October 12, 2018

Superintendent’s Office


The October 23 agenda is still under construction and may shift before posting next Friday. At this point, we are anticipating the following items:

  • A brief discussion regarding the California Voting Rights Act and our next steps
  • Discussion about future setting of direction / goals and the use of agile teams
  • California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) testing explanation of the “Distance from Level 3” report


The math program implemented a new instructional materials program in the 2017-18 school year at the elementary and middle school levels. Our teachers are working through the curriculum with students and sharing their feedback.

Some parents have expressed questions about our math pathways (lanes) at the middle school level and the longer-range implications of course sequencing. Those opinions are balanced by discussions concerning mental health and well-being, age-appropriate development, and the challenging transition to middle school in general.  

High-achieving school districts often struggle with math lanes, sequencing, delivery models, and assessments. Entry points for acceleration are debatable and combine practical and philosophical points of view. PAUSD has a relatively long-standing practice of holding most acceleration opportunities until 7th grade. Conversely, families choose their 7th grade lane after receiving data to inform their decision. Again, this is a balanced approach.
I would like to learn more about the assessments we use to inform decisions and their predictive quality. I have scheduled some time with our team to ask more questions that are largely common in high-achieving school districts. 


After hearing feedback from parents, we have decided to step away from a proposed position in Special Education. From the start, we had said that the position may not materialize for a variety of reasons. We are currently operating with a reduction of one Special Education Director at this point. This is not a budgetary or programmatic decision. We are exploring ways to get the best services to our students at the school sites. A new proposal will come forward shortly. 


Representatives from Stanford University cancelled our scheduled meeting for this week to discuss the proposed General Use Permit (GUP). At issue is an increase of students to PAUSD in a new housing project exempt from property taxes. Our school district is almost entirely funded through local property taxes. Tax exempt housing lowers our per-pupil funding for all students. The proposed housing project also increases student travel distances in contrast to our community-situated schools.  

It is our hope that Stanford University will submit a meaningful proposal to mitigate the impact of adding additional students without a funding source. At this point, Stanford has made no proposal to PAUSD as their application proceeds through the process with Santa Clara County.  

Secondary Education


For the fourth consecutive year, PAUSD will be able to offer select middle school students an enriching summer school experience. Students not meeting, or nearly meeting, standards on the CAASPP/SBA will have the opportunity to participate in STREAM, an interdisciplinary, thematic, and project-based approach to Science, Technology, Reading & Writing, Engineering, Art, Mathematics & Movement. STREAM Summer School will run one four-week session from June 6 - July 3, 2019, rather than two three-week sessions. The addition of a fourth week will allow students and teachers to dive more deeply into curriculum, build stronger relationships with their teachers and peers, and allow for a significant preview of the upcoming school year's work. The Summer School team is currently in the process of accepting teacher applications for STREAM; rising sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students will be invited to enroll after Winter Break.


The Work Experience Education (WEE) program is transitioning to be part of a new umbrella, which is a work in progress. With a new Work Experience Teacher/Coordinator on board, we are taking the opportunity to update the program to follow best practices. We have a system in place to track students’ academic standing and attendance records to make sure they are in good standing, while possessing work permits aligned with PAUSD Board Policy 5113.2 Work Permits. This ensures that students receive support as needed. Our new Teacher Coordinator has already met with students in this category, and has been working closely with guidance counselors and case managers, who are directly involved, to address any concerns.  


During Open Forum at the October 9 Board meeting, two high school students spoke about middle school dress codes. Further exploration of their comments has revealed that all three middle schools reviewed and revised their dress codes within the last two school years. As a result, implementation of the revised expectations began at JLS in 2017-18, Fletcher in 2018-19, and Greene in 2018-19. Administrators continue to have conversations with staff about the importance of always speaking with students privately regarding dress code.


PAUSD’s Curriculum and Career Education (CCE) department is partnering with Stanford University’s Sustainable Food Program. Representatives from Stanford connected with CCE to discuss how to support a healthy community garden over the long-term, and how the garden can help support a farm-to-table program. This past week, the Stanford reps assisted with the implementation of a sustainable community garden at Paly, providing resources for CCE to host its first “Seeding Party,” with Social Justice Pathway/Advance Authentic Research (AAR) students at Paly’s community garden. Incorporating hands-on activities, students were taught about food justice and garden cultivation.

Elementary Education/Art & Music


A TCRWP staff developer visited El Carmelo on October 8 and 9 to work with the K-3 grade teachers. The kindergarten and 1st grade teachers focused on writing. One of the main strategies used for these beginning writers is to have the students quickly sketch out stories, stretch out their words to figure out the sounds they hear, use the word wall with sight words, and re-read to add more to their stories. The staff developer was amazed that the kindergarteners could sketch, label, and write for over 30 minutes in October! The 1st graders were writing for even longer and knew all of the routines seamlessly. The 2nd grade teachers worked with the staff developer to learn best practices for using interactive read-alouds, and shared reading strategies with the whole class and small groups. The staff spent time analyzing student work to plan differentiated small group instruction. It was a wonderfully productive two days.


