March 8, 2019

Superintendent’s Office


The Board of Education will discuss and consider several topics at the upcoming meeting, including:

  • Update of April 13, 2019 PAUSD recruitment effort
  • Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) progress update
  • Stanford University General Use Permit (GUP) update
  • Approval of positive certification of the District Second Interim (budget / finances)
  • PAUSD Promise discussion regarding High-Quality Teaching & Learning and Special Education & Inclusion
  • Appointment of auditors

We have pulled the proposed A-G report to gather more information. The report will appear on the following agenda.


The next step in the Stanford University GUP process is the Town Hall meeting with the President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Joe Simitian. Our local PTA has been fully engaged in the process and is promoting the Town Hall and pre-event rally. The rally will begin at 5:30 p.m. in front of the City Council Chambers at 250 Hamilton Avenue.

The Town Hall meeting will be taped and available on Supervisor Simitian’s website. 

For clarification, all five members of the Board of Education are allowed to attend the events and may each speak. The portion of the applicable Government Code is provided as follows:

Government Code §54952.2.  
(2) The attendance of a majority of the members of a legislative body at a conference or similar gathering open to the public that involves a discussion of issues of general interest to the public or to public agencies of the type represented by the legislative body, provided that a majority of the members do not discuss among themselves, other than as part of the scheduled program, business of a specified nature that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the local agency. Nothing in this paragraph is intended to allow members of the public free admission to a conference or similar gathering at which the organizers have required other participants or registrants to pay fees or charges as a condition of attendance.


As a reminder, Consortium 2031 is a group of seven school districts who meet twice per year to discuss common topics. The members include Palo Alto Unified School District, Eanes Westlake Innovative School District, Manhattan Beach Unified School District, Edina Public Schools, New Trier Township High School District 203, Westside Community Schools, and Highland Park Independent School District. 

The Superintendent of Schools from Palo Alto has attended one of the last nine conferences, while sending others as proxies. Due to scheduling conflicts, expense, and the practical value of the meetings, we have informed Consortium 2031 that we will not be attending future meetings. This includes the upcoming meeting in Texas. Instead, we will focus our efforts here on the PAUSD Promise and pressing issues requiring our full attention. I would expect our relationships to remain in place and that partners are only a phone call away.


After hearing comments at a recent Study Session, staff ran reports of core classes at the high school level. We broke out every section offered in the areas of English, math, science, social studies, and world languages. Instead of examining averages, we created three columns for the sake of this analysis. Sections were tallied by classes equal to or less than 25 students, between 26 and 32 students, and over 33 students. 

Between our two high schools, 401 sections contained 25 or less students; 341 sections were between 26-32 students; and only 16 sections were 33 or over. Another way of looking at this data is 742 (98%) sections contained 33 students or under.  

Preliminary examinations of our middle and elementary schools are equally positive.  This reporting structure may provide a better way of looking at class sizes than some displays used previously. 


Our representative from Landed provided an update on our employees enlisting their services for home purchase down payment assistance. The service is provided at no cost to the District and is a financial contract between Landed and interested employees. As of today, Landed has met with 88 PAUSD staff members and engaged 33 in some form of a process to pursue options. Two current employees have closed homes with the assistance of Landed. 


I receive daily updates from stories across education in California. It is a useful way of calibrating themes and examining issues facing school districts in general. I have selected a few topics that may be of interest for our Board members:

Oakland board cuts $22m from budget
On a day that saw Oakland USD teachers return to classrooms following a seven-day strike, the school board voted 4-3 to make $21.75m in cuts to help keep the district fiscally solvent. The district faces a $9m deficit this year, $6m next year and $15.7m the following year, according to an independent analysis by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, released Friday. The cuts will eliminate the restorative justice program, reduce an Asian Pacific Islander support program, lay off all five foster youth case managers, and take money away from school libraries. “When you’re talking about the structural deficit that we as a district have, we could cut everybody at the top. Everybody. And we still wouldn’t be able to cover our structural deficit,” said Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki. “So a lot more has to happen.”
SF Gate CBS SF Bay Area KTVU

Glendale board makes cuts to tackle $6.8m deficit
Glendale USD has spared two assistant principal positions and a summer middle school program from planned cuts after the school board made decisions on significant budget cut proposals last week. GUSD officials are aiming to slash $5m from their 2019-20 budget before making further cuts of nearly $2m the following year, as the district grapples with a $6.83m deficit. No layoffs are scheduled, but it is projected that 11.5% of vacant positions will not be filled in mostly administrative positions. 
Los Angeles Times

