January 25, 2019

Superintendent’s Office


The upcoming Board agenda contains many routine items and a few of widespread interest, including:

  • Closed Session
    • Anticipated Litigation – Stanford University General Use Permit (GUP) Environmental Impact Report (2nd time)
  • Report
    • PAUSD Promise (District Plan) Recap – Staff will summarize components of the PAUSD Promise, outlining some of the key components and incorporating some of the first suggestions provided by the Board of Education. Revisions to the work will include the addition of the California Department of Education (CDE) Data Dashboard as a measurement of student achievement. The plan should still be considered in draft format at this point.
  • Action
    • 231 Grant Avenue PAUSD Staff Housing – The Board will provide direction regarding the Santa Clara County staff housing proposal at 231 Grant Avenue in Palo Alto.


Improving the experiences for students requires looking at current situations with fresh eyes. Our team spent time together evaluating bussing schedules for students coming to us from East Palo Alto. A careful review demonstrated that most students spend roughly an hour in bus commute each direction every day of the week to attend PAUSD schools.

The most eye-opening discovery today was the fact that the longest commute for students is Route C to Greendell for Transitional Kindergarten (TK). These students are four years old and potentially board a bus as early as 6:56 a.m. In the worst cases, the same four-year-old students are delivered to their TK class at 8:25 a.m. Three hours per day on a bus is a journey for anyone, but it is difficult to imagine that experience through the lens of a four-year-old child.

I have asked our Transportation Department to bring us scenarios to reduce bus ride times for our students. We are also adding TK classes at Barron Park and Duveneck to cover each of our three major geographic locations. If we did nothing else, adding Duveneck would reduce the daily commute of some East Palo Alto students by roughly an hour per day. This is the equivalent of 7.5 full days of time sitting on a bus per year. It is also likely that adding the two locations will increase access for students otherwise considering transportation prohibitive. We should have some options for consideration within the next few weeks.

Education Services


On Wednesday, January 23, Elementary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) presented the second in a series of Wednesday Workshops to K-5 teachers, in the area of Effective and Efficient Literacy Planning. During the workshop, teachers were given new tools and protocols to help identify teaching goals in an upcoming reading/writing unit. They spent time investigating the unit overview and mapping out each session’s teaching points. Part of the afternoon included a professional dialogue around the trends and patterns of the sessions, and identifying opportunities for small group support. Many teachers expressed that it was great to take time to plan together, and the workshop exceeded their expectations. The next Wednesday Workshop topic is, "How To Use the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) Data to Plan for Small Groups in Reading Workshop."


The Elementary TOSAs supported the 3rd and 4th grade teachers from El Carmelo on Tuesday, January 22. The 4th grade teachers spent the morning aligning the new Teachers’ Curriculum Institute (TCI): Social Studies Alive!curriculum with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) hands-on projects in social studies. For the second part of the day, the 3rd grade teachers focused on calibrating the BAS reading assessment scoring to ensure alignment. They also discussed next steps for planning individual and small group reading lessons.


Summaries of the 2018-19 AAR students’ research project descriptions are now available on the AAR website.These summaries show the project topics student researchers are working on this year with their mentors. AAR students submitted project proposals to the Instructional Review Board (IRB) in December, and have updated the proposals based on feedback they received. Now that the proposals have been approved, student researchers are in the process of collecting data and administering their projects. The results of these projects will be presented at the Celebratory Showcase in May and in students' final papers.


A three-year course of study (10th – 12th grades) on the principles of justice, equality and freedom that form our nation’s core values, will be open to all Gunn students in the 2019-20 school year. Students and their SJP cohorts will take the required Social Studies and English classes taught using a Social Justice lens. Juniors will also take AAR or AP Seminar and complete a research project on a Social Justice issue of their choosing. Seniors will take AAR or AP Research and complete an action project based on their research from the previous year.


This time of year, students from all three middle schools come together to share their music, perform with high school students, and enjoy lunch together. String students from JLS and Fletcher participated in a rehearsal with the Gunn Orchestra Directors and performed for each other. This culminated in a finale with 230 string students! At the Paly Performing Arts Center (PAC), 270 6th graders participated in a rehearsal with the Paly choir directors and performed a finale with all students making beautiful music together. In February, all 7th and 8th grade choir students will rehearse and perform an evening concert on February 20. In addition, Deke Sharon, composer, arranger, and director, will be working with the Paly Choir, in a workshop model, in the PAC at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 29.


The California State Board of Education (SBE) adopted revised Visual and Performing Arts standards, titled California Arts Standards for Public Schools, Pre-Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve. Information about the standards, including the pre-publication version of the document approved by the SBE, can be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) website.

Secondary school Visual and Performing Arts teachers met for a release day to continue work on curricular alignment. Common Learning Targets have been completed for introductory courses, and teachers are now working on upper level courses and shared assessments.

