October 5, 2018

Superintendent’s Office


The week clearly signaled a turning point in our efforts to build leadership capacity throughout the school District. Our District Leadership Team consists of roughly 70 management positions. We held our first Leadership Team meeting on Tuesday evening at Fletcher Middle School. We introduced the concept of “Sprint Goals” and made individual commitments to 30-day impactful actions focusing on topics that fall under our Priority Goals.

Our principals met as a unit on Thursday to work through common scenarios in an effort to calibrate responses and learn from past experiences. Additionally, the time was used to craft our first School News Roll Call messages for a new publication going to families at the end of this month.

Today was an incredible Professional Development Day for the District. Many people worked tirelessly to create a program that served the needs of all employees. I had the opportunity to teach one of the three-hour sessions to a group mostly comprised of teachers. The topic was “Leadership from Every Seat” and ended with an expansion of the “Sprint Goal” concept. We also introduced the new filter to establish structure for programs, initiatives, and pilots. 

The filter demonstrates how a topic can go from a thought to implementation. The key components of the plan include: setting the direction, determining the pace, allocating resources, and executing the plan. This structure also allows for “after action” reporting to examine places where things went well and where others experienced challenges.

Thought to Action Diagram

Secondary Education


The Secondary Learning Summit, a conference-style professional learning day, took place today. Keynote speaker, Jennifer Abrams, kicked off the day with a presentation entitled Getting Two Feet into the Present – A Reminder to Be Our Best Selves. Her interactive talk focused on communication skills that build trust in relationships, being generationally savvy, and reminding us that how we talk can change the way we work.  Everyone left with a better understanding of the impact our everyday interpersonal interactions have on building and increasing trust with one another.

After a short break, all participants attended a session of their choosing (from 14 options) that supported all three of the District’s overarching goals of High Quality Teaching and Learning, Equity and Access, and Safety and Wellness. The final portion of the day was dedicated to time for each discipline, grades 6-12, and collaboration about how to best implement their new learning in the context of the District’s goals.


Instructional Leaders (ILs) at each secondary school gather monthly for District meetings focused on calibrating work with departments, learning new strategies for implementing District goals and initiatives, and building leadership capacity. This week’s meeting was reserved for new and/or returning ILs and administrators. Our focus was on the coaching role of ILs and administrators as they support teachers to continue to grow in their instructional practices and engagement of students. Because of their content knowledge expertise, ILs are uniquely positioned to provide specific and targeted support for their colleagues. Time was spent learning about the Ladder of Inference, and then applying our new knowledge in a coaching session with a partner. 


PAUSD has teamed up with Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District (MVLA) to host a two-part science training focusing on the shifts specified in the new California Science Framework. The first full-day training will highlight a crosswalk between Earth Science and the Chemistry of Climate Change. The second day will address how to use earth science phenomena to drive life science content in the Evolution instructional segment. These robust workshops, aligned with the NGSS, are sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for Educators.

Elementary Education/Art & Music


On October 5, all elementary schools spent half of their day at Juana Briones Elementary School attending a Teacher’s Curriculum Institute (TCI): Social Studies Alive! training. “TCI’s programs meet California History-Social Science Standards and are highly interactive, making them ideal for engaging students in their history lessons. Keeping students intrigued about what they’re learning can help to keep them focused and invested in their education.” The trainers from TCI will provide our teachers continued training in the new elementary social studies curriculum, including the online resources and features of the program that will allow for deeper understanding of the curriculum and teaching resources.  

For the other half of their day, teachers engaged activities at their school sites in that support the individualized priorities of their school. Some of the activities included:

  • Fiction Text Features and Comprehension Shifts Across Reading Levels
  • Dyslexia Training
  • Phonics Exploration 
  • Guided Reading Groups/Spelling Program
  • Inclusion Support Strategies
  • North West Evaluation Association (NWEA) Analysis
  • Local and State Data Analysis to Inform Instruction
  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Tiers
  • Continuing Responsive Classrooms Strategies

Secondary Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) teachers focused on continuing the curricular alignment that secondary teachers have been working on across the District. Last year, art, music, and theatre teachers created common learning targets for their introductory courses. The purpose of a common learning target is for student outcomes in a given course to be aligned. Teachers are also able to work on vertical articulation, so that, for example, high school teachers of introductory art classes have a clear understanding of what their incoming students learned in middle school art. 

