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Palo Alto Unified gets into hot water with parents over child care

Original post made on May 12, 2022

Parents are objecting to what they describe as a lack of transparency in Palo Alto Unified's decision making after school administrators decided to take space away from a local child care provider and give it to a national company.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 12, 2022, 4:57 PM

Comments (52)

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2022 at 6:05 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

Meet Don Austin! Welcome to the party, people. This is how he rolls. He is rude, flippant, unprofessional, and definitely not a transparent decision maker. This is how many decisions in PAUSD are made. He makes decisions based on what is in his political best interest. You elected him, or at least the Board that chose him and keeps choosing to keep him, and you can also vote him/them out.


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2022 at 6:06 pm

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

"intentions are pure" just the actions suck.
I believe there is a reason why there is a popular expression that goes, "Actions speak louder than words."

Watch his actions while his words try to distract you.


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2022 at 6:08 pm

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Agree with @Teacher. Numerous parents throughout Palo Alto, the moment they voice any disagreement or question something, he sends out the most rudest emails to parents. If every parent who received a rude email from Don Austin read it at the Board district meetings, we would have to question why the Board supported hiring Don Austin, and why the Board is still in power today, pushing their own personal agendas.


Posted by Sriley90
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 12, 2022 at 6:15 pm

Sriley90 is a registered user.

The idea that the intentions are pure - is just not honest. He said that PACCC does not offer SCHOLARSHIPS. does he even know anything about this program? I will be flat out. I was a PACCC scholarship kid in 1990 and my 4 children are CURRENT scholarship kids from infant -toddler through preschool and again in the after school program. PACCC has been where I felt safe as a child and where my children felt safe and supported when doing elementary school online. I am very disturbed and find it comical that right at school felt this video was speaking so highly of them while throwing dirt on PACCCS name. Clearly his words are a distraction to the underlying message here. I almost wonder if there is a conflict of interest with right at school and Mr.Austin. That should be looked into as to feel so passionate about them disturbs me.


Posted by Camocho
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2022 at 6:35 pm

Camocho is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] If you say anything against [Don Austin] he will write the rudest and meanest thing and shut you up like a bad politician! His agenda is to rise up the ladder - that’s IT! The board will facilitate that since their agenda is also similar!
This sup and the board has to be flipped! Otherwise this school is going downhill. I know this family of three little kids who moved to Danville; another family moved out of state just because this school isn’t the same as it was before!


Posted by super chicana
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2022 at 7:55 pm

super chicana is a registered user.

Zoe, thank you for covering this. It gives a lot of insight into the Superintendent’s feelings about this community. I would argue he is less than honest with the community when he states that he is concerned with equity and access. My daughter is a Native American child and we have had a nightmare of a time with access. If you would like to contact me about our family’s story please call me at (415)297-6009.( Or any parents fighting the district with an IEP call me. Let’s compare legal notes.) I get these are separate issues but the district is managed by the same group of people with very similar approaches to most things. I encourage you to please keep digging and follow the money. What is Right At School promising districts or individual superintendents? It must be enough to disrupt business as usual. What is to be gained by the district and at what cost to the community? One should ask themselves what is in for a superintendent that is just passing through to end PACCC? None of them stay long, many are forced to resign, and PACCC has been part of Palo Alto for almost 50 years.My children went there and the quality is not surpassed. They have mature, kind adults that provide great care to children. Why would someone want to disrupt our established child care? I think the best way to evaluate a company is by what the workers say. Maybe some of this info will help the parents:
Web Link
One, I can see mangers are out of state. This means cheap labor, lack of connection with the community and definitely not shared CA values of inclusivity. Secondly, staff complain about turn over and abuse by management. They are based in Illinois. None of this aligns with CA values. Would it also prevent labor law suits? Sounds a lot like corporate greed, good ol boys network and a shady super trying to sell it all to a very smart cohesive community who you cannot “politically” pull one over on. Kudos to the parents.


Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2022 at 7:55 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

"that's our approach ... the slow drip" ....

Just wow.

What leadership we have. Eroding trust and quality, drip by drip. Imagine how lost the average Palo Alto parent would be without a big strong leader, teaching them day by day the realpolitik always lurking behind the curtain when you're talking about wrap-around childcare. Just wow.

Here's a better idea, with as little cynicism as I can muster. If what you are trying to do would never play if you were open and honest about aims and intentions, and it wouldn't fly with your community if not for histrionics and misdirections and false motives... well, then maybe you'd be better off not doing it? Maybe.


Posted by PA Streets
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 12, 2022 at 8:02 pm

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I wanted to like this superintendent but his flippant and ignorant comments about PACCC show that he does not respect our community. He lacks transparency and accountability. He has directed all questions to Yolanda Conway who in turn passed the buck back to Don Austin. I hope the Weekly does more digging and checks if Austin has a conflict of interest with Right at School. Did they pay for him to attend that conference where he spoke on that infamous video? RAS is a for profit business and is not accredited. It’s just a glorified daycare. PACCC has been an integral part of our community for nearly 50 years. Their teachers help our kids with homework in their elementary after-school programs. I doubt RAS provides the same level of care. PAUSD board better take note regarding this superintendent’s actions and lack of respect for our community.


Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2022 at 8:08 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

"Did they pay for him to attend that conference where he spoke on that infamous video? RAS is a for profit business and is not accredited. It’s just a glorified daycare."

... as much as I have been disheartened by Don Austin's demeanor and decisions, that's not a suspicion that you can throw around, even if stated as a question. If it were true, it would be an egregious and almost certainly job-disqualifying ethics violation. If you know something, say it and cite it. If not... well... then don't.

As for your frustration with the buck being passed around, I can't agree more. Usually Todd Collins plays middle-man in that carousel. Maybe he's dizzy.


Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 12, 2022 at 8:32 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

Is there anyone that still believes that Don Austin has any concern for students, families or the community? He talks a good game in public, but he's usually scheming behind the scenes.

Even this won't stop him from trying to get to his end game.

He thinks he's clever, funny and charming. He's actually just a bully who will say anything in order to get his way. I'm actually shocked that some of the board members continue to put up with it.

How's that whole "transparency" thing going?


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2022 at 9:57 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Does anyone else notice that for the last 15 years or so, nobody has had a good word to say for any of the superintendents PAUSD has gone through!

I have no idea of the competentcy of the present superintendent from any type of experience as our kids are no longer in school, but I will add a cliche of warning.

Better the devil you know than the one you don't!

The next one, judging from past experiences, will be no better.


Posted by Nancy Shepherd
a resident of Southgate
on May 13, 2022 at 7:31 am

Nancy Shepherd is a registered user.

Palo Alto has been a leader in childcare for over 50 years. In 1969 six mothers asked Palo Alto City Council to provide high quality affordable child care so women could go back to work. In 1974 PACCC organized as a nonprofit heavily subsidized by the City with two staff members in the city managers office. In 1989 a 25 year lease between the City and PAUSD was created for on campus care and we have been delivering these service continually since that time.

PACCC is required to be licensed and offer high quality program based on Department of Education standards for early childhood education (ECE) which identifies specific student-teacher ratios. We recruit staff with college degrees or equivalent work experience in ECE, some hold masters degrees. We pay fair wage based on job title, and start pay at living wage for SCC (about $23/hour). Tuition is $50 more than RAS, we have a low attrition rate of staff and families, and high feedback from parents rating our programs. We continue to evolve to meet the needs of families and kids.

Our Family Partnership Program developed in 2001 combines City, PAUSD and PACCC funds for scholarship and subsidy programs to qualifying families.

PACCC is a product of thought leadership that established seamless education for families beginning at 2 months old. I’m proud to serve on the shoulders of these leaders as PACCC Board Chair this year and be part of a Palo Alto legacy project.


Posted by Tod
a resident of Green Acres
on May 13, 2022 at 9:43 am

Tod is a registered user.

Another great article Zoe…gold mine for you…especially austin denying an interview then pushing you off on the vice principal and being bounced back up….makes you wonder what is at the superintendent’s discretion…it’s tricky to run a school district and in hindsight the damn the torpedoes mindset served well in the fear of Covid… but when you set yourself up in opposition to the schools nonprofit ecosystem and casually promote a for profit option.. that is unpaid promotion and really stupid… a payoff is not the issue it’s the dividing, lack of trust building and petty selfishness…he shouldn’t be making that decision and if he doesn’t understand that then he needs to work on transitioning…many school districts are at a point where fiscal cutbacks might warrant a lower cost provider.. but to target institutions in this manner is indicative if not grounds for dismissal… can’t have that know better attitude and not kill the morale of a system run on the backs of parent involvement then stonewall… it’s a shame


Posted by Diana
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2022 at 9:53 am

Diana is a registered user.

I was one of the parents affected by this issue and fought hard to reverse the decision. However, I agree with a previous comment that the job of PAUSD superintendent is an impossible one, in terms of pleasing most of the community. Yes, the comments that Don made were a bit off, yes, sometimes his behaviour may be a bit lacking, but overall I think he is an effective superintendent, so let's try to bring some balance into the conversation and not demonize these people. The PAUSD is a well run district that provides excellent educational opportunities for our children, the PAUSD parent community (of which I am a vocal member) is also particularly demanding and hard to please.


Posted by peppered
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2022 at 11:14 am

peppered is a registered user.

