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Have a question or concern about school closures? Ask Palo Alto's superintendent during new live webinars

Original post made on Apr 19, 2020

Starting this Monday, Superintendent Don Austin will start a live weekly webinar series during which he'll talk about the school closures and take questions from community members.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, April 19, 2020, 7:33 AM

Comments (13)

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2020 at 1:09 pm

Seems that this news item has been on the news page for 5 1/2 hours but as yet no parent seems to have found it worth commenting. Perhaps they don't read the news, just the comments on Town Square.

Perhaps me commenting here will put this on Town Square and they just might pay attention to something that will interest them rather than just commenting on a different post asking questions that PAUSD won't read.

12 people like this
Posted by Communication is two ways
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2020 at 2:25 pm

Dear Superintendent Austin,
We left instead of suing the district because the education and the nasty, methodical, vengeful retaliations and damage it was doing to my family and child's mental health weren't worth it. But now that everyone is home, I want the full evaluation my kid needs and targeted remedial special ed services for an older child that should have been provided in elementary school. We can't even afford good internet access for the AP tests coming up. (We are not registered through the district since the district seems to think the only obligation is for us to send tax dollars to educate other children, and the district has no legal obligation to educate mine or help with special needs, at least, if I'm not on the school board.)

Now that disruptions have come to all, can you please reach out and do something for the kids the district HARMED before you came on board? Stop ignoring us?

12 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 19, 2020 at 4:55 pm


I am sorry to hear about your past struggles. Some of my best friends moved out of Palo Alto after being unable to get a reasonable setup from PAUSD for their dyslexic child (couldn't afford private school, who can?).

I believe you are entitled to an annual IEP assessment from your home district, whether or not you have moved on to a private school. Ask for it, perhaps after consulting with an independent Special Ed advocate beforehand. This would perhaps not apply for your older student depending on his/her age. There are advocates who are not attorneys per se, but folks with experience in these battles. Some parents, some ex-counselors, some both.

It is sad that working with advocates is the norm with PAUSD if your student is not cookie cutter, but advocates can help you focus what you are asking for in the assessment and know how to hedge that request with other, independent assessments to make sure no games are played in minimizing a student's need or offering an overly limiting education plan. They can help you get an appropriate alternative placement, if your student's needs dictate that. Schools are understandably loathe to do that because of the cost, but when it is warranted these arrangements are not infrequently agreed upon.

This can be pricey. In fact, I would say PAUSD's central equity problem is that any kids with unusual situations get shunted to the side unless the families get heavy. Left alone, PAUSD will do enough to meet some minimal bar, but it is a very very minimal bar. It is typically families with resources that advocate for what a kid out of the mainstream really needs. [Portion removed due to inaccuracy.]

Not all advocates are astronomically priced, and you can do YOUR best to use an advocate's time wisely. For example, don't give them a 60 minute spiel starting with your kid's struggles in first grade. Write up the bullet points. Tell them briefly what assessment / IEPs / diagnoses they've had in the past, what you believe they might qualify for now if properly assessed, and then listen and take their guidance!

Good luck!

Hope this helps, all the best. Remember that you are not alone!

9 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 20, 2020 at 11:57 am

Dear Dr. Austin and PAUSD Board and the teacher's union:
Why isn't PAUSD offering UC Scout, a FREE, already available WASC/UC accredited, a-g and common core aligned, online platform for HS that has recorded lectures, grades, tests, assignments, etc. all from certificated teachers, already, when PAUSD is not offering any recorded or unrecorded lectures/instruction, no grades, and no guarantee of course completion? UC Scout offers 26 AP courses and a-g courses. Does online learning threaten teachers' job security? Does the district care more about protecting teacher's job security than educating its students? It sure seems so. Please explain Dr. Austin and School Board why PAUSD is not serving its students.

Has the district tracked down every student to make sure they have wifi access? And a device? Have they provided such if the student did not have it? What is the data? If the district hasn't done so, why hasn't it at this point? What % of students are accessing the PAUSD online learning offerings? Is PAUSD tracking any attendance? Does PAUSD know if students are accessing the online offerings?

And for the fall, when some students will not be able to physically attend school, due to their own underlying conditions or those of relatives, when there is no vaccine or confirmed treatment available, and when a second wave of the pandemic may appear, what online learning with PAUSD be providing? Will it be with grades, course completion, synchronous lectures/instruction, recorded lectures/instruction, and the like? Or will those students and families continue not to be served by PAUSD? What's the answer Dr. Austin?

8 people like this
Posted by Soooooooo
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 20, 2020 at 2:23 pm

Dr. Austin, my children (one in middle and one in HS) has had almost zero instruction during the lockdown. Just what are all the teachers being paid to do? Seems like they have been given a 5 week paid vacation so far! I think residents should receive partial/pro-rated refunds of property taxes and entire refunds on any school based special assessments due to almost complete absence of education services during this period.

