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Superintendent's Update - September 25, 2020

From the Office of the Superintendent:


Agendas may change before they are officially posted. The October 13 Agenda will be official on October 9.

October 13, 2020 (Items due: October 2) (Board packet review: October 6)

  • Uniform Complaint Williams Settlement
  • Developer Fees
  • Career Themed Pathways
  • Physical Safety and Start of the Year Procedures
  • A-G Report
  • Budget Update
  • Athletic Conditioning/Competition
  • Parcel Tax Oversight Committee Report
  • PAUSD+
  • Layoffs, Furloughs, Temporary Releases

The Board of Education will hold a Special Meeting on September 29 at 5:30 p.m. to consider the PAUSD reopening plan. This is the second reading of the item. In addition to reviewing the plan, we will be joined by representatives from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and Stanford Health Care.

We are thankful to our Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) for joining our meeting. Assistant Health Officer and Communicable Disease Controller, Monika Roy, will walk us through the science behind their guidance and explain some of their implementation recommendations. As previously explained, the SCCPHD is the most powerful voice in the area of school guidelines for in-person contact.

Alison M. Kerr is the Chief Administrative Officer, Clinical Operations, and Vice President, Orthopedics and Neurosciences Service Lines at Stanford Health Care. She will discuss a potential partnership between PAUSD and Stanford Health Care to test staff members for COVID at District sites.

This section is designed to address some of the common questions that have bubbled up over the past two weeks. The challenge is providing responses concisely that provide enough information for those trying to make decisions. This section will combine hyperlinks, bullet points, and commentary. To reiterate earlier statements, PAUSD has no interest in persuading people to select one model over another. Choice has been a priority from the start.

TK-1 Commitment Process
The TK-1 commitment letters were sent out on September 24. The letters were translated into Spanish and Mandarin also. The selection process is binding for the remainder of the school year. At this point on the second day of commitments, we have roughly a 25% response rate. Of the responses in hand, 77% have committed to the hybrid model. The numbers may fluctuate over the next several days. Families previously committed to distance learning were not surveyed.

There has been a great deal of discussion and conjecture about remaining with the same teacher after deciding between models. As we stated from the very start, delaying a decision point for choice has consequences. We prioritized waiting for more information and not locking parents into a decision during the summer. It is very possible that the redistribution of staff to serve distance learning students will result in some shuffle of classroom assignments. We understand the bonds formed between students and teachers and will make every effort to minimize transitions to the degree possible.

We are aware that some people are conducting their own surveys and facilitating group conversations to sway decisions. We would caution everyone that staffing (assigning teachers) will have legal constraints and regulations that will not necessarily align with lobbying efforts. Our hope is that families will make decisions that best reflect their personal conditions and allow others to do the same. Again, PAUSD can accommodate either model and we have no preference. We want families to feel comfortable with their own decisions.

Air Flow and Filtration
Air flow and filtration are important aspects of combating COVID transmission. Each TK-1 classroom will be physically examined and internally certified prior to the return of school. Our facilities cover millions of square feet. We expect our teachers and site administrators to report any issues for immediate attention. District maintenance, operations, and safety staff are also examining every room systematically. Classrooms with filtration or air flow issues will be considered for additional measures, including air purifiers.

PAEA Survey
We have received questions about the PAEA survey results. While we heard public comment and received emails, we have not been presented with the survey. We have requested the survey to better understand the feedback presented verbally.

Air Quality
We heard concerns about opening doors of classrooms on days with poor air quality. We are thankful for the feedback and have proposed a system that would revert schools temporarily back to distance learning during days with poor air quality.

COVID-19 Staff Surveillance Testing
PAEA and PAUSD agree that surveillance testing for staff members adds value and may alleviate some concerns. PAUSD is engaged with Stanford University and will present options at our upcoming Special Meeting on September 29.

