the city and PAUSD are "separate" but opting out is one of the few protests available, esp. to those of us not wash in money after paying our Utility bills which over-charged us $2,500,000 drought surcharge for a drought that was officially over.

Some financial accountability and cost-effective management here would be special.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2017 at 12:54 pm

South Side Resident

I can't believe what you say. You think this name change should go ahead and that we should think how we can help?

I think giving the BoE and District any more money is not going to make them responsible with our money. As it is, they look on Palo Alto Taxpayers and those giving to PIE as the ones who get them out of every pecuniary hole they dig themselves. They are not worthy of holding the purse strings to our money. I will not bale them out and I am not going to give them the slack to help them out of this.

They need to take a complete overhaul of the way they are spending our money. They are not worthy of 1c extra as they have shown absolutely no financial responsibility over the past X years.

Let them get rid of some administrators, stop expensive staff fact finding trips, start counting pennies and see how to stop the wasted dollars here and dollars there flittering away.

It is their time to do what they can to put this right. It is not up to us.

Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Sooooo let me get this straight. The Board and the Superintendent Max Magee accidentally didn't read the contract negotiation deadlines carefully and MISSED A DEADLINE for negotiations... leading to an unexpected BUDGET SHORTFALL of 6 (SIX) MILLION dollars? And it was an "oops" we forgot and missed the deadline excuse?

When have we ever gone to work, missed a deadline and cost the company 6 million dollars in cash outflow, resulting in budget shortfalls for the entire company? This is outrageous.

Where were the lawyers? Accountants? The secretaries? The clerks? ANYONE? This makes no sense.
There is no excuse for this kind of oversight and bumbling by the board or superintendent.

What's next? Another "oops" we didn't read the contract carefully.... we agreed to a contract that will bleed the budget another 6 million dollars here... and 5 million dollars there?

They need to get their act together. If they need to hire professional lawyers and accountants to keep their dates straight so they can handle a budget... maybe they should. Maybe the BOARD and Superintendent should give up THIS YEARS WAGES and SALARIES for incorrectly and incompetently doing their jobs.... so the Board can hire an accounting firm and auditing firm and legal firm that can help them straighten out their act and paperwork and deadlines.

How can we trust them with a budget at all when this type of MASSIVE BUDGET ERRORS are being made?

AUDIT THEM ALL - including the board members.

Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2017 at 1:17 pm

So they DID HAVE attorneys who messed this up? The Attorneys should be fired. Fire the whole lot .. and vote in competent board members and oversight committee that actually doesn't bumble up the BUDGET COSTING SIX MILLION DOLLARS.

Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2017 at 1:20 pm

James Thurber,

Making 6 million dollar errors in budgeting should be "let bygones be bygones"?

Sure.. we trust them with a budget... and they make a 6 million dollar error... but.. MEH.. no biggie. Let's just swallow the deficit.

Palo Alto is rich. Just assume parents can write checks and BUDGET the writing of these checks.. as the BOARD is not budgeting their BUDGET....

Continue to pay incompetent people their salaries... and not fire them.. and.. MEH.. no consequences whatsoever. It's only 6 million dollars.

Posted by Didn't have to happen
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 13, 2017 at 2:00 pm

McGee was the architect of the fancy new three year teachers contract and was heralded for its merits and its supposed failsafe clauses. Scott Bowers was in charge of HR and failed to send in a simple but required piece of paper to reopen negotiations. (Everyone knew this was the plan - EVERYONE. We all knew the terms of the contract - and the financial circumstances of last year - which clearly required that the third year be renegotiated). The Teachers Union reps knew it too - but kept silent as the required notification of intent to reopen negotiations approached and passed.

While we can certainly agree that the Board shares legal responsibility - and that we voters share responsibility for voting them in - let's keep our eyes on whose BASIC job it was to simply send a notification letter (Scott Bowers) and open renegotiations (Scott Bowers and the Teachers Union).