A superintendent who declines to respond to questions by the press, in the manner that Austin did in this case, should be fired the same damn day.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2022 at 11:18 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

I agree with Don Austin and the District. Just because PACCC has been historically serving Palo Atto since 1974 does not mean it's doing a great job. As a low income, working single parent with three small children I filled out the application for full after-school care. I was put on a dizzyingly long wait list. When dealing with PACCC regarding my eligibility and status, I felt they were dismissive and unconcerned with my desperation to find good, safe, supervisory, care for my kids. It felt like an exclusive club that shuffled me off with words like, "Unfortunately , no bandwidth, lack of budget." In the end I was too poor and did not have the income for 100% or at 75% shared cost (which would have gotten my kids in). 100% coverage was a long shot and impacted by "budgetary" City funding limits. Emails and phone calls were not returned and I had to chase them down to get answers to basic questions about my application and need. Though I fell in the extremely low income level, there was no referrals for any other resource provided in Palo Alto to help us. It felt extremely humiliating to go to such personal lengths to reveal all about my finances, get reference etc, only to get nothing from them in the mail, or a phone call to tell me they were at capacity and my kids were not "selected" to participate. I had to find out that the waitlist was five years out and worse even having one or more children near the same age. Which I was astounded and shocked to hear. Their staff was not very welcoming or concerned for the welfare of children. The City of Palo Alto does not subsidize enough for such critical "social infrastructure". Why not go National? Since the City is miserly about funding anything other than paid "private consultants" and kicking cans down the road.


Posted by D. Smith
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2022 at 11:19 am

D. Smith is a registered user.

It seems as though Mr. Austin is here soley to feed his own ego and do exactly what he wants with little or no regard for the opinion of others. That way he can go out with a bang!
It isn't the first time that a superintendent has used our district for that purpose!


Posted by Forever Name
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2022 at 12:24 pm

Forever Name is a registered user.

PAUSD Superintendent works for the Board. They hired Austin. You get what you vote for. Vote the current Board out, and a more competent Board will fire Austin & bring someone new in.

Upcoming Elections:
Keep in mind all of the decisions that PAUSD Board has made that have been wrong & destructive, with data to support. Apparently Board is hoping these will be forgotten? For example, the damage PAUSD secondary schools being online for 1 year did to disadvantaged & minority students who were hit the hardest, supported by data (recent NYT article, David Leonhardt, Pulizter Prize winning investigative reporter). Keep in mind many of these TERRIBLE ideas were championed/pushed through by Jennifer DiBrienza. Fact: in PA Online article DiBrienza quoted false statement saying she listened to the "experts", not the teachers union, and voted to keep "schools open", when in reality she voted along with the board unanimously in Aug 2020 to keep secondary schools 7-12 closed for an additional six months. Here are examples of destructive, unethical ideas approved by Jennifer DiBrienza and the rest of your PAUSD School Board:
- closing PAUSD secondary schools for a full year unnecessarily to appease PAEA Teachers Union March 2020 - March 2021
- early start time @ 9am for secondary starting fall 2022; both teachers & students have expressed they hate
- push for CMF (Calif Math Framework) new math program created by Prof Jo Boaler, now being investigated for fraudulent research at Stanford Univ (see WSJ article); focuses on enjoying the idea of math instead of mastering skills. Stanford Prof Brian Conrad, head of undergraduate math at Stanford, has analyzed & stated publically CMF will be destructive for all students, but especially disadvantaged students, who will be unprepared for STEM majors/careers
- supporting Austin in firing local PACC managers & bringing in a for profit national company

All supported by Jennifer DiBrienza & the current School Board.

Vote


Posted by Mrs Norman Conradson
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 13, 2022 at 1:01 pm

Mrs Norman Conradson is a registered user.

I was hired as a day care provider at Neighborhood Infant and Toddler Center (NITC) many years ago. I had a bachelors degree in psychology and a Masters degree in Social Work as well as many units at university level in Early Childhood Education. I loved the children and the high standards and the parent interaction. I am so sorry if the finances are such that those same high qualities cannot also provide enough care for all the children in the community who need it. I know that even in my day, there were waiting lists because the amount of spaces in order to keep to the teacher child ratio were extremely limited, but are so necessary for quality care.


Posted by super chicana
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2022 at 1:52 pm

super chicana is a registered user.

Dear Native of the Bay Area,

As a native of the bay you should be aware of 4Cs. It’s a state program administered by the counties. They will give emergencies child care funding to anyone in need. If you are going to lose your job or housing due to child care issues they will move you to the top of the list and have you funded within a week. They will pay for all 3 kids in full and PACCC will accept their funding.

Sounds like instead of the super helping you with this you became his mouth piece. A National program lacks the quality of care that Palo Alto families demand. Massive cheap childcare with poorly trained disgruntled labor (see the link with my previous post) may be a reality in many places, it does not have to be in Palo Alto. Palo Alto has the right to quality care. Reach out to 4cs. If your situation is as dire as you state, there are multiple programs available. The district should have referred you to help instead of pimped you for their cause.

If Right AT Home is such a great program why do they have to latch on to taxpayer money and schools districts like parasites? If they are that good at what they do they should open up a center in the open market and people will come. They use public land/ space for private profit. What a scam!!!

They are after FREE RENT. And someone at the district has something to gain in some way…….


Posted by EYC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2022 at 2:59 pm

EYC is a registered user.