Gilroy board approves $3m in cuts
Gilroy USD’s Board of Education has approved almost $3m in cuts to the district’s 2019-20 budget, citing a continued trend of declining enrollment, lost revenue and increased costs. The district lost 250 students from its intake last year, resulting in over $2m in lost state funding. The deepest of the cuts announced was $1.2m in full-time salaries, the equivalent of approximately 12 positions. Superintendent Deborah Flores said that the staffing cuts will not require layoffs, but will be accomplished through attrition, such as retirements and resignations.
Gilroy Dispatch

San Ramon teachers OK strike
Teachers in San Ramon Valley USD have authorized their union leaders to call a strike if their contract talks are not resolved. Ninety-eight percent of the San Ramon Valley Education Association’s 1,695 members voted in favor of taking action. The key issues between the association and the district center on reduced class sizes and teacher pay. The district has offered a 3% pay raise this year, which it said is one of the highest salary offers in the immediate area for 2018-19.
East Bay Times KRON 4

Schools could be banned from ‘willful defiance’ suspensions
Schools may no longer be able to suspend students for “willful defiance” if a new bill becomes law. Kids in grades 4-8 wouldn’t be suspended for disrupting school activities or willfully defying school authorities, including teachers and staff. As part of the new bill, superintendents or principals would be asked to provide alternatives to suspension or expulsion that are “age appropriate and designed to address and correct the pupil’s specific misbehavior.” The bill’s author, Senator Nancy Skinner (D-9th District), previously talked about the need for the bill, saying: “Under this highly subjective category, students are sent to an empty home, with no supervision, and denied valuable instructional time for anything from failing to turn in homework, not paying attention, or refusing to follow directions, taking off a coat or hat, or swearing in class.”
CBS Sacramento

Sweetwater failed to heed internal auditor's reporting lapse warning
An internal auditor warned the Sweetwater Union High School District a year ago that its financial books were incorrect, six months before it publicly acknowledged problems with its finances. "Every school district is expected to regularly check that its bank statements match up with its financial records. This practice, called bank reconciliation, is important to do at least monthly because it can reveal irregularities in a district’s financial books," said Jim Westrum, a member of the Association of School Business Officials International.
San Diego Union Tribune

New law requires bus drivers to check for sleeping kids
From Friday, California school buses will have to be equipped with a special device to prevent children from being left behind. The law was introduced following the 2015 death of 19-year-old Paul Lee, who had been left on a bus for nine hours in 90-degree heat. It requires buttons to be installed in the back of every bus. After the driver pulls into the yard and shut off their bus, they are required to walk to the back of the bus and check for any remaining passengers. The button must be pushed after turning off the bus to ensure the driver walks the length of the vehicle, checking the seats. The horn then honks when the driver disarms the system.
CBS Sacramento CW31

Most California districts not ready for new science test
Students in school districts across the state may not be prepared to sit the new California Science Test in March, with most California districts yet to approve textbooks and materials aligned to the test standards. Next Generation Science Standards were adopted six years ago by the California Board of Education, with the CST piloted in 2017. Nineteen states across the country have now adopted the standards, which emphasize critical thinking, hands-on science projects, and personal investigation over rote memorization.
Lake County Record-Bee

Lawmaker aims to add SROs to all schools
Assembly Member Phillip Chen (R-OC) has introduced new legislation that would require every public school in California to have a police officer on campus. AB 750 is based on another bill proposed back in 2018 by Yuba City Assembly Member James Gallagher, which didn’t pass because of concerns about funding – it aims to have the officers in all 10,473 public schools in California as soon as this year. According to the National Association of School Resource Officers, the officers must undergo at least 40 hours of specialized training in school policing. “School tragedies nationwide are heartbreaking and we need to be proactive in protecting students,” Chen wrote in a statement. “This is common-sense legislation that will protect lives and prevent future tragedies.”
CBS Sacramento

Senator reintroduces bill calling for later school start times
A bill vetoed last year by then-Governor Jerry Brown that would require California’s middle, high, and charter schools to begin classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. has been reintroduced in the legislature. SB 328 has been refloated by State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena); the last version of the bill passed both chambers in 2018 before being vetoed. Senator Portantino argued that studies found that students perform better in school with later start times. The move has been opposed by both the California Teachers Association and the California School Boards Association, who say that school start times should be individually decided by districts at the local level.
CBS Los Angeles

Education Services


Paly Robotics participated in the Del Mar Regional last weekend and won the Entrepreneurship Award again this year, continuing their powerhouse business legacy. The build captain, Lawrence Chang, won the Dean's List Finalist Award. The team is looking forward to a strong showing in the upcoming Great Northern and Silicon Valley Regionals.


Palo Alto High School senior and co-editor-in-chief at the school’s Verde magazine, Ashley Hitchings, has been named California’s Journalist of the Year, according to an announcement made by the Journalism Education Association (JEA). Hitchings portfolio of work, from 11 areas of journalism, will now advance to the Journalism Education Association’s national contest. Winners will be announced at the JEA/National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) Spring National High School Journalism Convention in April.


