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Superintendent's Update - October 20, 2023

Superintendent's Update - October 20, 2023

From the Office of the Superintendent:

Board Agenda Calendar

View Calendar of Board Items 2023-24

Message from Board President Jennifer DiBrienza

The Board met in a special session this morning and voted to suspend virtual (Zoom) comments for the next 3 meetings (October 24, November 14, and December 12).

Zoom commenters have recently been calling into local public meetings and doing their best to disrupt meetings. They have done this in surrounding towns in recent weeks and we have remained hopeful they would not land here. This Monday night, they successfully disrupted the Palo Alto City Council meeting and prevented the council from completing the business of the city.

The Board voted this morning to: 1) temporarily suspend zoom comments for the next three meetings, and 2) designate an ad hoc committee to develop best practices for our body when virtual comments return. Know that the suspension will automatically expire after three meetings unless the Board takes further action to extend it.

In the meantime, if you can come to 25 Churchill to make public comments in person, please do so. If you are unable, please send your correspondence to, an address which sends your message to all five Board members.

We are hopeful the disrupters will have moved on by the time we bring back zoom comments, but if not, we will respect their First Amendment rights, yet do everything in our power to limit their ability to disrupt our meeting and prevent us from completing the work of the Board.

Superintendent's Message

I am writing to provide an update on our "Reimagining Math" initiative, initially presented to the Board of Education on December 10, 2019. Our primary objective was to increase the number of students entering high school (9th grade) in Geometry or higher, a significant departure from the default curriculum of Algebra I in California. As we reflect on our journey, it is essential to consider the context in which it unfolded.

The implementation of the Reimagining Middle School Mathematics Plan was set to commence shortly after its presentation. However, the unforeseen arrival of the pandemic in March 2020 shifted all educational systems towards remote learning and the imperative of safely returning staff and students to in-person instruction. The class currently in 9th grade experienced a particularly disrupted transition from elementary to middle school due to these closures.

Despite the challenges, our middle school program shifts successfully aligned with the goal of offering more students advanced math pathways in high school. Notably, PAUSD's 9th grade enrollment in Geometry and higher courses has reached unprecedented numbers, encompassing every subgroup. Importantly, students who were previously screened or discouraged from taking Algebra I in 8th grade now have clear pathways to Calculus upon entering high school.

However, our progress is not without its imperfections. Roughly 65 students did not perform as well as expected in 8th grade Algebra I and began high school at the recommended pace of Algebra I for California. While this places them on track, it prompts us to reconsider how we support 8th grade students.

Our core objective of elevating expectations for all students has remained steadfast. Middle school students now have the opportunity to advance beyond our already accelerated program. Although this isn't suitable for every student, our enrollment data for 9th grade courses reveals an increase in students entering Algebra II and higher levels.

In closing, we remain optimistic about the opportunities our shifts have unlocked for students who were previously underserved. The doors to advanced math pathways are now open to all, signaling a promising future for our educational community.

SmartSocial Parent Memberships (FREE)

Many of our students have a cellphone, tablet, or even gaming systems with access to the Internet and social media. While advances in technology have many great benefits, there is also the potential for harm.

In addition to cyberbullying, there are concerns about safety, mental health, and wellness. It seems that every day another social media app or social media challenge becomes popular. In some cases, these apps allow strangers to contact children, or make it easy to anonymously bully other children. Some of these social media challenges pose great dangers to students' or bystanders' physical safety. In response to these risks, we have been looking for a resource that can help parents in our community learn the ins and outs of social media and online dangers, and cope with the challenges of parenting in the digital age.

We are excited to announce that PAUSD has recently partnered with for its on-demand resources for parents and students. SmartSocial covers a wide range of digital and social media topics that we feel are relevant to our students. We have purchased a parent membership for every parent in our district to give you access to these resources and help you learn how to navigate the negative (and positive) parts of social media with your students.

Normally membership to the SmartSocial resources is $60 a year but PAUSD parents can sign up for free here.

With more than 130 parent, educator, and student courses available on-demand, this resource promises to help bridge the gap between the ever-changing digital landscape and the very real need to actively guide our students.

