March is traditionally a busy month of change for school districts around the state. March 15th is the deadline for teacher release notices, which can be rescinded if budget cuts are avoided in May. Although Palo Alto hasn't had to issue any release notices this year, it has still been a month of change, predominantly in our leadership positions. In addition to the resignations of our Superintendent and our Chief Technology Officer (Ann Dunkin, tapped for the Obama Administration), resignations or retirement notices have been received from Principals at: Fairmeadow Elementary, Addison Elementary, Ohlone Elementary, Gunn High School, the Palo Alto Adult School, and an Asst. Principal at Jordan Middle School. Job descriptions are posted on the PAUSD website, HERE.Read more
I attended the opening reception on March 22nd for "Youth Speaks Out: Palo Alto Youth Share Heartfelt Life Experiences," an exhibit at the Palo Alto Art Center that runs through April 4th. Nearly 200 Palo Alto teens from Gunn, PALY, and Jordan Middle School explore their identities through painting, ceramics, sculpture, graphic arts, and photography. To see more photos of the event, click on Read More (below). Nice article on the exhibit HERE.Read more
I was lucky enough to attend the Paly Gym Farewell community celebration on Sunday, March 16th. After 85 years of being a focal point for Viking pride and hosting thousands of events such as games, dances, and rallies, Palo Alto High School community members, esteemed alumni, and current students and staff spent the afternoon bidding farewell to their beloved gymnasium. Built in the late 1920’s, Paly's gym is one of the few classic gyms still serving students in the Bay Area. It was a poignant goodbye to a gym that has served Paly athletes well. Thanks to a very generous community member, a new gym complex is being envisioned and built.
English and Journalism Teacher Paul Kandell gave me and my School Board colleague Barbara Mitchell a tour of the nearly-completed Paly Media Arts Center (MAC). It is a beautiful, state-of-the-art building that will be used by multiple departments including video and digital production, journalism, photography, and others. There is a central atrium which will be in high demand as a multi-use space. There is also an electronic ticker tape outside the building which will update students with news. The MAC should be ready for student use before the end of this school year.
On March 3, 2014, I had the pleasure of going to Barron Park Elementary School (on Pajama Day!) and read books with a Kinder and 1st grade classroom. It was a great experience. I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm of our terrific teachers, as they bring books and reading to life in wonderful, inspiring ways for the children. I chose to read "Wild About Books" and "Bark, George," two of my own kids' favorite books. Thanks to Nancy Pang and all of our Librarians and teachers who support Read Across America Day!
Big news in the Palo Alto Unified School District! Our long-time Superintendent, Dr. Kevin Skelly, announced his resignation as of June 2014. While most Superintendents stay in a district for 2-3 years, Dr. Skelly has served for the past seven years, making him the second-longest serving Superintendent in our history. He is a champion for our school district, and his unwavering optimism, visible presence at all our school sites, and emphasis on teachers and teaching will be missed. During his tenure, he worked with the Board and community stakeholders to update our Strategic Plan, adding a focus on student social and emotional health. He moved the district to adopt A-G requirements, requiring a high standard of excellence for all our students. He and the Board set aside $5 million for a teacher professional development fund and he made ongoing learning an integral part of the teacher contract. He embraced innovation in the classroom with blended learning courses, partnerships with our local community college, and the adoption of new Common Core State Standards and assessments. And he has been a strong representative voice for community-funded districts at the local, county, and state level.Read more
We began 2014 with a mid-year evaluation of our Annual Focused Goals, in order to assess progress, re-align priorities, and refocus our efforts for the rest of the year. One of the most comprehensive goals is to integrate the new Common Core State Standards across our curriculum. This national effort towards alignment of educational goals has provided a valuable opportunity for our teachers and administrators to look deeply at what we teach (content mastery), how we teach (delivery of content), and which skills are critical for post-secondary success (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication).Read more
On a very crisp Wednesday morning, Jan. 22, 2014, two big white tour buses filled with eager students from elementary and middle schools in and around Beijing, China, visited Ohlone and our Mandarin Immersion program. Sponsored by a global environmental advocacy group, these students are learning about creating sustainable schools and communities, making new American friends, and experiencing a peer cultural exchange opportunity.Read more
As we close out 2013, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as your elected Palo Alto School Board Member. This past year, I've met amazing, talented, and hard-working professionals striving to innovate, teach, model, explore, and inspire students from pre-K through high school and beyond. There is a tremendous community-funded bond program in action across the district, constructing state-of-the-art facilities that enhance student learning. And, for the first time in three years, the district's financial outlook is stable enough to avoid program cuts and increase compensation for teachers.Read more
This week, I'm getting ready to attend the California School Boards Association Annual Education Conference in San Diego. I'm looking forward to learning more about Common Core State Standards, Smarter Balanced Assessments, and the new funding mechanism (Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF) for education across our state. I'm also eager to find out more about federal and statewide efforts towards providing Universal Preschool for all Pre-K children.
HIGH SCHOOL MEASURES: This month, the Board heard the results of our Advanced Placement (AP), SAT, and ACT measures, in addition to results from our Annual Alumni Survey. The number of AP exams taken has gone up 25% in the last six years, with a consistent 95% scoring a 3 or higher, and 48% scoring a perfect 5 (scale is 1-5, with 3 or higher being a passing exam).