My kid was in Addison for 6 years, Kinder-5th. We were on the PACCC's waiting line for at least 3 years. It's impossible to get in if you don't have older siblings who were already in the program. Usually there were only a small numbers of 4th and 5th graders in the program because they had after-school sports practices. Or they lost interests in the program because they had been there for 3 years already. They got tired of it. So, it may not impact much if the new company eliminate taking care of 4th & 5th.
So, change maybe good for the community.


Posted by Parent-PAUSD
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2022 at 4:00 pm

Parent-PAUSD is a registered user.

As the parent of a special needs kid in PAUSD, I explored 3 aftercare options for my kid (PACCC, RAS, JCC). While I found all of them very responsive and welcoming, when we compared the location proximity, cost, waitlists and inclusiveness in practice, we choose RAS over PACCC. RAS was more responsive, welcomed my kid's therapist on-site and was willing to listen and accommodate our requests proactively. PACCC on the other hand offered a waitlist and I paid the waitlist cost and enrolled. JCC was far for us (commute-wise) and was not an option.

While the debate can and should continue to have PACCC at school-sites, I do think have 2-3 after-school providers at school-site gives the parents a choice and an opportunity to choose what works for them. Non-profit and For-profit are not preliminary concerns for me since finding affordable child-care that is inclusive is preliminary and everything else comes later. Just my perspective.


Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Triple El
on May 13, 2022 at 4:39 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

This leadership does not represent our community values. We value transparency, clear communication, honesty and care for our children. Let's be really clear here, Dr. Don is not serving your child, the schools, the unions, other administrators or anyone else. He only serves a minimum of 3 PAUSD Board members. That's it. Those are the only people he needs to make happy. Apparently they're all happy with this situation, since they are all completely silent. Reach out and let them know your opinion. This institution is in grave danger of being seriously, permanently harmed by this leadership. That will affect our children. This incident gives a small window into what's going on. For further information, I urge you to consult the Palo Alto Educator's Association's social media. The numbers they've posted are pretty shocking.


Posted by Community Member
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2022 at 11:29 pm

Community Member is a registered user.

Dear EYC,
Long waitlists at PACCC may have happened during the bubble but is less impacted now and that would be a reason to expand PACCC. Offering another provider isn’t the issue, cutting space for current providers so they can’t continue to serve families that want continuity of care is.
Dear Native of the Bay,
If you didn’t attend PACCC then you cannot attest to the quality of care. Again like EYC, your waitlist issue would be resolved with expanding PACCC not taking away. The tuition difference is $50 a month and the experienced teachers and high quality standards PACCC meets as evidenced by licensing and teacher to child ratios as well as paying their teachers at a living wage means that $50 goes a long way. I’m sorry to hear of your struggles and recommend looking into the resources suggested by super chicana.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2022 at 10:03 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@community member @super Chicana. Very aware of 4C,s. Worked there as a teen. Also my mother worked for them for years. PACCC did not return calls, emails, has very little empathy for my situation, did not refer me to 4C’s either. Austin was not the super during the “bubble” when I was in dire need of local after school care .

Why is there not a Federal Head Start nursery school program located in Palo Alto ? In another town I served as an acting board officer — great program.


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2022 at 6:37 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

Equity is used too frequently by Austin and Conaway to deflect from district problems they don't want to pursue. 'Come on people! You don't care about Equity!' is not an appropriate response to questions. People should not be blame - shamed for asking questions or upholding standards.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2022 at 11:13 am

Bystander is a registered user.

And now there is another cheating scandal according to two conversations today and the Paly student newspaper.

Ethics and morals vary, depending who is on what side.


Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on May 20, 2022 at 11:09 am

parent is a registered user.

Teachers did try to warn parents about Austin’s dismissive/rude tactics and the Board’s lack of transparency during the rushed contract-extension vote on Austin.

Austin was a Todd Collins pick, and swiftly after his contract was extended, he brought his OC buddy up to be his assistant. Good ol’ boys strikes again, indeed.

Shame on this Board.


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 20, 2022 at 7:35 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

PAUSD Law Firm Evaluations - Almost All "Excellent"

PAUSD's performance evaluation gives its law firm almost all "5's" or excellent in almost every category. Such universally high ratings raise questions about the rating method and the Administrators who gave the rating.

These ratings lack transparency, since they do not include how each rating was arrived at for each category and firm. Two of the categories are: "Timeliness" and "Responsiveness to and interactions with the Board, administration, and community". Have all these firms truly been timely and responsive to the community? Did their advice avoid problems at recent Board of Education meetings - such as changing the broadcast method and eliminating outside comments, so the public could not comment when mental health services were discussed? What about the parent who reported the district did not behave appropriately in his request a child repeat a grade. He said he was not able to locate the district procedure until the deadline was almost past. BTW Parent, you should find a lawyer. The district does use a procedure manual to delay retention requests so they are not fairly evaluated until it is too late for the child to repeat.

