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Superintendent's Update - September 18, 2020

Superintendent's Update


September 22 Agenda

  • Reopening plan and proposed return dates for each level discussion
  • Safety protocols and preparation
  • Unaudited actuals/budget
  • Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan (LCP)

September 29 (Special Board Meeting)

  • Reopening plan final approval

October 12 Tentative Agenda

  • The October 12 agenda may be revised prior the official posting.
  • PAUSD+ update
  • A-G report
  • Layoffs, furloughs, & temporary employee releases
  • Safety update

I would like to thank everyone involved in the creation and publication of our reopening document. The plan reflects attention to detail, consideration of multiple points of view, recommendations from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), consultation with our professional associations, and input from our advisory committees. The complete plan can be found on our webpage.

Due to the complexity and importance of the plan, we will hold a "Backstage with the Superintendent" webinar on Monday at 5:30 p.m. The link to view the event can be found HERE. There is no registration necessary. We will discuss the rationale behind staggered starts at the elementary school level and the semester return of secondary students.

During our unprecedented closure, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, our schools are not closed. Students are receiving daily instruction, although it may be from a distance. While there is variation between sites, anecdotally we have more than 25% of our teachers working from their classrooms. If semi-accurate, this is about 200 teachers on any given day. Every administrator and psychologist at the sites and District level are physically on-site since a minimum of August 10. As of this correspondence, 345 support staff including clerical, custodial, PAUSD+, maintenance and operations, and other CSEA positions are working on sites. Coaches are running athletic conditioning cohorts accounting for over 100 participants in the first week. Childcare is also taking place on PAUSD sites and serves roughly 60 kids per day.

Together, this means roughly 800 PAUSD employees and students are on our sites on any given day. This is an important fact, given we are not starting from zero as we gear up for a hybrid return.

The Public Health Department has reiterated the importance of testing people experiencing symptoms or exposed to confirmed cases. Exposure is defined as 15 or more minutes in close proximity (within 6 feet) within two days of the positive test.

COVID-19 testing is FREE to all staff, students, and community members at pop-up sites all across Santa Clara County. No health insurance or doctor's note is required. These pop-up sites are designed for employees or any community member without symptoms of COVID-19 who live, work, or study in Santa Clara County. This is a PCR test to detect the virus that causes COVID-19, for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment of current infection. This is not an antibody test. The test will be collected by a nasal swab.

These sites are not for individuals experiencing symptoms. All pop-up sites are open to all ages; individuals under 12 years old need parental consent. Pop-up sites change regularly. If you do not have insurance, the federal government through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and other legislation will be assisting in covering the cost.

Employees may find the nearest location in Santa Clara County at the Santa Clara County Public Health Department webpage. This site will allow registration at one of the testing sites operated by the Santa Clara County in partnership with Fulgent. Employees may also elect to use the State of California Testing Map to help find a testing site closest to home. Employees will be able to search COVID-19 testing sites by current location, address, city, or zip code.

Employees will be asked to provide their insurance information; this allows for billing of employee's insurance for the cost of the test. There should not be any out of pocket cost to you. Teachers and staff will be asked to register so that they can be contacted with results. It typically takes between 3-5 days to receive your test results. Negative results are sent by email. Positive results are communicated by phone.

In addition to the numerous methods students, employees, and residents can be tested, PAUSD is also reaching out to organizations to explore options specifically to serve our employees. We will have more information soon.

Our high schools do an excellent job of working with students on a path for college. Sometimes, it's nice to see additional resources to help educate students and families. Paul Kanarek has been a partner with PAUSD for the last three years and is offering a free course for our seniors to guide them through a journey no one anticipated due to school closures. As a trusted long-time advisor, we believe the CollegeWise course may be a nice supplement to the outstanding resources already provided at Gunn and Paly.



September 15 marked the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. While the Office of Equity and Student Affairs and the PAUSD Board of Education strive to honor and celebrate all cultures and all identities every day, we would like to pay respect and homage to the essential contributions made by Hispanic Americans. The 2020 theme for National Hispanic Heritage Month is, "Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past and Embrace Your Future." As we strive to build a community, a nation, and a world where all cultures are represented equally in our curriculum and our history, we will find every opportunity to celebrate different cultures. Schools and teachers are encouraged to highlight the lessons and activities they are doing to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by sending a summary with photos to the Office of Equity and Student Affairs.

We would also like to highlight stories from Latinx perspectives in our very own school and community. Teachers and students are encouraged to submit artwork, a poem, an essay, or any submission that shares your story as a Hispanic American. Submissions will be featured on the PAUSD website September 15-October 15. Contact Yolanda Conaway at the Office of Equity and Student Affairs for more information.

