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Superintendent's Update - September 15, 2023

Superintendent's Update - September 15, 2023


From the Office of the Superintendent:


View Calendar of Board Items 2023-24 


Over the past few weeks, I've met with various groups, hearing stories that have prompted personal and professional reflection. Today, I'd like us all to reflect on essential aspects of our journey together in education and as a community.

Conversations about race, abilities, relationships, and the significance of upstanding have grown increasingly important. These discussions can be intricate, occasionally even messy, but they're vital dialogues we must engage in openly and constructively. Every student entering our schools brings a unique perspective, a personal narrative, and aspirations for the future. Similarly, our staff members, teachers, and parents encompass diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Our shared desire is to witness our children grow, learn, and thrive in an environment that values and respects their individuality. It's important to understand that supporting one person doesn't diminish the support available to others. Our students are not a zero-sum game. We can honor, celebrate, uplift, and support individuals without causing loss to others.

Recognizing that we all have blind spots is crucial; none of us are immune to biases or preconceptions. However, we have the choice to confront these biases head-on. We must be open to learning from one another, appreciating our differences, and collaborating to establish a safe and inclusive space for every student.

Keep in mind that our students observe and learn from our interactions. They absorb the lessons we convey through our words and actions. When they witness us valuing diversity, demonstrating empathy, and standing up for what's right, they'll be inspired to do the same.

Navigating these conversations demands patience and effort. Building bridges and fostering understanding takes time. Approach these discussions with humility, recognizing that we're all on this journey of growth and self-discovery together.

Our commitment to inclusivity extends beyond the classroom; it influences our interactions as adults within our community and workplace. Setting a positive example can catalyze change throughout our community.

Everyone we encounter, whether a student, colleague, or neighbor, has a unique story. Together, we can create a community that not only celebrates our diversity, but also values the connections that unite us, working as one big family toward a brighter future for our children.

Thank you for your dedication to our students and our community. Your open hearts and open minds will continue to shape our path forward.

Expanded Learning in Palo Alto Unified

In response to a PAUSD waitlist involving the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELOP), Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC) opened an additional 70 ELOP spaces in its Kids’ Clubs. PACCC continues to support local working families via government and private funding. As part of the Education Code, the legislature has focused on programs that supplement school-day learning. Such additions are intended to not only augment academic needs, but also support the emotional, physical, and social needs of children both before and after school and also during summer or intersession learning programs. 

Student Survey / Mental Health

Student mental health is a priority for PAUSD. Your child's perspective provides invaluable insights to guide the district in making necessary improvements and addressing unique needs. As mentioned in our recent Parent Square message to families, students in Grades 3 and above will participate in the Student Well-Being Survey between September 26 and October 6.  

The survey is given during the school day and takes approximately five to six minutes to complete. Student responses are confidential but not anonymous, which allows our wellness team to offer support when needed. If parents or guardians do not want a child to take the Student Well-Being Survey, please indicate your preference in the Parent Square post or in an email to the Director of Mental Health and Wellness, Dawn Yoshinaga, at indicating the decision not to have the student participate in the survey.

Questions or concerns regarding the survey should be directed to your site principal.



High School Fall Theatre Productions

Palo Alto High School Theatre presents Little Women on September 23, 24, and 30, at 7 p.m., and September 24, at 2 p.m. The musical follows the adventures of sisters Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March growing up in Massachusetts during the Civil War. Jo is trying to sell her stories for publication, but when the publishers are not interested, her friend, Professor Bhaer, tells her that she has to do better and write more from herself. Begrudgingly taking this advice, Jo weaves the story of her family and friends through their heartaches and hopes, and the determination to make their mark on the world. The show's duration is two hours and 20 minutes including a 15-minute intermission. This show is appropriate for all ages, but it is recommended for ages eight and older due to its duration. See this timeless story in the intimate setting of the historic Haymarket Theatre. All seats are general admission. Tickets are available here

Gunn High School Presents, Broadway Workshop on September 28 and 29, at 7 p.m., in the Little Theatre. Join this showcase of scenes from recent Broadway/Off-Broadway productions. Musical numbers from Come From Away and Merrily We Roll Along, as well as scenes from Rajiv Joseph’s Describe the Night, Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, and Lucas Hnath’s A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney are featured in the production. Seniors and staff are directing, and some of the newest members of the Gunn Theatre community are performing in their first Gunn Theatre project. This 90-minute performance should not be missed. There is NO cost for admission.

Ethnic Studies Course

On September 12, the PAUSD Board of Education selected the 2025 - 2026 school year to implement the Ethnic Studies course graduation requirement. Thus, the current PAUSD seventh graders will begin taking Ethnic Studies in their ninth-grade year. 

Ethnic Studies is a one-semester elective course and the Ethnic Studies Committee, consisting of social science teachers, instructional leads, and administrators will begin the process of enhancing the existing course while aligning it with PAUSD graduation requirements. Next steps include seeking student and community feedback on the course. The class will be presented for adoption and inclusion in the district’s graduation requirements at the next Board Policy Review Committee meeting. The implementation plan will be presented at this year’s December 12 Board meeting.

