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Assigned seats, no lockers among plans for reopening Palo Alto Unified's middle, high schools

Original post made on Nov 9, 2020

With the school board's approval, expected on Tuesday night, middle and high school students at Palo Alto Unified will be able to return to their campuses in a hybrid model starting Jan. 7, if they choose to.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, November 9, 2020, 4:22 PM

Comments (46)

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 9, 2020 at 11:52 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

Don Austin has successfully alienated many families and many teachers in Covid-19. His autocratic, zero-transparency, knee-jerk approach does not deserve renewal. The Board has backed every decision of this non-community minded leader who regularly fails to follow state directives or the law. So I assume they will not question this renewal. But they should question it and pass on it. This guy lasted just a few years in each of his last two jobs and now we know why.
See his LinkedIn Web Link

Too bad the union won't give him a vote of non-confidence or, like in his last district, have a teacher sue him.

Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2020 at 8:28 am

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I am not sure where you got the information that "Tues and Thurs would be half days and Wed and Fri full days" for High School students. Under this Hybrid proposal, High school students attend class a max of twice a week and only for English and Social Studies (2.5 hours). If less than 40% choose Hybrid then the students attend twice a week. If more than 40% choose Hybrid then HS students attend class once a week for one class of English and one class of Social Studies. What isn't mentioned in the article is that in order to implement this at the High School level, many students may get new teachers/classes as a new schedule will have to be created.

Posted by JLS mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 10, 2020 at 10:42 am

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Parents please don't rely on info in this article to make your decisions - go to the source! The two full days and two half days schedule described in the article only applies to 6th graders. 7-8th graders will have 2 or 4 mornings only in school under hybrid and for HS, it's way less.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 12:52 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

This plan is an educational disaster. Please come to the Board meeting tonight to hear the reality of what this will be like for students, not the incomplete fantasy the district has tried to push through.

I know that to some people the "low number of cases in Palo Alto" adds credence to their heartfelt desire to have their kids back in school. Health experts predict that the "low numbers" won't stay that way through January, and PAUSD has vowed to keep schools open even if Santa Clara County's COVID case count puts us back in the purple tier.

Even if you can get past that shockingly irresponsible and misguided decision, or if you believe that Santa Clara County will not return to the purple tier, or you are willing to risk it for the your kids to be back on campus, let's think about the the logistics of quarantines when our secondary schools reopen. If you choose the hybrid option, students will be in cohorts of 30-60 students. Every time just ONE student in ONE cohort gets sick or even just exposed, that will force 30-60 students, plus their parents and siblings, plus teachers and their families to stay home for 14 days. Every single time.

Elementary schools are much safer in terms of COVID than secondary schools, were open for less than three weeks before a student tested positive. And teenagers are terrible social distancers -- we've all seen them in cars and on bikes and and Town and Country and EVEN ON CAMPUS without masks on. So if you choose the hybrid option, be prepared for 140 people to have to quarantine for two weeks every time ONE SINGLE STUDENT gets sick. That is not in the educational or emotional best interests of our students. Not to mention that people WILL get sick. Schools are not proven to be the source of major outbreaks so far, that's true. But it seems certain that some students and teachers will get COVID in the hybrid model.
That risk might seem worth it to some parents. Please think about the impact this hybrid model will have on everyone else. Think about how your student will cope with having to readjust to distance learning AND be locked in the house for 14 days every time a classmate or teacher tests positive.

Teachers are asking, how does this serve students' needs better than staying in distance learning?

