February 28, 2020

Superintendent’s Office


Earlier today District officials received a report that a parent of two PAUSD students may have been exposed to COVID-19. As a precautionary measure, the District immediately took action and the two students were sent home and will be excluded from attending school until we receive more information. One child is a Paly student and the other attends JLS.

It is probable that additional reports will be received by the County Health Department and other entities during this time. PAUSD has formed a core team designated to assess and provide information on updates as received.

As mentioned yesterday, we are continuing to follow the guidance of the California Department of Public Health and the CDC.

We recognize that the unknown can be concerning and will continue to provide regular updates as we have them.


The following items are tentatively scheduled for the next two meetings:

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

  • Equity Snapshot (Report)
  • Capitol Advisors Legislative Update (Report)
  • Facility Rentals Community Tool (Report)
  • Appointment of High School Principals (Consent)
  • Second Interim (Action)
  • Science – Middle School Instructional Materials (Action)
  • Professional Development Plan and Budget (Discussion)
  • Budget Assumptions (Discussion)
  • College and Career Indication Report: CTE and Dual Enrollment (Information)
  • Suicide Prevention (Information)
  • 2 Year Persistence Rates and 6 Year Graduation Rates for College (Information)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 

  • Equity Snapshot (Report)
  • LCAP Stakeholder Engagement (Report)
  • Panorama Survey - Homework (Report)
  • Title IX (Report)
  • Declaration of Need – Tie-Breaking Criteria (Discussion)
  • Budget Assumptions (Discussion)
  • Special Education Priorities, Actions, Budget Considerations (Discussion)
  • PAUSD Promise (Discussion)


The Educational Services team is hard at work to streamline the PAUSD Promise 2.0. The plan will be more integrated and focused on the students who need us most. 


Our Chief Business Officer, Carolyn Chow, met with staff members from Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors representative, Joe Simitian's office. Supervisor Simitian has secured land in Palo Alto from the County for the purpose of housing staff members. Originally, the concept was to house 60 staff members from five districts at an expense of $600,000 per district. PAUSD identified a funding source and took action to explore the concept further once details emerged. The property sits on Grant Avenue, about a block from California Avenue.

Key takeaways from Ms. Chow's meeting include:

  • No substantive developments over the last few months regarding clarity of details.
  • A significant donation from Facebook has no impact upon our per unit price, growth of PAUSD available units, or benefits to Santa Clara County residents.
  • Twenty-two displaced San Mateo County employees will have rights to housing units in Palo Alto with no funding provided by their home districts, including private and charter schools. Districts described as the "Ravenswood area" are not the Ravenswood School District. 
  • The pledge of $3 million from the City of Palo Alto will not supplement the contributions of PAUSD in any way.
  • The original 60 units have apparently grown, although there is no commitment to increase the PAUSD allocation beyond 12 units.
  • PAUSD has been clear from the start that 12 units is unacceptable and anything less than 36 units would likely result in no recommendation from staff to pursue a partnership for a project built within our own school district.
  • It is possible that the housing project could accommodate roughly 100 employees from outside Palo Alto in the heart of Palo Alto.

The staff will continue to monitor developments and provide updates as they become available. While small school districts are embarking on housing developments 20 times larger than the 12 units currently allotted for PAUSD, the benefits of the current proposed allotment does not warrant a diversion of our focus or resources.  

Education Services


Every teacher and principal know that students who struggle to meet academic benchmarks should be offered extra support, above and beyond the first best teaching strategies in their classroom. Over the years, PAUSD elementary schools have been implementing a variety of different support strategies to help students reach benchmarks. Well-meaning and hardworking educators have tried a variety of intervention programs over the years, and yet, we continue to struggle to determine what interventions work the best and whether or not they are working.  

Over the past ten years, PAUSD elementary principals have prepared and submitted an annual Response to Intervention (RtI) plan to the Director of Elementary Education. The plan outlined the Tier 2 interventions to be implemented at school sites during the year and set a group goal for the program. At the end of the year, a final report was written by the principal, submitted to the Elementary Education Department, with little to no trend analysis.

In the 2017-18 school year, the elementary principals formed a Professional Learning Community (PLC). This group was formed to look at student supports that have been implemented to determine the most effective strategies in order to help students reach academic benchmarks. This PLC work led to the development of a common School Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) goal for all elementary sites.