To me, this is where the main responsibility lies. I have read all the arguments/excuses about the Teachers' Union doing its job for "the best interest of teachers" - and while I hear you, I simply and wholeheartedly disagree that we should not expect the Union to have spoken up.

Scott failed miserably and failed US. The Teachers Union had a choice to make - and they should have reminded Scott of the requirement date. Plain and simple.

That's what honorable PEOPLE - working in the best interest of students, teachers and community - would have done.

Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2017 at 2:23 pm

It seems to me if one looks at the situation through the Liberal Progreasive lense then they got exactly what they wanted:

A. 3% or more raises and bonuses all around for their block voting constituents. Wahoo!
B. Multi-million dollar long term contracts for a revolving door of academic/consultants to expand the identity politics infrastructure now institutionalized in the SEL and not in my school curriculum
C. Additional six figure salaried positions for diversity and Title IX witch hunts
D. In flush of money and legal resources to valiently defend the rights of those here illegally
E. In an exit strategy that makes Dunkirk seem like childs play, all involved escape out the back door to a tax payer paid retirement via golden parachutes immune to the gravity of accounatbility

With an exemplary record like that, if we had any confederate statues left I am sure the Democrats would replace them with one of McGee.

By the way, we know this was calculated all along because nobody has brought up the option of simply refusing to pay the raises. Contracts like these have dispute resolution procedures a mile long so take it to arbitration and appeal for leniency due to an honest mistake. Heaven knows the union would do the same if the shoe was on the other foot.

Posted by PIE $
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 13, 2017 at 3:07 pm

If you're curious what PiE spends its money on:

Web Link

Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 13, 2017 at 3:11 pm


Why do you want to bring more lawyers and their excessive fees into this now?
The contract was carried out the way it was written. If you don't like the way the contract was written, get better lawyers to write the next contract. The next contract is the time to take the money out of the teacher's salaries. There is no point in rehashing the current contract.

Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 13, 2017 at 3:51 pm

@Mary and Chris,

The PAUSD did consult two law firms a few weeks ago and learned from both of them that it was too late to have the renegotiation.

We do know that one of the two unions started a grievance process but then the two unions had meetings with the PAUSD and dropped the grievance. The PAUSD announced that it would pay the raises and bonuses as in the contract.

I would guess that both unions threatened litigation and the district decided it could not win, which seems a correct assessment.

As to the teachers being "greedy", I am sure that they don't see it that way. They feel that they are underpaid and fully deserve the raises. They have a long and established narrative about how rich this city is and how it can afford to pay more. In talking with teachers myself, I have several times heard them complain about the 1.4M interest-free raise McGee was given as part of his employment contract. They feel he is overcompensated, which this whole situation clearly supports. They are not about to walk away from these raises without a fight just to make the district look good.

I have a lot of issues with teachers union (tenure rules, lack of merit pay, work rules, enormous pensions). But this situation is not their fault, and I don't hold it against them that they wanted to keep the raises.

In any case, we should realize that the union/district relationship is largely adversarial, and only a bit collaborative. The teachers unions are very tough to deal with, and pretty successful at achieving the membership's goals.

Posted by NotDifficult
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2017 at 4:47 pm

So here's the thing - when I have a deadline at work, I put it in my calendar.

This reminds me to get it done on time. Especially if it is something my boss wants.

Or more importantly if my boss wants something for his boss. I might put in a reminder a few days early.

It's pretty easy.

So easy, in fact, that they teach this to the middle school kids. The schools even provide a calendar to the kids. It's called a binder reminder. And they teach them how to use it.

Anybody who thinks Max should be retained should answer why he cannot live up to the expectations we have of the average 11 year-old in the district. No fair blaming Bowers. This task is literally the simplest thing he could do.

It is probably easier than making coffee or reserving a conference room.

He does not need to apologize, the board should fire him. The incompetence is incomparable.

Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2017 at 5:13 pm

I can't believe NO ONE is GETTING FIRED over this!