Now let's think about the details of your student's education under the current proposed plan. This plan that PAUSD is trying desperately to rush to implement is NOT an educational improvement upon the current distance learning model. It will reduce the quality of instruction for ALL students, both those in DL and those in hybrid. Whether you choose distance learning or hybrid, your high school student will:
- get new schedules
- get new teachers
- lose or change their electives
- have teachers who have never taught that course, or were not teaching it this year
- have A.P. courses taught by non-A.P. teachers
- have to report to colleges that their schedules have changed
-be asking teachers who don't know them to write their college recommendation letters
-have to sit through another several weeks of community building, name games, and class setup to start all over again with a new teacher and new classmates -- more wasted educational time
- lose the teachers they have connected with and who know and care about them

Under the hybrid model, there will be:
- fewer instructional minutes than they currently have
- no group work in the classroom
-no collaborative projects
- no one on one personal instruction -- teachers and students at least 6 feet apart at all times
- no eating lunch or socializing on campus
- teachers wearing masks and face shields and are therefore difficult to hear/understand
- constant policing of mask wearing and social distancing, to the point of distraction
- classroom doors wide open even if it's cold outside
- teachers who are stressed beyond their limits
- limited activities

I ask you again, how is this better for the students?

Please ask the Board to keep secondary schools in distance learning all year. I know this is incredibly hard for everyone, but the current proposal will make it worse.

Posted by Another Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 1:53 pm

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@ Facts and Figures: Please share your thoughts at the Board meeting tonight. I heard the Board plans to renew his contract for even longer than the typical term unless people speak up.

Dr. Austin is destroying the working relationship between the district, Board, and the teachers. He has refused to listen to the teachers throughout this process. He claims he has asked what we think would work and that we have responded with no solutions, but that is not true.

As for the Board, it is incredibly disheartening that despite 92% of teachers surveyed saying they are NOT on supportive of the plan to return, the Board voted UNANIMOUSLY to do it anyway. Teacher morale has never been lower. And now we are being forced (yes, forced) to put ourselves and our families at risk in order to implement a plan that serves no one, just to promote his career.

Don Austin's primary goal is not safety -- he has been seen ON CAMPUS and around town without a mask on, and is determined to push his own political and professional agenda forward at all costs. He believes that our safety concerns are simply about people's tolerance for "anxiety" and about our "comfort."

His primary goal is not quality of education either. He is misleading the community, with biased and flawed surveys, constantly changing plans, and missing details.
The most recent sudden changes to his plan will only further degrade the quality of instruction students will receive in January. There are many details that he either hasn't thought through or chooses to ignore. He wants to be the first superintendent to be able to claim that he "made it happen" and offered in person instruction to every student. This plan is incredibly flawed, rushed, and will be a disaster.

Shameful all around.

Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2020 at 2:37 pm

Parent is a registered user.

Fellow Parents,

Please listen to teachers and stand up for them regarding Don Austin’s contract renewal.

The Board likely won’t listen to teachers alone, unfortunately, but there are numerous parents who have witnessed and had our own experiences confirming his antagonistic tactics, too.

Board members have excused his behavior as just poor communication. It’s not.

Instead of keeping Don plus adding a line item for a communications person, hire a Superintendent who doesn’t alienate half the parent population and almost all of our teachers.

The argument that we’ll never be able to find someone willing to do this work in the midst of a pandemic is shallow.

We just had SIX applicants run for the Board (for essentially no pay). $300K and housing is significant.

Ms. Conway, from what we’ve seen so far, would be an exceptionally better choice, as just one example. We likely wouldn’t afford her the same privileged excuse of “a good guy who’s just bad at communicating,” however, if she had displayed even a portion of Don Austin’s ineptitude. We should seek other candidates.

Our community can do better.

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 3:04 pm

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Cohort at Greene sent home due to Covid.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 3:19 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@Parent: Please, please speak up tonight. Thank you for your support.

Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Parent is a registered user.

@clarification, a cohort at Greene was sent home? Why wasn’t the community informed?

Were siblings of the impacted cohort at Escondido quarantined, too?

Pausd Board, your agenda has been clear since you voted to remain open in March. But transparency, please. It’s imperative.

We get this info threatens your agenda, but it also very seriously impacts the physical and mental well-being of teachers and our community.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 4:51 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@Parent: One case at Escondido and one at Greene. So far. I am an employee and I found out about both via paloaltoonline. Here is the link where PAUSD is supposed to post the reported cases. Keep in mind that some families probably won't report to the schools or won't get tested so their cases won't be tallied here. There is NO testing requirement for students.

