May 17, 2019

Superintendent’s Office


The May 28 Board agenda is still a week away from posting and may undergo revisions.  At this point, we are considering the following items:

  • Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) review
  • Successes with Dyslexia instruction
  • PAUSD Promise – Equity and Excellence
  • 2019-20 Professional Development Plan
  • Budget assumptions and projected adjustments
  • Brief Middle College update


After hearing from our guest, Dr. Pedro Noguera, we were reminded of the importance of spending our time on the most important things. Our team is considering options to systematically protect a portion of the week from any non-emergency meetings for our principals and senior management. We believe dedicating a few predetermined hours per week with full commitment can dramatically increase outcomes for students. We further believe that absent a commitment for protected time, there will always be a reason to miss classroom observations and engagement with our teachers. Our principals spent their last meeting together creating equity goals that will strengthen our entire school district. The work will not advance if we allow or create reasons for our leaders to not be in classrooms. 


Interviews for vacant principal positions at Duveneck and Palo Verde took place this week. Two panels advanced top candidates to a second round scheduled for next week.


We are holding interviews for our CBO position next week. Candidates will have interviews with two panels, allowing us to broaden the number of people involved in the selection process. 


Our team is working hard to finalize our professional development plan for next year.  As planned, we have exhausted Educator Effectiveness and Common Core dollars once supporting our program. We have a little over $2 million designated for professional development by the Board several years ago. We will discuss our priorities, budget, and intended impact. 

Education Services


Elementary principals surveyed grade-level teams at their sites to determine how much screen time, connected to instruction, students are being directed to use during an average week at each grade level. The list below includes time students spend on individual devices, such as laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, etc. The times below do not include time on computers for state testing or for tier two intervention computer-based programs:

  • PK = 15 minutes a week
  • K   =  30 minutes a week
  • 1   =  30 minutes a week
  • 2   =  60 minutes a week
  • 3   =  90 minutes a week
  • 4   = 145 minutes a week
  • 5   = 175 minutes a week 

Students in the primary grades typically use individual devices to support the curriculum with educational applications and online programs. The time on individual devices increases as students move to the upper grades, for the most part due to the need to conduct research and type essays or reports.


For many years, PAUSD has had an arrangement with Cañada College to provide math classes for students who have completed the most accelerated math classes offered on campus. Cañada has offered Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra after school on one of the two high school campuses. While the Math Steering Committee is grateful for this past partnership, after careful consideration they determined that the District’s evolving partnership with Foothill College to support the expansion of Dual Enrollment opportunities makes Foothill a natural solution to address some concerns expressed about the current arrangement.

We are in the midst of working with Foothill College to offer these courses to PAUSD students in a similar manner as in the past. A Foothill instructor will be teaching the following courses: MATH 1C: Calculus (5 units), MATH 1D: Calculus (5 units), and MATH 2B: Linear Algebra (5 units). Foothill currently offers this sequence of courses to other districts’ high school students, and is excited to include PAUSD. Staffs are collaborating to finalize the logistics in order to offer a combined Paly-Gunn fall section of Multivariable Calculus, followed by a spring section of Linear Algebra.


A team of secondary administrators and teacher leaders are attending the annual Solution Tree Conference on Assessment and Grading in June. The team attending is excited to build shared knowledge and common language about the most current practices, and expand their toolkit of strategies to guide teachers with implementation of the PAUSD Promise.

In particular, the conference goals will focus on two key performance indicators in the PAUSD Promise:

  • Ensure course-alike teams of teachers have common Learning Targets; common formative and summative assessments; and that teachers communicate Learning Targets to students, both orally and in writing.
  • Ensure course-alike teams of teachers have common grading practices, with increased use of evidence-based grading; revision/retake opportunities; and scaled rubrics based on learning targets, homework load awareness, etc.

Attending as a team will support efforts in Districtwide alignment, allow administrators and teacher leaders to support one another in implementation efforts, and strengthen partnerships between District office and site-based personnel. After the conference, the team will work to create a plan to forward the work on the alignment goal at both site and District levels. 