I did NOT want to come down hard on the Board over the initial deadline failure, because truly they are not full-time employees of the district. And there are full-time well-paid employees of PAUSD whose basic job responsibility is fiscal management and contract oversight. But if the Board does not enact consequences to the employees who mismanaged this for the SECOND TIME, now the Board is NOT doing it's job.

Seriously, if you already had a human-error induced screw-up in your budget leading to a deficit, wouldn't you be EXTRA CAREFUL when you are given essentially the same job to do again? But if you will never actually have any personal bad outcome regardless of what happens, then why bother doing your job meticulously? Certainly, not out of basic internal integrity in PAUSD. It does feel shady.

Board, Do your job now! Mak and McGee should be fired AND Bowers should be held accountable in some way also. This dereliction of duty happened under Bowers useless watch.

Posted by PAEA is in on it
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 13, 2017 at 5:17 pm

PAEA sent Teri Baldwin to Illinois at great cost to the taxpayers, as if it needed to, to perform the theater of checking out Glenn McGee's experience. PAEA and Baldwin then gave their blessing, and that includes the million-dollar loan and the million-dollar contract, so in that sense, no, the teachers were not complaining about his compensation. They are in on this charade. And they are not giving the money back, they are unionized for money, nothing wrong with that, but let us not pretend that they organize to advocate for our children. They also do not protest together against the teachers who annually abuse our students, I'm referring to the sexual assaults that the Palo Alto Weekly has reported on. You know who slipped out of town through retirement? Scott Bowers. He was the chief negotiator, and we can presume that he knew everything about the contract and the deadlines. Same goes with McGee, Cathy Mak, and the school board. But Bowers leaving gives the appearance that he left dirty, doesn't mean he did it, but it looks like it, and that's how it goes in politics. The PAMA group, essentially our administrators, they have disappointed us once again. I remember their support of Holly Wade during her many screw-ups. I hope the public and parents understand that, like PAEA, they appear to be protecting their jobs and their me-too raises, rather than organizing for children.

Posted by Technically speaking
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2017 at 5:55 pm

The Union agreed to and signed a contract that, given the financial realities of last year, would require teacher raise renegotiations for 2017-18.

That was the spirit and letter of the mutually agreed upon contract. Renegotiation. Not the loss of a raise, necessarily. All involved had the same expectations as to what should and what would need to happen for 2017-18. The notification letter was a technicality - and a whopper as it turns out.

Time and again this community has turned out to support its teachers and "the schools" - including turning out our pockets whenever asked. The fact that the union consciously decided to say nothing about a technicality (when they could have) shows disrespect and disregard for the community whose taxes, parcel taxes and donations support them and provide school funds. THAT honestly hurts.

The teachers union "won" a 3% raise on a technicality and by default - capitalizing on the colossal incompetence of at least one highly paid administrator (Scott Bowers). But the union is losing in the court of public opinion - with long term costs and consequences yet to be realized.

Posted by Collusion?
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 13, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Was Scott Bowers retirement compensation higher because he let this raise "accidentally" slip through? Was it intentional? If so he should be charged with fraud and gross negligence. Why aren't the lawyers investigating what actions can be taken against Scott?

What action can be taken against the lawyers and accountants?

I think the board needs to take much more aggressive action to send a clear message that this fiscal mismanagement is not acceptable. This "oops" we made a mistake is way too mild a response. They should have tried to contest the raises with the union. Fire Cathy Mak for gross negligence a second time on a massive scale. Reduce McGee's pay. Of course Max does not have time to oversee his team, he's too busy writing newsletters. It's very clear the priority of PAUSD staff is the teachers and not the students. The community voted to raise additional money for the schools that was not to go to the teachers but to class size reduction, etc... and somehow the union in what appears to be collusion with the staff have siphoned all that money into teacher salaries. If we are going to pay the teachers this much we should be firing the bad ones and we all know which ones those are. Externally, it appears there is collusion, corruption and acceptance of incompetence on a significant scale.