Live Streaming
We have received a number of requests from parents and teachers for an approach that includes live streaming. Some are sharing a desire to use live streaming to teach in-person and distance learning at the same time. The goal of keeping classes together is noble and appreciated. We need to clarify the collective bargaining process to avoid unnecessary or misguided lobbying efforts. PAUSD and our teacher's union (PAEA) has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining the hybrid model. It was created after lengthy discussions and many revisions. PAEA represents all teachers and is the only body authorized to negotiate on behalf of teachers. The MOU is a short-term (this year) contract between the parties. The Board of Education, District administration, site administration, and teachers are bound by the agreement. MOUs protect all involved and clearly articulate expectations.

There has not been a formal proposal from PAUSD nor PAEA to support live streaming. All negotiations proposals can be found HERE. This section is updated after each negotiating session and is the official record of all proposals.

If live streaming were to be considered, it would come through the negotiations process. PAEA has options for their members for things that fall outside of standing agreements. They include holding to the current MOU as written, negotiating a revision to the MOU, or negotiating a Side Letter agreement. There are reasons why each option may or may not make sense. Regardless, the process must be followed as governed by the Rodda Act. This is not an endorsement of live streaming and is also not an editorial comment in opposition of live streaming. It is an attempt to clarify a process that may be foreign to most people not familiar with collective bargaining.

Recorded Webinar from September 21
Our reopening webinar has been viewed nearly 3,700 times as of this publication. Topics covered included safety, program, choice, negotiations, acknowledgement of concerns, and return dates. The webinar can be viewed HERE.



Bringing special education students back to school for specialized and targeted support services has been a high priority for PAUSD for several weeks. While Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) negotiations are ongoing, Special Education Directors have been partnering with Human Resources to determine viable program options for a phased return, starting with high-needs elementary students and secondary Futures students. Simultaneously, the District team has been reaching out to families via survey, email, and phone calls to ascertain which students would like to return to in-person, on-campus instruction, with physical distancing and health and safety measures in place to protect students and staff, per Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) guidelines. Face coverings/masks are required for all students and staff while at school/work. Students excluded from face covering requirements include: (1) anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance, and (2) students with special needs who are unable to tolerate a face covering. Families have the choice of having their student continuing full distance learning or transition to in-person instruction.

During the in-person school day, students will engage in assignments and activities that explore core curriculum and support Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals. Students will mainstream virtually into general education opportunities. Futures students will follow their existing schedules, logging in remotely for their electives, with the support of an instructional aide. Elementary students will have the added benefit of a two-week period prior to the return of general education peers to transition onto campus and acclimate to the new bell schedule.

Related services will be provided both in-person and virtually to meet the IEP minutes to the greatest degree possible, as indicated on the most current agreed upon IEP. Students remaining in the full distance model will continue with their current schedule and receive related services virtually.

Transparent communication with staff and families is critical. The Special Education team continues to be committed to providing ongoing communication with parents and staff as we navigate the return to learning in person. Some of the efforts made in the past month include:

