September 28, 2018

Superintendent's Office


The construction of our Board agenda is still in progress. The proposed items are subject to change, including additions and subtractions from the current list. At this point, we are proposing:

  • Consideration of an application for matching grant funds for a Magical Bridge project
  • Discussion regarding efforts connected to dyslexia
  • Introductory descriptive data for California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) participation rates


Our senior leadership team is working to create a system more commonly used in the business world than in typical education settings. Static strategic plans lose value over time and rarely allow space for creativity and innovation. Some aspects of our organization are best served by slow moving processes and predictable routines. Other pieces benefit from action aided by removal of barriers and increased intense focus. This approach is sometimes categorized as a series of sprints.

The system under development has three main components:

  • Commitment to Identified Priority Goals
  • Allocation of Resources
  • Execution

Our priority goals are created to identify the direction of PAUSD. They are broad in nature, and address Teaching and Learning, Health and Wellness, Access and Equity, and District Operations.

The next level consists of allocating resources that support each action step. Resources include energy, time, budget, materials, and people.

The final step of the process is the execution phase. Our thought is to route items into categories. Some items belong in slow-moving traditional pathways. Conversely, we are excited about creating a path to address some topics through agile teams with short timelines. Regardless of the approach, we will state the purpose of any significant projects or initiatives, pre-identify measurement metrics, assign project leads, and set expectations for evaluation of outcomes. I will continue to share progress as the new approach develops leading to our January Study Session.


We submitted a letter on behalf of PAUSD to the County Supervisors earlier this week to voice our belief that consideration of a development agreement between the County and Stanford University should not neglect the impact of the District. The proposed development agreement and General Use Permits are technically different, although related. We are meeting with representatives from Stanford University on October 11. 

We are hopeful to hear a proposal from the University soon about their thoughts regarding impact mitigation. We have expressed a desire to maintain our excellent school system, including our commitment to neighborhood schools and maintaining our per pupil funding level. 


The letter below was sent to Addison parents today: 

Dear Addison Elementary School Parents and Staff:

Maintaining safe and healthy schools is a high priority in our district.  Assembly Bill 746 contains statutory requirements for community water systems to test the lead levels of drinking water at all California public K-12 schools and preschools, and child daycare facilities located on public school property, by July 1, 2019.

The testing of all drinking fountains located at Addison was coordinated by the City of Palo Alto and preliminary results indicate that lead levels are within the normal range, with the exception of one drinking fountain. The fountain, located outside of Room 21, was found to have trace elevated levels of lead exceeding the 15 parts per billion (15 ug/L ) limit set by California law.

Once we received the report from the city, we proactively replaced the drinking fountain and the water supply lines.  The water to the fountain will remain turned off until the city can return to test the water again next week. 

I want to emphasize that we have clean, safe drinking water in your child’s school.  

For any questions please contact Dr. James Novak, Chief Business Officer of PAUSD at


Ms. Amanda Boyce


Our sites have permission to experiment and pilot approaches designed to reduce the amount of homework required of students.  In the short term, inconsistency in practices is likely and predictable. Early adopters of a new philosophy may introduce practices that vary from traditional mentalities regarding the use of homework. While inconsistencies are typically not advisable, it is important to allow space for experimentation and identification of best practices within our teaching force. We will bring reports and presentations to future Board meetings for discussion and feedback to inform decisions about policies and practice. 


I have asked the Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) division to break our testing results into a series of reports. A single summative report is difficult to digest and less likely to inform specific decisions. Smaller reports with focus and clarity are nimble and can be responsive to a different level of inquiry. The first report will compare participation rates between the last two years. We will explore the student performance data from the macro to micro level over the next several months.


After reviewing the LCAP plan from last year, I have asked the staff to look for ways to streamline the document to narrow our focus in ways that powerfully impact our learners in greatest need of additional supports and services. The comprehensive document created last year represented pride in ownership, fiscal accountability, and a desire to go beyond the required scope of the plan required as a condition of receiving Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars. The impact of targeted efforts may be more easily understood and measured with a decrease in supplemental and superfluous information. 