The Gunn DECA team attended the State Competition last weekend. There were over 7,000 students from California high schools attending. Of the 55 Gunn competitors, 15 are Grand Award winners and are heading to Nationals in Florida in April. The Financial Literacy Promotion Project team won third place, the Entrepreneurship Promotion Project team won second place, and the Buying and Merchandising team won first place. Congratulations to all of the State Award winners and National finalists!


The Innovation and Agility Department, in collaboration with the Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) Department, vets Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) and AP Research student projects through the District’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB panel evaluates each proposal for any unethical practices or any risk of psychological, physical, legal, social, or economic harm. Per PAUSD Board Policy 6162.8, all student researchers who plan to study human or animal subjects must submit their project proposals to the IRB for approval.

The IRB is a panel of seven District and site staff, covering a wide array of expertise, as well as an external reviewer from Stanford University. IRB members are certified through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “Protecting Human Research Participants” course. For more information about IRB reviews, a chart of the timeline and review process is available here.


Fletcher 6th grade History-Social Science teachers took a release day on March 1 to engage in professional learning and to create greater consistency and coherence across classes. The morning was spent becoming familiar with part of Myron Dueck’s Grading Smarter, Not Harder (2014), and with strategies for designing student-friendly unit guides that make assessment criteria clear to students starting the first day of a new unit. The afternoon was spent applying Dueck’s strategies, as teachers created common unit guides by arriving at a shared understanding of each unit, developing content and skill learning targets, and settling on a common summative assessment for Greece, Early Man, and Mesopotamia. Teachers will be completing the remainder of their unit guides during their common prep times over the next couple of months.


The two high school History-Social Studies committees (Government and World/Contemporary World History) are wrapping up their work in choosing texts and materials for the three courses. The committees consist of History-Social Studies teachers, English Learners teachers, Special Education teachers, school administrators, students, and parents. The committees are facilitated by the District Office and are overseen by the History-Social Studies Steering Committee. Final decisions are likely by the end of March. All texts under consideration are on display in the hallway of the District Office. Public comment is welcomed.


On March 4, 50 PAUSD employees attended a Student Panel workshop to learn from high school students and alumni. Panelists were from historically underrepresented (HUR) groups who have been enrolled in our schools for a number of years. Students spoke openly about their experiences and perspectives in our schools, including what has mattered for supporting their success, as well as obstacles and roadblocks they have faced. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions of the panel and share their takeaways. One participant reflected:

“One of the most powerful experiences of my teaching career. I immediately started thinking of how I could apply what I learned from the panel the very next day at school. Thank you for this incredible experience!”

This workshop was the final offering in our Equity Workshop Series for the 2018-19 school year.


In the next three weeks, 790 band, orchestra, and choir students from Fletcher, Greene, and JLS Middle Schools, as well as Gunn High School, are traveling to Southern California to share their music with the world – onstage in Disneyland. In addition to their performance, under the guidance of a Disney Teaching Artist, students will learn how to get the most out of rehearsals and hone their sight-reading skills. Their efforts during this rehearsal will culminate in a recording of each ensemble performing Disney music, accompanied by footage from a Disney animated film. Gunn music students will also visit Chapman College, share performances with college musicians, and work with the college directors.


This spring elementary teachers will have training opportunities in computer science. This will support awareness and exploration of the new California Computer Science Standards, elementary Makerspace faculty from Barron Park will provide two elementary teacher training opportunities in April. The workshops are designed for the beginning and intermediate computer science learner. 

The first workshop, Coding K-5: Choice, Voice & Creativity, takes place on April 18. This workshop presents techniques to teachers to help move students from passive users of technology, to creators and innovators who interact with computers. Teachers who are new to coding or are just looking for ideas will explore different hands-on resources including unplugged activities, bots, and coding.

The second workshop, Scratch & Makey Makey, takes place on April 25. Scratch is a programming language and online community where individuals can create their own interactive stories, games and animations. In this workshop, teachers will build confidence and experience with basic programming in Scratch, using Makey Makey and simple materials. Teachers will also explore how to teach circuitry and conductivity. Both workshops will focus on integration into the core curriculum and, of course, having fun!


On March 4, the Visually Impaired Program hosted a Garden Project at Juana Briones Elementary. The activities centered around gardening and planting and were adapted for the students’ individual needs. Students from Paly, Gunn, Greene, Hays, Briones, and Greendell gathered for a busy morning. In preparation, they learned about the tools they would be using, took a tour of the gardens, and then got down to the wonderful business of planting. We examined our pots, which now had plants sprouting from the seeds that we had planted a few weeks earlier. We prepared our garden beds and planted vegetables. We will be back in late Spring to harvest our bounty and make a meal to share with our friends.