Posted by nay
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2017 at 6:25 pm

Do children have access to the lawyers that are paid for?shouldn't they get representation that is equal? I must be missing something here and admit that I do not understand this at all.

Posted by Chris Dewees
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 13, 2017 at 7:38 pm

I am heartened by the Board recognizing its role in the debacle. What is disheartening is the Board's apparent failure to terminate McGee for all of the reasons this publication and many in the community have already provided. Not doing so sends entirely the wrong message regarding the lack of accountability of the Administration. Moreover, instructing the Administration to eliminate projected raises for teachers and administrators from future budgets is naive, at best. To assume the Union will acquiesce is plain false and the Board knows it. The Union will adamantly insist on raises each and every time. Further, to believe the Union will be unsuccessful in negotiating future raises is unrealistic, based on years of precedent. The only way the Board's instructions to the Administration at last night's meeting makes sense is as a negotiating tactic, -- "don't expect anything from us next year" bravado. Good luck with that.

We need our Board to be honest, transparent and realistic with itself and the community. (Todd Collins' proposals at the meeting are encouraging.) Here's a start: fire McGee, make the cuts required to fix the budget hole, prepare future budgets with conservative, realistic expectations, and hold Administrators accountable.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

A couple points that haven't been brought into the discussion yet:

Renewal of the parcel tax was approved overwhelmingly in the Measure A vote. At the time a number of voices in Town Square called for rejection of the measure. How important are those funds to the district in the light of the fiscal shocks we're all upset over?

Supt. McGee and the board were blindsided during the winter and spring by two issues that absorbed a great deal of their time and attention: Weighted GPA and Middle School Sex Education. Did this lead to less attention to budget and contract matters on their part during that crucial period of time? Were they lulled into inattentiveness by their confidence in district negotiator Scott Bowers' experience and dependability?

@Robert Smith
Thank you for your reasoned comments about the respective roles of union and district negotiators in the collective bargaining process.

Posted by Technically speaking
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2017 at 8:41 pm


When max is gone we'll still be stuck with the teachers union. The tiniest amount of good faith on their part could have prevented this - and they would still have gotten a raise (as you wisely have written).

Adding to your good list - hire for more honorable and harder working replacements. Rethink plans to re-up the parcel tax any time soon.

This is going to take some time to get over.

Posted by a civics teacher
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2017 at 8:42 pm

"Collins also made a failed motion, supported only by Dauber, to suspend a $400 stipend trustees receive for their board work. Collins and Godfrey said they already forego the stipend." They have a $6 million gap and they take time to talk about $400/mo? Which over five trustees over a year totals 0.4% of their gap.

While the intentions are good on showing shared pain, the greater message that it sends is that only wealthy people should serve on the school board, and that political optics matter more than making real reforms.

Most school districts aren't forced to hire a Title IX coordinator. Real self-reflection is needed on how they can better keep students at the center of their focus.

Posted by Rick
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 13, 2017 at 9:45 pm

Cathy Mak has had personal involvement with 'mistakes' that have cost PAUSD about $10M in the last year or two. First ignoring specific warnings from the county about PAUSD's unrealistic tax revenue estimate, and this. In both cases raises the district had not budgeted for was the goal, period. Sugar coat it or justify it how ever you wish. The fact is, she has defrauded the tax payers of this school district to the tune of $10M and there seems to be ZERO accountability from PAUSD and the school board. WTF is going on here? $10M, think about it, that's 2 years of Pie donations squandered by one district employee. As usual, it's the kids who will end up paying for this screw up in no doubt a wide variety of ways.

Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2017 at 9:47 pm

This is purposeful and irresponsible collusion at worst... or absolute incompetency at best.

Who goes to work.... makes an "oops" mistake over a LEGAL CONTRACT...... misses negotiations.... resulting in a 6 million dollar deficit (to a budget already IN DEFICIT)...... and then says, "Well I should still get paid, get my bonuses and keep my jobs"

Who in the Bay area... goes to work.... and either does something CRIMINAL by not doing their job in a calculated NEGLIGENT manner that is premeditated.... or is INCOMPETENT..... and makes a 6 million dollar error... and thinks they should keep their job instead of being fired?

