January 24, 2020

Office of the Superintendent


All proposed personnel moves were communicated through multiple sources. The cleanest recap of the moves is as follows:

  • Sharon Ofek will be promoted to Associate Superintendent of Educational Services. She will be the head of the entire division Pre-K through Adult School. The move is effective next Wednesday.
  • Kathie Laurence will be appointed the new Director of Secondary Education. She will complete the year at Gunn HS before moving to serve all secondary schools.
  • Adam Paulson has announced his resignation this morning. Adam will complete the year at Paly and we wish him the very best.
  • All details about the selection process for our high school principal positions are posted.  
  • A complete organizational chart will be prepared within the next six weeks.


With a great deal of attention focused on early literacy and the teaching of reading, I have included an article that helps to explain an aspect of the issue. There is debate about the “right” way to teach reading. There is less debate about the importance of properly preparing teachers to deliver reading instruction. Our team is working diligently to address this reality in a strategic and sustainable way. We will continue to post our progress through weekly updates along the way. 

Teacher prep, equity top list of 'hot' literacy topics
The International Literacy Association’s survey comes as state chiefs gather in Washington, D.C., to discuss what some call a reading crisis.

Credit: Courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.
AUTHOR Linda Jacobson@lrj417
PUBLISHED Jan. 22, 2020

Teacher preparation programs are not adequately preparing teachers to provide “effective reading instruction,” according to 60% of the literacy educators, researchers and experts responding to this year’s “What’s Hot in Literacy Survey” from the International Literacy Association. 

And the 1,443 respondents — more than half of which are teachers — said the greatest challenge facing literacy is “addressing disconnects between the school curriculum and students’ actual needs in terms of literacy support and instruction.”

Respondents also said addressing inequity in education and instruction is the area where they need the most support, and almost three-fourths said variability in teachers’ knowledge is the greatest barrier to achieving that goal.

“The majority of teachers shoulder the responsibility for equity in education but more than half lack the support they need,” said Charmaine Riley, a spokeswoman for ILA.

The organization has been conducting the survey for more than 20 years. The respondents represent 65 countries and territories, with the U.S. and Canada among the top responding countries.

Chiefs gathering to discuss literacy
The survey results come as several state education chiefs, literacy experts and others gather in Washington Thursday to discuss a lack of growth in U.S. students’ literacy performance on both national and international tests — what some are calling a crisis. 

State superintendents from the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arkansas and Mississippi are among those expected to participate. And many in attendance are likely to be interested in what the District of Columbia Public Schools and Mississippi are doing that led to growth in scores on the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress while many states saw declines. 

U.S. results on the recent Program for International Student Assessment showed similar patterns, with higher-performing students generally improving over time and those at the lowest levels losing ground or remaining stagnant.

The gathering is "the first step in what will be an ongoing conversation among state chiefs," said Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. "CCSSO’s ultimate goal is to work with chiefs and experts in the field to create a policy brief of actions states can take to help improve student literacy skills and support states in making those actions a reality for students.” 

Training rated low
The ILA survey is also a timely preview to an updated assessment of how teacher education programs are preparing educators to teach reading. Next week, the National Council on Teacher Quality, which regularly rates teacher preparation programs on a range of topics, will release its review of how more than 1,000 pre-service programs train elementary teachers to teach children to read. NCTQ’s analysis of syllabi looked for how programs address five areas of reading instruction — phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension strategies. 

According to the survey, teachers were slightly more likely to say they were trained to teach reading using a “literature-based” approach rather than a phonics approach — 69% compared to 63%. Fifty-nine percent said their program emphasized phonemic awareness. But regardless of the method, only about a third or fewer of the respondents said their pre-service programs did an “excellent” or “very good” job teaching them that method.