For teachers, parents, and community members looking for lessons and activities that celebrate and explore the Hispanic culture, go to the Wide Open School webpage and select the appropriate grade level.

To our Latinx teachers, students, and families, we would like to share our sincere appreciation for the rich diversity you bring to our community. Diversity is a source of our strength and you, like the many cultures that represent us, make us stronger.

Sometimes, we find equity warriors in the unlikeliest of places and people. Equity is partly about ensuring that all students get what they need to thrive. Veteran employee, Carrie Manley, Walter Hays paraprofessional and Phono-Graphix Tutor, developed her own recipe for success with the help of none other than students and a few wise words from our Superintendent, Don Austin. Those words? Sometimes in life we all need to "grab the broom" to do whatever needs to be done to try to make things right. He also said, "Good enough is good enough," urging all of us not to let perfection get in the way of progress. In response to this call to action, Carrie and a local youth-led group, known as the Summer Learning Buddies (SLB) (ages 10-19), donated nearly 1,000 hours to help other students succeed in reading. They grabbed the broom and started making good things happen.

The mission of SLB is to train and connect teens with younger at-risk readers, including English Language Learners, high-poverty students challenged by the achievement gap, and students with dyslexia. In 2013, two then-Paly students, Paige Brown and Courtney Hartwell, founded SLB, in partnership with Walter Hays paraprofessional Phono-Graphix tutor, Carrie Manley.

SLB started by learning how to assess the foundational phonics skills of younger at-risk readers on Zoom; how to use assessment data to drive differentiated, research-based instruction; how to design, vet, and teach online phonics lessons based on student needs (including English Language learners, as well as students with low vision, dyslexia, ADHD, and autism); and how to use measurable data to track intervention impact on student performance.

SLB also provided daily, hands-on technology training to veteran professional educators in necessary computer skills required for successful distance learning. They worked as mentors, role models, and co-teachers in PAUSD Extended School Year (ESY) classes; in pro bono intervention lessons on Zoom with at-risk readers outside of the ESY program; and training new SLB.

This dynamic team of students also created a library of "distance learning" digital lessons for teachers & families, and invented online phonics games to make learning experiences more fun.

Carrie Manley and Courtney Hartwell

Carrie Manley, Walter Hays Phono-Graphix tutor, with Summer Learning Buddies (SLB) co-founder, Courtney Hartwell, (2015 Paly graduate, and now at The Graduate School (TGS) - Northwestern University, studying speech and language.)

Sincere gratitude to these SLBs, the Equity Warriors we never saw coming! For more information about Summer Learning Buddies, contact Carrie Manley.

Opening schools for in-person learning has been on the minds of staff, students, and parents alike. As the District finalizes plans to reopen safely, one school is taking the lead to bring elementary students back on campus. Similar to PAUSD+, the pilot aims to identify students who would benefit from engaging in distance learning activities on the school campus, where they don't have to worry about spotty internet service, multiple siblings Zooming at one time, parent work schedules, and a host of other challenges that come with learning at home. The pilot allows for close monitoring of attendance, engagement, and progress, with a whole lot of love on the side. The pilot will include students from other elementary sites, by invitation only, and will serve no more than 14 students. The first group of students is scheduled to start on Monday, September 21.

The Equity and Student Affairs Office is proud to welcome the Library Program under the equity umbrella. Two weeks ago, we introduced the Elementary Library Team. This week, we are pleased to showcase the PAUSD Middle School Teacher Librarian Team!

Middle School Librarians
  • Kristen Lee, Fletcher Middle School
  • Amanda Collins, Greene Middle School
  • Michael Ambrose, JLS Middle School


As part of our ongoing commitment to ensure PAUSD families have multiple points of access to timely information, Collegewise has provided a free series of college planning programs and resources, called "Runway." This series provides carefully structured resources to give students and parents the tips, tools, and timelines they need to reach their college goals in 2020. Program offerings are specific to high school grade levels.

When students sign up for "Runway," they will have access to content and videos designed for you and your family that cover topics including:

  • College list building
  • Finding good value colleges
  • Overview of types of colleges
  • Personal statement brainstorming and writing
  • Effective Common App completion
  • Financial aid applications
  • Fee waivers overview
  • UC application guidance

Students in grades 9-11: You'll have access to an on-demand video library, access to a monthly newsletter, and a variety of guides covering everything from STEM programs to understanding the demands of The Common App. Sign up for the program here.