Web Link

Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 10, 2020 at 5:06 pm

PAUSD Parent is a registered user.


Can you please clarify about the case at Greene? Only one student and one teacher are listed on the COVID19 report to the community? That was a child at Escondido. When did Greene have a case? Are students on campus???? Please inform us clearly PAUSD won't!

Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2020 at 5:12 pm

Parent is a registered user.

@Teacher, thanks for the info. How terrible to be finding out here instead of directly from the district.

These “stable” cohorts are not hermetically sealed and anyone who has been in contact (siblings, parents, extra curricular, etc.) need to quarantine/test. At the very least, the schools which have been impacted should be announced.

And the tallies are undoubtedly under-reporting.

The significant spike in our county this week is likely NOT disconnected from school reopenings.

Elementary kids who are asymptotic or have mild symptoms likely never get tested, and thus remain un-identified as vectors for community spread.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 5:14 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

If you choose the hybrid option, you, your spouse, and all of your children need to be prepared to quarantine for 14 days on a moment's notice each time a student or teacher in your cohort tests positive.

Even if you don't believe that returning to in person instruction poses a health risk for your family, it certainly poses a very real inconvenience risk. Also keep in mind that to quarantine at home for 14 days on a moment's notice would likely be hard on kids' mental health as well.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 10, 2020 at 5:20 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

Parents and Teachers,
I am making an open call for us to meet to discuss the issues. I know there is disagreement about live in person instruction.
But, if a return is going to happen, it MUST be based on science and the law. Why not get the stakeholders in a meeting and have a real discussion without the board and DO?
This is absolutely ridiculous. We are wasting time like chickens with our heads cut off running around making plans that are almost verging on insane for almost no benefit whatsoever and a huge amount of detriment.
Can the Union call a meeting with parents? Is this done?
Can the Union call for a vote of no-confidence in the DO / Superintendent?
The Superintendent's contract is for a fixed term. He is not a typical employee. The Board has no obligation to him if it does not renew. On the contrary, if it renews, termination is extremely expensive.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 5:23 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@PAUSD Parent: I don't know. I found out by reading this thread. I did ask internally and was told yes that is true there is a case at Greene from PAUSD+. I do not have any other info.

And yes @Parent, I agree that underreporting is a given. There is no student testing requirement in the current or future PAUSD plan, and if you call your doctor and say you are having symptoms, they will say you don't have to get tested but you to stay home. Testing is optional. So of course there will be major underreporting.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 5:39 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@Facts and Figures: I agree with you, and I wish we could. Teachers cannot, at least not right now. Our hands are somewhat tied. You can, however, email teachers and ASK about the implications of each option. We can answer your questions if you ask.

The Board has heard from us many times for many months, and they do not care. For example, 92% of teachers surveyed said they did NOT approve of the plan to return but the Board voted unanimously to move forward anyway, and has been pushing full speed ahead ever since.

Since then they have changed the details of the plan several times without consulting us. When teachers have reached out to Don Austin we have been rebuffed or dismissed, usually rudely.

We are not involved in the decision making but will surely be blamed for the impending failures.

The Board will listen to parents. Please speak up tonight. Please write them. Please stand up for us. But also please stand up for the many, many students for whom this reopening plan will be an academic and emotional disaster.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2020 at 5:52 pm

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@Facts and Figures - there is a community forum on Monday with PAEA and CSEA. Here is the link to register: Web Link

Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2020 at 6:21 pm

Parent is a registered user.

Isn’t it a THREE year extension? The article says the current contract expires in 2022, but isn’t it currently expiring in 2021 with a proposed extension to 2024? That’s three years.

Either way, it’s not just a standard extension.

Trying to slip this through on consent was a major abuse of trust and transparency.

Shame on the Board — especially Todd Collins.

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 7:39 pm

Clarification is a registered user.