The team of PAUSD elementary principals will examine the impact of reading interventions on the 2016-17 kindergarten cohort, so that all students not identified for Tier 3 intervention, will reach grade level Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) benchmark by the end of 3rd grade.

When it came time to look at the interventions for the Kindergarten cohort, the principals recognized that every school implemented something a little different and it was difficult to determine with confidence, the effectiveness of any one intervention program. Goals for students were still generally vague, and one group measurement was used to track success for the group as a whole. Tracking of student progress from year-to-year was also difficult, as much of the data was not easily accessible in a single document.

The Principal PLC group decided that a common tool for collecting data was needed. Working with elementary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) and the District Technology Support Department, a tool began to take shape. Over the last three years, with input from the sites and principals, this tool has been upgraded to become an instrument that provides more specific and strategic data. The tool now allows for highlights of the data for easier analysis of program efficacy and continuous student progress monitoring.

At first, only reading intervention data was tracked using this tool. Shortly after, math intervention data was added. Student goals were initially vague and written as a narrative. Last year, a dropdown menu of grade level, subject-specific, standards-based skills was added to the document. This year a tab to set goals for and track behavior intervention strategies were also added.

The main benefit of the tool is that the data will now be consolidated into one useful dynamic document, allowing for successful interventions to be tracked for a student over multiple years. Work to add a pre-K student data option is now being developed, and enabling the sharing of the data between schools, as a student promotes from one school level to the next, is also under consideration. Many 6th grade teachers, having heard of the elementary tool, have requested that the data be shared with them when students are promoted to middle school.

Principals are the driving force behind the improvement and implementation of best Tier 2 teaching strategies. These sustained efforts in developing a common tool allow principals and teachers to discuss the data in an in-depth, meaningful manner.  

As we move toward The Promise 2.0 work will be focused on determining and implementing the best way to serve underperforming groups of students. Having an established common tool to set goals, track implementation and efficacy of any support structure, is imperative as we analyze our efforts to support all students.


As we deepen our learning and understanding of phonics, it is important to note another piece of the reading puzzle - orthographic mapping. In other words, how students learn to read sight words (high-frequency words).

David Kilpatrick, Ph.D., a psychology professor best known for his work with students with reading difficulties, describes orthographic mapping as, “The process we use to store printed words in our long-term memory.” This requires advanced phonemic awareness, letter-sound knowledge, and phonological long-term memory; all of which work together to help us produce a long-term memory of the words we learn. Sight words and orthographic sequences of letters are anchored to pronunciations of words that are already stored in our long-term memory because we learned to speak long before we learned to read. Therefore, a student will need to be proficient in their letter-sound knowledge and advanced phonemic awareness in order for this process to work well.

Orthographic mapping is the opposite of decoding. To decode a printed word, a student uses letter-sound knowledge and blending to identify it. They don’t need to pull apart the spoken word; that is already done for them. They simply need to blend together the phonemes those letters make to be able to say the word. Orthographic mapping is the reverse process. The student has to split the spoken word into its individual phonemes, which will be anchored to the individual letters of the written word. Kilpatrick describes this process as follows: “Think of phonic decoding as going from text to brain (part to whole, phonemes to words) and orthographic mapping going from brain to text (whole to part, oral words to the individual phonemes that make the word.)”

As we delve into this work with students, we want to highlight a valuable resource that supports the Units of Study in Phonics. The Units of Study in Phonics, K-2 Scope and Sequence, was created by Teachers College to assist teachers in the planning and implementation of a year-long phonics program. Kindergarten and 1st grade have five units and 2nd grade has four units for the year. Each unit consists of 17-20 sessions, separated into concepts about print, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, word knowledge/word solving, phonics, and high-frequency words (sight words); in addition to word structure, vocabulary, and conventions introduced in second grade. Teachers can access this resource through Heinemann’s website and the February edition of TOSA Tips.


The Innovation and Agility Department hosted its last student/mentor forums for the Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) program at Paly and Gunn this week. These last Mentor/Student Forums prepared our students to conclude their research projects. During the forum, students worked with their mentors and discussed data collection and various challenges. We thank our community partners and volunteer mentors who make this personalized learning experience possible.

