December 13, 2019

Office of the Superintendent


Due to the length of our last meeting, several items were shifted to the January 14 meeting. While still tentative, the following items are proposed to kick us off for the new year:

  • Parcel Tax Renewal Options
  • CA Dashboard (Assessment Data) Report
  • Equity Snapshot
  • New Course Approval
  • Middle College Expansion

Education Services


The Innovation and Agility Department hosted the Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) Student/Mentor Forum at Gunn and Palo Alto High Schools. The Mentor/Student Forums are a series of events held at Gunn and Paly throughout the year, to give mentors and students an opportunity to work together in a structured environment and discuss their research. Students are provided the opportunity to get feedback on their research projects, specifically discussing methodology and data collection. A big thank you to our community partners and volunteer mentors who make this personalized learning possible for our programs.

Recent developments for Paly’s Engineering and Gunn’s Business Career Technical Education (CTE) pathway programs include Gunn electing to introduce, upon Board approval, a new course, Principles of Business, to create a two-year completable pathway with its Business, Entrepreneurship, and Math course. Paly will be adding Introduction to Engineering Design (IED), a Project Lead The Way (PLTW) course, to their course offerings for the 2020-21 school year. This course has been previously Board-approved, UC-approved, and is already running successfully at Gunn.


This week, 7th grade students are taking the first-ever Districtwide Common Writing Assessment (CWA). Students have several periods to plan, draft, and write a multi-paragraph response to a grade-level, Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-aligned prompt. On the last day of the assessment, they will be revising and typing their essays using a new digital interface that the District has adapted specifically for the CWA. The interface is similar to the California Assessment for Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) secure testing browser.  

During the week of January 13, 2020, 6th graders will take the CWA, and a few weeks later, during the week of February 3, 2020, 8th grade students will have their chance to participate in the CWA. All student essays will be scored using a holistic rubric during Districtwide calibration and scoring days. Student scores will be mailed home to families 6-8 weeks after the administration dates. Teachers will use the results of these formative assessments to guide their writing instruction for the remainder of the school year.


Here’s a quick spotlight on three Special Education initiatives this week:

  1. At the December 10 Regular Board Meeting, Special Education Directors presented an overview of proposed programs (Item 5H) that the Department is working on developing to expand the current continuum of services.
  2. Interviews were conducted for the secretary supporting the Directors, as well as for a Coordinator role.
  3. The Department met with English Language Development staff to discuss special education services for English Learners (ELs).


Fifth grade band and orchestra students presented “Informances” during music class this week at all 12 elementary schools. The goal of an informance, rather than a performance, is to help parents understand the pedagogical building blocks required to play an instrument at the beginning level. At the end of each session, students taught their parents how to make a sound, hold the instrument, and play a song. Students will perform a concert at the middle schools in April. That schedule can be found here.


Fletcher Middle School opens their play, “Legally Blonde,” on Friday, December 13, with two casts and four performances.

Palo Alto Children’s Theatre

PAUSD shares a partnership with the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre. The program offers an excellent opportunity for children to enjoy the world of theatre right at their own school! Under the guidance of the Children's Theatre professional staff, students in grades 3-5 learn how to fill all the roles essential to producing a play. In addition to acting, singing, and dancing, students take on vital backstage duties, such as stage managing, handling props, or running the sound and light boards. There are no adults in the wings at a Children's Theatre outreach play. Six schools each year are chosen to participate in the outreach production. PTA serves as the liaison between the school and Children’s Theatre. Juana Briones Elementary School presents their outreach play, beginning December 12. An assembly for the school will be presented on Monday, December 16.

Visual Art

The Paly Glass Program offers its Fiery Arts Winter Glass Sale on Friday and Saturday, December 13 and 14, at Palo Alto High School. You’ll be in awe of the students’ talents and be sure to find a gift or two . . . for yourself or a friend!

