January 17, 2020

Office of the Superintendent


The January 23, 2020, Board of Education Study Session begins in Open Session at 5:00 p.m. The agenda is still under development, but will focus heavily on Board operations. We anticipate posting the agenda early Tuesday.

The January 28, 2020, Regular Board Meeting agenda is still subject to change until next Friday. At this time the topics are:

  • Parcel Tax 
  • Bond Change Orders 
  • Equity Snapshot 
  • Examine D/F Report to Include Actions Taken at the Site Level to Impact Student Achievement
  • Bond COC Annual Report 
  • Kindergarten/TK 
  • Chronic Absenteeism 


Newsletters are going to all families and staff members roughly every two weeks. With a few exceptions due to holidays, newsletters now go out every other Wednesday and help to keep everyone apprised of our focus areas. Many of the items are taken from our Friday updates and are selected based on anticipated value to our stakeholders.  Each also contains a section about something more global in nature. The latest edition discussed the nature of change. My favorite quote on the matter of change comes from author, William Arthur Ward, who describes change in the following:

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

We are doing a better job of adjusting the sails and getting things done. The complete newsletter can be found on our webpage.

Education Services


The Elementary Education Department has been researching various interpretations and viewpoints around literacy and the “science of reading.” As we know, reading is not simple. 

Our research unfolded two key points worth noting. First, there is no one type of study that qualifies asthe “science of reading.” A range of research is, in fact, scientific. Second, phonics is foundational to learning to read. Not only should it be explicitly taught, but taught alongside and in support of strong instruction in comprehension, fluency, writing, and vocabulary. 

PAUSD has integrated the Teachers College: Units of Study in Phonics into all K-2 classrooms. This phonics program was specifically written to align with the K-5 literacy program, Teachers College Units of Study in Reading and Writing. The Units of Study in Reading and Writing follow a workshop model allowing flexibility for explicit instruction, student choice, independent reading and writing time, and small group targeted instruction. In using these three programs, from the same publisher, students learn the foundational standards-based skills that are designed to develop proficient readers with the capacity to comprehend text across a range of types and disciplines. This provides students with the differentiated instruction needed and supports multiple learning modalities.

As promised earlier, Leslie Faust has been assigned as our point person for early literacy efforts. She is reviewing multiple sources of research in the area of reading instruction and is formulating some of the key take-away messages. We will continue to review and evaluate phonics revisions made to the existing Teachers College units and explore alternative methods of enhancing reading instructions for all students in other programs as well. As previously agreed, this is a year of study for the team beginning with the equivalent of a literature review of relevant studies. We plan to include progress information in most Friday updates throughout the remainder of this year.


The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) is a formative math assessment that is administered three times during the school year to all PAUSD students in 2nd-5th grades. This assessment is unique, as it adapts to each student’s response in order to provide a more complete picture of what the student knows and is ready to learn. This data assists teachers in monitoring academic growth in mathematics, and provides immediate information used to identify small groups, set goals during student conferences, decide on differentiation strategies, and screen for possible interventions. The mid-year informative assessment window is now open for all 2nd-5th grade students. Understanding that there may be some confusion about the future of NWEA, there are no current plans to discontinue the use of NWEA at the elementary levels.


Upon returning from Winter Break, the reimagining middle grades math team reconvened to continue working through details for multiple elements of the shifts that were reported out on at the December 10, 2019 Regular Board Meeting, Item 5G, Reimagining Middle School Mathematics. The team has a rigorous meeting schedule and is using agile strategies to pace the work ahead.

In February, all middle grades mathematics teachers will be participating in a two-day professional development training with Silicon Valley Math Initiative (SVMI) to begin working on deepening their understanding of mathematically powerful classrooms. SVMI is currently working with the team to customize these critical days to specifically address our needs as a staff in relation to the programmatic shifts beginning in the 2020-21 school year.

Regular progress updates will be communicated through the Superintendent’s Board Update, published weekly on the PAUSD website.