  • Parents of Futures program students were surveyed on August 28 to determine anticipated attendance and staffing needs. Parents could indicate in-person or distance learning.
  • Human Resources and Special Education hosted a Collaborative Thinking meeting on August 31. Teachers and service providers shared their thoughts and possible solutions related to the many aspects of returning to in-person instruction.
  • The Superintendent and District leaders from Educational Services and Special Education attended a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting the evening of August 31 to hear parent concerns and possible solutions.
  • Monthly elementary Zoom meetings with support staff of returning programs.
  • Regular site meetings with District Office Special Education staff and support providers.
  • Informational meetings for the secondary Futures teachers and support staff on September 14, 15, and 16.
  • The Elementary and Secondary Directors of Special Education attended, and presented reopening plans, at the CAC meeting on September 14.
  • Per the signed Memorandum of Understanding with PAEA, teachers were notified in writing by Human Resources on September 17 that special education programs would return to in-person instruction on September 28.
  • An email message outlining essential elements of the return to school, translated into Spanish and Mandarin, was sent to all secondary families on September 22 and to elementary families on September 23.
  • Staff assignments, classroom locations, and class lists were communicated to teachers on September 23 and 24 for secondary and elementary, respectively.
  • Follow-up letter to secondary parents sent on September 24, including Parent Handbook.
  • Staff training on Friday, September 25, for all returning staff. All sessions were recorded to provide flexibility for staff. Representative leaders from Special Education, the Safety Office, Maintenance and Transportation, the Business Services Department, and the District Nursing team were all present. Topics included:
    • How to prevent COVID-19 from spreading
    • Handwashing practices, the proper use of face coverings, and the importance of social distancing
    • Precautionary measures during toileting, eating, and assisting in lifting students
    • Screening for COVID-19 symptoms
    • The need to stay home and get tested if experiencing new or unexplained COVID-19 symptoms
    • When it is safe to return to work or school if symptomatic or tested + for COVID-19
    • Transportation protocol
    • Assurance of social distancing and facility safety measures (signage, disinfecting, cleaning, etc.)
    • Behavior support process

A considerable amount of planning and preparation has taken place since the Governor's September 4 guidance related to the return of small cohorts of students with acute needs to in-person instruction. While we understand that this has been accompanied by questions and concerns from both staff and parents, we are confident that everything is in place for students' and teachers' to safely return to campuses. This is an exciting time for our community, and we appreciate the support and feedback provided.

DreamBox is a personalized, research-based math improvement program. During the 2020-21 academic year, elementary and qualifying middle and high school students will be using DreamBoxto support their current mathematics programs. Lessons provide interactive experiences that promote active learning and independent critical thinking and respond to each student's strategies and decisions in the moment.

The PAUSD Education Department continues to roll out the DreamBox and Lexia programs through teacher professional learning. Elementary and secondary teachers participated in asynchronous DreamBox training, to learn how to interact with the teacher dashboard and student interface. A DreamBox partner will host a synchronous follow-up Q & A session next week for any teachers who need more support.

Additionally, both elementary and secondary teachers received professional learning opportunities in Lexia Core5 (elementary) and Lexia PowerUp (secondary) this week. These trainings focused on the inner workings of the program, and how to best support students in literacy alongside the current language arts programs. PAUSD administrators were previously given an overview of both Lexia programs on September 10.

Ongoing professional learning opportunities focusing on data analysis will be made available to administrators and teachers to help support student success with both programs.

Last week welcomed the creation and delivery of the first elementary Spectra Art lessons. Teams of Spectra Art teachers came together in August to learn Google Docs, Screencastify, and how to incorporate document cameras into asynchronous lessons. Classroom teachers will post the lessons into their Schoology courses for students to access during student independent time. An initial set of supplies and materials were sent home in August. A second set will be ready for students in mid-October. As students make their creations, classroom teachers will upload student artwork to grade-level Schoology groups and Spectra teachers will review student submissions. This document clarifies how elementary Spectra Art will work this year.

Additional creative art opportunities are available via collaborations with PAUSD Visual and Performing Arts Department and TheatreWorks of Silicon Valley, Stanford Live, The Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and the Palo Alto Art Center. These liaisons provide additional artistic outlets for students through dance, interviews with artists, virtual field trips, and master classes. Learn more about the various options here.

Innovation and Agility-Curriculum & Career Education (CCE) is excited to host its first Career Technical Education (CTE) Advisory meeting for the 2020-21 school year on September 29 via Zoom. The purpose of the CTE Advisory Board is to work as a bridge between the District and industry partners. Our focus this year will be on developing an academic calendar for work-based learning opportunities. These opportunities range from guest speaking, worksite tours, and career fair participation, to job shadowing, informational interviews, mock interviews, and paid internships. If you'd like to share your industry expertise and/or work-based learning opportunities, please feel free to contact the CCE office for more information on how to get involved.