The first of the four Cubberley community meetings was held last night at the Cubberley Pavilion. Over 200 community members were signed up to attend and the room was packed. The goals for the evening were to identify ways that Cubberley could better serve community needs in the future, and to gather initial thoughts about site use, building size and massing on site. Each activity was 40 minutes long and involved great amounts of group participation.

Secondary Education


The California Department of Education (CDE) launched a video contest entitled, "For Kids, By Kids," in which teams from schools across the state were challenged to come up with creative and engaging ways to encourage students to "do their best on the [CAASPP] test." Following guidelines from the CDE, 28 teams from across the state submitted entries. Those entries, which were narrowed down to six, three from middle school and three from high school, included one of the productions from Gunn High School. This project was led by AAR, Curriculum and Career Education Teacher On Special Assignment (TOSA), Ed Corpuz. Congratulations to Ed and his students!

Let’s join forces and vote for the Gunn Video! Only one vote per email address is accepted. Please, help us help our students win! Feel free to share the link to get more votes.

Elementary Education


This week, 3rd-5th grade teachers at Nixon Elementary School worked with their Teacher’s College staff developer in reader’s and writer’s workshop.  Each grade level engaged in two hours of lab work, planning, teaching, observing and debriefing lessons in literacy. 


This last Wednesday, all the 5th and 6th grade teachers in the District met at Greene Middle School to discuss 5th/6th grade articulation. The session started with the elementary TOSAs sharing the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) that elementary teachers use to assess student’s reading level. Sixth grade teachers had the opportunity to ask their students’ 5th grade teacher questions about their elementary experience to learn more about their academic and social emotional highlights. 


This Saturday, in Oakland, the elementary TOSAs and two reading specialists are representing PAUSD at a Teacher’s College Weekend Institute in the area of phonics instruction. These new phonics units focus on phonemic and phonological development in the primary grades.


PAUSD’s Induction Program, which support teachers in their first two years in the profession, is up and running for the year. Our consortium, run by PAUSD, also supports teachers in Mountain View-Los Altos and Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School Districts. This year we have a total of 65 participating teachers across the three districts, and 10 mentors providing support. Our mentors engage in monthly professional learning meetings. This month the mentors coached each other to set their own goals for the year. The group reflected on how the experience helped them gain empathy for the work their teachers are engaging in, and a deeper understanding of the process for setting SMART goals (SMART stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). Additionally, the group reviewed data from last year’s exit survey to refine how they will approach setting goals with the teachers they are supporting.


All teachers in their first two years in PAUSD attend a series of workshops focused on equity in education. This year the workshop series kicked off with a full day session in September. First year participants spent the morning with Milton Reynolds, an outside facilitator, focusing on the historical roots of inequity in education. They also learned about PAUSD history and current District data. Second year participants rode the VTP bus, engaged with PAUSD data, and engaged in conversation about relationships, types of learners, and equity in the classroom. Participants will now select a follow-up workshop from a menu of options that includes topics such as classroom management, special education, supporting English Learners, and understanding and implementing accommodations, among others.

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


The Palo Alto Safe Routes to School collaboratively donated 18 bicycles for kids between 5-8 years old. Nine of the bicycles will be red, and the remaining 9 will be light blue. The bicycles are gender neutral and anatomically the same. PAUSD Equity Coordinator, a new member to the City School Traffic Safety Committee, was present to facilitate the gracious offer from Coordinator Ms. Rosie Mesterhazy of the Palo Alto Safe Routes to School, Office of Transportation.


Every October, individuals from the across the nation and around the world unite in a campaign to keep all youth safe from bullying. This year marks the sixth anniversary of PAUSD’s participation in Unity Day, which is a bullying prevention day focused on promoting kindness, acceptance and inclusion. School sites will host a variety of creative and engaging activities to bring the Unity Day themes to life for their communities. PAUSD elementary and middle schools will celebrate Unity Day on or around Wednesday, October 24. The high schools will hold events the week of October 29 following their Homecoming Celebrations.