This would not happen in the in any other work place.

How is it these people are still retaining their salaries and their jobs?

They should all be audited. Perhaps a TERM limit should be put on BOARD members. CORRUPTION run rampant? Or is it sheer incompetence?

Either way... they don't belong in those positions.s All of them. They have proven it.

Posted by Britney
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2017 at 10:52 pm

Oops!...THEY Did it Again.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2017 at 11:23 pm

Annette is a registered user.

"All board members agreed that there will likely be no raises for teachers and classified union members in the next few years as the district copes with an ongoing deficit."

This is wrong, wrong, wrong and akin to PG&E customers paying for PG&E's colossal failure to properly maintain its gas lines. How is the district going to reward good teaching or incentivize teachers to come to PAUSD if there's no chance of pay increases b/c failed stewardship caused a financial deficit? Protecting teacher salaries should be a priority. They are on the front line with our children every single school day. And as we all know, we live in a very expensive area.

Let's not forget that we live in a city that has an abundance of well paid managers and assistant city managers. I know the funds come from different buckets, but if one looks at the whole Palo Alto picture it doesn't make much sense to over-staff and over-pay at the administrative level of the City or PAUSD and not at least give increases to teachers in normal economic years.

Question: is it possible that part of the problem is that the Superintendent and other administrators are too far removed from the teachers? I doubt there's a single teacher that doesn't have March 15 emblazoned in their mind b/c as I understand the routine, that is the date that starts the process of determining how many teachers are given pink slips. If there are cuts or pay freezes the district should, I think, take a very thorough look at its administrative model. The teachers should not pay for failed governance.

Posted by White Elephant
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Max McGee should have the decency to resign. He is a politician that lies, tells partial tails, and weaves to deceive. He does not deserve to get any compensation or retirement package or any benefits. He has damaged our children, our community, and our schools. First by not complying with title IX and compliance with OCR contract. Hundreds of thousands of dollars has been spent and is getting spent from our budget to figure out how to cover Max McGee and Diorio blunder. Two hazard for any school district. Now this disaster is even more than what we gifted to the title IX lawyers. Lets throw more money down the drain, shall we, how is $6M, not enough? How much more would we be spending in the years to come in the wake of this disaster. Sustaining and adding to these salary increases? I say cut loose the guy. no compensation, no retirement package, NOTHING. Clearly he is incapable of performing his duty. His next disaster will be more than $6M , the trend is up.

Posted by Technically speaking
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2017 at 8:24 am

@Annette's points - whether teachers get annual raises in the coming years or not, they are being hurt by the actions of their union leaders.

Future funding -PIE and parcel taxes, the long history of good will relationships - all have been injured.

Scott Bowers and others are finally showing up publicly for who they've been in the shadows - but our teachers' leaders caught me by surprise. They could have EASILY prevented a multimillion dollar loss of hard-earned taxpayer money, yet another depressing and demoralizing public scandal and STILL had a raise.

To my way of thinking the teachers union stuck it to "us" - not the DIstrict Office. Their hands are just as dirty in inflicting this injury to our community - and ultimately to their own teachers - as the gross neglect and incompetence of the Administration.

The latter many of us have come to know over the past 7 years - and we expect no more. But the deliberate nature of the Teachers Union to let this happen - at a time when this community and this school district needs healing is unconscionable.

They could have prevented this and STILL HAD A RAISE.

Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2017 at 10:29 am

@Technically speaking:

You say this is "a multimillion dollar loss of hard-earned taxpayer money", then in the next breath you say the teachers could have had a raise the following year. Would that raise ALSO been "a multimillion dollar loss of hard-earned taxpayer money"? Does it depend on what year it is? Does paying teachers constitute "a multimillion dollar loss of hard-earned taxpayer money"?