The Innovation and Agility Department submitted the 2020-21 Request for Application for the California Career Technical Education Incentive Grant, to the California Department of Education (CDE). This grant is a State education, economic, and workforce development initiative, with the goal of providing K12 pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to transition to employment and postsecondary education. To learn more, visit

Additionally, the data report for the K12 Strong Workforce Program (SWP) was submitted to the CDE for the Family Consumer Science and Early Childhood Development (ECD) program. From the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office (CCCCO), the K12 SWP was designed "to create, support, and/or expand high-quality career technical education programs at the K12 level. Funding is intended for efforts that are aligned with the workforce development efforts, occurring through the SWP, that are responsive to regional economic priorities, and that increase the transition from secondary to post-secondary and career, with an emphasis on a collaborative approach between K12 and Community College systems."


Racial/ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, and low-income students, continue to fare less well than other groups of students in PAUSD. Recognizing these disparities, PAUSD committed to a focus on equity to ensure that demographics were not a predictor of student outcomes. That commitment now undergirds the District's work at all levels. To ensure the Board and community remain informed about the District's progress toward equity, the Assistant Superintendent of Equity and Student Affairs will provide routine Equity Impact Reports that define an equity problem of practice, strengthen leadership capacity, and/or address the achievement gap. These reports may identify policy, practice, or climate/culture strategies that address root causes of inequity, and also provide the Board with an analysis of any outcomes as a result of initiatives.

The focus of the work is expanding the reach of the Office of Equity and Student Affairs by strengthening the capacity of District and site leaders to carry out important work, using an equity lens. The work of leaders for equity is to eliminate opportunity gaps and achievement gaps, to ensure success for all students. The effort is focused on identifying and addressing personal and institutional bias and barriers and providing strategies to guarantee all students have what they need to be successful in school.


Student supports, in-person classroom

September 21 marked the first day for elementary students in a traditional classroom setting. Addison's On-Site Pilot program launched with six students and is slated to receive more students from other elementary schools in the District. Principals are excited for the opportunity to see students face-to-face and to be able to offer their support and the support of their staff to host students who are also excited to be back in school! According to Principal Boyce, "It's so worth it! In two days, we finally got one of the 5th graders his instrument, helped two students get online to complete District-required reading assessments, and were able to positively reinforce school-ready behaviors. They are doing great!! Additionally, I feel each new day that I'm better prepared for school re-opening, as I walk through the steps with this group…" Principals are anxious to have students back on campus as safely as possible. As we plan for reopening, identifying opportunities to give some students a little extra boost of support has captured our attention.

Another administrator reporting positive effects of on-campus support. Gunn Assistant Principal, Pier Angeli La Place, writes to her entire staff:

"Hello Everyone,

As I mentioned in a previous email, we are at current capacity in PAUSD+ and, with our staffing, are able to provide a warm and welcoming learning environment, stable internet access, academic monitoring, and class attendance supervision.

To give you a sense of the program, students arrive a minimum of 1/2 hour before the first class period begins. If a student takes the bus, they arrive at 8:30am each day. Attendance is taken, and if a student is absent, their absence is reconciled against school attendance from home.

Students are health screened by the nurse and are able to eat breakfast, if they choose. All students are in class in the main library room and are monitored for logging into their classes and engaging in learning.

We have copies of student schedules and access to Zoom links through Schoology. If a student needs a small room for recording or a stretch break, preferring that to outside, we have five rooms available, as assigned.

Students put their cell phones in a hanging pocket, wear masks, are social distanced, and wear noise canceling headphones with mics. It is a very quiet space to work. There are two locations within view of staff for outdoor participation in P.E. classes, and a designated outdoor space for lunch.

Water, lunch, and snacks are provided daily. We are working with the Wellness Center to provide for student needs in that way, as well. Our spaces are disinfected twice daily for health and safety.

