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Palo Alto schools may soon welcome children of city employees

Original post made on Feb 17, 2023

Palo Alto's city workers may soon be able to enroll their children in local schools. The school district and the city are exploring the new program in a bid to boost the district's flagging enrollment.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 17, 2023, 8:46 AM

Comments (22)

Posted by Anon123456
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 17, 2023 at 9:17 am

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How about offering differentiated education? Like real differentiation, meeting kids where they are at in each subject, whether ahead or behind the arbitrary targets based on age. I bet that will bring back a ton of local kids into the public schools. Few people wear an average shoe, few kids need education at an average level. We have the technology tools available for differentiation, we need to have a flexible mindset in how we structure schools, this need not cost more, and it is more humane for our kids.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2023 at 9:29 am

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Does PAUSD still have a residence investigation officer? I can remember when children who didn't live in Palo Alto 24/7 due to custody arrangements where children lived with another parent some weekends or when the family had moved in with friends outside Palo Alto while their home was remodled were thrown out of PAUSD.

Times appear to have changed.

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2023 at 10:37 am

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It use to be that children of PAUSD could attend schools here. Shouldn't that be considered first before the children of City of Palo Alto employees?

Posted by GTSpencer
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2023 at 5:13 pm

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So the employees most likely don't live in the district but can attend. How is that fair to the taxpayer?

Posted by stephenlevy
a resident of University South
on Feb 17, 2023 at 5:38 pm

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If we do not get more kids, schools and programs will be cut. Our enrollment is falling pretty much every year. More students from this program or adding housing will allow more students to attend their neighborhood school.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2023 at 7:37 pm

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I hate to ask ... will this move IMPROVE diversity ratios, or make them worse?

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2023 at 8:43 pm

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As far as I’ve heard, school employees can still educate their kids here in Palo Alto public schools for free, quite a perk! I have a middling house but pay a lot of $ in property taxes to support our public schools. I wish Stanford would do so also. Public employees have high pay here in PA; not sure about adding in the (separate) school perk -

Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 19, 2023 at 12:21 am

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That’s a $12K per child bump in compensation for the employees that take advantage of it but would increase retention. I think its a good idea but should be paid for by the employee.

Posted by Greene and Paly Parent
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 19, 2023 at 6:59 am

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Great point by @Anon123456

The first place I would look into for increasing enrollment is Palo Alto residents that pay for our schools but choose private. I could not get data on the numbers, but we see this anecdotally, and our middle schools have about 10% more boys than girls due to more local private options for girls.

Why do so many local families not choose PAUSD despite the huge advantage of local schools and existing friendships? The limiting factors to better serving students are not funding, it is the priorities of choices made by PAUSD leadership. PAUSD gets a whopping 27k per student per year.

When explicitly asked, the responses from leadership (board members and district) were:

-- They don't care about students leaving the district (some had own kids in private). They have buit-in funding.

-- Those wanting flexibility should go private -- even when it does not increase costs, e.g., correct placement.

-- One board member stated they only care about the kids that are disadvantaged (a small minority). But our disadvantaged students are not doing better (and often much worse) compared with similar districts.

Would PAUSD consider that flexibility and following the science helps all students?

My recommendation to city employees that commute is to very carefully consider this option. Yes, some PAUSD school buildings look like little college campuses and the rating (that are engineered) are high. Yes, most students are doing well, but it is due to families stepping in when needed. Those disadvantaged are doing no better or worse that most poorer SV districts. Moreover, PAUSD follows non-evidenced approaches, one after the other. Your kids are subjects in irresponsible experiments.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2023 at 7:29 am

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Why parents choose private v PAUSD is an interesting topic, one not to dismiss but it may be too involved here.

However, from my anecdotal conversations with those I know who chose to go private they come into three headings.

Smaller class sizes and continuation of being able to keep with the same teacher over all years in each school for the same subject as well as the same classmates.

More interaction with staff/teachers about curriculum, etc.

More aligned with family values, less indoctrination of woke/liberal opinions, etc.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that the last reason is why many people I know are leaving California altogether as they don't like raising their children in the present political atmosphere.

As I said, this is a topic in itself and I am not attempting to go off at a tangent but answering with my opinion on questions that have been raised above. Others may see other reasons and they are just as valid, I am only going by what I have come across in my own circle and those in the circle of my now grown kids

Posted by Ryan
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2023 at 11:45 am

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Why? Terrible idea

Posted by Morgan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 19, 2023 at 12:05 pm

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What does it mean when Shikada says, "If there are slots available"?

Why does PAUSD need to "boost enrollment"? PAUSD is a basic aid district. It makes the same amount of money, essentially, no matter how many students are enrolled. The only reason I can think of is to have a reason to keep inflated administration/staff levels.

Instead of giving away school resources, how about saving those resources for the families that are paying to fund the district? Maybe a decline in enrollment will mean a decrease in the number of assistant principals, teachers, staff, and district office personnel? Sounds like it would be a good idea to sit down and figure out what is really needed.

Surplus funds can be used in programs that benefit the students. The district is currently talking about readjusting Special Ed, which has parents up in arms, in order to save money. A better way to save money and serve the students is to eliminate the jobs that are no longer needed with a smaller enrollment.

It sounds like the district is trying to find students to maintain their salary levels.

