School Board Members gathered with the Measure A - Parcel Tax Campaign Committee to launch the effort to renew our current parcel tax for the next six years, with a $120 increase and continued two percent escalation, senior exemptions, and an independent oversight committee with annual audits. The parcel tax represents about 7% of our budget, an estimated $12.4 million in 2014-15, and is a local source of funding for schools that cannot be taken away by the state. The proposed increase of $2.3 million in revenue will allow the district to preserve core programs, keep class sizes small, support school libraries, and address new priorities including: equitable opportunities for all, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) initiatives, and health and wellness supports for students at all grade levels. Make a donation, volunteer, and endorse Measure A on the website: www.SupportPaloAltoSchools.org. Thank you for your continued support of our excellent schools!Read more
I was invited to join the Walter Hays Elementary School teachers for a Chinese New Year luncheon, provided by some of the dedicated Chinese parents at the school. Hays is one of my Liaison Schools this year and it was nice to catch up with the teachers and meet new parents. The meal was homemade and delicious and the teachers appreciated a warm meal in the middle of their work day. I was glad to meet some of the hardworking Special Education Aides at Hays and hear about a successful classified staff professional development opportunity around inclusion. Principal Mary Bussmann thanked the parents for making it a truly special way to celebrate the Year of the Sheep!
This year, I will be the Liaison to the Los Altos Hills Town Council. Superintendent Max McGee and I attended our first Council meeting on Monday, February 9th, 2015 and it was certainly an auspicious beginning. After introducing ourselves, and after Dr. McGee outlined our District Vision and goals for the year, Councilmember John Radford warned us that the citizens of Los Altos Hills have been "bled to death" by the Palo Alto Unified School District and "receive little or nothing" in return for their property taxes. Dr. McGee suggested that the Los Altos Hills students who attend PAUSD schools may have a different perspective to share. Mayor Courtenay Corrigan ended the conversation a brief moment later by thanking Dr. McGee for providing a well-balanced and safe educational environment for "our most important asset: our youth." Looking forward with some trepidation to my next visit to the Town Council. (See the interaction live at: http://losaltoshills.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=266 just before the one-hour mark.)
On Friday, Feb. 6th and Saturday, Feb. 7th, 2015, I began the California School Boards Association's Master's in Governance program. This is a year-long program with the goal of creating more effective governing boards in school districts around the state. My courses included "Foundations of Effective Governance," "Setting Direction," "Student Learning & Achievement," and "Policy and Judicial Review." We discussed the complexities of serving as part of a Local Education Agency (LEA), including moving from the "I" role of a campaign, to the "We" role of a unified Board of Education. Board Members must strive to keep student learning and achievement at the forefront of every Board discussion and decision. A favorite quote from the weekend, "The behavior that is modeled by the leadership profoundly shapes the culture of the organization."
WHAT I LEARNED IN HIGH SCHOOL: I was at Gunn High School several times this month in the wake of recent tragic events and was fortunate to be invited, along with Superintendent Dr. Max McGee, to listen to Gunn SEC (Student Executive Council) students talk about ways to alleviate stress and de-stigmatize mental health issues on campus. Some of the concrete ideas from students included: promoting consistency in regular lane classes (AP lanes work from a national curriculum, so they are more standardized), retakes on tests, block scheduling, enforce homework policy of 7-10 hours/week (no weekend/holiday homework, even for AP classes), require one visit to an ACS (Adolescent Counseling Services) counselor per year to reduce stigma of seeking help, meet monthly with a guidance counselor, educate parents about mental health issues including signs of depression in teens (PAUSD Health Services) (HEARD Alliance), tone down competition between students, avoid test stacking: assign a testing day for each department, and promote healthy/manageable course loads. Students have mixed feelings on limiting AP courses; some believe these are the courses they are most passionate about. Other concrete suggestions: allow food in the library; spread out finals to all five days, instead of 2-3 per day; make it easier to drop a lane if needed. Also, students would like parents to be required to attend bi-monthly seminars on reducing pressure on their children. One of the student commissioners summed it up: "Hey, people, a "B" stands for "Balance." If a "C" means average, remember that a "B" is above-average. It's not the end of the world."Read more
I had the pleasure of attending a Principal's coffee at Duveneck this morning. Duveneck is one of my Liaison Schools this year. It was great to hear from Principal Chris Grierson about all the terrific things going on at Duveneck Elementary School, including a "Teachers Visiting Teachers" initiative where every teacher is encouraged to spend some time in another teacher's classroom. Seems like a solid way of creating professional development opportunities at the school site. Great to hear more about the inclusion efforts going on across grade levels as well. Thanks to the parents who showed up and participated in the discussion!
Each year in December, I look forward to the California School Boards Association's (CSBA) Annual Education Conference, where school board members from across the state convene to discuss legislative, fiscal, policy, and curriculum issues in public education. Keynote speakers included Freeman Hrabowski, Amanda Ripley, and a conversation with Sal Khan of Khan Academy. I attended sessions on Linked Learning high school pathways, creating middle school academies, innovations for inclusion from a CA Special Ed. task force, issues in state funding of public education, authentic School Board communications for strong governance, critical legal issues facing districts in 2015, the positive effects of summer school, and multiple pathways to biliteracy for students preK through 12th.Read more
November was a difficult month for our community, as we faced two tragic deaths by suicide of both a former and current high school student. I wanted to reach out in this special edition newsletter and specifically address district efforts around student social and emotional health.Read more
November was a busy, exciting month. The School Board did a 100-day performance evaluation with our new Superintendent, Dr. Max McGee. We convened for our annual Elementary Principals' SPSA (Single Plan for Student Achievement) study session. We signed a lease agreement with the City of Palo Alto for the Cubberley site. And, of course, there was an election! We will welcome both Terry Godfrey and Ken Dauber to the School Board on December 9th.Read more
I was lucky to attend this year's Palo Alto High School PTA Turkey Feast on a beautiful sunny day. What an amazing outpouring of support for our growing and hungry students! I was so impressed with the organization and people that make this a phenomenal annual event. More than a hundred parents baked, roasted, donated, shopped, carved, slided, prepped, set up, greeted, assisted, scooped, served, wiped, and washed to present 80 turkeys, 152 pies, 125 baked potatoes, buckets of gravy, trays of stuffing, salad, and cranberry sauce, plus 126 dozen rolls for a total of about 1500 meals. The PTA also collected four full bins of canned goods and several thousand dollars for Ecumenical Hunger Program. Thanks to the wonderful leadership team of Melissa, Mego, Kristen, Nancy and Kathleen for making this awesome event happen.