The district updates case data once a week. I believe they do it on Tuesdays? Look for the Greene case to be posted next week.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 11:05 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

In case you are still listening, the online class sizes are about to go way up. 39 students in an online class is not going to serve anyone. Neither is 14 students 6 feet apart in a silent classroom with a teacher wearing two layers of PPE. This is a disaster.

Every thing they said about ILs and teachers having a say in this plan is untrue.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2020 at 11:19 pm

Paly Parent is a registered user.

Was very disappointed in this board meeting. Teachers overwhelmingly are against the hybrid model. Teachers, students, and parents eloquently asked for the distance learning to remain. Don Austin said he was choosing the hard road. Why take the hard path in the midst of a pandemic?

Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 11:32 pm

Paly Teacher is a registered user.

I am very disappointed by this board meeting. PAEA tweeted that at least 10 teachers raised their hand on time and were not able to speak on the reopening plan. I was one of them. Todd Collins said that they took a screenshot of the Zoom participants. I smell some BS.

Then they didn't even take public comment on items 5b and 5c which I believe is against the Brown Act which supersedes the board's bylaws.

Posted by Gunn Dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2020 at 11:40 pm

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The Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) school board is an undemocratic institution that intentionally suppresses and actively ignores community input on decisions that impact not only students, families and teachers but also the ENTIRE Palo Alto community. Public health is a community-wide issue.

In its most recent meeting, the PAUSD school board applied a divide-and-conquer strategy that is reflective of its oppositional attitude towards the teachers and site staff who it employs, and voted for a plan that the vast majority of community members do not support, understand, and/or have access to.

Beyond this recent meeting, there have been multiple instances in which PAUSD employees - namely, district superintendent Don Austin, but also including administrative staff at Palo Alto High School - have conducted themselves unprofessionally with teachers and other site staff, and have created an unsafe and hostile work environment. Austin himself has responded to teachers' reasonable expressions of their emailed concerns and recommendations to the board by accusing teachers of making bad-faith personal attacks that are motivated only by self-serving interests. While some may think that teachers "have it easy" in some way, many - if not most - teachers work upwards of 100 hours per week. That means a full 8am-4pm school day, PLUS nights AND weekends - all the time. Teachers do not "have the summer off" - for many that is the only opportunity they have to make plans for the coming year and pursue professional development options to progress their careers.

Despite the District Office's claims that they have invested heavily in professional development during the past summer, the reality is that the required training courses 'pushed out' to district faculty neither reflected a heavy investment of resources or funding nor were actually geared towards developing teachers' professional skills. Calling basic, entry-level trainings "professional development" is nothing short of condescension - and there was NOTHING pertaining to hybrid instruction, which is a lie the District Office has trotted out multiple times since the summer.

But condescension (and gaslighting) is the district's M.O.

Because the in-person component of "hybrid" classes would be capped at about 15 students due to county public health requirements, the virtual "distance" classes would have to be increased in size up to 39 students per period - THIRTY-NINE. When Mellisa Baten Caswell moved to limit the classroom increases to 10% of the agreed-upon class size limit, Jennifer DiBrienza asked if it was possible to "do what we want to do" with that limit. Austin, DiBrienza, and Sharon Ofek then laughed, and Baten Caswell removed the 10% limit from her proposed amendment.

To top this all off, despite the fact that the District Office was aware of the need to develop a plan since schools shut down, the plan under question was created in less than 24 hours, without feedback or input from arguably the most important stakeholders - the teachers.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the incompetence and intentional obstruction that characterize the PAUSD board and the District Office.

Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2020 at 11:47 pm

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@Paly Parent, because Austin consistently frames himself as either the superhero or poor unjustly targeted victim in every narrative he spins.

Thanks to one of the callers for clarifying that it was indeed a 2yr contract extension because Todd Collins had already slipped a one year extension through under the radar. Sketch.

Let’s be clear — in a year we aren’t sweeping privilege and entitlement under the rug — what happened tonight: Two men protected reprehensible conduct of a fellow bro, whilst two women enabled it, and a fifth member went along for the ride apparently without actually understanding the process.