Posted by stephenlevy
a resident of University South
on Feb 19, 2023 at 1:23 pm

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Without boosting enrollment sone schools will close or merge and programs will be cut. It is not a question of funding, it is about operating efficiently. That is what I understand from listening to staff.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2023 at 3:28 pm

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Can anyone translate Ed's City speak here? "If there are slots available, we have potential for city employees to fill those slots and, in so doing, increase or improve the connection between our employees and the communities they serve," Shikada said. "As well as having the benefits, to the extent these employees are commuting to town, in having the flexibility to which schools their children would attend." My God! when did it go from sad to just plain bad local governance??? His favorite every single meeting vague answers starts with, "to the extent these ..." I think he's saying yes/no/maybe. Siri could do ...

Posted by Morgan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 19, 2023 at 7:31 pm

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Of course "staff" is going to advocate for more students. Entire schools will not close. If programs don't have the needed interest, then they should be shut down. Just as if there is not enough interest to start a new program, then the district will not start one.

Posted by He Must Go
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2023 at 12:26 pm

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As I read the comments I'm truly surprised how entitled the majority of you sound. The truly wealthy here in Palo Alto send their children to private schools anyhow. When enrollment dips as it will you'll all be crying as to why is our school closing.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 21, 2023 at 6:13 pm

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As PAUSD is funded by Palo Alto property taxes, not the State, presumably the budget will remain the same whether enrollment goes up or down. In other words, PAUSD does not get a state allowance for each child enrolled as most school districts now do. Though I believe there may be additional State dollars for each child enrolled in Special Education.

This was a choice California school districts were allowed to make some 70 years ago when the State changed the way school districts were funded.

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2023 at 1:43 am

Silver Linings is a registered user.

Before we commit to a policy with long-term consequences:

1. Why is it needed? It’s already possible for students to request interdistrict transfers.
2. Why do we need more students? This is a basic aid district; most schools have more students than optimal anyway. Web Link
3. Why did we lose students in the first place? If for reasons we should fix, do that first. Our schools used to be good enough that when surrounding communities lost students, PAUSD didn’t. 

Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen families who moved away or took kids out of local schools because of how badly they were treated over special needs.

Every year, hundreds of families in Palo Alto homeschool. Many to better address special needs, have more flexibility, or individualize education. Official homeschooling in CA doubled during the pandemic and remains high. Palo Alto could bring many of these students back by creating an independent study program like may other public districts in the Bay Area—that serves students who want
*more advanced study
*more specialized or hands-on learning
*to hold jobs
*more flexibility, incl during illness (hopefully after Covid everyone understands why just “doing school” remotely does a disservice to sick students).

A reputation for innovating would bring families back.

Indoor air quality issues on some of our campuses create serious problems for some, incl teachers. These are not hard or expensive to address. Had they been, earnestly and knowledgeably before Covid, it would have made returning in person safer, earlier. Creating special programs won’t work permanently if too many kids feel sick on those campuses.

We would lose fewer to private school by maintaining a better diversity of learning approaches through high school so all students could be supported to reach their dreams and potentials, and to lead happy, balanced lives.

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2023 at 1:44 am

Silver Linings is a registered user.

Almost forgot:

People who moved during the pandemic mostly went to suburbs, mostly nearby cities they left, for more space (often cheaper, sometimes not). PA has always been horribly expensive, with families making extreme sacrifices to live here for schools and quality of life; more recent overdevelopment made the sacrifice not worth it. Forget this and we will only lose more students in the future.

Web Link

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2023 at 7:00 pm

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Palo Alto has not always been horribly expensive. For example, I paid $39,995 in 1970 (3/2) which was a little more than other towns south of Palo Alto. Not horribly more for sure.

Posted by SelectScreenName
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 27, 2023 at 12:28 pm

SelectScreenName is a registered user.

No objections to doing this, but agree with @Silver Linings there is already a process in place. The City of Palo Alto should first direct their employees to use it.

My understanding is for years, inter district transfer requests were routinely denied. An exception was Special Education placements, but the districts has agreements in place to do this. Plus it is not free. PAUSD pays when it places students in other districts, and other districts pay PAUSD when placing students here. PAUSD had reduced the number of these placements with its own programs to save funds and welcome back students into their own district.

The equity of this approach raises questions. Teachers are on campus and receive this as an employ benefit. This is automatic grant enrollment to an entire group based on more tertiary relationships to PAUSD. How about district contractors? District’s law firms? How about Stanford Hospital employees? They help district students.

Tinsel is a court order with a process. How equitable would enrollment be for city students living in Stockton? Can the?student stay late for football and robotics until 1:00 am? Who will get a 5 year old home if they miss the bus?

Will the district pay for daycare for kids whose parents leave home at 5:00 am and work until 6:00 or later?

A few years ago the Board was mad at Stanford for employees for new housing built without paying district property taxes. It was upset at teachers wanting to cancel their bonuses. It was bringing legal cases against disabled kids and disenrolling students so sick they attended out of state schools. Will PAUSD say “just kidding,” and refund legal fees?

Is this fair to employees and to families who followed the rules, applied for out of district placement but were denied?

Finally, the premise we need large campuses to teach is false. Smaller classes are fine. Counselors do not require 200-400 students. Big campuses save Administrators money and keep their jobs.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 27, 2023 at 1:29 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Presumably those who are recommending this have a plan in place should demand from residents change. I would not be a happy parent if I was a tax-paying resident of Palo Alto and learned that the schools were too full to accept my child(ren). Nor would I be happy if I qualified for this, enrolled my child(ren) in PAUSD and then had to forfeit that enrollment b/c the situation had changed. Once a young person starts in a school it seems reasonable to me that he or she should be guaranteed the option to continue through to graduation.

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