Dr. Lori A. Watson Sheds Light on Equity

Continuing outreach with PAUSD, Dr. LAW interacted with students, families, and staff September 13 during an Equity Learning Workshop at Gunn High. The evening involved discussions focused on equity and the anti-racism lens, because “beliefs in the human mind lead what we see and feel.” The PAUSD Promise continues as this workshop provided tools to talk about the impact of race on community experiences. Students and staff shared expressions of growth and the help they received from Dr. LAW’s past visits.



Hispanic Heritage Month 2023

Recognizing and celebrating the vast array of backgrounds and stories that our Hispanic and Latino students, staff, and families bring to our school community is essential. As we welcome the beauty of autumn, PAUSD is excited to celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures and histories that comprise our schools and communities. September 15 to October 15 brings the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. This time honors the vast contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans in our nation’s history, culture, and society. The month offers a golden opportunity to enrich understanding and deepen appreciation for the diversity that strengthens the community fabric. 

Our schools traditionally host a variety of activities to honor and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month including:  cultural showcases, food fiestas, visual and performing arts shows, film festivals, and more. Contact your school to learn more, offer insights, or help during this month. Collaboration with community members is appreciated. Come together to celebrate the beauty of Hispanic heritage, the stories that shape it, and the people who continue to weave it into our shared future.

Palo Alto Community Advisory Council’s Family Fun Day Carnival

Join the fun at the Community Advisory Council (CAC) for Special Education during Palo Alto’s annual Family Fun Day Carnival on Saturday, September 23, between 3 and 5 p.m. The gathering takes place on the inclusive playground at Addison Elementary School.  

All families of children with IEPs, 504s, or learning differences are invited to attend. Family members are welcome to enjoy the Carnival. The event includes:  fun games, story time, STEM, arts and crafts, popcorn, cookies, and more. Thanks to the following groups for hosting activities at the event:  Gunn High School students, Palo Alto Fire Department, Innovation for Youth, Boy Scout Troop 52, Paly Child Development and Pathway students, Hoover Elementary Hedgedroid team, and Ms. Chen (music therapist).

Please RSVP here. See the Flier and Map as needed. The event is sponsored by the Palo Alto CAC for Special Education, Palo Alto Council of PTAs, and PAUSD. Contact with questions.

District Food Services 

Nutrition Services is very pleased to announce the district has received more than $1 million in United States Department of Agriculture and California Department of Education grant funding. These grants support enhancements to the entrees and meals offered to all PAUSD students.

Nutrition Services received $70,000 from the Local Foods for School Grant used exclusively to purchase California-grown produce and provisions from local farms. The district also received $140,000 in funds from the School Foods Best Practices Grant for exclusive purchases of locally-grown produce and plant-based products. An additional $850,000 was awarded from the Kitchen Infrastructure Grant. Half of this grant ($425,000) is for the purpose of upgrading kitchen equipment and infrastructure. The remaining $425,000 of these funds are exclusively for the enhancement of scratch-cooking entrees to the level of 40 percent of all meals. PAUSD received $319,000 in Supply Chain Assistance Funds to help purchase domestic products due to increased inflationary costs.

Our focus this school year is:

· The expansion of freshly-prepared meals made with high-quality, locally, and sustainably-sourced ingredients and the addition of plant-based ingredients. Nutrition Services is targeting the addition of hot breakfast entrees at elementary sites and the addition of scratch-made granola, parfaits, and fruit smoothies.


· The reduction of processed foods, snacks, and beverages containing added sugar, and artificial preservatives.

· The expansion of the Reusable Lunch Ware Program to include milk dispensers, the removal of milk cartons, and the reduction of waste.

Nutrition Services staff members are eager to collaborate with the community in order to solicit feedback and ideas while continuing to expand scratch-cooked nutritious meals that fuel our students' growth and learning. Students, parents, and faculty interested in working with the district to enhance school meal programs should contact PAUSD via Let’s Talk. Feedback can be discussed in the monthly Menu Advisory Council meetings.

PAUSD Student Nutrition Services is hosting the Annual Food Tasting Day, Monday, October 9, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., on the Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School main breezeway. Students, parents, and staff are invited to sample some of the new scratch-cooked entrees and cast a vote for the items preferred to be added on menus.

In order to maintain quality guidelines, parents and students are reminded that all breakfast and lunch are to be consumed during meal hours at school. Food transported home will lose quality after being exposed to improper temperatures.

New Course Guidelines

According to Board Policy 6143, the superintendent shall recommend courses of study to the Board by December for implementation in the following school year. The courses submitted are vetted through an established process.

Input from content area teachers, Instructional Leads, and the Instructional / Education Council has been incorporated into the design of recommended courses. The site principals review the recommendations and approve the courses for consideration by the respective District Content Area Steering Committees. These committees review the courses and recommend the approval of courses to the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education.

What is Linktree ?

Linktree is your new quick link to the Palo Alto Unified School District. Take a look here.

Airport Day in Palo Alto

Gain more details for the upcoming community-wide Airport Day.

Stanford Athletics

PAUSD students are invited to be a part of athletic action at Stanford University this year. More information can be found here.

Click on the link below to receive up to four free youth tickets (with a paid adult) at upcoming Stanford athletic events.

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