Paly’s Career Month started this week and will continue through March 5. We are grateful to the many industry leaders participating in sharing their experiences, which help our students discover various paths to success and post-secondary opportunities. There are 15 speakers from a wide variety of industries, from business to social work. Learn more by visiting Paly’s website.


Over the last few weeks, we provided some background on the Middle School Common Writing Assessment (CWA) and shared the results of a study that the Department of Research, Evaluation and Assessment (REA) conducted last year into the site-specific CWAs previously administered at JLS and Fletcher Middle Schools. We have also written about the development of the new Districtwide CWA and explained how cross-site teacher teams came together to thoughtfully create common prompts, sources, rubrics, administration instructions, and other materials. This week we will briefly discuss the connection between the CWA and the PAUSD Promise.

  • The administration and scoring of the CWA is directly tied to the High Quality Teaching and Learningsection of the PAUSD Promise. As such, it constitutes one step toward implementing aligned instructional practices. The CWA parallels several key strategies under the Instructional Practices category:
    • Analyze formative data to inform instructional next steps: Teachers will be examining student scores on the CWA and using those scores to inform their writing instruction for the remainder of the year.
    • Ensure course-alike teams of teachers have common formative assessments: The CWA is a Districtwide common formative assessment, constituting a shared experience for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English teachers and students.
    • Ensure course-alike teams of teachers have common grading practices…and scaled rubrics: During the Districtwide calibration and scoring days, course-alike teachers from each middle school have had a chance to discuss what grade-level proficiency in argumentative writing should look like. They have relied on a common PAUSD rubric to calibrate their writing expectations.

Thus, the CWA is closely connected to the instructional strategies called out by the PAUSD Promise. Coming together to administer and score a common formative assessment provides fertile ground for establishing common expectations across the District. Stay tuned for the final installment in this series, which will be focused on projected next steps.


The Middle School Science Textbook Advisory Committee reached an important milestone in ongoing work to evaluate instructional materials for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. They presented their findings and recommendation to adopt Amplify Science to the Board this past Tuesday, February 25. Amplify Science has a unique approach to using science phenomena lesson design, literacy development, and online features. In addition, the committee recommends a phase where teachers adapt the curriculum by exploring the Gizmos simulations that can extend learning, and by designing or adapting hands-on learning that builds on Amplify storylines. Board members asked important questions about the importance of hands-on learning and building literacy for all students.


HS Science Textbook Advisory Committees are currently meeting to evaluate materials for Advanced Placement Biology, Advanced Placement Chemistry, and Advanced Placement Environmental Science. Along with teachers and administrators, seven Gunn and Paly students are participating on the three committees. Membership is still open to interested parents or community members. To learn more about this effort, please contact Secondary TOSA, Tammy Wallace.

Department of Equity and Student Affairs


  • Tuesday, March 24, 6:00-7:30 p.m., “Supporting Healthy Gender Development in Our Elementary-age Children” at Walter Hays Elementary School, Multi-Purpose Room.
  • Wednesday, March 25, 3:30-6:30 p.m., “Be Sensitive, Be Brave: Mental Health” will focus on building community responsiveness and cultural sensitivity on mental health and mental illness. Please RSVP on the Eventbrite page. Sponsored by The Project Safety Net Team (PSN) together with Santa Clara County Suicide Prevention Programs and Palo Alto University at the Cubberley Community Center- Room H1, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.
  • Wednesday, March 25, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Family Talk Workshop: “What Am I Feeling?” at Board Room in the District Office. This workshop is recommended for 7th and 8th graders and their families to discuss brain development, strong emotions, values, sexting, sexuality, sexual behavior, and consent.
  • Thursday, March 26, “Families Connecting Across Generations Workshop” Sponsored by Wellness and Support Services with Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI). This is an 8-week workshop educating families on preparing for their children's future with culturally focused parenting for more information contact Yifan Wang, AMFT, at 650.329.3999 ext. 6975 or via email. Look for registration steps through Eventbrite in the near future in your inbox. 
  • Saturday, March 28, “Beyond the Books,” a youth-led conference for parents on how to support their children’s success.


