August 24, 2018

Superintendent's Office


At the August 22 Study Session, the Board of Education requested additional steps to inform stakeholders of upcoming agenda items.  As a first step, we will foreshadow tentative agenda items in advance.  Tentative agenda items are subject to change, including additions or deletions.  In addition to standard business items, we are preparing the following topics of likely interest:

  • Ms. Mak will present our September budget update with revisions.
  • The Board will confirm their desire to invest in on-site General Counsel for daily operations.  Discussion topics include goals for the position and scope of services.  The topic was last considered on June 23, 2015.
  • Former Interim Superintendent, Karen Hendricks, will be considered for the role of Deputy Superintendent.  The expanded role encompasses her current duties as the head of the Human Resources Division.  Additionally, she will serve as the designated second-in-command.  Ms. Hendricks will directly supervise and guide daily efforts related to Title IX, the Office of Civil Rights, complaint processes, and Public Records Act requests.
  • The Board will certify the PAUSD availability of textbooks and instructional materials.


We strive to be a good neighbor. Recently, some of our neighbors registered concerns about the new solar shade structure at Escondido, Nixon, JLS, Fletcher, and Paly. The Board of Education reviewed an update on the solar project at its last meeting. The solar project will yield numerous positive results and will enhance the educational experience for our students. Additionally, we are pleased that the upgrades to our facilities will provide many energy and environmental benefits. At the same time, we are sensitive to the viewpoints of our community stakeholders, and we are committed to doing a better job in engaging them. I've directed staff to work in partnership with the community in identifying recommendations for mitigating these concerns. I am confident that we will be able to come to consensus in achieving mutually beneficial outcomes. In PAUSD this year, we will be focusing on improving communication and community engagement. It is our sincere hope that we discover new and exciting ways to involve all of our stakeholders in our endeavor for educational excellence.


PAUSD is a member of the Northern California Relief Joint Powers Authority (JPA). The JPA functions as an insurance company representing school districts regarding liability claims. Keenan and Associates administers the assignment of attorneys to members of the JPA when claims arise. The attorneys represent the JPA as a whole and the individual school district. The assigned attorney often has no direct agreement with the school district. School districts have deductibles in the same way insurance works for vehicles.

Business Services


Attached is the quarterly investment report from the County of Santa Clara Treasurer as of June 30, 2018.

Human Resources


Human Resources will be sending evaluation reports to certain administrators next week—part of the annual process of updating evaluator and evaluation cycle information in the employee database. At the secondary sites and at the two elementary sites that share an assistant principal, administrators divide up the work differently each year, depending on the “caseload” of teachers who are due for formal evaluations during that particular school year.


After assignment notifications (ANs) were sent on Friday, August 17, the Human Resources Office received a number of responses from certificated staff requesting corrections to their information. This process involves reaching out to site administrators to confirm changes with appropriate forms, verifying budget codes and contract status, generating temporary increase contracts for those working above their tenure percentage, and verifying newly conferred degrees for stipends.  After making these changes in the database and updating the new evaluator information from sites, Human Resources will be able to send out a revised and more detailed AN to employees.


Human Resources brought on 117 new hires over the course of the summer. All benefits-eligible staff were invited to orientations during which plans, costs, timelines, and enrollment instructions were discussed. Human Resources then entered each employee profile into the BenefitBridge system so that new employees could log in to enroll in their selected plans. Human Resources then reviewed each individual enrollment to check for errors or possible anomalies. Each enrollment was then approved and line items for employee and employer costs were manually keyed into a separate system for payroll deductions. Most new certificated hires will have coverage on September 1, while new classified hires typically have coverage on the first of the month after their date-of-hire.


The District has been working with PAPD over the last year to revise the MOU between the two agencies. A revision to the MOU is a requirement under the Voluntary Resolution Agreement entered into by the District with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on March 7, 2018. The District has included an entire section (Section M – Cooperation regarding Sexual Misconduct and Related Matters) to the MOU, which sets out the roles and responsibilities of both agencies when dealing with matters relating to sexual misconduct. The MOU was brought to the Board meeting on Tuesday, August 21, for an initial reading and will be brought back to a subsequent Board meeting in September for further review prior to finalizing. A copy of the MOU can be found in the Board materials for August 21, 2018.

Technology Department


As we start a new school year, it's a great time for staff, students, and families to review the PAUSD Student Use of Technology (Wellness and Safety Online) document. Adults can help remind students of these important tips for technology use: be your best self; use technology to learn; take care of what you use; share digital activity with teachers and parents; and always be safe online.


Staff has been hard at work to address the issues identified in the website accessibility audit conducted as part of the OCR resolution agreement. Progress can be monitored in the Corrective Action Plan, which is updated as work is completed and updates are submitted to OCR for review. As we near compliance on the 1,451 District web pages, the work will transition to focusing on the 1,730 PDF documents currently published and linked on our website, as well as applying the accessibility template updates across each of the 18 individual school websites.


