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.
HIGH SCHOOL MEASURES REPORT: AP, SAT, ACT, ALUMNI SURVEY: Palo Alto Unified students who score in the 25th percentile on the SAT in our district, rank ABOVE the 75th percentile nationwide. During the last six years, the number of AP exams taken has increased by 25%. 95% of our students score a "3" or higher (50% score a "5"-the highest score). The percentage of underrepresented minority students taking AP exams is far below that of their peers. The new Minority Achievement and Talent Development task force will be addressing this discrepancy in their work over the next few months. Alumni survey results are consistent with other districts in the 21st Century Consortium of schools. Students would like more experience with technical writing, science lab reports, and support balancing academics with social and emotional health. (Alumni response rate was 9.33%)
CUBBERLEY LEASE AGREEMENT: On Mon., Nov. 17th, the Palo Alto City Council voted to approve the Cubberley Lease Extension and on Tues. Nov. 18th, the School Board also voted to approve the agreement. The new 5-year lease extension reduces the City of Palo Alto's lease payment to the school district in the amount of $1,864,248 per year, which will now be placed into a Cubberley Property Infrastructure Fund, to be used towards improvements to the Cubberley site. In addition, the City and School District agreed to jointly develop a master plan for the Cubberley site within this five-year period. Read the full lease agreement HERE.
STRONG SCHOOLS BOND: The School Board received both the Citizen's Oversight Committee annual report and the positive financial and performance audit for the $378 million Measure A - Strong Schools Bond of June, 2008. I urge you to check out the gorgeous, full-color photos of the projects at multiple schools throughout the district, contained in the full COC report (Scroll down to Item 9) HERE. To contact the COC with any questions, e-mail: email@example.com.
PARCEL TAX FISCAL REPORT: In May, 2010, voters approved an updated parcel tax of $589 per parcel with two percent annual increases for six years. This is used to "preserve excellence in core academic programs, reduce the impact of budget cuts with locally-controlled, stable funding, minimize teacher layoffs and class size increases, continue teacher professional development, and protect critical high school electives, including arts and music." Our revenues and expenditures were reviewed by the district's external auditor and we received a favorable verification of the data. One striking fact is that the parcel tax funding provides 77% of the funding used to preserve lower class sizes. Without these funds, class sizes in elementary school would increase to 27-28 students per class, including kindergarten. For questions about the parcel tax, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
BUDGET: The School Board was presented with the First Interim Budget Report from CBO Cathy Mak. On the positive side, property taxes are projected to increase over 2013-14 to 6.36%, which is $4.4 million over the adopted budget. Upcoming challenges, however, include a significant increase in pension costs (about $2 million per year over the next six years), a permanent "fair share" reduction in state funding of $7.4 million (or 4% of General Fund revenues), and an ongoing $1.9 million reduction in Cubberley lease revenue. And although the CPI (Consumer Price Index) has increased about 13% over the past six years, our per-pupil funding has only increased 8%. California currently ranks 50th nationally in per-pupil spending, at around $8,000 per student. Palo Alto spends about $14,000 per student, because of our higher property taxes. (As a comparison, high-performing districts around the country may spend up to $30,000 per student.) Until we identify stable, ongoing revenue sources, we will continue to lag behind the rest of the country in education spending.
GOODBYE TO BARB MITCHELL AND DANA TOM: Nov. 18th was the last official Board meeting for Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom. Both served on the Palo Alto School Board for nine years and volunteered in our district many years prior to that. I thanked them publicly for their dedication, enthusiasm, and service on behalf of all children and families in our district. Both have demonstrated a sincere appreciation for our hard-working faculty and staff, a deep understanding for governance issues locally, regionally, and statewide, and a passionate commitment for this work and for our students that inspired me every day. Their knowledge, experience, and wisdom will be missed.