Wellness and Support Services staff joined Santa Clara County districts and sexual health education providers at Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Comprehensive Sexual Health Education Network Meeting on September 26. Participants learned about most recent comprehensive sexual health education resources, and collaborated on best practices for implementing the California Healthy Youth Act. Topics included: healthy relationships, preventing dating violence, sexual misconduct prevention, bullying prevention, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning (LGBTQQ) inclusivity, minor consent, and accommodating students with special needs. Staff also discussed lessons learned and upcoming sexual health education training opportunities.

Business Services


Dr. Novak presented budget information to the negotiating teams for Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) and California School Employees Association (CSEA). The teams reviewed budget information for the current year, as well as projections for the upcoming years. Everyone agreed that the more information the employee groups have about the PAUSD budget, the better.


Earlier this month, the District received a Williams Complaint from the Palo Alto High School English Department teachers. There are several items listed as concerns about the facility conditions at their school. District staff has been working to address each of the concerns in the complaint. A response will be provided to the teachers within the 45 days required by the Education Code.

Technology Department


On Monday, September 24, the Technology Services and Academic Support departments proudly presented an informational session for parents about technology in PAUSD. Fifty-seven parents and guardians attended this event to learn about Infinite Campus, Schoology, and other topics such as family tips of technology use in the home. This event was part of the 2018-19 PAUSD Parent & Guardian Technology Sessions, eight evening meetings over the course of the school year that explore issues of technology and education for home and school.

In addition, stay tuned for news on changes to the login process that make it easier for parents and guardians to access Infinite Campus and Schoology!

Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA)


On October 2, the public will have access to the 2017–18 CAASPP reports on the California Department of Education (CDE) CAASPP Reporting webpage. The webpage will display the state-, county-, District-, and school-level CAASPP reports for the spring 2018 administrations. Why the delay? As part of the review of the 2017-18 Smarter Balanced statewide assessment data, the CDE and its contractor, Educational Testing Service, identified a single 8th grade mathematics item that was inadvertently included in the 2017-18 assessment. The majority of 8th grade student results are not affected. For those that were affected, the CDE estimates an average increase of about 3 scale score points in mathematics. Updated Student Score Reports for affected students, as well as an updated District student result file, is expected to become available sometime in October. The delayed Student Score Reports will be mailed to families as soon as they are received by PAUSD. The rescore process will not result in any student receiving a lower score than previously reported, and does not impact any other grades or content areas. This delay will not impact the release of the fall 2018 CA Dashboard, which is scheduled for early December.


In accordance with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan, participation rates will be factored into the Academic Indicator and reported on the 2018 fall release of the CA Dashboard. For schools and student groups that did not participate at 95%, the number of students needed to bring the school and/or student group up to 95% shall be included. The adopted methodology for the participation rate will be calculated automatically and reported through the Academic Indicator:

  • Calculate the percentage points that the school or student group is below the 95 percent participation rate target (Smarter Balanced and the California Alternate Assessments)
  • Reduce the Distance from Standard (DFS) by one quarter of that number
  • Example: 30% participation rate in grade 11; 65 points short of the participation rate target of 95%; school’s Distance From Standard (DFS) will be reduced by 16.25 points (.25 X 65 points)

To match state reporting practices that characterize student achievement as “distance from level 3,” REA has begun work on a database of all student CAASPP testing in the District. With CAASPP in place for four years, the Research team will be able to construct student growth models for all students that will also allow us to examine the effects of academic intervention over time.


The REA Department presented at the year’s first meeting of the LGBTQQ Council. In planning activities for the coming year, REA will again partner with Student Wellness Services to conduct student-driven data conversations and outreach projects at the secondary school sites. Last year, both Paly and Gunn’s student leadership groups expressed interest in opportunities to learn about recent student data, including the California Healthy Kids Survey from October 2017 and PAUSD Title IX related data. This year, REA and Wellness and Support Services will continue this commitment to the high schools, and extend it to the middle schools.

The Research team is on Twitter!