The cover story in the Palo Alto Weekly this week is an article about the challenges that surround parenting with technology. This article outlines the work we have been doing over the past two years to bring digital citizenship lessons to students and foster important family and community dialog surrounding these issues. In addition to the published article, there’s an interview with our own Emily Garrison that will be published later today in the Behind the Headlines section of

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


This week, the Department of Strategic Initiatives Family Engagement Specialist (FES) program held its kick-off meeting to focus on program influence, data-driven decision making, and equity-centered methods of practice that generate high levels of success for families and students across our District. The FES Team, now part of the Department of Strategic Initiatives and Operations, under Assistant Superintendent Lana Conaway, includes team leader Keith Wheeler, and specialists Claudia Quiroga, Juan Cruz Gomez, Christian Munoz, Stacey Davidson, Denise Li, Nayely Cortes, and Ana Perez-Hood.

We are also proud to announce that Mrs. Adriana Flores just accepted a spot on the team as a half-time Family Engagement Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA). Adriana is highly skilled at outreach and communication strategies to support the Family Engagement Team. We are excited for her and all of the members of the team as we embark on this very important work. We encourage our families to contact their child’s school and ask for the assistance of the FES, especially when there are language or cultural barriers that impact their experience in PAUSD.


The 2018-19 school year promises to be a great one in regard to our dyslexia work. We accomplished so much with the help of the Dyslexia Workgroup. This year, the team will be expanded to include parent representatives, reading specialists, and TOSAs to ensure that we have balanced representation on the team. The expanded Dyslexia Workgroup will convene for the first time in September.

We welcome the 2018-19 Dyslexia Workgroup to this very important charge. Workgroup members are:

  • Rita Rodriguez (Psychologist)
  • Leslie Faust (Elementary TOSA)
  • Teri Lee (Gunn Special Education Representative)
  • Maria Ormaza-Mathia (Reading Specialist)
  • Magdalena Fittoria (Greene Administrator)
  • Kathleen Bransfield (Reading Specialist)
  • Alma Ellis (Special Education Director)
  • Anne Brown (Chief Academic Officer)
  • Kelly Bikle (Professional Learning)
  • Kimberly Eng (Community Advisory Committee)
  • Laurence Pinot (Parent)
  • Elaine Heal (Parent)


We’re Hiring – We are looking for dynamic leaders in the Department of Special Education. The Director of Dispute Resolution and Coordinator of Elementary Special Education positions are now posted. Please refer any qualified candidate to Human Resources. For more information see the job announcement on the District webpage.

Additionally, the Special Education Behavioral Support Team and Maintenance Operations and Transportation Department collaborated in developing a Safety Care Training plan for Bus Drivers. Safety Care Behavioral Training is a competency-based crisis-prevention training program for professional staff who work with individuals who have the potential for aggressive behavior. It was developed and is provided by Quality Behavior Solutions (QBS), Inc.

The procedures used in Safety Care are based on a large number of scientific studies in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis published in peer-reviewed journals indicating the effectiveness of the selected procedures for treating challenging and dangerous behavior. Soo Jin Cheng, Behavioral Support Manager, provided the first training before school starts and was received with enthusiasm on the part of our bus drivers, who asked for more training opportunities. Future training dates will be released next month.


We are continuing aggressive efforts to address the critical need to prevent teen suicide. New legislation was passed in 2017, requiring all public schools serving students in grades 7-12 to adopt, and in our case, strengthen policies related to pupil suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention.

The policy is required to address the needs of high-risk groups including, but not limited to, youth bereaved by suicide; youth with disabilities, mental illness, or substance use disorders; youth experiencing homelessness or in foster care; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth. PAUSD solicited feedback from multiple stakeholders to draft a policy to address the new bill.

The Board Policy Review Committee approved the changes at its August 24 meeting. We recognize the critical need to address students at-risk at both the elementary and secondary level, and have outlined this expectation in the policy. Training of teachers, counselors, and other District employees will include: how to identify appropriate mental health services at the school and in the community; when and how to refer youth and their families for support; risk factors; warning signs; and protective factors that reduce the risk of suicide.

Secondary Education


PAUSD is continuing to partner with the League of Women Voters in an effort to register students in the upcoming election and/or pre-register younger students for future elections. This November’s ballot is chock-full of national, state, and local initiatives. There is no better way for our students to have a voice in their own future.  We would love everyone’s help to get the word out! National Voter Registration Day is September 25, 2018, and the registration deadline to vote in the upcoming election is October 21, 2018.