It doesn't work both ways just depending on whether you *feel* like you've lost something this week because the district made a management mistake. Union/teacher bashing on this forum is a sort of kindergarten-level sport, requiring little effort and zero accountability. Understanding how collective bargaining works and the reasons why unions are important for working people is a little more nuanced. Grasping the complexities of fiduciary and legal responsibility in collective bargaining negotiations and agreements according to state law is even tougher, but in this particular case it's pretty clear. The union did absolutely nothing wrong here, and any lawyer worth their salt would agree. Max and Scott screwed up here, but that is their issue, not the union's issue.

Nothing has been lost here. By your own admission teachers would have had raises the following year/years. Many have acknowledged this while in the same breath calling it an "injury to our community". Which is it? Is ANY raise for the teachers an "injury to our community"? It starts to look and sound like what it is - blaming the teachers as greedy, feeling like you've suffered a "loss" when there is none, venting against teachers for things that are not their fault, mainly because they're an easy target. Your taxes are not going up because of this. The district will be fine. Property tax revenues are on the rise again.

Again, it's worth repeating: your beef is with district management/leadership, not with the teachers.

Posted by Over and Done
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 14, 2017 at 10:54 am

"All board members agreed that there will likely be no raises for teachers and classified union members in the next few years as the district copes with an ongoing deficit."

I wish it were true.
Unfortunately teachers will get the raises written in the contract.
Best we can hope for is reduced bonuses and NO NEW ADDITIONAL raises.

The teachers and their Union have sure squandered any goodwill and support they might have once had from the community. I'm sure disappointed in their poor character and ethic during this mess.

Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 14, 2017 at 12:13 pm

There is ZERO certainty that reopened contract negotiations would have led to ANY decrease in teacher pay. The main problem was years ago when the tax revenue was overestimated and the teacher pay allowed to increase. There is so much GODDAM teacher and administrator turnover around here that the ONLY solution is to pay people more. It's ridiculously expensive to live here and I don't think the teachers are getting rich from this contract. If the teachers had lost their agreed upon raises and bonuses I think it's safe to assume more would leave for other districts and jobs. And no, I'm not a teacher, I'm a parent.

Posted by embarassing
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 14, 2017 at 12:25 pm

@Over and Done,

"I wish it were true."

Unfortunately it's just this board trying to appease the public. They know the furore will die down and they'll go about giving out the raises. They even stated this when they put together the last budget. They said it was unrealistic not to budget in raises for teachers over the next few years and so they did that. Now, they claim that they can confirm there will be "no raises for teachers and classified union members in the next few years"!!!

This is a board totally out of control. They completely inept and have made a bad situation worse.

Quite simply, they've had multiple chances and have proven themselves not up to the challenge. They've all got to go.

Posted by Over and Done
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 14, 2017 at 12:31 pm

What teacher turnover ?
cite some statistics please.

Administrators are getting fired or driven out by the teachers (Gunn principal). Teachers are staying put or retiring with fat public pensions.

Plenty of folks are lined up for teaching jobs in Palo Alto. No need for more pay. Get rid of the Union and let the applications for cushy Palo Alto teaching jobs come flooding in. Then hire like the rest of the Valley does - on skill and contribution - not seniority and political connection to Union Leadership.

I live here. I see T. Collins is retiring at a pension larger than my current working salary (a tech manager). Teachers can live here easily if I can. Quit promoting that "it's too expensive to live here" fallacy.

Posted by Over and Done
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 14, 2017 at 12:34 pm

My last post was a response to @Michael O.

Posted by Technically speaking
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2017 at 12:37 pm

@ Rodger Dodger... you caught me - technically speaking. Taxpayer money would have been spent either way. But this year's 3% feels like it was grabbed vs. earned - to me. Disagree if you will - but that's how it feels to ME.