Figure 1.pngOverall, 71% of respondents said the variation in teachers' knowledge and effectiveness is a barrier to improving equity. Here's how the responses vary by subgroup. |
Credit: International Literacy Association

Even though recent reports highlight the gaps in how teachers were trained to teach phonics and phonemic awareness, respondents still say using “a balanced approach that combines both foundational and language comprehension instruction” is the most important topic for building students’ early literacy skills.

In order, the other topics chosen as most critical were: 
•    Determining effective strategies for struggling readers.
•    Increasing equity and opportunity for all learners.
•    Increasing professional learning opportunities.
•    Increasing access to high-quality diverse books and content. 

Administrators also identified those as top five trending issues, but among teachers, 38% also listed systematic and explicit phonics instruction a top issue, and the same percentage included equity in the top five. In higher education, literacy professionals were just as likely to name teaching critical literacy skills and how to analyze source material among their top five as they were diverse books and content.

Respondents also weighed in on topics they think get too much attention, as well as those they say deserve more. Equity and opportunity topped the list, with 54% saying the issue should receive more attention, followed by professional learning, using a balanced approach to instruction and determining effective strategies for struggling readers. 

But two of the topics they think are receiving too much focus are digital literacy and using summative test results to determine students’ literacy skills at the end of an instructional period.

Figure 2.pngTeachers, in yellow, were more likely than administrators (green), literacy consultants (orange) and higher education professionals (gray) to say out-of-school factors were the greatest barriers to educational equity.

Administrators roles
Half of the respondents said they need more support or professional development in differentiating instruction. Eighty-two percent of the respondents said school and district leaders should provide direction, leadership and support related to professional development opportunities. More than 80% said administrators should also be responsible for “cultivating a professional learning network.”

Other key findings of the survey include:
•    Ninety-three percent of respondents said research is the “backbone of effective literacy instruction,” and 44% said they need more support keeping up with the latest research.
•    Forty-nine percent said they want more PD on using digital resources, which ILA notes is interesting considering respondents were evenly split on whether digital literacy gets too much attention.
•    More than half of respondents — 61% — said they need more time to collaborate with colleagues or discuss similar challenges.

Education Services


PAUSD continues to make strides in identifying and supporting struggling readers in kindergarten through 5th grade. The Elementary Education Department is partnering with elementary administrators, reading specialists, and school psychologists, in addition to the Special Education Department, academic support specialists (English Language Development), and elementary classroom teachers, to further revise and finalize the elementary dyslexia screening and identification process. Additionally, we are collaborating with Children’s Health Council (CHC) to enhance resources and expand community involvement. 

The elementary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) have been attending and vetting K-2 and 3-5 “Supporting Struggling Readers” workshops at the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE). The workshop series focuses on discovering the fundamental knowledge in effective standards-aligned and research-based reading and assessment practices for readers at all levels, including English Learners and students with literacy-related dyslexia, and provides specific routines for immediate use with all students. If the workshop content meets the needs of our students, the SCCOE has expressed interest in partnering with PAUSD in order to provide equitable professional development for all staff members.


The Innovation and Agility Department is hosting its third CTE Advisory meeting of the year next week. In previous meetings, the CTE Advisory focused on building a bridge between the District and industry partners, specifically tackling challenges around providing paid internships for students. This meeting will focus on equity and recruitment for the Gunn Business and Paly Engineering pathways, being introduced in the 2020-21 school year. Notes from all CTE Advisory meetings can be found on the CTE website.


Our Automotive Technology pathway students and teacher Mr. Camicia built a car that recently appeared on the TV show Jay Leno’s Garage! The pink penguin car ranked 22nd out of 165 in the race. Congrats to the Gunn Automotive Technology Program for running such a high caliber program. Follow us on social media for continued updates on all CTE programs.


Each year, PAUSD music students in grades 6-12 participate in an array of amazing opportunities to learn, rehearse, and perform with other students, nationally, and around the state. Under the direction of nationally and internationally known conductors, students prepare new music in a short amount of time, and perform for parents, colleagues, and music educators. This year, 74 PAUSD student musicians performed in at least one of 21 local, state, or national honor bands, orchestras or choirs. Check out this video link in which students share why they participated in the California Choral Directors Association honor choir.