In an effort to build upon existing programs and utilize resources more effectively, Jeong Choe and her team have moved in with Dave Hoshiwara’s Secondary Options team at Greendell. The efforts of this newly emerging department are exciting and will be expanded upon as we get closer to honing in on their specific impact on PK-12 initiatives.


In spring 2018, PAUSD adopted History Alive! for grades 6-8. Cross-District teacher teams worked hard over the summer to become familiar with the new program and to develop a scope and sequence for the year. History Alive! middle school lessons are structured around an essential question or big idea, and typically follow a process of step-by-step discovery. Instruction takes advantage of a variety of learning styles, and students can look forward to an interactive approach that includes dramatic role plays, imaginative simulations, powerful group projects, and lots of writing.


Judy Argumedo, Director of Academic Supports, personally visited families in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park to recruit students for the free ACT Prep course beginning in September. Gunn and Paly college pathway counselors, Myesha Compton and Crystal Laguna, will participate in recruitment efforts at the site.


Secondary Department Instructional Leaders gathered for their annual retreat to kick off the new school year earlier in this month. Jane Kise, an expert consultant and coach, facilitated a day-long workshop focused on key leadership skills to support department members working together to accomplish common goals, especially when members of the team may have opposing viewpoints. The focus on polarity thinking and how to navigate divergent viewpoints was powerful and will be woven in throughout the year during monthly Instructional Leaders meetings.


The English Language Proficiency Assessment for California (ELPAC) was launched this school year, and administration has been ongoing since July. During the entire month of August, all elementary sites will be testing students new to the District at their respective sites. Secondary students are tested at the District Office prior to school placement.


Ronald McDonald’s Back to School Night was a success. Judy Argumedo updated families on the three options for enrollment in academic programs: Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital School intended for inpatient support; Ronald McDonald House School serving outpatients and siblings residing in-house for three weeks or less; or full-time enrollment in PAUSD.


All of the workbenches in the Gunn Engineering room, also home to Robotics, were upgraded through a CTE grant. The new, sturdy, and modern furniture supports the building of actual structures, along with storage of those projects. The kids love the ‘professional’ feel of their new environment!

New Engineering Tables in Use at Gunn


In addition to site presentations by Mathematics Instructional Leaders, the Secondary Education Department is planning to offer Secondary Math Information Nights to help inform our community members of PAUSD math pathways. The program will consist of a brief presentation by Suz Antink, Math/CS TOSA, followed by a question and answer forum. If you are interested, please mark your calendars for either October 10, 2018 or January 16, 2019. Spanish and Mandarin interpreters will be available.


The Registration Services department continues its mission to provide excellent service to both new and continuing students and their families. Many enhancements were recently made to improve the efficiency and clarity of registration processes. As a result, families received faster responses to inquiries, shorter registration times, and timely school placements. Long lines, typical for the few days right before school starts, were eliminated. Process improvements also resulted in the lowest number, in recent years, of students waiting for a space in their neighborhood school. PAUSD continues to experience high enrollment, which creates challenges to maintaining the enrollment stability essential to providing equivalent programs across the District. Registration Services will continue to place high priority on enrolling students in their neighborhood school.


While not concussion-proof, properly fitted football helmets, coupled with proper tackling techniques, help protect athletes from brain or head injuries. In the past five years, two different laboratories have conducted tests specifically on football helmets. The NFL, in partnership with the NFL Players Association, evaluated helmets and rated them into two categories: top-performing group (green), and prohibited (yellow and red).  Currently, Gunn players are issued the Ridell Speed Helmet, and Paly players are using the Vicis Zero1.  Both helmets are in the green, top-performing group.


The new fall catalogue is being distributed, and Back to School Night is scheduled for September 6, 2018. Both the English as a Second Language (ESL) and Parent Education programs have begun.  The remaining classes convene by the beginning of September. We are looking forward to a great new year!

Elementary Education


On Tuesday, August 20, the Reading Specialists from all 12 elementary sites and the elementary TOSAs spent the day familiarizing themselves with the new Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project Phonics Units of Study for grades K and 1. The team examined the guiding principles in this curriculum and developed talking points for teachers, staff, and the community. During the day, the group also worked together to summarize how phonics acquisition develops in a child, and how to help others understand that progression and what common language can be used when discussing phonics and reading development.


Several members of the Elementary PE team attended workshops this Summer hosted by the Bay Area Health and Physical Education Collaborative, which focuses on Social-Emotional Learning in PE; and Cal Poly workshops, the leader in supporting PE teacher’s curriculum development which is based in skill building and collaborative play. During the August staff development day, PAUSD Elementary PE teachers shared their new learning from these two summer opportunities, reviewed cricket and rugby rules and lessons, and participated in a tennis workshop presented by Troy Rondeau of USTA. The Elementary PE team welcomes Travis Wood to PAUSD.