Did the district obtain input from families such as this parent? Sorry. It is now too late! The district put this on the Board Agenda for 5/24/2022 only when the school year is almost over, when it knows students are taking finals and families preparing to leave town. Web Link

Did the district obtain independent input from the "community" and district families, not just the ones chosen by the Administrators?

PAUSD is giving it's Legal Firms immense power to control mental health and children's education, with no public accountability.




Posted by super chicana
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 20, 2022 at 9:46 pm

super chicana is a registered user.

Funny you mention this. Just attended an IEP today where the district had 2 attorneys head it. They controlled the agenda and message so hard I had to actually tell the attorney to stop talking so my child could speak. They were rude and talked over me. Since they were on zoom it was easy to shut them down. They are aggressive, intimidating and loud. They took zero accountability for the districts screw ups and put their errors on my child. I corrected that gaslighting in a hot minute and let them know it was their ineptitude, neglect and inability to manage one student’s schedule with consistency . 2 + hour IEP. When we finished, one attorney praised and gave accolades to the other for running her agenda. It was not philanthropic volunteer work. They were paid on the tax payers dime by the hour. 2 of them. Thousands of $$. The district spent more money fighting my daughter's IEP than giving her what she actually needed. The attorneys interject themselves were they are not needed or welcomed. They do this purposefully for $$$. Wow, this district is letting outside counsel fleece them for tax payer dollars. They freely feed at the trough spending our money. No one asked the actual parents who interact with these vultures what we thought. It took The loud mouthed attorney to conclude in 2 hours what I explained over a month ago. I Even gave them a color coded chart and spelled it out. The district is being taken for a ride and the admin just lets it happen. Incredible! The district now outsources their aggression. Good job super, how’s your bogus concerns with equity and false claims of being concerned with access fooling people? Are we ready for new leadership yet? Time to clean the swamp of all these outsiders feeding at the trough. Aren’t parents sick of giving an endless blank check yet?


Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on May 21, 2022 at 11:39 am

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

@superchicana I really vibed with your use of the word "gaslighting". There's quite a bit of that going on. It's a way of controlling any dissent.

Is anyone else growing weary of the constant drumbeat of gaslighting PR? The postcard we all received with the Palo Alto Promise PR campaign was the latest in a long series of gaslighting put on at taxpayer expense. Is anyone actually swayed by this stuff? When a institution sets a moving target set of goals, then measures itself and declares victory ALWAYS, we should all be skeptical. PAUSD is a complex institution, and to this leadership, there is NEVER any bad news. How is that possible? What is being obscured when we don't face up to the cheating scandals, plummeting morale, mental health and behavioral crises across the schools? Our district is being hollowed out by gaslighting. To the detriment of our students.


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 21, 2022 at 3:54 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

Why did PAUSD send the Palo Alto Promise promotional mailer? All the information is available on line, at Board of Education meetings and on BoardDocs web site. They need to quite using fuzzy data. "Niche" should not be used as a credible source. It is not scientifically based.
It is fun to read, but it is like listing a Yahoo review rating. You can tell all your friends to give great reviews.

The district repeats the same information in multiple Board reports as it is a new accomplishment. The same information is in mental wellness reports, PAUSD Promise report, now again an Equity report at this week's Board meeting. Web Link

The Goals tend to list as new accomplishments what was always their job anyway: "IEP goal progress routinely reported to parents/guardians(Immediate, ongoing)" - by law, PAUSD was required to give these to parents with each report card. They just achieved this?
There is a Delivery of Product - "A written process to address student needs from identification, referral, intervention and progress monitoring" - If PAUSD hasn't done this yet, they are in serious legal non-compliance. There will be more procedures, handbooks. We are constantly told a "new" handbook, toolkit was created and given to all. There is heavy pressure in the report to blame disabled special education children. Some Goals boarder on illegal "2. Reduction in disproportional special education referrals"- they decided, in advance, referrals are disproportional? A solution: review guidelines for "problem solving". Teaches never thought of that one.

We constantly hear the district increased Wellness and solved Equity by giving presentations at lunch and to parent "Community." Claims of success are questionable when employees to work goals are not yet hired or quit, when steps have not been in place long enough to measure success, and when measurement is weak, such as limited to one question on PAUSD's own survey or rating form.


Posted by AP
a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2022 at 3:34 pm

AP is a registered user.

