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Superintendent's Update - May 5, 2023

Superintendent's Update - May 5, 2023

From the Office of the Superintendent: 


The Board agenda calendar can be found HERE.

As your Superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure that our schools are safe and supportive environments where our students can learn and grow. In recent weeks, we have faced a series of challenging incidents in our schools. I want to address these events and our response to them, while emphasizing the importance of mental health support for our students.

We have worked closely with law enforcement to address and resolve each incident. A Fletcher Middle School student was found with a threatening list of names, a high school student was involved in an arson on school property, and a third posted a threat involving a gun at Paly. I want to assure you that we have taken these incidents very seriously, and in each case, the individuals responsible have been identified and appropriate actions have been taken.

Please understand that we honor student confidentiality and cannot disclose specific actions taken for those who are responsible for the recent disruptions. This undertaking includes legal implications, district discipline, or mental health supports offered.

It is natural for our community to feel concern and anxiety in light of these events. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all our students and to foster both open communication and trust among students, staff, and families.

We understand that some students may experience personal trauma during or after disruptions. In response, our mental health teams are mobilized to assist staff and students who need to process these events and also provide the necessary support.

In addition to the resources provided by our schools, we recognize the essential role families play in supporting their children. We encourage families to have open and honest discussions with their kids at home. These conversations can help students process the recent events and provide an opportunity for parents to check in on their children's well-being. Discussions may balance the negative consequences of creating disruptions with the importance of maintaining mental health and asking for help when needed.

In order to provide transparency in our response to any reported incidents, I want to share with you the sequence of steps we follow when an event is reported. Upon receiving a report, we immediately evaluate the information at hand and determine the severity or potential severity of the situation. If necessary, school sites take prompt action to secure the campus, followed by contacting the district office and/or law enforcement for assistance.

Our first priority is to manage the immediate safety of our students and to communicate with staff to the best of our ability. Our focus then shifts to gaining as much control of the situation as possible in the short term. As we work to address the problem, we notify those directly impacted and subsequently send out broader communications to keep our community informed and involved. We are aware of the desire to receive immediate communication, and we do our best to provide updates as soon as possible. Ultimately, we need to prioritize our steps and focus, beginning with those actually on our sites.

Palo Alto is fortunate to have one of the most robust mental health support systems in California. We recognize the critical role that mental health plays in the well-being and success of our students. Now, more than ever, it is essential that we continue to invest in these resources, and encourage students to access them when needed.

We also want to remind our students and community members of the importance of speaking up when they see something that looks wrong, or if they know someone who needs help. This action has helped us prevent and address problems in the past, and it will continue to be a vital part of ensuring safety in our schools.

If you have specific questions about school safety, mental health resources, or support services, please reach out to your site principal. They are equipped with the most current and detailed information and are ready to assist with any concerns you may have at any time.

I am confident that, as a community, we can come together to support one another, address these challenges, and continue to provide an exceptional education for our students. Thank you for your understanding.

Teacher Appreciation Week:  May 8 - 12 

In 1953, Eleanor Roosevelt asked Congress to recognize teachers. The National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association acknowledge the first week of May as Teacher Appreciation Week. Not only do teachers drive innovation and problem solve, but they also expand thought and create a world of good. Uplift your child’s teacher, and make sure the student knows why it matters to do so. Without our great educators and their devotion to our more than 10,300 young minds, PAUSD would not be California’s most outstanding school district.

Classified Employee Week:  May 21 - 27

Serving on the frontlines, classified employees partner with teachers and district staff to strengthen schools. The added value of classified employees often goes unnoticed. PAUSD is highly appreciative of the work, time, and energy dedicated to the livelihood of the district given by each classified employee. These invaluable staff members represent, but are not limited to:  transportation, school safety, front office staff, custodians, paraeducators, maintenance, food service, attendance, information technology, electricians, registration, and facilities. The California Senate, in 1986, began recognizing the third week in May as Classified Employee Week.

Every Student Reads Initiative

The Educational Services staff continues to work with the State of California to reduce the number of African American, Latino, and English Learners disproportionately identified as having a specific learning disability. This outreach is a part of the Comprehensive Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CCEIS) process. Aspects of this work include the implementation of a K - 12 level universal screener in reading, the i-Ready Diagnostic Reading Assessment, which allows the district to learn about the reading strengths and areas for reading development of all students. Educators use this information to provide high-quality core instruction and interventions based on student assessment results. In addition, a CCEIS-funded reading specialist and a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) reading coach are working at designated sites at the K - 12 level to revise our system and reflect the strengths and identified areas of need. With the ongoing professional learning provided by the Special Education Department on assessment and English Language Learners, the CCEIS work is central to our PAUSD Promise goals.