"Runway" provides a valuable supplement to the more specific information available from counselors and college advisors at each high school. Here are the links to the resources available at Gunn and Paly. For more information, please review the counseling / guidance web pages, under Campus Life, on the schools' websites: and

The September 22 Regular Board Meeting includes several agenda items related to Educational Services. In the Information section you will find a report on the secondary site Credit/No Credit data from Spring 2020. The final Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan (LCP) is an Action item, as the Board of Education is being asked to approve the final version of the plan. Upon approval, the plan will be submitted to the County and State by the September 30 deadline. Additionally, the District will present plans for returning to hybrid/modified in-person instruction. Background information and details of the plan can be found in the Discussion section.

Innovation and Agility has been providing support for Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) classes as we start the school year. Nepris, a platform recommended by the California Department of Education (CDE), connects educators and learners with a network of industry professionals, virtually bringing real-world relevance and career exposure to all students. This year, the Curriculum and Career Education (CCE) office will be piloting using this virtual platform to connect AAR students with industry professionals to act as mentors for their projects, in addition to the existing mentor structure.

In preparation for the CDE's mandatory reporting requirements, the CCE office helps prepare data regarding CTE pathways completion for the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This longitudinal data system is used to maintain individual-level data including student demographics, course data, discipline, assessments, staff assignments, and other data for state and federal reporting. This metric communicates with the Strong Workforce Program at the college level, as well as impacts our College/Career Indicator (CCI), which helps the state evaluate PAUSD students' college and career readiness.

Secondary Options encompasses a number of separate and unique programs. Highlights include:

  • PAUSD Secondary Options is in the process of renewing a three-year Transition Partnership Program (TPP) contract with the Department of Rehabilitation, which is due in January. Preliminary conversations about the structure and funding of this contract are underway.
  • Middle College is off to a good start, with an expanded program this year, doubling the number of students and staff.
  • Palo Alto Veterans Administration is still not allowing students on the hospital campus. However, students could work with them on some projects that are housed on PAUSD sites. We are working on making this happen.
  • Adult School Upholstery and Woodworking staff and students are interested in returning to class in person. They are working on coronavirus safety protocols and have been coming in to clean and set up classrooms at Palo Alto High School.
  • Adult School will begin using Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems (CASAS) this year to assess proficiency levels of English as a Second Language (ESL) students. This testing is required in order receive State funding. Staff has developed testing protocols in order to allow testing students during the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • Adult School staff have worked with the Information Technology team to begin using Google Classroom's Classroom Management Program. Current use is specifically for Adult School ESL, but other programs may be added in the future.

With the new Tier 2 designation for Santa Clara County, athletics has been able to start conditioning practices again. Both Gunn High School and Palo Alto High School were scheduled to resume practice on Monday, September 14. Although there was a little delay due to the air quality at the beginning of the week, as of Wednesday, conditioning practices were up and running at both high schools. The coaches and student athletes are doing self-screening before entering the outdoor facilities. Indoor facilities remain closed at this time. Coaches are expected to wear masks at all times and the athletes must arrive and depart wearing face masks. For more detailed information, please check the Gunn and Paly Athletics websites.

Business Services

The District has been working on improvements to the Cubberley site in order to accommodate some staff and returning students. At this time, the District completed cosmetic upgrades to the Cubberley A and B wings in order to prepare the rooms for our Post-Secondary students and our tenant, Imagination Lab School in the A wing. Staff also began work on the I building to accommodate year-long distance learning teachers on the first floor with a Distance Learning Center which will facilitate and support their distance teaching. The full update will go to the Board at the September 22 Regular Board Meeting.

Information Technology Department
Thank you to the 550+ PAUSD parents and guardians that attended the PAUSD Tech Night's "Understanding My Child's School Apps" on September 8 and 10. This event was a collaboration between the PAUSD Academic Supports and Information Technology departments and included information on Infinite Campus, Schoology, the PAUSD single sign-on "ID Portal" and how to find help when technology questions arise, among other topics. If you were unable to attend the session, please see the slide deck or watch the video recording of this event. Please submit additional questions or comments through Let's Talk! Thank you again to those that participated and supported this event!

A "community pulse" survey went out on Thursday to collect some very quick feedback from our elementary families to verify the anecdotal information on beliefs around returning to campus. While not formatted, the raw results of this survey are publicly available at the two links below.

The intent of running a pulse check before the full plan was released was to (1) measure the impact of the plan, and (2) help gauge the sentiments of the silent majority of our families, not just the vocal ones on the extreme sides of the discussion.