There are still a few open seats on the committee to help with the AP Science textbook efforts. Members will evaluate sample materials, ask questions of curriculum representatives, and conduct pilots and student surveys, if necessary. Community members or students who are interested in participating on a committee should contact Laurie Pennington at Gunn High School or Erik Olah at Palo Alto High School by January 29.


After a screening and pilot phase spanning two school years, the Middle School Science Textbook Selection Advisory Committee has voted to recommend Amplify Science to the Board for adoption in classrooms next fall. The committee analyzed data from stakeholders including science teachers, middle school students, parents, representatives from Special Education, English Language Development, elementary schools, and administrators. Overall, the strong points of Amplify Science included alignment to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and cohesive use of phenomena to drive instruction, support for reading and writing, use of performance tasks, and teachers’ resources. Sincere appreciation is extended to each member of the committee for their thoughtful and thorough approach to this multi-year endeavor to build quality science instruction in PAUSD.


In late January, high school science teachers will take release days to meet to continue use of the Five Tools and Processes protocol. In this timeframe they will focus efforts on designing Performance Task Assessments that are coherent with their new instructional segments for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. These instructional segments reflect the NGSS shifts and will apply the 5E instructional model. After the collaboration to build assessments, each course will pilot a new instructional sequence this spring. A pilot phase of the remaining segments and further development of new curriculum will continue into next school year as teachers examine student work, and reflect and gather more feedback from peer observations of the new lessons and assessments.


When PAUSD books a summer training with Responsive Classroom (RC), the District receives a coaching opportunity, which consists of a day of coaching from a RC consultant to observe classrooms and provide feedback to the school on the implementation of RC strategies. Five elementary schools (Duveneck, Barron Park, Hoover, El Carmelo, and Hays) have previously benefited from this bonus day.

This week, Addison Elementary School became the sixth school to receive a one-day coaching opportunity. The consultant visited approximately 10 classrooms and then met with members of Addison’s Leadership Team to debrief.  

  • The consultant noted the following strengths at Addison:
  • Safe: Students are not just physically, but emotionally and cognitively, safe.  She had many examples of students taking risks and being their authentic selves.
  • Relationships: She had a strong sense that staff really knew the students and students knew each other well. During one of the observations, students were brainstorming about what they could be when they grew up and when one student was unsure, his peers offered many suggestions based on his observed strengths.
  • High Academics/Best Teaching Practices: In all classrooms, she observed choice, small group instruction, and strong Readers/Writers Workshops.

Overall, she was impressed with Addison’s child-centered curriculum and parent involvement/engagement.

Department of Equity and Student Affairs


As a part of the District’s focus on improving student attendance, connection, and engagement with school, Wellness and Support staff attended “School Refusal Assessment & Intervention” training in San Jose on Thursday, January 23. The focus of the training was to understand school refusal in order to identify and intervene earlier to help kids who are refusing to come to school overcome the serious emotional barriers that are impeding their school attendance. Staff will be working to bring back the most recent research and strategies to staff and families as a part of the work being done to address chronic absenteeism.

The training covered:

  • Digging deep into the motivation behind this behavior and how it’s reinforced
  • Uncovering co-morbid psychological disorders that might exacerbate the problem
  • Gaining concrete strategies for getting school personnel and parents involved
  • Creating and implementing strategic and individualized intervention plans


Paly Wellness sponsored a Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) creative competition, asking students to think about how they are carrying his legacy into 2020. Students are encouraged to create a TikTok answering the question, “What’s your 2020 Vision?” inspired by MLK. Wellness is also planning and preparing for this year’s Challenge Day, which we are excited to host on Monday, February 3. 