Elementary music teachers, who teach grades K-4, attended a workshop to learn about Dalcroze Eurhythmics. Dalcroze is a method of teaching rhythmic and expressive concepts using folk songs along with concentration, self-control, social integration, and creativity. The 5th grade instrumental traveling team will observe other beginning instrumental programs in East Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Menlo Park. They will join the secondary VAPA team, mentioned above, in the afternoon. 
The Elementary Physical Education (PE) team worked on aligning their curriculum as a Districtwide team, with a focus on kindergarteners. The team worked with an adaptive PE teacher to learn more about adaptive techniques and the Special Olympics program. 


Kindergarteners throughout the District will be attending a full day of school starting this coming Monday, October 8. We are looking forward to having our students full time at school. This will allow them more time to learn and explore activities, and time to reflect and transition between them.

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


As a continuation of events to build connections on campus and encourage help-seeking behaviors, the high schools’ Wellness Centers are hosting “Cocoa with Counselors” events. During Paly’s event on September 20, 270 students connected with campus mental health therapists, school psychologists, and school counselors. Gunn’s “Cocoa with Counselors” will take place on Wednesday, October 31, in conjunction with the Student Executive Council (SEC) student leadership’s Halloween event. 


Wellness and Support Services Staff attended the Counselors’ Breakfast, hosted by Children’s Health Council (CHC), in Palo Alto on September 25. This quarterly collaboration brings together school counselors and mental health practitioners with community organizations to discuss topics that impact students’ mental health and well-being. CHC therapists presented on “Understanding Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Supporting Youth with Severe Mental Health Challenges,” including self-harm and suicidality. Advisors of CHC's Teen Wellness Committee and SafeSpace's Youth Advisory Board also shared recent wellness projects by local teens including the #newconversations videos and book “Just a Thought: Uncensored Narratives of Teen Mental Health.” Both tools include powerful personal experiences and helpful tips to support youth, parents, and educators in conversations on mental health. Wellness and Support Services staff will be utilizing these resources to start conversations and promote help-seeking behaviors among youth. 


District nurses and Health Services staff play a key role in sharing information and guidance to help reduce the spread of seasonal influenza (flu) among students and staff. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide several recommendations to assist in reducing the spread of the flu. These recommendations include receiving your yearly flu vaccination, taking preventative measures to stop the spread of germs, and remaining at home for those who get flu-like symptoms. The flu vaccine is recommended for all children aged six months and older, and should ideally be administered by the end of October. Preventative measures include good hand hygiene, routine surface cleaning, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your bent arm, and avoiding touching your nose, mouth, and eyes with your hands. If you get sick, stay home until you have been fever-free (less than 100 degrees) for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medications. For more information on the flu and preventative measures, visit the CDC’s page. Should your child become sick, please communicate with your school site so they can support your child’s needs while staying home to rest, recover, and prevent the potential spread of illnesses.


Wellness and Support Services has compiled a list of local and national resources for staff and families to support students around the issues of sexual assault, abuse, and misconduct. Many in our community, especially survivors of sexual violence, may need support with the most recent national attention and media coverage.
In addition to the resources included in this sheet, each school site has mental health support available to students in need of support. Please contact your school’s front office, administrator, counselor(s), or school psychologist to connect with the resources available on campus. Middle and high school students can also access this support by coming to the front office, to their school counselors, or the high schools’ Wellness Centers. Additional support in understanding the PAUSD Title IX Support & Reporting Process is also available through the school site administrators or from the PAUSD Title IX Office. For help or to report unlawful discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, please contact the Title IX office via email or via phone at (650) 833-4248. Anonymous and confidential reports of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment or sexual violence, can also be reported by using this form.


The District Nursing Team, in conjunction with the Nurse Clinician Team, held a Districtwide drop-in Diabetes Training at the Science Resource Center from 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 3. Staff who work with students with Type 1 Diabetes were invited to participate in the individualized trainings to build their comfort and skills in supporting diabetes management. Staff learned how to recognize and respond to low blood glucose, including in an emergency situation. Disaster Training was also offered to staff who volunteered to be Disaster Trained Diabetes Personnel (DTDP). Participants learned how to provide 24-hour care of the students with diabetes in case of a disaster, including blood glucose testing, emergency administration of glucagon, and administering insulin.

Much appreciation to the 31 staff members who participated to become better prepared and more confident to keep our students with diabetes safe at school or during a disaster. For staff who were unable to attend, but are interested in the training, please reach out to the District Nursing Team.

