March 22, 2019

Superintendent’s Office


Talks with Stanford University resume soon. We are in the final stages of approving a third-party facilitator. Discussions will remain confidential until an understanding is reached. If no understanding can be reached, we will communicate that fact. There is no provision for Stanford and PAUSD to strike a deal at this point. Our best scenario is agreement to support and endorse a revised submission from Stanford to Santa Clara County. We will discuss our Board Resolution requesting preservation of our neighborhood schools, one-time money for school construction, and an on-going source of funds attached to the actual number of students generated by the new housing.


Creating the A-G report has remained a challenge. Questions have resurfaced about the intent of our graduation requirement in general. I am not convinced that our policies have the clarity required to give precise direction. Components of the work point to a desire for all students to begin their high school path with a goal of A-G eligibility. Going deeper, it appears that there are "jumping off" points for several reasons. The widely-embraced understanding is that our graduation requirement is more aligned to A-G course completion than A-G eligibility. It is also possible to exceed A-G eligibility and not meet our local graduation requirements.  

A tremendous amount of work went into the A-G report from many people. I believe we are much closer to addressing some of the real root causes for our historic difficulty articulating current state and future corrections. As a former high school principal, I think there may be more value in immediately taking steps to mitigate letter grades of D's and F's. We have 100% confidence in our ability to pull the D and F reports. If this was our area of focus, the A-G data would improve also.  


The PAUSD Promise is coming before the Board on the next agenda. Our area of focus is District Office Operations. After nearly a year on the job, I have identified some areas where our structural barriers are self-imposed. Organizational clarity has not been a strength in the recent past. We have deviated far from traditional structures that are more intuitive and appropriate to manage the daily business of running a school district. Many middle management positions lack the authority to make and own decisions. This drives routine decisions up the ladder, reducing the ability of senior management to set direction globally. This is all correctable.  


We will present our staff housing survey data to the Board at our meeting. The interest for potential housing in Palo Alto was stronger than we expected. With many school districts around us heading in this direction, this is a topic worthy of our time for discussion. 

Education Services


On March 20, the Family Engagement Specialist (FES) Program, Palo Alto Council of PTAs (PTAC), and Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Special Education jointly sponsored a Pacific Islander Community dinner from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the District Office. After dinner, PAUSD staff offered parents three workshops focusing on A-G College Readiness, Navigating Infinite Campus, and Special Education in PAUSD.


The Saturday Academic Boost and Empowerment (SABE) Program will expand on March 23 with the launch of an elementary program and an expansion of the original middle school program. SABE is funded by the Low Performance Student Block Grant through the California Department of Education (CDE). The grant is one-time state monies intended to target students who score 1 or 2 on the annual California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) assessment.

Students will rotate among three classes: Bridges Intervention and DreamBox; enrichment in art or science; and critical thinking, math applications through games, and test taking strategies. The interactive program is both computer-based and teacher-led. Teachers are able to view student progress and identify, in real-time, areas of student need in order to provide individualized instruction.

JLS Middle School will also launch a SABE program that will focus on 6th grade math and literacy. The program is modeled after the SABE program at Fletcher Middle School. Student Nutrition Services is supporting the Saturday Academic Boost and Empowerment (SABE) program by providing students with brunches and/or lunches.


Academic Supports staff will be taking 40 middle school students to the ALAS Conference on March 23. The primary purpose of this conference is to promote the expansion of a college-going culture among Latino youth living in Santa Clara County.


In January 2019, the Innovation and Agility Department applied for the California Career Technical Education (CTE) Incentive Grant, a state education, economic, and workforce development initiative, with the goal of providing K-12 pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to transition to employment and postsecondary education. PAUSD has been awarded $321,826 for the 2019-20 school year. This fund will be used to continue to support CTE, build career exploration throughout high school and beyond, and provide equipment upgrades. 

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


For their March SEL Trends publication, CASEL chose to highlight different school districts, including PAUSD, across the country that are embracing SEL. The write-up is available online and it highlights the great work being done at our high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools when it comes to SEL.


