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Superintendent's Update - September 16, 2022

From the Office of the Superintendent:

BOARD AGENDA 

The board agenda calendar can be found HERE.  

AD HOC COMMITTEE UPDATE 

In alignment with the Ad Hoc Committee Milestone Checklist, meeting scope and sequence, members are finalized for each of the eight ad hoc committees. Work has started in earnest, with the Athletic Funding and Secondary Bell Committees hosting their first meetings. Meeting notes are posted on each committee’s webpage.  

STUDENT CONDUCT CONCERNS 

The recent actions of Palo Alto High School students near the conclusion of their game versus Gunn High School have been well-chronicled. The “tradition” of egg wars is also on the horizon and is equally concerning on many levels. 

For context, over a hundred Paly students ran around the football field and into the Gunn High School stands with five minutes remaining in the game. This was not a harmless act and created a chaotic scene. The risk for a serious altercation was real. It was one of the most egregious displays of fan misconduct I have seen throughout my career, including hundreds of football games. Paly administrative staff have worked tirelessly to address the behavior and will soon announce changes in practice soon. I would like to thank the administration at both schools for their proactive attempts to set expectations.   

Egg wars involve Paly students throwing eggs at each other across town during the night hours. Entering my fifth year with PAUSD, I have a different perspective on how we should address egg wars. We have the authority to take steps when activities occur on our sites and at our sanctioned events. We do not have control over decisions made by families after hours. This is true for parties hosted at homes, curfew violations, or egg wars.   

Paly Principal Brent Kline, and I have been surprised with some parents’ staunch advocacy for egg wars.  There are limits to our influence and egg wars do not fall on the shoulders of our school site leaders.  Despite our pleas and warnings, we are powerless if parents condone or support the vandalism that occurs in our streets. For families who are unaware of the dangers, or those who believe throwing eggs is a right, we would like you to consider the following: 

  • Vandalism is a crime. 
  • Drinking is often involved during the egg wars. 
  • Many students will pile into cars and drive away recklessly. 
  • Families are financially responsible if there is damage done to a person or property. 
  • Adults and non-student reactions to vandalism are unpredictable. 
  • The destruction of our community adds to a reputation of poor behavior.  

I was the principal of La Sierra High School in Riverside 20 years ago. We had a staff party on a minimum day leading to winter recess.  I remember a police officer coming into the restaurant and pulling me aside.   

It had been raining that day and the roads were slick. A car with five students rear-ended a car on the freeway. No one was hurt, but the students were scared. They fled the scene and the man they hit pursued them. The student driving sped up as the angry man tailgated them. Their car was loud with students laughing as they tried to lose the man behind them. Their car struck a flatbed truck on the La Sierra Avenue offramp, two blocks from their school. Four students jumped out of the car and ran from the scene. One of them realized that his brother, the driver, was not with them. I visited him with his mother while he was in the hospital…and also attended his funeral.  

For those who think we should “let kids be kids,” I say that isn’t possible after you experience some of the things I have seen. I would rather see kids grow into adults.   

FEATURED ADULT SCHOOL STUDENT 

Pilar (Martha) Rengifo arrived from Columbia around 2000. She applied to PAUSD in 2001 in the Transportation Department. During this time, she started taking English classes at Foothill Community College and at Cubberley, but when she discovered the Palo Alto Adult School (PAAS) English as a Second Language (ESL) Program, she felt she could better understand the lessons. Compared to her old course, she says the PAAS ESL class was excellent, and she particularly remembers her instructor Brenda Lowen (pictured below last week with Pilar), from years ago. She took ESL classes along with her 75-year-old mother at the time, and they both loved the experience. They especially appreciated the exposure to so many different cultures. “I never thought I would meet so many people from different cultures, laughing, talking, and eating together. Everyone spoke a different language, and they all learned English together.” Pilar was recognized as a PAUSD Builder at this year’s Back-to-School Ceremony.