Austin’s speech and conduct this past year would not have slid through without reproach were he not a white male.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2020 at 11:57 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

I'd like to know how asking teachers what they are comfortable with, hearing that 92% of them are not on board, and then moving forward anyway constitutes "involving them in the process."

I'd like to know how they can claim that ILs (department chairs) were involved in the process and were part of the discussion when the ILs didn't even know that someone somewhere decided overnight that their departments would be the ones coming back in person. The fact that "there were meetings that included the ILs" means the ILs were present. It does not mean they were consulted or that their input had any impact on the decisions that were made. Yes, the ILs were at a meeting. And then another meeting was held without them where decisions were made and new ideas were decided upon and we all read about it in a Board Update or were notified in a staff meeting the next day. To me, that does not constitute involving teachers in the plan or considering their input.

It's like asking Trump if he won the election. He would say yes. I would say no.

You saw for yourselves that teachers do not think this is reopening plan is in students' best interests. You saw for yourselves that they "didn't see" that many more teachers wanted to speak tonight. You also saw that they, once again, listened to us and then voted the other way.

This is tragic for the students. And the teachers. And for the future working relationship between the teachers and the district. So disheartening.

If most families select distance learning, maybe Don and Sharon will have to change their plans.

Posted by Giselle Galper
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2020 at 12:01 am

Giselle Galper is a registered user.

I want to call out the courage and excellent questioning of the student reps at tonight's board meeting. With no visual support from a live audience, they maintained their resolve. At an in-person meeting, we could have snapped you. But, now the best I can do is post here. I'm sure our teachers and your fellow students thank you.

Snap snap

Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 11, 2020 at 12:04 am

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The PAUSD School Board just unanimously approved a plan to place 60% of our High School Students in Social Studies and English classes that have 39 students.

Posted by Paly Sophomore Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2020 at 3:53 am

Paly Sophomore Dad is a registered user.

The secondary school principals worked hard to solve the narrowly-bound multi-dimensional highly-constrained school reopening problem. They gave it their best effort and came up with what they thought was an optimal solution.

Unfortunately, they were solving the wrong problem.

The problem is not to get students physically back in school, somehow, some way, just to say that we have reopened schools. "We reopened elementary, why can't we also reopen secondary?" is the wrong question to ask. The right question is how best to continue the delivery of high-quality secondary education in the midst of a pandemic.

For many of the reasons already covered in the Nov 10 board meeting by teachers, parents, and students in the community input part of the meeting, this plan will not come anywhere close to achieving its stated goals.

Yet the board just blithely ignored all teacher input, all student input, and all parent input. In one fell swoop it blew away its own class size limitations that it had imposed just a few years ago. The 5 elected Board members voted unanimously to approve this well-intentioned but ineffective and impractical plan.

The two student Board members were very impressive. They asked difficult questions. They articulated their arguments cogently and effectively. Unlike the elected Board members, they did not just accept the staff's proposal. They pushed back and they probed. And their analysis of the pros and cons and their reasons for voting were crystal clear. They voted NO.

Mr. Thomas Li and Ms. Medha Atla, you are both very impressive seniors and you are doing a superb job as student representatives on the Board. We parents are very proud of you. Keep up the terrific work.

Posted by C
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 4:17 am

C is a registered user.

I did not hear a single community voice in support of the hybrid plan last night.
My high schoolers have no interest in going back under this plan, so they’ll have to roll the dice with increased class size and/or new teachers.
Why risk a change in structure for a half baked plan nobody seems to want?
Poor communication and transparency on the part of PAUSD, and utter failure to listen to the wishes of students, teachers, and parents on the part of the board. Very disappointing.

Posted by Whatever
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 11, 2020 at 7:35 am

Whatever is a registered user.

This is all a horse and pony shoe, everyone please wake up and see what is going on here, a little street smarts here, read the room here. PAUSD is just making plans for the IN CASE SCENARIO, that is their job.