On Wednesday, January 15, 32 readers including teachers, administrators, and staff from across the District came together to calibrate and score around 880 7th-grade student essays using a holistic District rubric. Before Winter Break, 7th grade students took a Districtwide Common Writing Assessment (CWA). Students had multiple periods to read source materials and write multi-paragraph responses to a grade-level, Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-aligned prompt. Scores will be mailed within six to eight weeks.


On January 10 and 11, members of the PAUSD Music Department helped shape and manage the CMEA Bay Section Winter Conference at San Jose State University (SJSU). CMEA’s vision is “to ensure that all students in California have equal access to high quality instruction in music as part of a well-rounded education.”

Six staff members created and presented sessions on various topics. Angelina Fitzhugh (JLS Middle School) served as Choral Rep, and Tiffany Ou (Fletcher Middle School) served as Orchestra Rep. Additionally, the Gunn Chamber Orchestra served as the orchestra for the string repertoire reading session. PAUSD is always supported and well-represented by presenters and volunteers involved in an array of conference details. We appreciate and commend these staff members for their efforts and professionalism in going above and beyond!

CMEA Bay Section annually presents awards to outstanding educators in our region who have been nominated by their peers and confirmed by the Executive Board. Special congratulations to Michael Najar and Todd Summers! Mr. Najar, Palo Alto High School, received the Outstanding Choral Director Award. Mr. Summers, Gunn High School, received the Outstanding Music Educator Award. “Bravo!” to these outstanding music educators!

Department of Equity and Student Affairs


The Saturday program is funded by the Low Performance Student Grant through the California Department of Education (CDE). The grant is one-time monies from the state that is meant to target students who scored a 1 or 2 on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), and are not identified as special education. The Office of Academic Supports coordinates the program and will be sending invites to eligible middle school students. The winter SABE program will focus on English Language Arts (ELA). Students will rotate among three classes – English class, enrichment component, and a test-taking strategy class. Students will be provided a brunch during the day. The SABE program will begin on February 1 at Fletcher Middle School and Greene Middle School. Invitations are being sent this week for all programs. The elementary program will begin on February 1 at Fairmeadow Elementary School.


On January 11, PAUSD held an evening meeting to welcome 77 students into the District through the Tinsley program.  The students will begin in the 2020-21 school year. The meeting discusses the registration process and begins the paperwork for the students to be placed. The Tinsley program accepts students at the transitional kinder, kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade levels. Students are placed at Duveneck, Walter Hays, Addison, El Carmelo, and Fairmeadow.  Students are also eligible to enter the lotteries for Ohlone, Hoover, and Escondido. Families will be informed of the placement on February 20. The event includes dinner and an opportunity to meet the principal and staff of the receiving school. 


The Department of Academic Supports in collaboration with the Department of Maintenance Operations and Transportation (MOT) will hold two community meetings with families who participate in the Tinsley Program to discuss transportation. Data from the meetings, surveys, calls, and emails has been collected to understand the student and family experience with busing. Staff will present changes that have been made, upcoming plans and information pertinent to families regarding transportation. Translation and childcare will be provided. 

  • January  22, 2020 – District Office, Aspen Room, 5:30-7:30 p.m. 
  • February 5, 2020 – East Palo Alto, YMCA, Community Room, 5:30-7:30 p.m.


Paly’s College and Career Center hosted an orientation for juniors at the start of the second semester. US history classes brought students to the Haymarket Theater for a presentation and discussion. This builds on the information students have been learning about in Advisory the past several years. Topics included: post-high school options, types of colleges, different educational emphases and campus cultures, eligibility (including a review of the role of GPA and testing), application components, and demonstrated interest. One of the most impactful activities during each class period, was when nine students volunteered to act as applicants in the “GPA Sorting Game” which demonstrates how holistic admission at selective colleges is performed. Juniors may now schedule appointments with College Advisors for individualized post-high school planning.


The second Fifth Grade Puberty Talk Parent Night was held on Monday, January 13, with over 40 parents in attendance. Parents learned about what the California Healthy Youth Act entails and the topics of each classroom session. Puberty Talk is a five-session course, designed as an open forum for pre-teens to ask questions and get medically accurate, unbiased information about puberty developed by Health Connected.