Paly Thespians participated in two competitions on Saturday, January 20, at Westmont High School in Campbell, with great results!

  • Anna Feenstra - Second Place in Northern CA Monologue competition
  • Emilia Massoudi - First Place in Monologue competition
  • Zoe Stanton-Savitz, Director of “Eurydice” - Second Place in Northern CA Play Festival

Anna and Emilia will go on to represent the California Educational Theatre Association and Palo Alto High School at California Youth in Theatre in March at the State Capitol in Sacramento.


High School History-Social Studies Materials being considered for adoption at both Gunn and Paly for the Government and World History-Contemporary World History courses are on display in the hallway at the District Office. Written public comment on the materials is welcomed and will be shared with the Textbook Adoption Committees as part of the review process, which is expected to close in late March. Each Committee is comprised of History-Social Studies teachers, an English Language Learner specialist, a Special Education specialist, an administrator, two parents, and four students.

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


Stress. Anxiety. Illness. Time. You may think these worries belong to working adults, but they are also common among college students, particularly freshmen. Stanford educatorsDrew Krafcik, Ph.D., and Amy Larimer, M.A., started gradiant, a program designed to teach students the essential tools to reduce unhealthy stress, prioritize mental health and well-being, increase belonging and connection, and ultimately articulate and create their own healthy, purposeful, and sustainable college experience. As part of PAUSD’s commitment to equity, two seniors will be awarded a 100% tuition-free college readiness program through gradient. Gradiant is not your typical college readiness approach. The 12-week program focuses on the often challenging life transition from high school to college. One senior will be selected from each high school. The program is available to all students at a cost. However, priority for scholarships will be given to students from historically underrepresented groups.

For more information, contact Yolanda Conaway, Assistant Superintendent of Strategic Initiatives and Operations, or go to gradiant's website.


As an extension of the Orientation and Mobility instruction, the Visually Impaired Program (VIP) hosted a dozen students to an ice skating event at the Winter Lodge in Palo Alto. Students ages 3 to 18 participated from six different schools in the District. Many had never been ice skating and were given the opportunity to try for the first time with their teachers, parents, and friends. Any nerves were short-lived – soon after the students made their way onto the ice, they began happily skating around the rink. Many students skated using adaptive equipment including wheelchairs, walkers, and white canes. Special thanks to the Winter Lodge staff, parents, guardians, students, teachers, and instructional aides who worked together to make this special event happen. Awesome job, VIP specialists and staff!


The Student Services and Professional Learning teams are excited about our upcoming workshops focused on gender and sexual orientation. The introductory workshop will focus on: PAUSD policies and practices for supporting LGBTQ+ and transgender students; PAUSD data; utilizing gender neutral vocabulary and practices; and creating inclusive spaces with sexual orientation, gender expression and identity in mind. The second workshop will build on participant knowledge and skills by exploring recent research from the Family Acceptance Project in understanding factors that impact LGBTQ+ youth, and establish skills for identifying and responding to harassment.

The workshops are open to all staff, and part of our New Hire Equity Workshop series. Registration and additional information available on My Learning Plan. All workshops will be at the District Office.

  • Gender Identity and LGBTQ+ 101 (January 28, 2019, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.)
  • Gender Identity and LGBTQ+ 102(February 25, 2019, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.)
  • Student Panel: Perspectives on the PAUSD Experience(March 4, 2019, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.)

Business Services


It’s time for the 6th Annual PAUSD Elementary Future Chef Competition!

While healthy eating can be a challenge for kids and parents, elementary students from PAUSD will use their creativity and culinary skills to prepare healthy recipes as part of PAUSD’s Student Nutrition Services and Sodexo’s 2019 Future Chef Competition. This year’s theme is “Fiesta Fit-Healthy Mexican Recipes.”

The national initiative, now in its 10th year, was created to get students thinking about making healthy food choices while also encouraging them to get active and creative in the kitchen.

All elementary students in PAUSD are encouraged to submit recipes in this fun and educational challenge. Recipe submission forms are available at each elementary school office and in the lunch rooms. The submission deadline is Friday, February 8.

A distinguished Food Service panel will choose recipes from each elementary school that participates to be finalists in the competition. The Future Chef Cook Off Competition will be held on Thursday, March 7, at the JLS MP/Commons Room and Kitchen from 3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Finalists will be announced the week of February 25, and will receive a chef coat and hat to be worn at the event.


The Business Office provides a monthly report to the Board which shows the cost of legal expenses for previous months and year-to-date totals. The report includes legal expenses for general matters pertaining to Education, Special Education, Business, Human Resources, Public Records Requests, and Construction, but does not include payment to legal firms used in specific investigations.