The district is just covering there as...... For example what if virus suddenly disappears and PAUSD had no plan, could you imagine the outrage with the district for not being prepared!

They are just covering all the bases and getting the okays in case a miracle happens and virus disappears BUT we all know that is not going to happen. PAUSD still needs to be prepared.

99.5 percent we are remaining in distance learning the rest of the year, elementary also ,eventually, with cases going way up.

People need to understand these are plans etc....just to be prepared in case vaccine all the sudden appears etc..PAUSD leadership is doing their jobs with plans to just be prepared.

No way at all with numbers spiking we are back January 7th. PAUSD just doing their jobs having a plan because we all know if they were not prepared if virus disappeared or vaccine appeared they would be hammered by parents and media.

Posted by Californiamama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2020 at 9:02 am

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Shame on the Board. Especially Todd Collins for slipping through the contract renewal of Don Austin on the consent calendar for a 3.7 year extension and then PASSING it without any community involvement. After last night's meeting, it has been revealed, without a shadow of a doubt, that the BOARD operates on suppression (of opposing views teachers, parents, students) and deceit (only showcasing facts and figures to reflect the one-sided cause of reopening). The district has a strategy of building its case by circulating biased surveys, not taking feedback from teachers, not publicizing positive covid counts, gaslighting and muting voices of opposition, and standing by while Dr. Austin mocked distance learning on Twitter (before his Twitter account was deactivated). Disgusted with this leadership. There is no trust or transparency. Palo Alto deserves better.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2020 at 9:45 am

Facts and Figures is a registered user.


20K people in Palo Alto voted for Jennifer and Jesse. 9K for Todd.

They all ran on a pro-equity agenda. What they did not tell anyone, but Shounak did last night (thank you Shounak for your honesty), is that their equity model is willing to hurt 70-80% of kids for a very small amount of good for some students who MAY be PAUSD+ or have other equity needs.

Now everyone knows. Too bad it's after the election.

A more balanced Board and District Office would find a solution to help everyone.

The questions are

* "Will parents organize or give up and take care of their own kids"
* "Will students organize or give up and take what they are given"
* "Will anyone run for school board who has courage and understands the value of transparency?
* "Will Palo Alto's continued moves to de-lane change the property values and interest in living here?"
* "Will a measure to fund schools ever fail?"

The Board is sitting pretty. They are fresh in. 3 can't even be recalled until 90 days into their terms. Don has a contract extension. If no one steps up, it's more of the same.

Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:14 am

Paly Teacher is a registered user.

@"Facts" and Figures: Get your numbers right. As of this posting, 17k voted for Jesse, 13.8k voted for Todd (Web Link

Todd has done many shameful things on the board but I think last night took the prize. By not allowing at least 10 teachers who raised their Zoom hands on time to speak on the reopening, he stifled free speech. He's allowed to limit the number of speakers to 50 (which it what seems to have happened) but he needs to announce such a decision ahead of time instead of doing so sneakily. I wonder Shounak took over running public comment so that Todd could have some peace to convince himself that it was OK to silence teachers.

What's even worse is he didn't even take public comment on the two agenda items right after the reopening plan. This is in direct violation of the state's Brown Act, part of which is here: Web Link

In a country where totalitarian fervor has taken root and is steadily taking over, one would hope our local school boards would be a bastion of democracy we can rely on. Unfortunately, Todd Collins, a week after being reelected, decided to adopt undemocratic practices so that the board could have a clear head to cast votes that were already made before the first speaker was even recognized.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:49 am

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

@Paly Teacher

Sorry that was from Election night. Thanks for the update.

FYI He also cut out students.

But, every Board member partook in that atrocity. All 5. Melissa spoke up, but she stopped. Given the support that the Teacher's Union has given Jennifer and Melissa, I hope the union re-thinks its alliances.

