November 1, 2019

Office of the Superintendent


The Board will discuss the CalTrain rail project and our role on the City of Palo Alto committee. The project is nearing critical decision points that will impact Palo Alto beyond the scope of our District. 

We will have a discussion regarding staff housing considerations with no recommendations. The report will provide information and identify the paths some school districts have taken recently in our region. 


The City of Palo Alto is preparing the legal agreement between PAUSD and the City to extend the Cubberley lease for five years. Both parties previously agreed to the terms of the agreement. Absent a contract, the lease would terminate at the conclusion of 2019.


The math Instructional Leads (ILs) have met several times as a group to consider options for future practices across the secondary level. Both high schools are heavily involved in the process and our three middle schools ILs have demonstrated strong leadership. The effort led by Educational Services also involves the full engagement of our Assistant Superintendent of Equity and Student Affairs, Director of Agile Teams, and our site principals. We are on target to share the plan at our Board of Education meeting in December.

Education Services


The upcoming Board meeting agenda contains an informational update on the work of the Middle School Science Textbook Selection Advisory Committee. The committee began meeting in September 2018 to review NGSS-based science instructional materials for the middle grades. The committee screened State Adopted Science Materials and narrowed the field to five publishers. After publisher presentations, the committee voted to pilot two of the five programs in the second semester. Data collected after the initial pilots was not compelling enough to call for a positive recommendation so the decision was made to extend the pilot phase into the 2019 school year. After carefully considering feedback from pilots 1 and 2, the committee voted to pilot two additional instructional materials programs, also on the State Adopted Science Materials list, this fall. These pilots are taking place now and the materials are currently on display at each middle school site as well as the District Office.


On October 25, jazz ensembles from J.L. Stanford (JLS) and Fletcher Middle Schools and Gunn High School, performed for each other and shared pizza as they mingled and talked about jazz across the grade levels. On October 28, JLS Advanced Band, Symphonic Band, and Gunn High School Wind Ensemble, combined for a collaborative concert in Spangenberg Theatre.

JLS hosts the production of the joint middle school play, The Addams Family this weekend (November 1, 2, and 3). Performances begin on Friday, November 1, at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, November 2, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, November 3, at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Two casts and over 100 middle schoolers are participating in this fun and collaborative production!

Palo Alto High School opens its Almost, Maine production on November 8. Paly Main Stage Theatre productions are open to all Paly students. Twenty-six cast members and 36 Stage Tech students are involved in this production. For more information, visit the Paly Theatre webpage.

On Saturday, November 9, the Paly Madrigal Singers have been invited to participate in a masterclass and performance hosted by Stanford Live and The King’s Singers. Families are welcome to attend the finale event at 3:30 p.m. in Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University.


Creativity is recognized as a key skill of the future! Innovation and Agility-Curriculum & Career Education (CCE) is, for the third year, nurturing creativity through the elementary  Creativity Cart program. The mission of the program is to support and enhance students’ creativity and resilience, while connecting them to today’s real-world complexities. Participating schools receive a supply cart organized around monthly themes and stocked with recycled materials to fuel their imagination and critical thinking skills. Other districts have shown interest in the Creativity Cart program and we are excited to help them replicate the experience.


Research continues to demonstrate the importance of school attendance for students’ well-being and achievement. As such, attendance metrics drive several PAUSD Promise strategies in the categories of Wellness & Safety and Equity & Excellence. The PAUSD Attendance Task Force has conducted a thorough review of PAUSD’s attendance systems, practices, and policies, and identified areas for improvement and alignment, to ensure student attendance is tracked and reported in a consistent and equitable manner across all sites. Parent communication will go out in the coming weeks to emphasize the importance of attendance, explain PAUSD’s practices and policies, and invite parents to partner with schools to address attendance issues that may be a barrier to their student’s success and well-being.

Department of Equity and Student Affairs


PAUSD is engineering for equity. Several opportunities have already been provided to engage educators in critical conversations about race and privilege and its impact on student outcomes. In addition,  a coalition made up of stakeholder groups joined forces to tackle the opportunity gaps inherent in our system. The Community Partnerships and Engagement Team (CPET) met this week to begin exploring problems of practice that result in a disparate impact for our District’s most vulnerable students. The team, made up of representatives from Palo Alto Council of PTAs (PTAC), Community Advisory Committee (CAC), Partners in Education (PiE), Children's Health Council (CHC), Latino Parent Network (LPN), and Parent Advocates for Student Success (PASS) expressed the need to clearly identify who we are talking about when we say Historically Under-Represented (HUR) students as the term has become a catch all phrase. If we are truly equity-focused, we must identify the groups that fair less well in the District. Students with disabilities, African-American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, English Learners,  and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds need our attention the most.

