Town Square

Post a New Topic

Editorial: Palo Alto school board in parallel universe

Original post made on May 10, 2013

The poor school board just can't catch a break. Try as they might to follow the advice of their attorney and send the message they won't be "distracted" and are "moving forward" from the controversy over bullying cases, one thing after another drags them back into turbulent waters.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 10, 2013, 8:49 AM

Comments (10)

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 10, 2013 at 9:18 am

This article seems to be more praising of the PAUSD Board of Education than the article’s tag line seems to suggest. Most of the comments on Weekly blogs seem to show a lot more dissatisfaction with the Board than this editorial reflects.

> There are simply too many times when the school
> board is left needing to fix or re-do the work of
> the staff, and the reasons for that need to be
> understood and fixed.

Is this really true? What examples can the Weekly provide to back up this statement?

> A great strategic plan will not succeed if
> the staff is not capable of doing the work,
> and by now it is obvious that is in question.

There is a huge difference between planning and execution. Given the current academic strengths demonstrated by the District—what exactly is the editorial staff saying—other than they want Kevin Skelly fired?

It’s clear that there are all sorts of problems in the PAUSD and the City of Palo Alto government entities. Given that the State Ed.Code (and increasingly the Office of Civil Rights, it would seem) defines virtually every thing that the School Board can do, and the City Charter restricts what the City Council can do—aren’t we looking at problems imposed on us by those who have created these restraints (the State Legislature and previous City Councils and Palo Alto voters)?

I would also like to suggest that the Brown Act imposes a number of restraints that were originally thought to be “good for open government”, but now, in the age of the Internet and digital communications—puts the brakes on a number of interactions between government policy makers that might be worth rethinking. Between the PAUSD and the CPA, there is over $300M in combined expenses, and increasingly hundreds of millions of dollars of capital expenditures that need “oversight”. Sitting in a group meeting once a week for a few hours hardly seems like enough time for adequate “oversight”. There needs to be more interaction between the “Trustees” than is currently allowed under Brown.

The decision to hire a Communications Officer was a bad idea, in my opinion. I would much rather have seen that money spent on an Auditor, or contracts for outside Audits, that would help provide more information about the state of the District, as well as meaningful performance Audits of the Measure A funds.

I do agree with the Weekly that we are not seeing the leadership out of Superintendent Skelly that we are paying for.

Like this comment
Posted by a parent, 3 kids
a resident of Barron Park
on May 10, 2013 at 11:25 am

I agree with Wayne about the Comm Officer. If communication is not already a major part of the requirements to be hired as a Super, Asst Super, etc., then what?? There went another 6 figure salary -- buying their way out of a PR problem instead of just doing their jobs better.

I don't envy the Board's work. Similar to teachers, the Board serves a vast majority of silent and satisfied families, along with a loud cadre of over-entitled, under-involved grousers. Don't take blogs or Palo Alto Online as a true indication of public sentiment.

PS: i've seen the McKinsey plan. Patently obvious is what I would call their snazzy work up. We needed to pay consultants to come up with this?? I worked in consulting. They are mostly paid to help organizations say they are "doing something about it." What a shame. More money poorly spent?

Like this comment
Posted by Paying Attention
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 10, 2013 at 11:38 am

The staff are very capable of doing their jobs. Unfortunately, often the teachers are shielded from the often over critical parents by the principals and the union. When there is any complaint, they invoke protection mode because they are battle weary from fending off the numerous crazy parents. The result is that when there is a genuine problem, such as bullying, bad teaching, etc., the staff closes ranks and stonewalls the parents. I have been in this position several times as my students go through Palo Alto schools. During this time, I have had to contact the district, perhaps four times about different issues. Almost every time, I got a non response. All the while, I've seen a number of parents who are constantly harassing the staff over every single thing that occurs with their student - a B on a test, a food allergy, a non existent learning problem, a criticism based on the teacher having not practiced that families' religion. Because of the endless whining and complaining by parents like these, anyone with a real issue is stonewalled along with the rest. I do not blame the staff for this. I blame the self important helicopter parents. The current witch hunt by a relatively small number of individuals continues to deflect attention from this systemic problem, allowing it to flourish. Again, this is not the fault on any one or two administrators or teachers. The district is under siege and acts accordingly.

Like this comment
Posted by FrankF
a resident of Ventura
on May 10, 2013 at 11:39 am

FrankF is a registered user.

> The unusual letter < about ongoing disability-based bullying at the school> approved by Superintendent Kevin Skelly, prompted the
>Office for Civil Rights to send a letter to the district expressing concerns about the privacy rights of complainants and warn it about
>intimidation and retaliation.

This shows the really difficult spot the District finds itself in. On the one hand they want to say 'stop teasing Jonny; he cannot help his awkward behavior because he has Autism..." But they are forbidden from mentioning Jonny and Autism.

Some of these disabilities cause behavior in the victim that is provocative towards the "bully" - not to ever excuse bullying but we have an environment where those keeping charge cannot acknowledge anything is different about someone who is clearly different.

We, the general public will probably never know the full story - so it is very difficult to accurately judge the PAUSD and it's response. I do wish the Weekly staff would get an opinion from someone in education (not connected to PAUSD) who could offer a better explanation from their point of view.

Like this comment
Posted by Paying Attention
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 10, 2013 at 11:47 am

FrankF, Well said! I could not agree more. Real problem. Complex situation. Needs a real solution from well meaning adults who are not blaming others.

Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

You ARE getting a FREE set of recommendations from a son of a ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR who was originally a SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER that rose up through the ranks. That includes VP at a H.S. level, Principal at both K-8 and H.S. levels up to the Assistant Administration level!

The Special Ed teachers HAVE THAT SPECIAL TRAINING, so why was it not implemented? In other SFBA districts THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED if they didn't report and follow up on the reports of abuse of a Special Education student!

The other issue in which Skelly is involved with appears to be a CYA action for the Administration. Witholding information until the right " spin " is applied to it means that Skelly was more concerned about the APPEARANCE and not the FACTS about the mistreatment of Special Education students in the PAUSD.
There are plenty of unofficial " retirements " of top Administrators due to similar malfeasance in office all over the SFBA; you only get the story released and not the true facts the Board had to deal with in making a decision to terminate someone.
The view of this person is that you only hire a " Communications Specialist " when you have a damage control issue to deal with; sometimes the public is not being made aware of such a problem until an expert " Spinmeister " becomes the firewall between the community and the School District.

Fire this guy and terminate most of the Special Education Staff and the OCR along with other problems will go away. Properly trained Special Ed teachers already know what they MUST DO in issues like this one. No " spinmeister " needed or to be paid for out of the TAXPAYERS pockets.

Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

P.S. " No. I'm happy with retirement and LEAVING the POLITICS that came with the job. Why should I take on the problems in the PAUSD? "
That was the response to the obvious question I asked at the beginning of this Charley-Fox....

Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

@Paying Attention:

> "The district is under siege and acts accordingly."

Organizations that are dysfunctional (or downright stupid) are likely to find themselves under siege. Competent organizations do not.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I hope every parent reads Paying Attention's message and understands that parents have 100x more impact, positive and negative, than a Superintendent.

Like this comment
Posted by Parallel u
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 10, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Speaking of parallel universes why are there 2 threads on this same article? Get it together editor! Kill one.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 4,548 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 1,034 views

This time we're not lying. HONEST! No, really!
By Douglas Moran | 8 comments | 627 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 511 views

One-on-one time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 438 views