Posted by Paly Hybrid Plan a Travesty
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:59 am

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Two half days per week is NOT hybrid. It's a joke. A very bad joke. And that's only if a student wins the "lottery" since over 60% students want to return in person and this horrid plan only accommodates 30% students. How can it be legal to offer in person to some and not others who expressly ask for it? Now even if a student doesn't want this insane 2 half days/week in person, they are stuck with a destroyed class schedule and up to 39 students per online class!

Denying students who want an in person education by lottery is inequitable (and probably illegal). Denying students who choose DL a real Paly education with 39 students in class is inequitable. Teachers, students, parents all HATE this approved plan.

But guess what PAEA teachers, this is on you! If your union had been willing to START with the hybrid plan that was originally proposed in the fall (2 full days/week in person), when SCC approved return in person, this disastererous hybrid joke plan would've never happened midstream and you would've maintained your student relationships. Nice going PAEA. Now you, students, everyone are all paying the price and everything is broken.

Posted by KM
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 11:01 am

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Sadly the community voted in more of the same on the school board. Our loss is that Katie Causey did not get elected.
Diversity in thinking is critical and we don't have it with the current or incoming board.

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 12:28 pm

Clarification is a registered user.

I may have misheard, but it sounded like PTSA leadership is in support of this plan? District admin also claimed that they've met and have approved from PTSA? It didn't sound like any of the parents who called in are in support of this plan and clearly the teachers are flabbergasted. Neither of the students on the board are in support of this program and despite condescending comments about their lack of representation of all students, they seem very diligent and thoughtful. So who exactly is PTSA representing here? Clearly not any of the parents on this thread or who called in last night. Clearly not the parents whose kids will be on a bus two hours a day to rush to school for two hours and back in time for their distance classes. If I'm being charitable, I'll assume their intentions are sincere --they want kids who desperately need socializing back at school. If that's correct, they're woefully uninformed about what school will look like for in-person. Maybe if they included teachers in their discussions, we could have told them what it will actually look like.

Posted by Paly Hybrid Plan a Travesty
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 1:55 pm

Paly Hybrid Plan a Travesty is a registered user.

@ Clarification

False. The PTSA leadership is absolutely NOT in favor of this plan! In fact the PTSA President called into the Board Mtg last night to voice exactly that, saying that some struggling kids need to be in school in person, but this plan does NOT work for teachers or the majority of students, it does them a disservice, and asked to hold off on the vote and find something that better supports all constituents. Get your facts straight. Contact the Paly PTA President directly who can set you straight about the PTSA position before you presume to speak for them.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 3:29 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

There were many untruths spoken by Ofek and Austin last night. Be careful about falling for misinformation. Ofek kept saying teachers were included in the creation of this plan, but teachers kept speaking out saying the opposite. Caswell was the only Board member who could smell the rotting fruit in the room. Hmmm... Too bad she backed down and ate the fruit anyway.

For those who think COVID cases will rise and this plan won't materialize, just remember that PAUSD has said they will keep our schools open even if Santa Clara County's COVID numbers put us back in the purple tier. So one thing you have to give them credit for, they are determined!

Choose the distance learning option. Both options are terrible, but distance learning 3.0 will still be better than version 1.0 was in the spring. Sadly, tragically, it won't be nearly as good as the 2.0 version we are currently running.

We tried. We really tried. We were ignored. We have very little power in this district. It's up to the parents. Vote with your feet. Decline the hybrid offer. It will be wholly unsatisfactory.

Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 4:10 pm

Parent is a registered user.

Anyone else catch Don and Todd using Melissa Baten Caswell’s 13 years of service for their own agenda?

Oh, that’s right, we all did.

Extending a purported 10 minutes to 50 was by design — knowing contract extension and reopening secondary were highly controversial and that folks would drop off.

Placing it at the start of the agenda instead of the end, and calling in her kids to give the excuse of time zones, was all methodically calculated.


What a shame that MBC didn’t stand her ground on defending the 2 meeting rule. Violation of process and transparency. A stain on her record, and right at the end, too. Unfortunate.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 11, 2020 at 4:33 pm

Concerned Parent is a registered user.