Education is the pathway to disrupt the cycle of poverty that impacts all members of a community. Therefore, equity-minded action should be the moral imperative for all of Palo Alto. We are asking for the community’s support in this effort – volunteer at a school, join CPET, become part of the solution. For information on how you can get involved, contact the Assistant Superintendent of Equity and Student Affairs, Yolanda Conaway.


The Department of Academic Supports is providing a variety of resources for students who are the first in their family to attend college. Some of the resources include: field trips, tutoring, and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) classes. Gunn High School is piloting a homework center with tutors available, for first generation students in the College Pathways program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Students are matched with tutors to provide support in math and English classes. AVID and first-generation students have also been going on field trips to local colleges. Middle School AVID classes have visited the campuses of UC Santa Cruz, Cal State East Bay, and San Jose State University over the last two months. Gunn High school AVID and College Pathway students visited UC Davis on October 25. AVID classes are available at all secondary sites. AVID classes offer students in-class tutorials, post-secondary preparation, and self-inquiry and advocacy. To learn more about the AVID model, please visit the AVID website.


Mental health service data, staffing levels, costs, and contracts for the District’s two primary providers Acknowledge Alliance and Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY) will be included in the Board packet for the November 5 Regular Board Meeting. In an effort to improve communication and transparency about mental health services, this data will be provided to the Board annually with contracts and data being provided before the end of the school year. Community members can access the reports on the Board Meeting Materials Page.


This week the final flex activity of the month was centered around bridging our current and next month’s themes together. Students wrote letters to their friends, or those closest to them, about how their relationship has impacted their life and shaped who they are today. Students also added the element of gratitude which is November’s wellness theme. They were able to take their heartfelt notes and deliver them to their friends during flex time or hold on to them for a later date. Students were encouraged to self-reflect on the friendship as a whole, and on who they are within the context of that relationship. 

The Sources of Strength (SOS) Team partnered with the Student Executive Council (SEC) to bring trick-or-treating to Gunn on Thursday, October 31. Students participated with teachers during lunchtime to go classroom to classroom to gather a delicious treat. All doors of participating teachers were marked with bright orange pumpkins to light the way for students. All students who were in costume on October 31 received an additional treat for their awesome spirit. 


On October 23, Paly’s College and Career Center hosted its annual First-Generation College Bound Parent night. Dinner was enjoyed by parents who learned about financial aid, the college application process, and resources. The College and Career Center also hosted a California State University and University of California application workshop. Over 30 seniors attended to learn tips, ask questions, and work on applications.


Last week, the secondary schools hosted REALyou Collaborative Workshops facilitated by Anea Bogue to engage stakeholders in the creation and customization of the next phase of REALyou’s lessons, “Creating Healthy Relationships With Self & Others” and “Creating A Culture of Consent.” Bogue guided participants through a collaborative workshop that included community and empathy-building activities and facilitated small and whole group discussions. Students and staff provided input on program content, delivery methods, and ways to encourage participation and investment in the efforts. They shared needs, challenges, and ideas for ways to engage students in learning about healthy relationships with self and others as well as social emotional learning in general. 


PAUSD school sites are conducting its biennial administration of the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) on November 6-20 to students in grades 5, 6, 9, and 11. PAUSD has administered the CHKS since 2003 as a crucial method to gather important data on student safety, engagement, and connection in their school community and student physical and psychological well-being. Parents are encouraged to participate and talk with their students about this important opportunity to share their experience and perspective. The survey questions as well as the Permission Form for 5th Graders can be found on the CHKS PAUSD Website. Permission forms for students in 5th grade are due back to schools by Friday, November 1.

Technology Department


PAUSD Student Identification cards also function as Palo Alto City Library cards!

This innovative partnership between PAUSD and the Palo Alto City Library is in its second year of implementation and the results have been impressive. Once parents, or guardians, have opted in to this program, students are able to use school ID cards as fully functional library cards to access physical or digital resources at any of the Palo Alto City Library branches. To date, 11,315 PAUSD library accounts have been created. In addition to checking out materials, students have been accessing exceptional online resources such as BrainFuse, a tutoring program, and databases like RB Magazines and Bookflix to enjoy digital reading materials. PAUSD appreciates our City Library colleagues who have been wonderful partners in this important project that supports PAUSD students. 


10 Tech Tips for Parents: Healthy, Safe, and Responsible Technology Use for the Whole Family – This event will take place on Wednesday, November 6, in the District Office Board Room at 25 Churchill Avenue, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Child care and translation (Spanish, Mandarin) will be available. Please join us!