December 21, 2018

Superintendent’s Office


The next meeting of our Board of Education is several weeks away. As always, items may be added or subtracted between now and the date of the meeting. The following items are tentatively scheduled for January 15:

  • Staff Housing – Santa Clara County District 5 Supervisor, Joe Simitian, has proposed a housing project in Palo Alto to serve staffs of five school districts.  The Board will discuss the possibility of joining the program and participating in staff housing for PAUSD members.
  • Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) – Staff will present the LCAP calendar and our engagement plan.
  • Equity through Agile Teams – Our Director of Agile Teams will present some early progress regarding Equity & Access through the use of Agile Teams.


We received notice that our grant application was accepted by Santa Clara County for funding to construct a Magical Bridge playground at El Carmelo Elementary School.


A podcast and email were sent to all teachers and families requesting input for our next phase of planning. I am proposing a fifth priority goal to explicitly call out Special Education. The new Special Education priority goal will join the existing goals of High Quality Teaching & Learning, Wellness & Safety, Equity & Access, and District Office Operational Support. Responses are coming directly to me through Let’s Talk! 


We will ask the Board for a date in January for a Study Session largely dedicated to direction-setting. This meeting is historically followed by the Superintendent’s mid-year evaluation. The Study Session is conducted in Open Session with public comment. We should anticipate roughly three hours to cover the key components of the plan. As a reminder, I was asked during our first Study Session to put together a guiding plan for January. I look forward to getting the feedback of our Board and matching our future work to the needs of our students.


An article in the Daily Post regarding the GUP was interesting in a couple aspects. I have included a quote from me, and two from Stanford University’s representative, Jean McCown:

“After several sessions without any proposals from Stanford to mitigate the impact of adding hundreds of students with tax-exempt status in a community-funded school system, it became clear that any mitigation would come through a Development Agreement between Stanford and Santa Clara County,” Superintendent Don Austin told the Post yesterday (Dec. 18).

Stanford Associate Vice President Jean McCown said that the discussions with the district were “preliminary.”

“Preliminary discussions with PAUSD, prior to the start of the development agreement process, began to explore possible approaches to addressing new students generated by additional on-campus faculty and staff housing, and we expect that engagement to continue,” McCown said.

“Stanford hopes to continue to engage with PAUSD and other public education stakeholders about the 2018 General Use Permit in order to understand concerns about potential future conditions and to consider how they might be addressed,” McCown said.

We have no discussions scheduled with Stanford University. There have been no proposals from Stanford University throughout any part of our work with Stanford. They have met with some parents and our PTA without PAUSD staff.  


Our offices are closed for the Winter Break. I am running some small group meetings, but I will be “off the grid” for most of the break. 

Education Services


PAUSD Registration Services department will open Wednesday, January 9, for registrations for all new PAUSD students. Instructions, and a list of Parent Information events, are on our website. It is recommended that parents make an appointment to minimize waiting time. Additionally, they should read all of the Registration Services web pages, and may call (650) 329-3707 with questions. They may also submit inquiries to Let’s Talk! School assignments are made in the spring, with the goal to enroll students at their neighborhood schools.


In preparation for the California Department of Education’s (CDE) “CDE Perkins 101 E2” report, Curriculum & Career Education has sent out its annual CTE survey. This anonymous survey will be sent to recent PAUSD graduates during the winter break. The CTE placement data that is collected through the survey is used to help the state and our District improve our CTE program offerings and funding.


After final exams this week, one section of middle school Algebra 8 students have been exploring Bootstrap Algebra. Staff designed a three-day mini unit of Bootstrap Algebra in order to explore the integration of computer science in math. Computer science functions bridge the math ideas of rule, domain and range, and introduce the circles of evaluation. Circles of evaluation are the order of operations that translate into coding. The teacher will report the findings of this exploration to the Math Steering Committee in January.


The Middle School Science Textbook Advisory Committee voted to pilot Teachers’ Curriculum Institute’s (TCI) Bring Science Alive! in January/February, and McGraw Hill’s Inspire Science in February/March. Half of the middle school science teachers will attend training and implement the trial materials over a 10-week period. Teachers, students, and parents who implement the new materials will be asked to complete an evaluation form to gather feedback for the committee’s review and subsequent report to the Board of Education. Committee materials are posted on the PAUSD website. The pilot materials will be displayed from January through March at the District Office, and at each of the middle school sites, for examination and comments.


The Elementary Education Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA) have been out and about working with teachers at all of the sites in the area of Math Differentiation. Many teachers are delving deeper into Bridges Math curriculum to find opportunities to differentiate lessons to meet the needs of all students in the classroom. Besides the rich work that the Bridges curriculum offers classrooms, teachers are also exploring ways to integrate Problems of the Month, 3 Act Math, and Open Questions. Teachers are excited to provide the additional opportunities that enrich their math instruction.


The Elementary TOSAs worked with the Briones staff to plan their next Reading Units of Study by identifying and aligning the teaching points with the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS). This Professional Development gives teachers access to protocols that promote greater reflection on students’ reading assessment to instruct their classroom and small group instruction. Using the BAS data, teachers learn to plan out small groups that target skills and strategies within their literacy block. This Professional Development is also scheduled for the next Wednesday Workshop Series in January.