I am very concerned that Todd Collins, the president of the board, misrepresented the situation with Don Austin's contract last night.
Firstly, he said this was a routine, expected extension of his contract. How come, then, were all the other contract extensions on the agenda only extended for one year, whereas Don Austin's was extended for two years until 2024? This is not routine, but a shocking overreach of power. If you actually look up Don Austin's contract, which is publicly available to access online, there is nothing in it to indicate that he is required to receive a contract extension each year following a satisfactory performance review, and certainly not for an additional two years.
Secondly, Todd Collins said that the ratification of this extension was "customary and routine" and had simply fallen by the wayside due to the pandemic. Again, this is a misrepresentation of the reality of the situation. In June 2019, when Don Austin's original 3-year contract was extended by one year to 2022, the proposal to extend his contract was discussed and debated using the appropriate two-meeting approach. Last night, the board attempted to sneak his contract extension into the consent calendar to have it rubber-stamped, and even when they took it off the consent calendar, they only paid lip service to the many concerns of the public, and unanimously voted to approve it last night. They did not give this incredibly important decision the appropriate two-meeting process. I find their behavior reprehensible.
Don Austin's disgraceful attitude towards teachers and students, and his inflammatory tweets (before he suddenly deleted his account), should have led to a reprimand from the board - not a pat on the back and this patently obvious cronyism. Time and again the board do not listen to the concerns of their constituents; indeed, their attitude to teachers, parents and students is shocking. We must demand more transparency from the board. This is appalling.

Posted by Greene Momma
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 13, 2020 at 10:28 am

Greene Momma is a registered user.

Please note that it appears parents in the Ohlone Mandarin emersion program felt the same way about this issue and likely wanted their kids to stay together with their same teachers, teams and class sizes and were concerned about safety of PAUSD plans. They also talked amongst themselves, I'm sure. Almost all of them selected DL. Thus, no Hybrid was created as there were not enough students to warrant a teacher being dedicated them. The original survey of all elementary was a 70:30 split for go back or stay home. in the end, the final was 50:50, I assume due to concerns about safety and how to pull the whole thing off. 2ndary is much more complex and requires larger cohorts and campus movement,so I suspect if many recognize how bad this plan is for higher grades, we'll have a low ratio of takers of hybrid. PTAs should set up options for parents to discuss the issue and strategize, ideally in a more hospitable format than district zoom meetings or this newspaper question board.
Regarding Don Austin's extension. It would be unheard of for the PA City Council to consent calendar the city manager's contract review/extension. I asked some former council members and they were shocked to hear it had happened at the School board. The school board should be no different on this issue that the Council. This is unacceptable. I have repeatedly seen him be rude and dismissive, including to me personally when I posed very valid concerns.

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2020 at 2:26 pm

Clarification is a registered user.

So what's anybody going to actually DO about the funny business of the last school board? Is Palo Alto Online investigating the claims that are being made? It seems the publication's base is fired up enough about it that they'd be interested in looking into it? Previously, they've pulled emails from the superintendent--folks on these boards have mentioned the way Don Austin communicates in his emails--will PAOnline be reporting on that? When will they provide an analysis of the public MOUs exchanged over the past 7 months between PAUSD and PAEA? What's in the works PAOnline???

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2020 at 11:22 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@ Clarification, Greene Momma, Concerned Parent and all other concerned parents: Agreed.
Please come to the PAEA community forum Monday night.

Web Link

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2020 at 11:32 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

SF is tapping the brakes. PAUSD is full steam ahead. Interesting.

Web Link

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 14, 2020 at 4:34 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

Another misleading statement from Don Austin in yesterday's Superintendent's Update:

"As we have seen in elementary schools, students in hybrid will engage in discussions, can be placed in small groups, and will not be forced to sit in front of a computer."

The Superintendent does not have control over teaching choices such as group work, discussions, and computer use. And how would students work in small groups if they can't sit within 6 feet of each other?

My hybrid students won't be doing group work or discussions, and will be working on computers. Safety is paramount.

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