PAUSD high schools will host their first Challenge Days on April 9 and April 10 at Paly and Gunn, respectively. One-hundred student leaders from each school will attend the all-day on campus workshops focused on improving school climate through developing social and emotional awareness and skills. The Challenge Day Program is a 30-year-old national program designed to engage participants in experiential exercises to build internal insights, empathy for others, and a sense of belonging and community through connection. The program also helps develop student leadership and improve school climate and culture by honoring the diversity of student experiences and building participants understanding and compassion for each other. Thank you to the Palo Alto Kiwanis Club for the support in bringing this program to our high schools! 


Wellness & Support Services Department and Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) have partnered to increase the parenting supports PAUSD offers in native languages and are offering a ten-week parenting workshop series, “Inter-Cultural Dialogue,” in Mandarin. An AACI Therapist facilitates the research-based workshops designed to help families navigate the generational and cultural differences in their families.This week’s workshop focused on the challenges immigrant families can face. The workshop featured a father and son who shared their experience on how they worked through conflict to strengthen their relationships.

Upcoming Workshops in this series:

  • March 28 – Child and adolescent development and parenting styles
  • April 11 – Providing structure and reinforcement
  • April 18 – How to use rules, consequences and punishment
  • April 25 – Review and practice listening, empathy, and build connection
  • May 2 – Parenting skills in practice
  • May 9 – Parents managing their stress and emotions
  • May 16 – Revision, celebration, and completion

Spaces are still available to join the weekly workshops offered in Mandarin on Thursday evenings from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. through May 16 in the Greene Middle School Library. For more information or to save your place, please RSVP on Eventbrite.


Gunn High School’s Sources of Strength Team will present elements of the program at JLS Middle School on Monday, March 25, at 6:00 p.m. Staff and student program leaders will explore aspects of our Sources of Strength with our middle school parents and students to prepare them to be upstanders in high school. The program supports in creating student peer leaders on campus that facilitate a variety of activities throughout the year to foster wellness, thoughtfulness, and overall positive school climate. Attendees will interact in small groups with peer leaders around four of the program’s pillars, including: mental and physical health care and access, family support, and healthy activities. The program also includes four additional themes of generosity, spirituality, positive friends, and mentors.

Paly held a similar Sources of Strength Parent Night on February 28. Attendees learned how the program helps students maintain their well-being by developing coping skills and promoting help-seeking. The highlight of the evening was the opportunity for parents to meet in smaller groups with 2-3 students sharing some of their struggles. Students also shared the role various Sources of Strength have played in helping them cope with and work through those struggles. Parents then had the opportunity to share their own thoughts and experiences with the students and engage in a very open, mature, and vulnerable dialogue that modeled the way healthy interactions between students and parents can look like. A couple of parents reactions to the evening: “A takeaway is to ask my child how she's doing and to remember we are not that far unlike each other” and “The students who shared their personal stories were so brave and well spoken! It helps to hear from them what their struggles and opinions on Paly life [are].”


On March 19, thirty-four PAUSD students attended this year’s Job Fair. The students had an amazing time – dressed to impress, including hire-ready smiles and firm handshakes. To prepare for the event every student attended a workshop and also prepared their resumes. 

Thank you to the support staff who attended. They did an awesome job helping students navigate the job fair while promoting independence. Thanks to them this was a more meaningful experience for our students.  

Technology Department


On Wednesday, March 20, Adobe Education hosted the event, "Preparing Students: Cultivating Creative Problem-Solving Skills" at Adobe's headquarters in downtown San Jose. Over 30 PAUSD teachers and staff were able to participate in this outstanding professional learning opportunity. Participants first attended a panel discussion focused on the creative problem-solving skills needed in education and for the future workforce. Panel members included: Laura McBain from the Stanford; Esther Wojcicki, PAUSD teacher and founder of Global Moonshots in Education; Patrick Hoy, Product Marketing Manager from Adobe; and Ginny Borelli, Senior Manager from LinkedIn. Immediately following the panel discussion, PAUSD educators received three hours of hands-on training from Adobe employees on two apps that have multiple educational uses, Adobe Spark and Adobe Premiere Rush CC. PAUSD participants are thankful for Adobe's hospitality, partnership with educators, and dedication to improving educational outcomes for teachers and students. 

PAUSD staff participates in Adobe Educator event