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


This week, the Special Education department continued to work collaboratively with families to build trust and partnerships supporting the whole child. We worked with Toni Smith from Gunn High School’s ReCycled program to get a bike for a student in need. We also partnered with the office of Student Services to provide school supplies for students to have a jump-start on the second semester. Our office continued to partner with Dave Hoshiwara, from the Office of Educational Opportunities, to secure appropriate placement for our students that need additional support to graduate successfully.


We continued our work on the Family Leadership Summit. A day of learning, growing, and developing together as a community to focus on awareness, access, and action. Our department is strengthening partnerships with Palo Alto Community Advisory Committee (CAC), Palo Alto Housing, and Children’s Health Council to continue our work on supporting the whole child. We will have presentations on supporting our English Language Learners, Secondary Math Options, Navigating the A-G requirements, and much more. The Strategic Initiatives team will be reaching out to external organizations, Parent-Teacher Association Council (PTAC), and Partners in Education (PiE) to gather support for this very important event. Look for the flyers around the District!


Both Gunn and Paly Wellness Centers supported students during finals week with stress-less events. These activities focused on giving students the opportunity to take a break, relax, and have some fun. Both schools were thrilled to welcome Sunnyvale’s Animal Assisted Happiness to their campuses. Animals are therapeutic in a unique way and our students LOVED having them on campus.


The spring cycle for Parent Project starts Thursday, January 10, 2019. This is a 12-week parenting skills program that provides practical tools to help parents find solutions in addressing challenging adolescent behaviors and strengthen family unity. Former participants report appreciating the curriculum, discussions, and belonging to a cohort of other parents. The program is taught by instructors from both the Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) and Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), and it is offered both in English and in Spanish.  

Enrollment for the spring cycle of Parent Project is still open. Please contact Agent Brad Young at (650)329-2274, or Lissette Moore-Guerra at (650)329-3722 for more information. There is a cost for participating in this program. 

  • What:              Parent Project Program
  • When:            Every Thursday starting January 10, 2019, and ending March 28, 2019
  • Time:              6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., a light dinner will be served
  • Location:        Palo Alto High School - Classroom 214, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301
  • Cost:               $120 per person or $155 per couple, financial aid is available

Childcare available on site for children ages 3 - 13.


Wellness and Support Services is working with middle school counselors and administrators to select 25 students to participate in the 3rd Annual Middle School Conference on Thursday January 31, 2019 from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE). The theme of this year’s conference is “Turning Dreams Into Reality” and will focus on the health and well-being of students. The goal of the conference is to help students navigate middle school, prepare for high school and beyond by developing leadership and self-advocacy skills, and empower students with the knowledge to make healthy choices.      

The Middle School Conference is hosted by SCCOE’s Safe & Healthy School’s Tobacco Use Prevention Education Program, and will include workshop presentations and resources on:  

  • Tobacco/Vape/Marijuana Use Prevention                                                                      
  • Physical and Emotional Health                                                                                        
  • Healthy Relationships                                                                                                       
  • Online Safety                                                                                                                       
  • Bullying Preventions                                                                                                          
  • Gang/Violence Prevention                                                                                               
  • Making School Safe for ALL Students                                         
  • How to Thrive in High School
  • Great Decision Making
  • Leadership and Communication Skills                                                                            
  • Youth Advocacy

Watch a video of last year’s conference featuring Greene Counselor Susan Curry who attended with students.  

The deadline for registration is Wednesday, January 16, 2019. Parents who are interested can contact their school counselor or administrator.  


Mandated vision and hearing screenings for students in Young Fives, TK, K, 2nd, 5th, and 8th grades have been completed at all sites. Children who were absent on the mass screening days will be screened during the second semester. Follow-up hearing screenings will be done 2-6 weeks after initial screening for any child who did not initially pass. Referrals for children who failed the vision screening or two hearing screenings will be mailed home to families. If you have a question about your child’s screening result, please contact Health Services


Beginning January, all 5th grade students will have the opportunity to participate in Puberty Talk. This is a five-session course, designed as an open-forum for pre-teens to ask questions and get medically accurate, unbiased information about puberty from Health Connected. Leading up to the lessons, Wellness and Support Services in conjunction with Health Connected, will be hosting three Parent Education Nights. Below you will find the schedule for each Parent Night. Parents and guardians from all sites are welcome. Puberty Talkmaterials are available for viewing at your school’s front office during regular office hours, and at the District Office in Educational Services from 8:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. Parent Night information, lesson dates, and frequently asked questions can be found on the PAUSD website.

  • Parent Night # 1: January 9, 6:30 p.m., Barron Park Multi-Purpose Room (MPR)
  • Parent Night # 2: February 11, 6:30 p.m., Walter Hays Multi-Purpose Room (MPR)
  • Parent Night # 3: April 8, 6:30 p.m., Fairmeadow Multi-Purpose Room (MPR)

If you have any questions or inquiries, please contact the PAUSD District Nurses.

Technology Department


Our 2018-19 PAUSD Parent & Guardian Technology Sessions continue throughout the spring with five additional evening events. These sessions explore issues of technology and education for home and school. Come join the conversation!