With the new semester in full swing, the Gunn Wellness Center is back to offering various activities during Tuesday Flex Time. This month the focus is guiding student reflection on this past year and creating goals for the current year. For the first Flex activity, students are creating drawings of trees and will follow various prompts to help reflect on the challenges and highlights of the past year, how they have grown, and the aspects of their lives they want to focus on improving. 

As a part of creating healthy goals and habits, the Wellness Center at Gunn supported an interactive seminar during Flex Time on January 22 aimed at busting myths around the use of e-cigarettes. This activity is a follow-up presentation on Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a research professor with Stanford Medicine and the developer of the Tobacco Prevention Toolkit. Many thanks to the Gunn PTSA Health and Wellness team for their collaboration to make this event possible.


The Department of Academic Supports in collaboration with the Department of Maintenance Operations and Transportation (MOT) held a community meeting on January 23 with families who participate in the Tinsley Program to discuss transportation. The meeting reviewed current needs and concerns and the District’s plan to address them. Identified gaps were discussed and staff received feedback on innovative ways to address challenges. Next steps on improving student experience on the bus were shared with staff. These included recruitment of bus drivers and monitors, aligning behavior protocols with school sites, and improving communication to families.

An encore presentation of the meeting will be held in East Palo Alto on February 5, 2020, from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the YMCA, Community Room. Translation and childcare will be provided.

The presentation used at the meeting can be found on the PAUSD website.

Business Services


You wrote to us, we heard you, and we’re trying your suggestions!

Thank you to the students in Ms. McManus’ 4th grade class at Hoover Elementary for writing persuasive argument letters to the Food Services Department concerning menu changes in the elementary hot lunch selections.

After receiving and reading their letters, the District’s Sodexo Food Services Consultant Alva Spence, reached out to Ms. McManus to set up a focus group with this group of students to get further details on their concerns and menu suggestions.

Based on the students’ recommendations, Food Services will be featuring some of their suggestions on the February menu.

Vegetarian pizza will now be a selection on pizza day on Thursdays and Fridays. The pizza will have fresh green bell peppers, olives, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. We will also be adding chicken curry over basmati rice, and a fresh fruit and cheese box with muesli bread.

Your voices do matter to us and our program! Thanks again for the great ideas. Keep an eye out for future months’ menus to see more of your ideas in action!!!


The Transportation Department is currently hiring bus drivers and offering training to individuals interested in becoming a bus driver for the PAUSD.

If you or someone you know is interested in applying, please visit the job posting online. The bus driver training information can also be found online, or contact Derek Zabaldo at (650) 329-3982 or dzabaldo@pausd.org for more information.

Human Resources


The Human Resources department is excited to introduce three Wellness Wednesday events open to all PAUSD staff free of charge. We encourage staff members to join us to connect with others and spend an hour focused on health and wellness. 

The classes offered include Yoga at JLS Middle School on January 29 at 3:45 p.m., Cycle at the Paly Spin Studio on February 26 at 3:45 p.m., and Art at the District Office on March 25 at 3:45 p.m.


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.


The Leadership Institute (LI) is a voluntary opportunity for all PAUSD employees who aspire to advance their careers within the District to gather on a regular basis for shared learning on important topics. LI #3 will be held on Monday, January 27, from 3:30-5:00 p.m. at JLS Middle School in Room 730. This session’s topic will be: “Understanding the PAUSD Budget.” Carolyn Chow, Chief Business Officer, will be leading the interactive conversation. Our LI has been well attended by both certificated and classified employees, and we welcome all interested employees to attend. 

Technology Department


Staff has been hard at work with our new website vendor in preparing the refresh of the District and all 18 school websites. In following industry best practices, we’ve been explicit about defining the primary audience for which our websites are intended: the community and the public. This definition has allowed us to reorganize content in a way that seems more logical and in line with more traditional districts’ websites, but doesn’t necessarily reflect internal organizational structures. A preview will be available within the next couple of weeks, with an anticipated launch date around mid-February.