On Wednesday, February 26, members from Wellness & Support Services attended the Safe and Welcoming School Network at the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE). Districts from around Santa Clara County participating in the school-based suicide prevention partnership came together for a mid-year check-in with the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department’s Suicide Prevention Program. At this meeting, we reviewed recent data from the partnership, discussed experiences across districts with Kognito, and learned about upcoming suicide prevention and mental health training resources.  

On Wednesday, February 26, members of Wellness & Support Services also participated in an online training sponsored by the County of Santa Clara Office of LGBTQ Affairs and the Behavioral Health Services Department, called: “Step In, Speak Up.” This 30-minute interactive online training allowed users to gain exposure to LGBTQ+ terminology and participate in simulated conversations. Users learned how to respond to biased language, address harassment in the classroom, and support a young person experiencing mental health issues, including suicidal ideation. In addition to the above training, the team participated in a presentation by Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE) on data trends, resources for districts, grant opportunities to expand tobacco prevention support, as well as share out alternatives to suspension interventions for tobacco-related education code offenses.  


Paly and Gunn’s Wellness teams collaborated over the weekend to present a workshop at the Family Leadership Summit, “Fortaleza Fuera del Salón: Criando hijos triunfadores” (Strength outside the classroom: Raising triumphant children). Staff discussed adolescent development, promoting resiliency, and ways to cultivate a supportive relationship based on the Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships Framework. 

In the second semester, Paly’s Wellness team is working in the Living Skills classes to do workshops around healthy relationships, with an emphasis on friendships as well as romantic relationships.

On March 4 and 5, our outreach worker will be visiting five classes to conduct interactive workshops about identifying healthy and unhealthy characteristics of relationships, and a how-to on a “gut check” as they identify them in different scenarios. 

In collaboration with Bring Change to Mind and ROCK, the Gunn Wellness team is hosting Mental Health Awareness Week in an effort to reduce stigma around mental health and promote resilience and community in our students. Throughout the week, students will be taking part in art activities, student and staff panels, and a Wellness Fair to support students in normalizing experiences with mental health.


On February 20, the District welcomed over 70 families from East Palo Alto who entered the Tinsley lottery and secured placement for their entering transitional kindergartner, kindergartener, 1st grader or 2nd grader in the 2020-21 school year. The event was at the District Office and included dinner, childcare, and translation for families. Miguel Fittoria, a PAUSD alumni was the guest speaker. Executive cabinet, elementary principals, and school PTA presidents attended to welcome the families. It was a great event that happens annually. After the guest speaker presentation, families were given information on how to stay enrolled in the Tinsley program, access bus services, and who to contact for questions and concerns. Once families are officially enrolled, they have all the same rights as resident students.

For more information about the Tinsley program and lottery, please visit the San Mateo County Office of Education, coordinators of the program.

Human Resources


Our second Wellness Wednesday was a success with former Hoover teacher Raquel Friedman teaching an energetic spin class in the Paly Peery Center on February 26. 

Wellness Wednesday Wellness Wednesday - Group Picture

We look forward to our next class, Creating Art for Health and Wellness on March 25 hosted by the Art Department. The workshop, led by Kate McKenzie and Emily Marshall will focus on giving artistic form to your own stories of importance. Using art to explore personal stories can help bring awareness and give voice to areas of our lives that may shape our well-being.


The Human Resources Department is excited to announce the second annual PAUSD Career and Advancement Fair which will be held at Palo Alto High School in the Peery Family Center Gym on Saturday, March 14. The Peery Center will be open from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Interviews and other activities will take place from 12:00-2:00 p.m. Thanks in advance for supporting our efforts to recruit and retain an excellent workforce in PAUSD.

Safety and Emergency Preparedness


We are delighted to have hosted our first School Safety Advisory Group (SSAG) meeting yesterday. The SSAG is composed of interested parents, teachers, students, administrators, and health professionals who will help to provide a valuable community, parental, student, and employee perspective regarding issues and concerns related to school safety and security. The SSAG represents all four neighborhood clusters in PAUSD and will make recommendations for consideration to PAUSD stakeholders. If you would like to see an update on what the Safety, Security, and Disaster Preparedness Office is doing, you can watch this quick snapshot video from our YouTube channel. Thank you for helping to keep PAUSD safe!