I'm not a lawyer - but I am the child and spouse of teachers/administrators - people whose lives have been committed to their students and community... who see and respect the bigger picture of public education AND this particular case. Professionals who don't need or WANT to play "gotcha" with a technicality when a simple renegotiation would have been more fair, more square and certainly more dignified. That's where I believe most of the teachers I know and love would stand.

I can't speak for lawyers.

So, anti-teacher? Just the opposite. Stupid mistakes by District "leaders"? - Roger Dodger that. Conscious decision-making by UNION leaders to take advantage of "stupid"?... "Stupid" mistakes have always been easier to fix and get over than "moral" ones.

Emotionally speaking.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2017 at 12:43 pm

I don't think this discussion about whether or not the teachers deserve a pay increase or not is the right way to look at this at all.

I do think that discussion about whether the administrators have once again been responsible for a monetary mistake is completely relevant.

Whether or not PIE takes in more or less money to give to the schools to help kids is relevant because whatever way you call it, PIE gives PAUSD the opportunity to waste money. If PIE pays for things the District should be paying, it leaves more money for the District to waste. If PIE didn't cover these things then PAUSD would have to pay for them. These are not luxuries, these are basic educational needs. Does anyone really think that the District will not have paid personnel monitoring the elementary playgrounds at lunch time to let the kids run wild? Of course not. The same for practically all the other things that PIE pays for.

I am sorry, but I put a lot of the blame on PIE. PIE as an organization has allowed PAUSD to get away with bad money management time and time again. There has been no accountability at Churchill and PIE has enabled them to waste money and cost us taxpayers.

PIE, PTA and the ability of PTA leaders to get on to BoE is a problem.

I say the last part carefully because we are not a District that is usually swamped with candidates for BoE. We can only choose from a shallow pool of people who are willing. There is no point in saying vote them out if the next string of candidates (if we get any of course) is anything but a PTA carbon copy of what is already there.

And there lies the problem. Do we actually have any volunteers on this thread to run for BoE. Unless we can get the people who are willing to change PAUSD, we will be stuck with repeat performers.

Posted by Benton
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 14, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Well said! I have been thinking this for a while - you nailed it.

Posted by what
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 14, 2017 at 12:51 pm

@ over and done

It is always sad to see the guy who took the higher salary whining over no pension. You made your life choices based on salary and options and so did teachers and other public servants and county and state workers.

Posted by Over and Done
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 14, 2017 at 1:15 pm

@What "It is always sad to see the guy who took the higher salary whining over no pension. "

No. I said HIS PENSION (as a retired teacher) is higher than MY SALARY (as a current worker and Palo Alto resident).
I don't know where you got what you wrote.

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 14, 2017 at 1:48 pm

" Are Palo Alto teachers really so greedy and so uncaring about the welfare of the students they teach that they just take the money and run all the way to the bank?"

The teachers' job is to instruct the students. The administrators' job isto operate the enterprise competently. The teachers are doing their job. The administrators...

Besides, how many times have YOU reminded your boss not to give you the raise you were promised? Hmmm?

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm

"I see xxx is retiring at a pension larger than my current working salary ..."

So why don't you go get a job that pays better? Whining in this forum will get you nowhere.

Posted by Not Enougj
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 14, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Apologies are not enough! Considering all of the scandals of the last year or more, McGee, Mak and Diorio should have lost their jobs THEN and THERE.

Had these three buckpassers been working in the private sector, they would have been fired and possibly prosecuted.

They still may be sued personally. Certainly the district has been sued because of their misdeeds.

Note to the School Board: Change employment agencies! You made a huge mistake using the same company that gave us Kevin Skelly. Obviously, they are shortchanging us.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 14, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"Plenty of folks are lined up for teaching jobs in Palo Alto. No need for more pay"

That's an opinion subject to empirical investigation. Is the number and quality of teacher applicants for PAUSD positions level, rising or falling?

If the answer is level or rising in the face of pinched housing prospects, horrendous traffic, continual sniping about teacher character and competence, anxiety over student suicides and sexual assaults, a perception that-at the secondary level at least-this a pressure cooker environment for all concerned, then I would agree with you. Agree, that is, that you can fill the slots.