8 people like this
Posted by whew
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2020 at 2:53 pm

My kids have no instruction and were told there would be no instruction because a teacher had kids.

There is still testing.

There is still homework.

There was a threat of the teacher giving a FAIL grade if the kids did not meet her rubrics.

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:06 pm

@whew - so you wrote the principal and explained the problem so they could address it - right? Or did you just post your tale here?

@Independent - sounds like you've got some questions. Will you call into the webinar and ask them? Have you emailed your principals (or anyone) to ask them? Or do you also just like to rant vs. actually try to address issues?

I get that some people do this just for entertainment value, but if you care about kids, it probably has a negative value.

Like this comment
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:16 pm

@Independent - Sounds like you have lots of questions. If they are not ask at this evenings webinar, I encourage you to attend the Board Meeting on Tuesday evening beginning at 6:30pm. It would be helpful for the board to hear your questions since they were elected to represent us.

10 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:44 pm

@Resident -- and all:
If the teacher's union and PAUSD cared about kids, wouldn't they offer alternatives for students to get a complete education at this time, like via UC Scout, a currently free online platform for HS a-g courses that is both WASC and UC accredited and offers letter grades, course completion and pre recorded lectures/instruction, assignments, and tests? Which is a package PAUSD (and the teacher's union) is not currently offering. Instead we have ill defined, teacher dependent, erratic, packets of stuff, with nothing to then an avalanche of required material, without instruction. And we have excuses about why it can't be done when we have perfectly suitable alternatives that are free, if only PAUSD would offer it. Yes, it can be done.

What about the fall? What about students who have underlying health conditions, or have family members who do? They may not be able to attend school if/when it opens. How will PAUSD serve them? By forcing them to risk their health? Or their families' health? How about serving students' needs? And questions have already been put to those people.

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 20, 2020 at 6:20 pm

@ Resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

That's a bit offensive. There is not a parent in PAUSD who is "ranting" for "entertainment purposes" as you imply.
Everyone has a right to voice their feelings and thoughts about how this has been handled by the Board & Superintendent Don Austin.

If there is criticism, it's their choice how they voice it. Palo Alto Online comments is a valid forum. Should this comment section only be reserved for the "positive" and "encouraging" and "pro" Superintendent Don Austin or Board comments? If that is the case, and comments sections should only be positive, please explain why?

We are all overwhelmed and it shouldn't be up to a parent to fix something during this moment where leadership should have stepped up. 5 weeks of little education would imply something is not being done properly.

Criticism is all valid and should not be labelled as "entertainment"
A democratic process means we can all voice our opinions, unless you believe in censorship and comments can only be Board or Superintendent positive.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2020 at 7:45 pm

I have said it before and so here I go again.

There is a tremendous problem with the fact that each school district is autonomous. There is such inequality with how different each district is dealing with this. Are Mountain View/Los Altos having similar problems? Are Menlo/Atherton having these problems. Shouldn't they at least have the same problems, the same pros and cons, the same issues to solve?

Why isn't the State mandating better how schools should be approaching this problem? Shouldn't their be state funding for guidelines in what to do when there is a major earthquake?

This is dreadful. I ask myself what happened after Loma Prieta? Was there all this inequality in response to the situation?

What if we did have a major earthquake in the area. What guidelines are set in place for how to deal with teaching children if a major high school, for example, had suffered serious damage? It seems pathetic to me that as soon as school was closed they did not go into Earthquake teaching mode. But perhaps that was because no such thing exists.

Pathetic. Absolutely no preparation and no coordination with any other district. I personally am at a loss for words.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 20, 2020 at 7:49 pm

@Resident - you are right, people can say what they want, true or not, valid or not, constructive or not. And sometimes they just want to vent or rant. But ranting and venting have consequences - why are you sensitive about that being pointed out? We reap what we sow - if you are not part of the solution, you may be contributing to the problem.

3 people like this
Posted by Whew
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 20, 2020 at 9:36 pm

@ resident

That is a funny joke if you think the paly principal will look into a problem and fix it.

The superintendent did a great job explaining his intentions seemed very sincere and was really looking at long term goals and the betterment of the district and using this event to really see what is the best direction.

I hope they can realize even in a pandemic people do not always follow rules and do what they want.

I am worried sone kid will not be ok because if threats of failing grades and having to follow all new rules and all new schedules. I know if parents who have asked for help and then told they were too busy now to enforce their own rules or look into it.

One month left!! Why such a big deal just pass the kiddos and let them alone. Sending 2 hours of homework per class with no instruction is just silly and has no place.

They need to respond to parents as if we are telling the truth and use that information to fix a problem or communicate better.

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