August 23, 2019

Office of the Superintendent


Our first regular meeting of the year is packed with quite a few items of interest. Some of the highlights include:

  • A legislative update presented by Capitol Advisors
  • Redesign plan for Family Engagement
  • Website and logo branding
  • Staffing Infrastructure for PAUSD Safety, Security, and Emergency Preparedness
  • Assignment of projects to architects
  • Cubberley lease update

The tentative calendar of future Board meetings is now posted on the PAUSD Board of Education website. We will update the document as revisions are made. It is our desire to provide notice to the community and allow preparation time for staff. While agenda items were foreshadowed more than a week in advance last year, the new approach should provide adequate notice to everyone. 


PAUSD and City staff members are engaged in conversations regarding the Cubberley lease agreement set to expire in a few months. We are optimistic that our staff can identify the interests of both sides and propose acceptable terms. Absent a successor agreement or extension, the current lease reverts to a month-to-month agreement. It is our intent to avoid this scenario.


As part of our commitment to the health and welfare of our students, staff is working on clear goals and actions to address homework loads. Our revision to the 2019-20 PAUSD Promise goals will come before the Board in September.


PAUSD staff members receive daily news stories regarding education issues across California. A few of the recent stories may be of interest, although none of them are specifically about Palo Alto. The stories below appeared in newspapers over the last two weeks.

Ethnic studies bill placed on hold

Assembly Bill 331, a proposed law that would require all California high school students take an ethnic studies course, was placed on hold yesterday, following weeks of critiques from diverse groups whose members said they were misrepresented or excluded. Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside), the author of the bill, said he remains committed to making ethnic studies a graduation requirement, but problems and disagreements with the draft curriculum need “ample time” to be worked out. He added: “It is not a question of whether the subject itself is necessary but rather, how do we ensure the curriculum is comprehensive, rigorous, and inclusive enough.” Medina’s delay allows the curriculum to evolve into its final form before lawmakers have to vote on whether to make it a graduation requirement. Mr. Medina said Thursday that he’s also going to amend the bill so that no students would have to meet the requirement until those graduating in 2026.

Los Angeles Times

California schools face ‘willful defiance’ suspension ban

The full state Assembly voted 58-17 on Monday to pass Senate Bill 419, a measure that would ban both public and charter schools from suspending students in grades 4-8 for disrupting school activities or willfully defying school authorities, including teachers and staff. It also blocks schools from suspending students in grades 9-12 for the same thing until January 2025. Superintendents or principals would be asked to provide alternatives to suspension or expulsion that are “age-appropriate and designed to address and correct the pupil’s specific misbehavior.” The bill’s author, Senator Nancy Skinner (D-9th District), previously talked about the need for the bill, saying: “Under this highly subjective category, students are sent to an empty home, with no supervision, and denied valuable instructional time for anything from failing to turn in homework, not paying attention, or refusing to follow direction s, taking off a coat or hat, or swearing in class.”

CBS Sacramento

Vape use up 30% in LA County high school students

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health says that more than 30% of high school students across L.A. County have reported using e-cigarette products, and that 10% regularly use the devices, prompting health officials to share the dangers of underage smoking. “A new generation has become addicted to nicotine through flavored vape products like e-cigarettes,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “The epidemic of our youth becoming addicted to nicotine by flavors and flavored tobacco is unacceptable, and we will work to reverse this trend as we partner with others to ensure a tobacco-free generation.”

Santa Clarita Valley Signal

Increased stipends for teachers at hard-to-staff SF schools

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has announced a $10m stipend pilot program to support and retain teachers at under-resourced schools in the city’s school district. The majority of the schools targeted in the program are located in the Bayview, Mission and south-eastern neighborhoods, where a third of teachers are in the first or second years of their careers, and educator turnover is at 27%, compared to a district-wide rate of 21%. Teachers at the schools currently receive $2,000 on top of their base salaries; starting this year, they will receive an additional $3,000 per year, and another $2,500 in the next fiscal year, for a total consideration of $7,500 per year.

San Francisco Examiner CBS News SF Bay

Northern California school goes phone-free

San Mateo High School has become the largest public school in the U.S. to ban students from using their mobile phones on campus. Each student has been given a Yondr locking pouch, into which phones are placed in the morning and not removed until after the final school bell wins. Adam Gelb, the assistant principal ran a pilot project last year with 20 students. "I really think it's about being present and engaging in the adult that's trying to teach you, your peers that might be in your small group,” he said.” That's part of the main philosophy that we're trying to preach."

San Francisco Examiner CBS News SF Bay

Education Services


Middle school science teachers have started a pilot of Amplify Science at JLS, Greene, and Fletcher Middle Schools. Students in 6th grade will study Geology and Plate Motion, 7th graders have lessons on the Microbiome and Metabolism, and 8th graders will focus on Harnessing Human Energy and Force and Motion. Teachers, students, and parents will be asked to provide feedback in October, after the pilot is over. Students in non-piloting classes will address the same learning objectives using existing materials. The pilot materials for Amplify and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will be on display for examination and comments at the District Office and at each of the middle school sites from August 26 - November 29. This pilot phase is part of ongoing work from the Middle School Science Textbook Selection Advisory Committee.  Please refer to the PAUSD website for more information.