National School Nurses Day 

Promoting good health and adding to the acceleration of learning, the tireless commitment of school nurses is being recognized this Wednesday, May 10. Each day, these classified employees add to the district’s priorities. School nurses are celebrated each year on the Wednesday of National Nurses Week (May 6 - 12).

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Caring for the mental health of our students, staff, and families is essential. The area of mental health is one of the five priorities of our PAUSD Promise. The staff understands the critical need to support our community, both through preventative measures and impactful interventions. This month, the Mental Health team is shining a light on its commitment to ensure the mental health and well-being of our districtwide family. Through wellness activities and the sharing of resources, school sites are raising awareness about mental health in order to reduce stigmatization and increase accessibility to mental health support. Throughout the month of May, Mental Health Services is sharing examples of the meaningful work being done across the district.

The Equity Literacy Leadership Cohort 

The ELLC is honoring the commitment and contributions to equity, inclusion, and belonging during this school year. A May 24 recognition will celebrate the district’s milestone while understanding that the district’s journey is still beginning. Members of the cohort (including teachers, principals, staff) are stronger and wiser at the end of this school year, and they continue to support each school. This group continues the necessary work for transformation in our schools and classrooms, making their respective locations more equitable learning environments. This growth is highlighted as a priority in the district’s Promise. The year’s final session is a part of the May 24 ceremony.

School News - May 2023

The end-of-year School News publication is here. Read what principals are thinking.

A Centennial in Palo Alto

The 100th anniversary of Walter Hays Elementary is being celebrated this year. On Saturday, May 6, past and present students and community members are walking alongside the centennial float in the May Fete Parade. All are invited to reunite on campus following the parade from 2 to 4 p.m., 1525 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

Annual K-12 Youth Art Show at the Palo Alto Art Center 

The show continues until May 20 at the Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road in Palo Alto. The Art Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Furniture Donations

In recent years, the district has been able to purchase new student furniture. The result of these purchases enables PAUSD, like many other school districts, to manage an increase in surplus. Through concerted effort to promote a green community, PAUSD donated a large quantity of student desks to East Nicolaus High School District at the end of 2022. This small school district, in Sutter County, has classrooms containing older furniture. Students often repair broken desks in shop class. Therefore, the high school was able to use numerous PAUSD donated student desks.

This year, the district’s Facilities staff continues to work with an organization whose roots and personal ties reach Tonga. The island has sustained recent damage from natural disasters ranging from cyclones to Tsunamis. Numerous schools in Tonga are in the process of rebuilding. Used furniture from PAUSD will fill a large need for the island’s students. Through this on-going district effort, surplus furniture fills classrooms instead of landfills.

Special Olympics

The district’s Special Olympics event is May 19 at Gunn High School. At least 400 students and staff from different schools within the district as well as neighboring schools in Mountain View and Menlo Park will be present for this track and field event. The student line-up begins at 9:45 a.m. The opening 10 a.m. ceremony follows the parade of students. Running events include:  a mile run, a 100-meter run, a 50-meter run, and a 25-meter wheelchair or walker assisted portion. Field events include:  standing long jump, softball throw, and turbo jav throw. The events are scheduled to conclude at noon.

Youth and Community Service Art Expo and Service Celebration

Friday, May 5, 5 - 9 p.m.

EPA Center, 1950 Bayshore Road, East Palo Alto 

Youth and Community Service (YCS) youth leaders are hosting an Art Show celebrating positive cultural identities. All are welcomed to see live performances and other visual arts created by local youth. The event will also celebrate the accomplishments of young minds involved in YCS.

Council of PTAs / Youth and Community Service “Pause and Connect”

Saturday, May 6, 2 - 4 p.m.

Palo Alto High School, Haymarket Theater, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto.

Enjoy a film screening of Try Harder, a documentary focused on the college application process at Lowell High School in San Francisco. Learn new ways to support students with evidence-based strategies designed to help with academics. This event is co-sponsored by Youth Community Services (YCS), Palo Alto Council of PTAs (PTAC), allcove, and the City of Palo Alto. RSVP Try Harder Film.

Contact: for more information.