Business Services


The Student Nutrition Services Department is working with Gunn High School’s Zero Waste Champion, Eric Ledgerwood, PAUSD Director of Sustainability Rebecca Navarro, representatives from GreenWaste of Palo Alto, and the City of Palo Alto on the reduction of single-use plastic containers and utensils at Gunn High School. Eric is working with the students from both AP Environmental Sciences and the Marine Biology classes on better sorting efforts on the campus. Students will be decorating columns at each sorting station with educational pieces on the major benefits of reusables, and students will be assigned specific areas of the campus to work with and help educate their peers.

Student Nutrition Services has already traded out plastic containers for compostable containers at the salad bar; switched condiments to pump stations, versus individual packets; and removed the sale of plastic bottled water to encourage the use of the water refilling stations. Student Nutrition Services sells reusable TapOut water bottles from the snack bar area.

Our next step is to meet with the Gunn Administration and Custodial Supervisors to brainstorm options to trade out the plastic utensils for reusable, washable utensils.
The City of Palo Alto is currently working on a ban of all plastic utensils.


Last Friday, Nixon had a visit from Solar Girl, also known as Rebecca Navarro, Director of Sustainability, and her enemy Greenhouse Gas. After the students helped Solar Girl rid their school of Greenhouse Gas, Lisa Benatar from City of Palo Alto Utilities joined Solar Girl to teach the students about the exciting world of renewable energy. Lisa and Solar Girl made a live energy model out of students and answered questions about the new solar array at Nixon, which was constructed over the summer. Students were really excited to explore the world of renewable energy and learn about the solar panels that will make Nixon a 100% clean energy school site in PAUSD!

Human Resources


Human Resources has been preparing for Open Enrollment, which will be from October 26, 2018 through November 9, 2018.  Changes made during this time will go into effect for the 2019 calendar year. Shortly before October 26, all employees will receive an email from Human Resources with details and instructions. This important message will also highlight any changes for 2019. We want to remind employees that the flexible spending accounts and the opt-out stipends require annual action—even if one simply wants to repeat the same amount or status. In addition to the required re-enrollments, employees will be able to make changes to their medical and dental plans, designate beneficiaries for their life insurance, and consider voluntary plans offered by the District. Once again, enrollment will be done online through BenefitBridge. Employees who do not remember their login credentials from the previous year are encouraged to use the password-help prompt on BenefitBridge; Human Resources staff do not have access to this personal login information.  

Gearing up for Open Enrollment involves making changes to the PAUSD Employee Benefits Brochure and cost sheets, updating screens in BenefitBridge, maintaining the Benefit page on Bob, and ensuring that every benefit-eligible employee has a profile set up in the enrollment system. The Benefits page will be updated to include the latest brochures and FAQs from our carriers. This year there will be no change to carriers and plans.


In previous years, certificated staff being recommended for Permanent status would be recognized at a celebration during their Probationary-2 year. The event would take place right before a Board meeting. This year, the District will be recognizing certificated staff who began Permanent status in 2018-19, as well as classified staff who earned Permanent status between July 1, 2017 and September 1, 2018. Formerly known as the “Tenure Celebration,” the Permanent Status Celebration will take place on November 2 in the Board Room. Board Members, District Office administrators, site administrators, instructional leaders, union leadership, and induction coaches have been invited to help recognize 187 staff members who have reached a significant K-12 career milestone. 


Friday, October 5, is a Districtwide Professional Development Day. It is not a work day for general education instructional aides, campus supervisors, bus drivers, and food service employees; but for other positions, there were trainings and workshops offered.  Aside from the option of attending professional development activities at respective sites, Student Services has learning activities planned for all Special Education aides and student attendants, and the Maintenance and Operations teams will be attending Title IX training. Additional professional development opportunities for classified staff will take place the week of October 29, during Fall EdTech week. Sessions will include Schoology, Google Suite, and Digital Citizenship Certification.

Technology Department


Take this opportunity to discuss cybersecurity with your family. A timely topic to discuss is spam and phishing emails. Here are a few quick tips:

  • If you are unsure if an email is legitimate, try to contact the sender directly via a known method, such as a form on the official company website or by phone to a known telephone number.
  • Don't reveal personal information in an email, or respond to email solicitations for this information. 
  • When in doubt, throw it out: If an email looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it's best to delete the message.

More information on spam and phishing can be found on the Stay Safe Online website. On a related note, please join us next week on the evening of Thursday, October 11, for our Parenting in a Digital World event with special guest presenter Karin Forssell, Ph.D.