The reading specialists held their monthly meeting Wednesday, October 10. The group discussed how the exploration of the new Phonics Units of Study in K/1 was going. Those who have used the units have enjoyed much success so far. Time was spent exploring the text features at each book-level. The list of text features helps classroom teachers better understand the complexities students must master in order to move up reading levels. Finally, some members will start a book club to discuss Jennifer Serravallo’s book The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook, K-2: Four Steps for Turning Assessment Data into Goal-Directed Instruction.  


Our staff survey from our October 5 Staff Development Day showed that 96% of participants expressed their appreciation for the timely professional learning opportunity with trainers from Teacher’s Curriculum Institute (TCI). Staff was able to dig deeper into the newly adopted Social Studies Alive! State-approved curriculum. Teachers and support staff were impressed with the presenters, the time spent looking through the online resources, and demo lesson participation. 


As we approach the end of the first trimester, classroom teachers are preparing for conferences and trimester progress reports. The Music Department is preparing for their first concerts of the year. In grade 5, students “perform” for parents during their music class in an “Informance.” In grades 6-12, concerts are scheduled starting at the end of October throughout November and December. Next week, the Gunn Wind Ensemble performs at JLS with the JLS Concert and Symphonic Bands. Each group performs individually and for the finale. Wind Ensemble students sit next to a 7th or 8th grader, fully integrating all levels of abilities. It’s a very motivating performance for our young, aspiring musicians. Check out our concert calendar here


Each year, teachers in their first two years of employment in PAUSD attend equity-focused workshops. The workshop series begins with a full-day experience in the fall to create common language and shared understanding. This year we have redesigned the follow-up sessions to create a menu of choices for teachers to dive deeply into topics of equity. Each workshop is directly connected to current student outcome data, elements of the California Standards for the Teaching Profession, and classroom practice. Each teacher attends at least one follow-up session from the menu. Our series of follow-up choices kicks off this week with Special Education for General Education teachers, followed by Classroom Culture and Management, with an equity lens next week. Our redesign efforts were informed by focus groups of past participants completed last spring and student outcome data. 


The deadline to turn in applications to the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) is November 15. Families can pick up applications at the District Office or school sites. All applications must be turned in directly to SMCOE. PAUSD cannot accept the applications. Siblings of current VTP students are not automatically enrolled and must fill out an application to enter the lottery. Students entering transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade for the 2019-20 school year and live in the Ravenswood School District are encouraged to apply. Specific details on eligibility and the program can be found online


Next Tuesday, October 16, Barron Park will be holding its first Family Literacy Night, Matching Readers with Non-Fiction Books. Barron Park families are invited to enjoy a family dinner together, then parents and children split into two groups, with the parents learning about the following: What are the challenges of reading non-fiction books? Why is it important for your student to read “just right books”?  How can I support non-fiction reading at home? Where can I find digital non-fiction resources? While the parents are engaged in this learning, the children will participate in a literacy activity in another room and will return to the parents to share what they learned. Together the parents and students will choose a non-fiction book, (or two), to take home with them to practice what they learned as a family.

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


On Wednesday, October 17, Gunn’s Sources of Strength team will be hosting an event focused on how parents, educators, and students can work together at home and in our schools to prevent the epidemics of bullying and suicide. Dr. Shashank Joshi, Stanford Associate Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, will be in attendance, as well as student and staff leaders helping to spread positive messages to their peers. The Sources of Strength Program is focused on developing awareness and a shared understanding of wellness at home and in our community so that families can support the work we are doing in our schools. Please register for the event ahead of time.


PAUSD Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator Genavae Pierre Dixon facilitated two breakout sessions on building healthy relationships at the Teen Wellness Conference organized by the TeenzTalk organization. The topic of the talk was: From Best Friends Forever (BFF) to Defining the Relationship (DTR) to Before Anyone Else (BAE): How to build healthy and lasting relationships throughout our lives. Ms. Dixon worked with groups of 3-14 students in each session. Students shared their own experiences around relationship(s), created a relationship bill of rights, explored teen power, control, and equality wheels and worked through interactive real-life scenarios to deepen their understanding of the complex issues of healthy boundaries and relationships. 


Health Connected, in partnership with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), invites PAUSD families to attend a Family Talk evening program on Wednesday, October 24, at PAMF from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Family Talk is a puberty program for parents and kids, designed to promote healthy communication within families that lasts a lifetime. Through drawings, multimedia, and activities, families will explore the physical changes of puberty. In a relaxed and friendly setting, families learn, laugh, and share, making a potentially sensitive subject more comfortable. This 90-minute program is recommended for children between 10-12 years old and their families; however, adults may bring children who are younger or older, depending on their maturity level. Families of all structures are welcome. The cost is $25/family. You can register on Eventbrite


During collaboration time on the Professional Development Day, representatives from the District Wellness and Support Services, and Special Education Department organized a first-ever collaboration between all PAUSD confidential employees and services providers. The objectives of the workshop were: to establish a collaborative forum to calibrate practices; develop common understanding; and identify areas that need development of policy and procedures.
Representatives from the District, elementary, middle, and high school confidential employee groups participated, including: school psychologists, Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS) therapists, school counselors, health technicians, District nurses, mental health and wellness workers, and social worker and mental health provider supervisor. The topics discussed included: Informed Consent; Student Records; Release of Information; Child Find; IDEA; Section 504; Risk Assessments; Safety Protocols; and Confidentiality and Reporting.