Conference goals include a focus on ensuring student motivation and engagement through strong instruction and assessment practices. The intent of the conference is to ensure that educators leave the conference “empowered and prepared to ensure every student, regardless of background, is college and career ready.” Attendees will have the opportunity to develop a balanced assessment plan; integrate learning targets into standards-based lesson plans; ensure students are invested in their learning and how progress will be measured; and understand research-based approaches to standards-based grading and reporting.


The high school Government and World History and Contemporary World History Textbook and Materials Advisory Committees’ recommendations were presented to the Board of Education (BOE) at the Regular Board Meeting on May 14, 2019. The Board will deliberate and take action during the May 28, 2019, meeting. The Board was appreciative of the work and dedication that the committee members exhibited in order to find a recommendation. Making recommendations for high school textbooks and materials that will impact the courses for the next eight or more years is a huge responsibility, and the committee members shouldered it willingly and enthusiastically. Each of the committees met from January through late March and into April. They put in many hours studying the materials, reading passages, working through checklists, trying out samples with students, discussing the materials with department members, and exploring online components.

The PAUSD High School Government Committee members included: the History-Social Science department teachers, Jeff Patrick and Tricia Holmes from Gunn, and Adam Yonkers and Mary Sano from Paly; two parents, Jing Wang from Gunn, and Merrilee Soohoo from Paly; one Special Education teacher from Paly, Mark Wilkinson; one English Language Development (ELD) teacher from Gunn, Kerstin Helbing; three students, Thomas Li from Gunn, and Eric Solway and Tom Galetti from Paly; one administrator from Gunn, Pier Angeli La Place; and one District staff person, Suz Antink, facilitator.

The PAUSD High School World History and Contemporary World History Committee members included: History-Social Science department teachers Rich DiGiacomo from Gunn, and Ken Tinsley and Steve Foug from Paly; one parent from Paly, Anna Itoi; one Special Education Teacher from Paly, Rachael Kaci; one ELD Teacher from Gunn, Arlena Arteaga; three students, Quentin Swindells from Gunn, and Cate Dyer and Promise Rivers from Paly; one administrator from Paly, Jerry Berkson; and one District staff person, Suz Antink, facilitator.


The last meeting of the school year for the Elementary CS Committee was held May 13, 2019. PAUSD is still receiving input from the 4th and 5th graders’ survey. However, some of the results are what was expected. Appropriately, very little coding in K and 1. Learning to code seems to begin around 2nd grade, and really increases in 3rd and 4th grades. In order to support this natural engagement in, and learning about, programming, the committee suggests working with programmable robots and games in grades K-2, and moving into block programming in grades 3-5. If block programming is done in grades 2-4, then it’s possible thattext programming can begin in grade 5 or 6. Students will likely begin with unplugged activities. Some engagingprogrammable robots that have been used in grades K-3 include Ozobot, Dash and Dot, Sphero, Code and Go Mouse, Bee Bots, and BB8. Beginning block programming environments that have been used in grades 2-5 include Scratch, Snap!, Tynker, and BrainPop. Some of the environments are free, some have been purchased Districtwide, and some have been purchased by individual sites.

Many thanks to the dedicated staff who served on the Elementary CS Committee: Collen McManus-Coburn and Cara Stoneburner from Hoover; Heather Cleland from Barron Park; Judy Peng from Duveneck; Sarah Patanroi and Mary Pat O’Connell from Nixon; and Emily Garrison, Anne Brown, and Suz Antink from the District Office.


Planning continues for middle school summer school 2019. For the fourth year in a row, PAUSD is offering select students an opportunity to participate in STREAM, an interdisciplinary, thematic, and project-based approach to Science, Technology, Reading & Writing, Engineering, Art, Mathematics & Movement. Summer school teachers and principals met to continue planning curriculum for the June 6-July 3 session. Additionally, each middle school team was trained to use DreamBox, a math learning program that the District is piloting in the secondary schools.


Secondary District Teachers On Special Assignments (TOSAs) facilitated release day for middle school English teachers. Six 6th grade teachers, representing each of the three middle schools, came together to create a Common Writing Assessment (CWA). The group decided on a genre, constructed a prompt, chose source materials, and designed a common rubric. The 6th grade CWA will be administered at each of the sites in January of next year. Similar release days have either already taken place, or are planned, for 7th and 8th grade English teachers.