@Annony Mouse- the district HAS to send out a glossy flyer letting the community know how great they are, that makes it true. As we know this is how Don Austin operates, the truth is irrelevant as long as it can be spun to his liking. The 17 to one ratio is interesting data. How did they manipulate that? Do any of your kids have a class size of 17 or less? We all know class sizes have been creeping up since the arrival of DA not to mention the ever increasing combination class. Palo Alto used to pride itself on doing what’s best for students. Not any more. They need to save money on classes so they can invent more useful admin jobs at the district. How many new positions have been created?
As for the Niche website, it’s almost as accurate as Todd Collins’ “reading” website and the “data” it manufactures. Hey parents and prospective home buyers we are #1, when it suits them and at the same time teachers are failing when it benefits the Board’s cause. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 23, 2022 at 8:09 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

Thanks @meadow. You raise some important points. There doesn't seem to be much appetite for accountability. The play seems to be to brazen it out. There has been some bad news put out by PAUSD parents at the elementary schools, and other groups like teachers putting out information about their workplace conditions. The plan seems to be to ignore, don't apologize and try to ride it out. This is not a good model to demonstrate to our youth. I am a passionate advocate for the health of our schools. There are so few institutions that remain that are trusted. When we have leadership in our schools that goes for "nonapology" apologies and continues with the old PR campaign, our PAUSD insitution suffers. This is detrimental to PAUSD, and more importantly, detrimental to our students. They will suffer in the long run. Accountability is key.


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2022 at 11:57 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

As expected from the reports in Palo Alto Online, the district's in house attorney reported to Board of Education that her Special Education attorney is excellent, including community and timeliness.

The in house attorney did not provide the basis for her ratings. In past years Administrators said they asked only their own in house employees, who create the legal work and income for the attorneys in the firms, not the community. As far as we can tell, the in house attorney then reports her final number as "data." The secrecy harms the ability of citizens to participate in decisions by their elected representatives on the use of the tax dollars they pay.

Categories such as timeliness are vague. For example, they do not show how long the outside attorney was involved or how much was spent on attorneys.

When there are so many excellent ratings across firms and attorneys, it raises questions if the district's Administrators have the management skills to effectively evaluate and assign ratings. It appears there is no way for parents and the community to report bad behavior such as bullying, gaslighting and rudeness, by its paid law firms, as reported in Palo Alto Online. The fear of retaliation against the most vulnerable children is immense.

It appears the only way the community can work to improve the system is to report problems on Palo Alto Online.


Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 25, 2022 at 4:53 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

Thanks @meadow. You are quite right to bring up the strange ratings of the outside attorneys. PAUSD is spending vast sums on these lawyers and increased transparency is needed here. One subtle thing to bring up is the deliberate characterization of anything they say is "data". They believe this is unassailable and the Board loves data - even when it's not really data but impressionistic, undefined "ratings". Anything they disagree with is "anecdotal" and therefore easily dismissed. We need to push back on this framing. Secondly, to recall the Board meeting that prompted this article. During Dr. Don's nonapology speech explaining his behavior, he cited that he was just trying to fight for equity for underserved groups. That's obviously false, but this is a new framing to silence dissent. "I am the warrior for equity, if you disagree you are racist". This is another framing that we need to fight against. We are all being influenced by spin. The swirl of all this toxic framing is ultimately detrimental to our students. This institution needs our help!

And @meadow, the best thing to do is report things on this site. They hate it when people speak up.


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 25, 2022 at 5:05 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

When I heard the Superintendent speak, I wondered if it is not possible some of the families raising concerns are disadvantaged? The families' question was about taking away a classroom, not the Superintendent's intentions. He treated parents from a neighborhood school as if they were an evil enemy threat. And the children! I guess there always has to be an enemy.


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 25, 2022 at 8:58 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

@superchicana"...I had to actually tell the attorney to stop talking so my child could speak. They were rude and talked over me. They are aggressive, intimidating and loud."
- Do you mind saying who the attorneys were? The district's in-house attorney and the Special Education law firm? Sending two attorneys against a parent and disable child is overkill. Please report it in writing to the Board. Attorneys represent the Boards.

"They took zero accountability for the districts screw ups and put their errors on my child."
- School districts blame either parents or the child.

"I corrected that gaslighting in a hot minute and let them know it was their ineptitude, neglect and inability to manage one student’s schedule with consistency . 2 + hour IEP."
- They already knew that. They didn't care. Their goal was to pressure you to do whatever the school district wanted.

"The district spent more money fighting my daughter's IEP than giving her what she actually needed."
A common tactic. SPED order the attorney attacks, but don't pay for it since Legal is a different budget.

"The attorneys interject themselves were they are not needed or welcomed."
- Common. They create lots of words to make themselves look like saviors and you as absurd. They portray expertise they do not have to intimidate you and confuse you. They probably also told you what you thought and wanted. "I an hearing the parent say they don't want what they want." They say this so they can write it into a document. They don't enter your denials or corrections.

"It took The loud mouthed attorney to conclude in 2 hours what I explained over a month ago. I Even gave them a color coded chart and spelled it out."
- They already knew. They played dumb. Did they ask "innocent" questions, why would you think this and say they are just trying to understand. They cut you off when you spoke truth. They could hurt their goals.

"The district now outsources their aggression."
Truest comment ever made.


Posted by Alice Palmer
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2022 at 9:59 pm

Alice Palmer is a registered user.