Business Services


PAUSD is a member of Schools for Sound Finance (SF)2, a consortium of Community Funded School Districts. (SF)2 held the South Bay Regional Meeting at San Mateo High School District on October 10. Senator Jerry Hill attended the meeting and shared some of the efforts he is leading to ensure that Community Funded School Districts (like PAUSD) are being funded fairly. Senator Hill noted that the Bay Area has a significantly higher percentage of Community Funded School Districts than the rest of the state. He is constantly educating others in the legislature with the challenges and threats to the funding at districts similar to PAUSD.

Other issues discussed at the Regional Meeting included the negative effects of new developments on the budgets of many Community Funded School Districts in the Bay Area. These school districts do not receive additional funding when new developments generate additional students. In addition, (SF)2 noted their board has formally opposed Proposition 5. Prop 5, the Property Tax Transfer Initiative, would amend Proposition 13 to generally allow homeowners who are age 55 or older to transfer their tax assessments to their new home. It is estimated that California schools would lose approximately $150,000,000 in annual funding. While difficult to estimate an amount, as a Community Funded School District, PAUSD revenues would certainly be negatively affected if Prop 5 passes.

Technology Department


As Cybersecurity Month continues, we’d like to highlight a few items currently in motion within our schools:

  • Our elementary teacher librarians collaborated last spring to update the existing digital citizenship lessons that have been in place for many years. All elementary students will experience the updated lessons from Common Sense Media during library time throughout the year.
  • While a single shared wireless password may have been appropriate for online security in the past, this method is no longer considered secure, nor is it realistic to believe a secret can be maintained across 12,000+ devices. The decommissioning process for the legacy Wi-Fi networks will be completed this week, marking the end of a six-month process that involved significant efforts from all of our site technicians. All students and staff can now securely connect with their own username/password to the “PAUSD” Wi-Fi network.
  • We have partnered with a local company named Yubico, with whom we have begun to pilot and test two-factor authentication for staff accounts. The Yubikeys are currently in use for staff accounts at five schools; further deployment plans are in motion.
  • It was approximately a year ago that we implemented a security policy that required staff members to change passwords every year. With this anniversary upon us, employees will be prompted to change their password in the coming weeks (if they haven’t completed it already).

With the internet being a shared resource, securing it is also a shared responsibility. The “Stop. Think. Connect.” campaign has a helpful infographic with additional tips.


In partnership with Yubico, we are in the process of unifying the login experience for parents through the id.pausd.org portal currently in use daily by all students and staff. When this portal launches for parents in early December, it will allow for a streamlined login to both Infinite Campus and Schoology parent accounts, with additional applications to be added in the coming months. Unifying the login and account management process for all people accessing our resources will also allow for improved security of our District’s infrastructure.


In an effort to improve the efficiency and consistency of our ability to respond to feedback, we will be piloting a feedback system from K12 Insight named Let’s Talk! The initial launch will have two major focus areas. The first is to consolidate the existing anonymous reporting mechanisms for Title IX, bullying, and generic email feedback into one platform. The second focus will be operational metrics around receiving, processing, measuring, and reporting out on major topics currently handled by District Office staff. We are excited about the pilot and its potential. Look for more information in the coming weeks as we get ready to launch the pilot.

Department Of Research, Evaluation, & Assessment (REA)

REA co-presented with the Superintendent on “sprint commitments” as part of the District Leadership Team’s October meeting and the Superintendent’s “Leadership from Every Seat” session at the District’s second Professional Development Day last Friday. Approximately 80 District leaders and 30 teacher leaders wrote sprint commitments for the month of October, defined as “a time-bound activity within our sphere of control that has measurable outcomes.” The idea is that by focusing on small actions to improve within our respective spheres of control, we can make big strides towards continuous improvement across the District.
REA is beginning to organize “design teams” to manage larger, cross-functional projects using the same agile methods. Collaboration with Student Wellness Services has begun, working to improve counselor and parent access to technology in the college and career planning process.

REA presented on CAASPP participation rates at Tuesday’s Board meeting. Additional presentations will be scheduled to continue to dig into CAASPP results at upcoming Board meetings. The participation rate memo is available through BoardDocs.

With IT’s help, REA compiled a list of publicly available data resources.

At long last, PAUSD received the final batch of 2018 CAASPP/Smarter Balanced Assessment student score reports from the testing vendor. The mailing process has begun, and approximately 900 families should expect to receive their child’s student score report in their mailboxes next week. A copy of the reports was delivered to school sites on Thursday. For more information about the CAASPP/ Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA), visit the PAUSD Assessment webpage