Department of Equity and Student Affairs


In our efforts to address the gaps in achievement among historically underserved and under-resourced students, the office of Equity and Student Affairs is in the process of designing a model After-School Program. Beginning in January, we will be offering both general education and special education students from low income households one-on-one on demand tutoring. We have partnered with FEV Tutor for an innovative approach to deliver students live one-on-one supplemental support using a virtual platform. FEV allows students to seamlessly work one-on-one with a qualified tutor during the school day, after school, on weekends, or anywhere in between. FEV Tutor will work closely with our Student and Family Engagement Specialists and school staff to tailor tutoring support to needs. Tutoring methods include:

FEV Tutor joins the PAUSD support lineup which also includes the existing Tutor Corps program. Tutor Corps is in its third year running and arose out of the MATD Recommendations. The program provides free one-on-one tutoring after the school day in the academic subjects of English or mathematics. Over 15 middle school students are receiving services. At the high school level, the goal of the program is to support first generation students in A-G courses. 


Registration is open for the next offering of Parent Project Adolescence and Loving Solutions. Both weekly groups provide parents with practical tools to strengthen family unity and relationships and for managing challenging behaviors. Parent Project’s Adolescence focuses on parenting strategies and managing the behaviors and challenges of children ages 10-17 and Loving Solutions addressed the needs of children ages 5-10. Former participants report appreciating the curriculum, discussions and belonging to a cohort of other parents. 

Parent Project is taught by instructors from both the Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) and PAUSD in both English and Spanish. For more information, please contact Agent Brad Young at 650-329-2274 or Lissette Moore-Guerra at 650-329-3722 or visit the Parent Project website to register. There is a cost for participating in this program, and financial aid is available.

  • Adolescence Program
    Every Thursday starting January 16, 2020, and ending April 2, 2020
    6:00-9:00 p.m., a light dinner will be served
    Location: 1700 Building at Palo Alto High School, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306
    Childcare is available on-site for toilet trained children ages 3 to 13.
  • Loving Solutions Program
    Every Thursday starting January 23, 2019, and ending April 2, 2020
    6:00-8:00 p.m., a light dinner will be served
    Location: 1700 Building at Palo Alto High School, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306
    Childcare is available on-site for toilet trained children ages 3 to 13.


It was “Stress Less Week” at Gunn! The Wellness Center hosted a series of events throughout the week to support students in engaging in self-care and non-academic activities throughout the week. Students created their own lip scrubs, sensory bottles, and trail mix. On Wednesday, December 11, after school Reach Out, Care, Know (ROCK) brought a small petting zoo to students to destress by way of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). Finally, on Friday students chose one Source of Strength (SOS) to represent from the SOS color wheel and dress in the corresponding color to show where they pull strength from.  

Paly Wellness sponsored a “De-Stress Fest” all week before finals! Students were encouraged to take time to relax and enjoy activities during lunch. Events included: unwinding with popcorn and Pinterest, coloring and watercolor painting, creating cards for kids who are in the hospital, making Do-It-Yourself (DIY) stress balls, decorating cookies, and AAT with barnyard animals on Friday, provided by Animal Assisted Happiness. 

The Paly SOS Program continues to host open meetings, held every second Tuesday during Tutorial and every fourth Thursday during lunch. These meetings are open to all members of our campus community and invite attendees to come share and hear each other’s stories of hope, help, and strength. Each meeting begins with a guest student or staff speaker sharing their personal experience with struggle and the sources of strength that helped them through it. The speaker then poses a related topic or question for attendees to discuss with each other in small groups, giving everyone a chance to share their own thoughts and experiences with struggle and strength. These meetings are a great opportunity for students and staff to foster authentic connections and be reminded that they are not alone in the ups and downs of human experience.


PAUSD is conducting its biennial administration of the California School Climate, Health, and Learning Surveys (CalSCHLS). The CalSCHLS is comprised of the CHKS, the California School Staff Survey (CSSS) and the California School Parent Survey (CSPS). The CHKS was conducted for students in grades 5, 7, 9 and 11 and site staff members across the District.

