August 30, 2019

Office of the Superintendent


No school district wants to experience a threat of any kind. Unfortunately, Gunn High School was the target of an online threat. The threat was not determined credible and students were not in danger. Just as importantly, our systems all worked. The Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) communicated with us beautifully. The City Manager contacted me directly. Our principal communicated with families and her staff. Our Deputy Superintendent ran point on the entire situation. In this case, everything went according to plan and the system worked.  For that, we are grateful.


I spent the last two days with every superintendent in Santa Clara County. We were joined by the CEO of School Services of California, John Gray, and Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Executive Director, Wes Smith. We were provided legislative updates and current trends in school finance. The biggest topic was the proposed revision to the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). As soon as November, the LCAP will likely undergo significant changes. The most significant change is the elimination of tracking supplemental and concentration dollars. While Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funding is not large revenue source for PAUSD, it is an important funding source for most school districts. The LCAP will only ask school districts to demonstrate that money from ANY source is going to specific populations of students. Practically speaking, this means school districts can absorb LCFF supplemental and concentration dollars into their general fund without restrictions. For PAUSD, we can expect a streamlined LCAP with greater flexibility. 

Education Services


It was a busy, but smooth start to the 2019-20 school year for Registration Services. Out of approximately 1,650 new registrations, over 1,450 new students are actually enrolled. Total enrollment is slightly lower than last year, by 1.5%. Enrollment trends, including 14th day enrollment counts, will be presented at the September 24, Regular Board Meeting.

In addition to enrolling students, Registration Services continues to tackle process efficiency improvement projects. One such project is to transition all Student Records into the new PAUSD Digital Records System – from as far back as 100 years ago - to the digital format, by the 2023-24 school year. Another project is focused on improving the parent experience for the Annual Data Update process. Registration Services is working closely with Technology Services to ease the transition to the new ID Parent Portal platform, to help ensure every school has current information to support students’ health and safety.


Palo Alto High School is excited to announce that its beautiful new library has been selected for inclusion in American Libraries’ 2019 Library Design Showcase, which appears in the magazine’s September/October 2019 issue. The library features collaborative and individual workspaces with lots of natural light and books displayed for easy browsing. Open until 5:00 p.m. daily, the library welcomes Paly students to study, relax, and connect, during and after school.



The start of school brings the first year of playing an instrument, strings and winds, to approximately 850 5th graders. The Music Office has already provided over 400 instruments to families, and for the first time, ran out of flutes and clarinets! 

The Elementary Music & PE Team participated in a Behavior Strategies for Defusing Behavioral Problems seminar. Teachers were highly engaged and brought their own challenges to the meeting, as the group shared their unique teaching environments with each other.


Middle School Theatre teachers got off to a quick start by holding auditions and starting rehearsals for their joint middle school musical, The Addams Family. Over 69 students from Greene, JLS, and Fletcher middle schools auditioned – 20 students were selected for leading roles, representing all three middle schools, and 79 students will participate in a variety of ensemble and stage tech roles. The production will run November 1 and 2 at JLS.

Visual Art

Advanced Photo students at Gunn High School began their year with a field trip to the Presidio Officers Club to attend an exhibit titled, Exclusion. Students were able to interact and hear stories about Japanese Americans who had been interned.


In the coming weeks, students at each of the three middle schools will be completing a brief literature survey. The purpose of this anonymous survey is to determine the interests of PAUSD students in regard to new literature in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classrooms. The results will help guide the work of the English Literature Selection Advisory Committee during the 2019-21 school years.


Propelled by the pursuit of High-Quality Teaching and Learning, the Special Education Department continues to focus on collaboration and professional development. On Tuesday, August 27, education specialists participated in the Woodcock-Johnson IV (WJ -IV) training. WJ IV is a commonly used academic assessment administered to school-age children to measure a wide range of cognitive skills. The participants reviewed the testing protocol, practiced, and calibrated administering the assessment. This week’s training is part one of a two-part series, which will continue on September 4. The second part of the WJ IV training session will focus on how to score the assessment and utilize scores to inform instruction. The participants found the training very useful and are looking forward to the next session.

The Special Education elementary team continued to expand professional connections this week with a presentation on student behavior for our music and PE teachers. Participants were provided scenarios that prompted discussion on how to identify student behavioral triggers, functions of the behaviors, and strategies on how to prevent escalations in class. Future trainings will focus on alignment of practices.

Friday, August 30, is Alma Ellis’s last day as our Director of Elementary Special Education. We thank Alma for her years of service to Palo Alto Unified School District, and send her our best wishes for her future endeavors.


On August 28, in preparation for school site calibrations, the Elementary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) held a training session for teachers and education specialists on how to administer the BAS. The training focused on how to code and score for reading accuracy and fluency, and how to score and analyze comprehension conversation, using a specialized rubric. Staff left with a better understanding of how the BAS assessment is used to inform reading instruction. 

Department of Equity and Student Affairs


PAUSD will be undergoing Federal Program Monitoring Review this school year. The review will be conducted online by the California Department of Education (CDE) every few years. The review is to verify that programs funded by federal sources meet specific legal requirements. The CDE has chosen the programs and sites below for monitoring. The Department of Academic Supports will be leading and collecting evidence. The deadline for all documents is in February 2020.