When students' classes are complete, their homework is reviewed through Schoology and their student planners, and they discuss a plan for completion with staff. If homework is missing, students are asked to log into teacher office hours for support.

Students are dismissed at 3:30pm. Every Friday the students complete a self-reflection survey and parents are sent a parent feedback survey. If parents don't use email, we call them for feedback.

Beginning this Friday, now that we have a more stable registration and attendance, we will send a teacher feedback survey to all teachers who have a student(s) in PAUSD+. Feel free to also email us during the week.

Relationship building and trust building are primary to these supports. If needed, we conference with students and invite their parents to partner with us, whether to address attendance, engagement, or behavior. (We really haven't had any challenges.) We are in close communication with our Student and Family Engagement (SaFE) staff to further partner with families.

I am grateful to all who have recommended students and, always, to the caring staff supporting our kids.

Thank you,

Pier Angeli"

At the beginning of every school year, the Greene Library promotes the importance of reading to academic success, and to social-emotional learning, by recognizing the students who are noteworthy readers, via a program called, Remarkable Readers. This program is done as part of our celebration of "Teentober," the Young Adult Library Services Association's celebration of teen reading and libraries. Starting in early September, students, family members, and staff were encouraged to nominate any student who they notice is really into reading. These readers can be lifelong lovers of books, or recent converts.

Nominations closed on Monday, September 21, with 117 nominations! All students have now been notified by Schoology of their nomination and are encouraged to send in a photo of themselves reading a favorite book, which Ms. Collins, the librarian, will then make into their very own READ poster. (See the example below of a READ poster from last year. It's Ms. Collins, dressed up as Elphaba from the book Wicked, by Gregory Maguire!

Ms. Collins' READ poster example

During the week of October 12-16, students who opted to receive a poster will receive a high quality, print-ready digital version of their poster. All students who were nominated will receive a certificate recognizing them as a Remarkable Reader, along with the text of their nomination(s).

Another way Greene Library works to create a culture of readers is through a fun fall reading promotion event, the Battle of the Books, which is already underway! The recently formed Greene Library Club has begun the process of selecting the books for this year's battle and figuring out how to conduct a large-scale team book trivia competition during distance learning! The student leaders in the club are determined to make it happen, despite the pandemic and limited budgets to purchase battle books. Their dedication is truly inspirational! This reading event usually has at least 180 participants from all three grades and is a highlight of the year.

Next up, we introduce the High School Library Team, Daljeet Gill and Sima Thomas. Daljeet Gill has been the friendly neighborhood teacher librarian at Henry M. Gunn High School for the last six years, and a Social and Emotional Literacy and Functionality (SELF) mentor for the last four years. Eventually, understanding his childhood dream of becoming Spiderman was impossible, he realized his true passion was education. Sima discovered that her love for sharing books could be further nourished by a move from English teacher to teacher librarian. This is her 7th year as the teacher librarian at Paly.

High School librarians


Substitute Training Zoom

The Human Resources team continues their commitment to supporting students and staff in their distance learning environment through a variety of efforts. This past week, we ran a series of Zoom meetings with clerical staff as well as with our distance learning substitute pool. Both meetings covered general information including new methods for logging into Frontline Absence Management system, as well as how certificated staff and substitutes may effectively connect and interact in a distance learning environment. We shared processes and expectations for all parties and discussed best practices for ensuring a positive student experience when their teacher needs to be away from class.

We appreciate our valued distance learning substitutes and look forward to continuing partnering with them and teaching staff to support distance learning.

We also have Zoom meetings scheduled for our certificated elementary staff and will add secondary staff Zoom sessions soon to get feedback on what is working well with substitute services, and how we can keep improving this important provision necessary for continuity of instruction.


The second round of the check-in survey is available for parents and secondary students. The questions are the same as the first round released on August 28. The questions and topics will likely vary in future surveys to drill deeper into specific areas for targeted feedback. The survey can be accessed HERE.