In spring 2019, PAUSD adopted two new history-social science programs at the high school level: McGraw-Hill’s IMPACT: Principles of American Democracy, for U.S Government classes, and Cengage’s: World History, 9th Edition, for World History and Contemporary World History courses. On Tuesday, August 27, history-social science teachers from Gunn and Palo Alto High Schools will be attending an all-day training on both new programs. The morning will be spent with two trainers from Cengage, becoming familiar with the World History/Contemporary World History texts and online materials. The afternoon will be spent with a trainer from McGraw-Hill, learning more about the physical and electronic Government materials.


The Innovation and Agility – Curriculum & Career Education (CCE) office is excited to announce the first cohort of AP Capstone diploma recipients from the Class of 2019. They are so proud of the hard work and passion shown by these students. Learn more about each student’s capstone project experience on our website.


August 21 marked the first-ever collaboration event between Special Education and the Art Department. Elementary Special Education Coordinator, Brooke Crosby, challenged the creative minds of our Art Teachers as she presented Strategies for Defusing Behavioral Problems. The highlights of the presentation include The Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) of Behavior and The Seven Phases/Stages of Behavior. Ms. Crosby provided an interactive forum for the Art Teachers to discuss the functions of behavior, identify the indicators of behaviors, prevent unwanted behavior, and mitigate escalation of behaviors. It was encouraging to witness the level of engagement and eagerness from the art teachers, who requested for a continuation session.

The Secondary Special Education team continues to visit sites and learn first-hand about the PAUSD programs. They were able to observe co-teaching classrooms at various sites as well as Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) and Futures classrooms. They have observed wonderful teaching happening at the secondary sites and would like to thank the dedicated teachers and administrators for supporting our students.

Department of Equity and Student Affairs


The Department of Academic Supports has been supporting all sites testing new students identified as potential English learners. Students are identified by the Home Language Survey, which is filled out by parents/guardians when they register. The survey asks three questions about the home language. If one of the answers is another language than English the student will be tested with the ELPAC to determine English fluency. Secondary students are tested before they start school and elementary students are tested after initial enrollment. All students must be tested within the first 30 days of initial enrollment.


Both high schools will again participate in administering the ACT to first generation and low-income students for free. The test date is October 1 during the school day.  Students can receive a free ACT prep book and are eligible to participate in the preparation class on the weekends. PAUSD will offer a professional three-day preparation class to eligible students on three Saturdays in September at no cost to families.

Business Services


We are proud to share that changes made to our paid bus routes J and Z servicing Los Altos Hills and Stanford West have paid off significantly. The growing ridership and need to service more students from the Stanford West area into Nixon Elementary School, Fletcher Middle School, and Gunn High School caused much frustration last year. With a few tweaks in the routes, we have been able to provide transportation for approximately 36 more students than last school year. Up until the day before school started, we were able to accept every application received – that is major progress!

Our six Voluntary Transfer Program routes are servicing students from East Palo Alto without much change. It is a pleasure partnering with the District’s Department of Academic Supports to organize and confirm students who are eligible for transportation.

Most of the hiccups and challenges we are facing include our Special Education Department routes. The District serves approximately 155 students on 14 routes. Changes in student schedules, address for pick up/drop offs, and new bus service requests received in the last few days have the team working feverishly to make necessary additions/changes as quickly as possible. Thank you to Transportation team for all of their hard work – we could not do it without them!


The Board has approved two additional architects for the Measure Z Strong Schools Bond. They are LPA Architects and SVA Architects. The process was as follows:

  • A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was issued. Twenty firms responded to the request.
  • A comprehensive scoring of the submittals yielded a list of seven firms who qualified for an interview. The interview panel included a Board member, a Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee member, two principals, two facilities staff managers, and two Bond program staff members.
  • The two highest scoring firms were LPA Architects and SVA Architects. References were contacted and confirmed the quality of these two firms.
  • They were approved by the Board on June 11, 2019.

Research, Evaluation, and Assessment Department


The California Department of Education (CDE) is transitioning to a paperless delivery of CAASPP and Summative ELPAC individual student score reports (SSRs). During the summer months, SSRs were released by the testing vendor on a rolling basis as the assessments were scored. The complete set of 2019 Smarter Balanced and ELPAC student results are in, so now ALL parents/guardians of last year’s test takers may access their children’s score reports electronically through the Infinite Campus Parent application. California Alternate Assessment (CAA) results will be available later in the fall, while California Science Test (CAST) results should become available by January 2020.

Learn how to access your child’s SSR here.

Visit the PAUSD Assessment webpage for additional information about assessments in the CAASPP system and other state assessments.

As of August 20, the CDE has not finalized its timeline for the public release of 2019 CAASPP or ELPAC school, district, or state data. When available, information will be posted publicly on its webpage.


In response to the staff alignment survey conducted last fall, District leadership (site leaders, district administrators, directors, and coordinators) has divided into nine teams to explore key drivers identified in the survey of 1,256 employees (69%). Using the Design Thinking process, leadership has been engaging with staff members to unpack their experiences behind the survey results. As a group, the 72 leaders will work on these design projects through the fall and share outcomes in January. The goals are to address key issues that made employees feel that their work was “unaligned” with the District mission, as well as to build internal leadership capacity by working on cross-functional, multi-site, multi-level teams.