Is anyone else disappointed but not surprised by the silence from the champion of equity on the most recent mass shootings? Notably the one at an elementary school! He had an essay on his thoughts when the war in Ukraine broke out, but today he chooses silence. It reveals so much.


Posted by super chicana
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 25, 2022 at 11:47 pm

super chicana is a registered user.

Hi Meadow:

So the outside counsel is Tracy Petznick Johnson of Harbottle Law Group and in house counsel was Komey Vishakan of the district (zero background in education law by the way.) They tried to ambush me with no counsel. We are going into settlement agreements. I did a one woman sit in at the district office until they agreed to attorney’s fees. There is no way a parent and child could protect themselves against these vultures. They all feed at the tax payer trough. The attorneys they hire are louder than they are smarter.

They run the clock and run up the bill and the district applauds them. They don’t care. Win-win for the top heavy admin. They spend other people’s money and don’t actually have to do the work or be accountable. What a beautiful system. I can see why the teachers’ union has to be so strong. I learned a new respect for the teacher’s union during this process. The district’s attorneys reframe fraud and misrepresentations “misunderstandings.” They started to blame my child for their ineffective incompetence. I shut that down fast. You can’t gas light me. I have zero filters and will call people liars right to their face. I don’t play nice with unethical people. You have to shine a really bright light on them and they scatter like bugs.

So yes, no accountability. Top heavy waste. No respect for the kids and families. No respect for the truth or facts. They don’t need the truth when the district can create alternative facts. They need not be accountable if they can throw the little guy under the bus. Sound like a familiar dysfunction?


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2022 at 8:18 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

@superchicana - Wow! In that case, families should not report legal abuse to Komey Vishakan, PAUSD's "in-house" attorney! Not if she is behind it, is she supports the lawyers who conduct it, and even sits next to them while they do it!

No character. No ethics.

The Harbottle Law Group web site shows questionable ethics:
"We conduct regular pro bono staff development trainings in partnership with district administration."
Pro Bono? Since when is staff development training pro bono work? That is helping poor and indigent who cannot afford an attorney.

"...billable hours expectations are lower than comparable firms, due to our unique practice model, and we value and encourage ongoing pro bono work for our school district clients, particularly in staff development activities."
They tell their attorneys you can work fewer hours if you work "pro bono" for their own clients? This is a conflict of interest. They are doing it to earn more billable hours and get new clients. Isn't that "sales".

Does "pro bono" work include giving "free" talks at Board of Education conferences, which our Board of Education Trustees warned other Board members against attending since their purpose is to generate fear so schools will hire them?

Free does not mean Free if the purpose is Sales. Free is not Free if the purpose is to buy you as a client. Or buy your increased business. It does with the way Austin talks to Kindergarteners and day care parents - he must make them an enemy to defend against!

Why doesn't PAUSD have to follow the same laws every other government agency does prohibiting accepting free goods and services from vendors and potential vendors? Since Harbottle are lawyers, they must know of a "technical" loophole allowing them to do it. It just happens to look like a conflict of interest. Unethical.

It is not free. There is always a cost. It is paid by taxpayers.


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 26, 2022 at 8:37 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

Board of Education Contact Conflict of Interest
If you write to the Board of Education, please do not go to the PAUSD web site and do not click on the PAUSD link for all Board Members. It will go to the Superintendent and his secretary. He can do that because he is part of the Board as the Board "clerk". He is not independent of the Board. He is their employee and he just happens to control the website.

Instead, write to each Board member individually.

Better yet, write Board Members at their non-PAUSD e-mail addresses, if you can find them.


Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2022 at 8:39 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

@Meadow -- In my opinion, many of our public systems and bureaucracies are in a state of progressive decay, left right and center.

Either you are telling the truth as clearly and concisely as you can, or you are doing that other thing... Whatever their flaws, no one has ever accused Don Austin or his administration of telling the truth as clearly and as concisely as they can.


Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 29, 2022 at 7:43 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

Thank you to everyone who is sharing their personal stories. It's important to counter the reality distortion field that is PAUSD PR strategy. It's a really complex institution that has many positives and negatives. I for one want to be treated like an adult. It seems like the strategy is to infantilize us all. They don't think we can handle the full picture - so they give us just the pablum. It's insulting and dishonest and unrealistic. This is a publicly funded institution that I care about deeply - warts and all. Democracy demands the disinfecting sunlight of full disclosure. Secrecy and spin rots institutions from the inside out. Please help us cleanse this institution!


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 3, 2022 at 6:35 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

@superchicana - Reading your experience with PAUSD and Harbottle Law Group was really disturbing. A well funded district should not be using 2 highly trained specialists to pressure 1 parent.

They knew they already had every advantage over you going into to any ambush or discussion. They set up the system.

It was unethical for Komey Vishakan to use Tracy Petznick Johnson of Harbottle Law Group. It was just as unethical for Tracy Petznick Johnson Of Harbottle Law Group to agree to participate. They knew what they could get away with it without triggering ABA violations, and they knew a Settlement would require your silence, so their behavior could never be reported.