Adult Education


Compensatory Education 


Early Learning and Care


English Learner 


Physical Education


Fiscal Monitoring 


Supporting Effective Instruction

Adult Education

Adult Education

Escondido Elementary

Compensatory Education
English Learner
Physical Education 

Greene Middle School

Compensatory Education
English Learner
Physical Education

Barron Park Elementary

Compensatory Education
English Learner
Physical Education 

Besse Bolton Kids’ Club 

Early Learning and Care 

Ellen Thatcher Children’s Center

Early Learning and Care


Gunn High School’s Wellness Center is so excited to be in its new home, now open in the P-Building - Room 231, on the second floor of the new Central Building. Students, families, and staff are invited to stop by and check out the new space. The Wellness Center has an expanded area and a private quiet place in addition to the same quality mental health and wellness support, with additional support from community partners. The Wellness Center is a resource and safe place for all students. Wellness Staff can help provide direct support to students and families or connect them to other school and community resources. Please drop by anytime between 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Palo Alto High School’s Wellness Center has started another great year. Come by and meet some new team members. The Wellness Team is already at work supporting students and brainstorming with the Associated Student Body (ASB) on ways students and staff can collaborate on the PAUSD Promise Wellness Goals for this year and how to work with various groups on campus to bring a vision for Paly to life. 

On August 30, the Wellness Team will take part in Paly’s Safe and Welcoming Schools Day presenting to all students the services the Wellness Center has to offer. Students will also take part in discussions about stigma and how to reach out and help friends who may be going through a tough time. 


Wellness & Support Services staff participated in the SCCOE Tobacco Use Prevention Education Kickoff Meeting as a part of PAUSD’s Tier 2 Grant that helps fund the biyearly administration of the California Healthy Kids Survey. Districts in and around Santa Clara County come together to learn about recent data on substance use, research on effects, resources, and regulations. 


The Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) and Wellness & Support Services Departments organized Naviance support for the school counselors and college and career staff at both high schools. Naviance is an important planning tool for students and families to understand the academic and financial dimensions of preparing for college and career options. The District has committed to expanding the use of the Naviance platform to support equity for all families entering a college pathway.


Members of the District Wellness Teams joined students, parents, and the Superintendent to present to a full house at PSN’s Kickoff event on Wednesday, August 28. Panelists shared recent efforts to improve and support mental health and well-being at the high schools and in our community. 

Business Services


Construction at Addison Elementary School is really moving along. The two main buildings have made major progress. The administration/library building is ready for window installation. They started installing the window frames on the first floor last week; glass installation is following closely behind. Also, the first and second floor bathrooms have been waterproofed in preparation for tiling. Priming of drywall began on the first floor with the second floor to follow. The administration/library building will be ready early next year.  

At the multi-purpose building, the roof trusses were hoisted into place last week. Roof framing has commenced and is scheduled to be completed in the next two weeks. The stage ramp has been formed and will be poured this week. 

The foreground of the first picture is the administration/library building. The second picture is an interior view of the administration/library building.

Library Building - Foreground View Library Building - Interior View

Technology Department


  • 11,200 – Number of devices connected to our networks on August 29. On the same date last year: 5,280 devices.
  • 3,326 – Number of technology support requests received in August 2019.
  • 95 – Percentage of staff members authenticating to our online services with either a Yubikey or Google Authenticator.
  • 48 – Number of automation jobs running on a daily basis to exchange data between various platforms.
  • 24 – Number of published student data privacy agreements in place with online vendors.


Staff received notice today by the Federal OCR that they are closing the monitoring phase of the case related to website accessibility. This represents the completion of the tasks identified in the Resolution Agreement entered into in May 2017.

Research, Evaluation, and Assessment Department


Last spring, students enrolled in 5th, 7th, and 9th grades participated in the California PFT, which is part of California’s assessment system. California has chosen the FITNESSGRAM® as the annual PFT. The FITNESSGRAM® is a comprehensive health-related fitness test developed by The Cooper Institute.

The FITNESSGRAM® has six fitness areas. The test options are identified in parentheses:

  • Aerobic capacity (PACER, One-mile Run, or Walk Test)
  • Body Composition (BMI) (uses height, weight, gender, and age to estimate body composition)
  • Abdominal Strength and Endurance (Curl-ups)
  • Trunk Extensor Strength and Flexibility (Trunk Lift)
  • Upper Body Strength and Endurance (Push-ups, Modified Pull-up, or Arm Hang)
  • Flexibility (Shoulder Stretch or Sit & Reach)

Over the coming week, parents will receive their child’s results. To learn more about the PFT, visit the California Department of Education Parent Guides to Understanding web page. Parents may direct specific questions to their child's 2019-20 physical fitness teacher (elementary) or to the school's Physical Education Instructional Leader (secondary). District results will be presented to the Board on September 24. In the coming months, the CDE will publicly report 2019 results here. Results will also be included in the 2019 School Accountability Report Cards (SARCs), which will be available in February 2020.