But is the actual experience of teaching in Palo Alto so outstanding that you can feel confident about retaining those new teachers if you freeze the salary schedule where it is? The situation is not static, neighboring districts are raising the ante. Whisman-Mt. View elementary school district just announced it's fourth straight significant salary increase. MVLA High School District already pays more than PAUSD. Or maybe getting out of the Bay Area altogether will become more attractive. There are lots of good school districts around the country looking for great prospects to sign. With 3–5 years of Palo Alto experience behind them, they'd be very attractive candidates.

It would be an interesting experiment to run--freeze salaries for a few years and study the impact on the district. Maybe you can find candidates for the next school board election willing to run on giving it a try.

Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2017 at 3:40 pm

The frustration from private sector workers by this lesson in public sector incompetence and accountability is certainly understandable.

Perhaps that is why we should discourage the government from taking over 1/5th of the economy with ObamaCare, using the NSA to spy on its own citizens, weaponizing the IRS to punish the political opposition, reconstructing Federal courts into mini-legislatures, converting the state department into a pay to play money making scheme and of course creating corrupt "global foundations" to finance a permanent campaign class of operatives and holding zone while they wait to rotate between more lucrative positions in Wall Street, K Street, the Media and Silicon Valley.

Our little PAUSD problem is just a microcosm of Liberal Progressive philosophy. The bigger the government, the worse it gets.

Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 14, 2017 at 4:32 pm


You don't seem to realize that the poor will not be educated unless the government pays for it.
The rich can pay, the poor can't. What kind of medical care would seniors get today if Medicare did not exist?

A little more thinking and less knee-jerking is appropriate.

Posted by Over and Done
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 14, 2017 at 4:39 pm

@Curmudgeon "I see xxx is retiring at a pension larger than my current working salary ..."

Thanks for drawing attention to my post. If you actually read it instead of just clipping part of a sentence, you would see that I said:

"I live here. I see T. Collins is retiring at a pension larger than my current working salary (a tech manager). Teachers can live here easily if I can. Quit promoting that "it's too expensive to live here" fallacy."

So teachers (and Perhaps you, Curmudgeon ?) should stop whining.
Whining in this forum will get you nowhere.

Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2017 at 5:21 pm

@ Sanctimonious City

Equifax, Wells Fargo ...

Since you've taken this off topic, I just want to point out examples in the private sector as well. I'm not saying this defends the actions in PAUSD. I'm just saying this isn't necessarily a public vs private dilemma.
Incompetence and/or deliberate underhandedness is a danger in many institutions.

And truly, the private sector is NO better at holding the top brass accountable. How many CEO's, etc. get fired when the public is abused by a company versus low-level scape goats?

The message: constant vigilance.

Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2017 at 7:43 am

Dr. McGee is an honorable man.

He came from the east coast with a lot of experience in this job.
Things have happened. But, these can be fixed.
He said he will retire by the end of the year.

Let's wait.


Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 15, 2017 at 8:38 am

Hey @ Over and Done. Who can afford to live here on these salaries? Web Link

Everyone here believes what they want about the teachers and the union, so whatever comments I make will fall on deaf ears, especially yours. I have no idea what a "Tech Manager", but if you are being paid less than a teacher's *pension* is my suggestion is: get a teaching certificate and work at PAUSD if you don't like what you're being paid.

But my main point is this: even if negotiations were reopened, there is no guarantee teacher pay increases would have been taken away, and certainly not all of them.

Posted by Gladiator
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 16, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Dear next Superintendent

I hope you read this and get your head checked before you take the job of running a school district that is:

- overseen by a completely incompetent board
- stymied by a complacent and indifferent staff and union
- driving record numbers of it's students into the psych ward, and, worst of all
- serving a community that thinks way too highly of itself.

Other than that, welcome to Palo Alto Unified

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