It does not make it right.


Posted by super chicana
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 3, 2022 at 7:05 pm

super chicana is a registered user.

I won’t be too silent. Question: you can’t contract with a minor….what stops my daughter from talking? I cannot control what she says. Settlement not signed yet.

Parents need to demand attorney’s fees, this makes a huge difference in the playing field. They agreed to a nominal amount. Then their counsel ran up the fees - by design. They are giving us a lot more attorney fees. If Harbottle wants to run up really high fees on simple matters it makes sense to give me a large pot of attorney’s fees. They argued everything tooth and nail - except that. Because if I use all the attorneys fees it guarantees they can run up the clock as well. What good is my case matter if I run out of legal fees? If I stop fighting how does Harbottle get paid? They spent thousands upon thousands on attorneys fees to the offer exactly what I asked for. Exactly. Had we just worked together the outcome would have been EXACTLY the same. Harbottle took all my ideas, comments and work product and repackaged it as their own. They had no clue what my child needed. The district does not care because they are burning through other peoples’ money. Our own taxes being used against the families of Palo Alto. If they had smart, resourceful and emotionally intelligent leadership they would realize they could accomplish so much more working together for the good of each child. Would save a ton of lawyer and outside fees. They hire people who are more corrupt than smart and more cruel that empathetic. Their attorney’s reflect that exact culture. America cannot have nice things because of flawed leadership like this.


Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 4, 2022 at 12:41 am

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

The school year is over, but it's not time to relax. The upcoming PAUSD Board meeting on Tuesday has two items of interest to the followers of this thread. First is the approval of the PACCC ONE YEAR CONTRACT. This is the enshrinement of Don's plan to quietly move PACCC out. The idea is to wait until no one is around, paying attention. The dust is settled and the plan moves forward. And, BTW, if you oppose his plan you are "against equity" and "not assuming good intentions" and "a wrecker". Be vigilant, my fellow taxpayers.

Speaking of vigilance, the other item is a Board discussion of remote public comment. This has been popular with many taxpayers. They comment via Zoom and don't have to come to Churchill for the meeting. This was quietly killed a couple months ago, and now the permanent decision to kill remote comment is coming soon. Notice the breathtaking bureaucratic wrangling - kill a popular, transparency-positive, equity-positive feature, but kill it quietly in the summer when no one is paying attention. This couldn't have been dealt with during the school year? Really?

Again, fellow taxpayers. It's important to speak up and pay attention. Email the board, come to the meeting if you can. Comment on Zoom too -- OOOPS, you can't do that...


Posted by Alice Palmer
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 5, 2022 at 8:50 am

Alice Palmer is a registered user.

@Anony Mouse you are correct we must be vigilant! People are tired and worn down and that’s by the design of our board and superintendent. To compound it they want to make sure all equitable voices are NOT heard.


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 5, 2022 at 11:03 pm

Meadow is a registered user.

Both PACCC and Renewal of the Special Education Law firms are on the Consent Calendar of the Board of Education's Meeting Agenda on June 7, 2022. This means the school district is asking the Board of Education to approve or renew contract with no public comment or discussion.

Web Link


Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 10, 2022 at 3:20 pm

Anony Mouse is a registered user.

The public commenters at the Board meeting this week were eloquent. There's no good reason why a for-profit, Chicago-based child care entity will serve PAUSD families better than the current program. The Board voted without comment to enter into a contract with this private entity, while never making the case for why this is good for families and children. At previous meetings, there was some word salad about equity and underserved communities but they never explained how this new company will achieve this. There is no mechanism for ensuring that they carry out whatever unknown promises they made to PAUSD. Given the PR strategy of PAUSD, whatever happens the message will be "mission accomplished - see I made a chart"!


Posted by AnonyMouse
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2022 at 2:24 pm

AnonyMouse is a registered user.

I just thought readers of this thread might like to know what’s on the agenda for the board meeting on Tuesday. A 3% increase in salary, retroactive to July 2021 AND a one time 4% bonus for your taxpayer financed Superintendent. So, he’ll be getting a nearly $24,000 check soon after the board approves this on Tuesday. That Board approval represents approval of how you were treated in person and in email during this fiasco. This Board approval represents similar future behavior of this superintendent. Is this how we want PAUSD to run going forward? Darker, more cynical minds might wonder why this is on a summertime consent calendar. It’s your tax dollars, my friends. We have a say.


Posted by Alice Palmer
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2022 at 1:49 pm

Alice Palmer is a registered user.

@anony mouse- surprise! not only were Zoom comments not allowed for this it was buried in the summer, even though it’s retro active back a year! They know this and specifically work this way. The DO office budget continues to grow (with more men by the way), while art, classroom aide hours are being cut, and we are making mor combo class than ever. K/1 combos are not the move of one who cares about early literacy. This type of “leadership” has the transparency of another Donald. More tax payers need to speak up, before the damage is irreversible.


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