Unity Day 2023: Fostering Inclusivity, Acceptance, and Kindness in Our Community

We are delighted to share a few highlights from our district-wide celebration of Unity Day. On Wednesday, October 18, numerous activities unfolded across our schools, emphasizing our united commitment to kindness, inclusion, and acceptance.

We were pleased to see our students proudly donning orange, signifying their commitment to fostering an inclusive environment. Elementary students actively participated in various activities, including the creation of a schoolwide unity chain, symbolizing their collective strength and solidarity, a unity chant that reinforced the importance of togetherness, and special read-aloud sessions that highlighted themes of kindness, inclusion, and acceptance. Additionally, students collaborated on Unity Day projects that encourage teamwork and cooperation.

At the secondary level, students expressed their commitment to kindness and inclusivity through heartfelt pledges and engaging in important discussions about anti-bullying. One middle school captured students and staff in a heart-shaped aerial photo, symbolizing their unity. And today, students participated in an inclusive Special Olympics soccer game organized by the Adaptive Physical Education Staff, emphasizing our dedication to inclusive schools.

We extend our gratitude to our students, staff, and families for their enthusiastic participation, making Unity Day a resounding success. Together, we are shaping a compassionate and inclusive learning environment for our children.

District Student Nutrition Services

Student Nutrition Services hosted the Annual Tasting Day on Monday, October 9, at JLS Middle School. The event was attended by approximately 125 parents, students, and staff. All scratch cooked breakfast entrees and lunch entrees sampled received high scores and were requested to be added to the menus. The highest score went to the Chana Masala & Rice.


Student Nutrition Services is also hosting the elementary school Guess the Weight of the Pumpkin Game from October 16-26. Each site has received a pumpkin, ballot box, and guessing forms. Please encourage your student to fill out a guessing form. Prizes will be awarded to those students guessing the correct weight on Monday, October 30!

Arts in Unusual Places at Stanford Shopping Center

This weekend, we are bringing the arts out of the classroom and into the community of Palo Alto! Enjoy pop-up performances and artwork on display, showcasing high school VAPA programs!

Center Pavillion

  • 11-11:30 am Gunn Wind Ensemble
  • 11:30-11:50 am Gunn Chamber Orchestra Ensembles
  • 12:15-1:00 pm Paly Orchestra and Paly Pep Band

Strolling Around the Shopping Center

  • 11:00-11:30 am Paly Choirs - Madrigals

Lounge Area Near Free People

  • 11:00-1:00 pm Visual Art on Display
  • 11:40-11:50 am Paly Theatre
  • 12:00-1:00 pm Gunn Jazz Band Combo

Special thanks to the Gunn High School graphic design student who designed the 2023 AIUP flyer.

Ethnic Studies Course Overview

We are excited to announce that PAUSD is conducting a comprehensive overview of its Ethnic Studies course. This class, which has historically been offered as an elective course, will be offered to all 9th graders, beginning in the 2025-26 school year. This work stems from the dedicated efforts of our Ethnic Studies Committee, which has been diligently working to align the curriculum with mandates outlined in Assembly Bill 101 (AB 101). AB 101 has renewed a focus on ethnic studies in our educational system. The mandate will take effect starting with the graduating class of 2029-30.

We look forward to sharing the details of the Ethnic Studies course updates. Please join us for a virtual meeting on Wednesday, October 25, 2023, from 5 to 6 pm.

Help Palo Alto Improve Safety on Our Roads

Help make Palo Alto a safer and more active community! The City recently initiated two critical transportation planning efforts: a two-year effort called Active Palo Alto to update its 2012 Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan, and Safer Palo Alto, a 15-month effort to create a road safety plan using the federally-endorsed Safe System Approach. These projects are soliciting community input on roadway changes via this interactive map through the end of November. There is also an online road safety survey to understand transportation safety preferences in the community. These data collection tools help inform the City Council about what residents want to see on our streets, and when finalized and adopted, these two planning documents will include lists of prioritized projects for which staff will seek funding to implement. Thank you for your input on how to make our roads better for everyone.

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