The survey window for parents opened this week and will continue through December 20. Each family with enrolled PAUSD students has received an email with the survey information and will be receiving a text next week with the survey link for their students’ school site. Each family can complete one survey per school regardless of the number of children enrolled in that school. Paper copies, as well as Mandarin and Spanish versions of the survey, are also available at the school sites and at the in-person events that the District is hosting. 

In an effort to increase accessibility and continue providing opportunities to engage and connect with parents, the District will host multiple family outreach events to encourage participation in the survey. All events will have computers loaded with the survey.   

  • Greene Middle School (750 N. California Ave) – December 9 and 17, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Barron Park Elementary (800 Barron Ave) – December 10 and 19, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
  • East Palo Alto YMCA (550 Bell St, East Palo Alto) – December 18, 7:00-8:00 p.m. 

PAUSD has administered the CalSCHLS since 2003 as a crucial method to gather important data on student safety, engagement, and connection in their school community and students’ physical and psychological well-being. Parents are encouraged to participate and review the survey questions on the CHKS PAUSD Website. The survey administration is supported by the Department of Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA). Use of the data by school leaders, staff, and District committees typically begins in the late spring when results are delivered by the state.

Technology Department


"But I need the computer to do my homework!" says the kid whose parent just told them to get off the device. So, how do we find balance with screen use when kids need devices to do homework, and how do we know they're really using the device to get schoolwork done?

As schools increasingly require kids to go online, use apps for practice, or collaborate on shared documents, we find ourselves stuck between screens and a hard place. Since we're keeping tabs on their "just for fun" device use, it's also OK to ask questions about the tech they're using for school: What's it for? Why that product? How long should it take? Then, we need to set some expectations around the balance between the "must-dos" and "may-dos" of screen use. So, if there's an evening when they have to be on the computer for a while to write a paper, it might not be the night for an hour of Fortnite. Also, to avoid the sinkhole of multitasking and wasted time, it can help to have kids do homework in a public place in the home and put other screens in another room. And since even the comments in Google Docs can turn into an off-task chat, having a parent nearby—and walking through the room occasionally—can help. Finally, since sleep is so important, have a set bedtime that takes precedence over homework, which helps kids get the rest they need and may cut down on endless procrastination.

Business Services


During November, Ohlone's first full-size solar power array was installed. The 65kW system sits on top of the roof of the two-story building. This array is the fantastic result of an Ohlone 4th and 5th grade class project to try and bring clean, reusable energy to the Ohlone campus. This solar array is an important contribution not only to the Ohlone campus, but to the entire Palo Alto community. As Palo Alto works to meet its goal of completely abandoning natural gas as an energy source, there is a growing demand on the electric grid. Because Ohlone campus now generates a significant amount of its energy onsite, the Palo Alto grid is able to take on the increasing load as residents move away from natural gas, and purchase electric vehicles, too.  

After the finishing touches are put on the array, it will be possible to get daily information about the production of the Ohlone solar array here. Any student or staff member can log into this portal using the following credentials: Username: Palo Alto Schools Password: PaloAltoPV

Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) Department


The 2019 California School Dashboard (The Dashboard) has been publicly released. The Dashboard provides parents and educators with meaningful information on school and District progress so they can participate in decisions improving student learning at their site. Scores are reported for chronic absenteeism, suspension rate, graduation rate, college/career readiness, English language arts, and mathematics. These gauges and colors are based on the most recent outcomes from the 2018-19 school year, as well as whether these outcomes represent a positive or negative change in the measure. You can view PAUSD’s 2019 dashboardhere.

The Dashboard indicators are used extensively in the LCAP, School Plans for Student Achievement (SPSAs), and the PAUSD Promise. An overview of the results will be presented at the Board Regular Meeting on January 14. REA is also preparing materials to help principals review 2019 Dashboard data with their site councils.