The next Puberty Talk Parent Night is on February 27 at 6:30 p.m., in the Nixon Multi-Purpose Room (MPR). Parents and guardians from all sites are welcome. Materials are available for viewing at your school’s front office and at the District Office in Educational Services during office hours. Frequently asked questions can be found on the PAUSD website. If you have any questions or inquiries, please contact the PAUSD District Nurses.


Secondary school counselors met on January 16 to learn about new equity-focused programs, professional learning opportunities, and resources to support students and families, as well as updated protocol and procedures for Home and Hospital Instruction, 504 plans, and summer school. Counselors also collaborated on best practices for college, career, and life readiness preparation and supports for students with 504 plans or those needing additional intervention due to attendance or grades.   

Business Services


At the January 14, 2020, Regular Board Meeting, the Board of Education received information and discussed the proposal for extending the existing parcel tax measure that is set to expire at the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year. The Board reviewed the resolution calling for the parcel tax election at this meeting and will take action on this resolution at the January 28, 2020, Regular Board Meeting.

Staff has worked with Charles Heath, consultant, and David Casnocha, attorney with Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, to prepare a resolution and ballot language for a new parcel tax. The resolution and ballot language increase the current parcel tax rate by $48 to reflect a rate of $868 per year, per parcel, for six years; and continues: an optional exemption for senior citizens age 65 or older or individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI), the 2% annual inflation adjustments, and an independent oversight committee with annual audits. The terms of the proposed measure are consistent with past parcel tax proposal in the District. The ballot language states:

“To preserve excellence in academic programs, including science, math, reading, writing, arts/music with local funding that cannot be taken by the State; attract/retain qualified teachers; support at-risk students; keep class size small; shall Palo Alto Unified School District’s measure be adopted, extending its current $820 parcel for six years, increasing the rate by $48, raising approximately $17,000,000 annually with senior exemptions, 2% annual inflation adjustment, independent citizen oversight, all funds benefiting local students?”

The resolution states the measure would support the following:

  • Protect neighborhood schools’ academic excellence;
  • Attract and retain highly qualified teachers;
  • Maintain and protect strong core academic programs, including math and science;
  • Add support staff to help at-risk students who are struggling with the basics;
  • Maintain smaller class sizes;
  • Support school libraries;
  • Support professional development for staff;
  • Provide enhanced elective for high school students, including art, music and social science;
  • Maintain teaching specialists in the areas of reading, math and science; and
  • Preserve excellence in academic programs, including science, reading, writing arts, and math.

The full resolution and exhibits to the resolution can be found on the January 14, 2020, Board Meeting agenda.


PAUSD is pleased to announce a new online facility request and rental system designed to provide a positive user experience for all. With the new system, reservation requests can be submitted easily and will be handled more efficiently. Renters will be able to access photos and descriptions, see real-time availability, get estimated quotes, and pay online.

In partnering with Facilitron, PAUSD has launched custom facility use sites for the District and each school – allowing facility use requests to be submitted at any time.

You can view and request all District facilities on the Facilitron webpage.

Although the process of requesting/approval/management of facility use is now digital, what is implemented on Facilitron remains the same as the current Palo Alto Unified School District’s board policies on facility use. The District’s administrative staff makes final decisions on all facility use requests. 

Facilitron will assist with the set-up of organization and user accounts along with verification of non-profit status (if applicable). They will also collect payment and proof of insurance (certificate of insurance) on behalf of PAUSD. Payments can be submitted conveniently on their website; payment options include major credit cards, checks, ACH/eCheck, and PayPal. Proof of insurance (certificate of insurance) can also be conveniently uploaded into the system, and/or it can be obtained directly through Facilitron.

The new Facilitron system is now live for all sites. Moving forward, the only way to request use of a District facility is by creating a Facilitron account and submitting a request online. Please click here for an introduction to placing a request. For those who had reservations with PAUSD prior to Facilitron, accounts have already been created on your behalf, and an automated email has been sent to you to create a password to access your renter’s account. If you need any assistance setting up an account and/or in submitting a facility use request, you can contact Facilitron via email or by calling them at: 1-800-272-2962, Ext. 1.