Gunn High School Choir is planning a 10-day international service learning field trip in Italy this June! Students will have an opportunity to expand their educational foundation through this experience, touring and performing in various locations. The itinerary includes stops in Rome, Siena, Montecatini, Florence, Lucca, Pontedera, Assisi, and Vatican City.

The contracted tour company, KI Concerts, provides core travel insurance benefits addressing possible, but remote issues, such as trip interruption, accident and sickness medical needs, emergency evacuation and repatriation, and worldwide emergency assistance services. To ensure utmost safety, the group will travel on private tour buses with two professional Italian-speaking tour escorts.

Upon request, KI Concert’s president, Oliver Scofield, kindly addressed questions regarding the June 2 Italian national holiday, Republic Day, also known as Festa della Repubblica, or Festival of the Republic. Scofield’s letter to Bill Liberatore, Gunn Choir Director, included the following assurances:

Republic Day in Italy celebrates the formation of the nation in 1946 and would be seen by the people as a day of laying wreaths, celebrating what brings Italians together, and pomp and ceremony. While always aware of potential risks and disruptions to the well-being and safety of our travelers, this does not appear on our radar, nor on that of the State Department, from which we take the lead on threat assessments.

Additionally, students will not be near Rome on June 2, but in Siena, which is about 250 kilometers north of Rome. Siena is a small town, popular with tourists, but not a major population center.

I believe the Gunn High School community has every reason to be confident that KI Concerts works hand in glove with the staff of the school to put the welfare of the students way above any other factor. Our experienced staff are with the group 24/7, and they are alert to any local news and issues that might arise. We appreciate the concern and the opportunity to respond.

Sincerely, Oliver Scofield 
President, KI Concerts

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


Perfect low tide ~ perfect waves ~ perfect day! That was the heading for Ride A Wave’s mantra for the day, and truer words could not have been said. On May 11, students from the Palo Alto Unified Visually Impaired Program and some of their classmates went to Cowell Beach to participate in Ride A Wave’s surf day. After putting on their wetsuits, the students had the opportunity to try their hand at kayaking, boogie boarding, and surfing. By midday, all of the students had tried everything there was to offer and there were lots of excited, happy, surfers who sat down and had lunch with each other, their surf buddies, and the families. The day wrapped up with an award ceremony and a group photo. A big shout-out to Ride a Wave and all the volunteers. Their mission is to “give children with special needs the chance to feel the thrill of riding a wave and experience a safe, fun-filled day at the beach.” I can speak for the students and their family’s as they wholeheartedly agreed that this mission was reached and surpassed.

Business Services


As a “Community Funded” district, PAUSD receives the majority of its funding from property taxes, primarily between November and April. As a result, the District’s cash balance has historically been very low in September, October, and November. In order to ensure there are sufficient cash balances through November, we are considering issuing Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes (TRANS) for the 2019-20 fiscal year. In the past, the cost of borrowing discouraged the issuance of TRANS; however, recent interest trends have made borrowing favorable. In addition to assisting with our cash flow in the first half our fiscal year, we estimate a “net interest earnings benefit” of about $180,000.

PAUSD Cash Flow Chart

Technology Department


Leaders of CARNET, the national research and education network of Croatia, visited Palo Alto this week for a discussion about technology in education. CARNET supports educational technology and the associated networks for over 1,200 schools in Croatia. Topics discussed included our use of Schoology, WiFi, digital citizenship, pedagogy, and experiences with how technology has influenced education. It was a great conversation and a reminder that some of the same EdTech challenges exist regardless of geographic location.


The unified single sign-on portal ( for parents has been up and running for two weeks now. Approximately 11% of parents have claimed their accounts and setup the single sign-on to Infinite Campus. We encourage all parents to claim their account.  This portal launch is a big first step in our ability to provide a coherent, consistent, secure platform where we can unite all resources for parents. More information, including how to claim the account, can be found on our website.