September 7, 2018

Superintendent’s Office


The Board of Education asked staff to address a few areas for future agendas. We will now post attorney expenses monthly as an information item spreadsheet with running totals. The report will run from July 1 through June 30 of each year. As a general rule, the expense report is received and approved roughly two months after services are rendered. For that reason, the first report will only contain the July billing.

We have created an easier way to track items. Agenda items will now fall into four main categories (Consent, Action, Discussion, and Information). This will clearly delineate the difference between items presented for potential action and those designed for discussion. Consent items will continue to appear only once on an agenda and are considered routine in nature.


This is the 125th year anniversary for PAUSD. I am unaware of any previous planning to recognize this milestone. I would be interested in hearing suggestions.


Addison Elementary School has 58 employees. The City of Palo Alto has allowed PAUSD to purchase 37 parking permits through March of this year. The outgoing Chief Transportation Officer informed our principal that purchased parking permits will be reduced to 10 for Addison employees beginning March of 2019. The Addison parking lot has space for 12 vehicles. If we cannot resolve this issue, Addison staff members will park several blocks away in areas currently designated as “blue” not currently enforcing parking permits. This, of course, is not a guarantee that the “blue” areas will not become “green” areas in the future.


Stanford University has created a website dedicated to sharing their perspective of a proposed General Use Permit (GUP) to increase campus housing. The website includes a professional video including their perceived areas of “great importance” to Stanford University and the community in this process. The video highlights:

  • Affordable housing
  • Transportation management
  • Clean air and water consumption
  • Sustainability

The GUP is described by Stanford as a plan for “increment development” in the video. There is no mention of PAUSD or our students. We currently do not have a page dedicated to the Stanford GUP. It may be something for us to consider as an informational tool for our families in the near future. 

As a reminder, the Stanford GUP would result in additional students exempt from the same property taxes that fund our schools. The impact of this exemption without mitigation is a lower average per pupil allocation for all students. Our historic relationship with Stanford University is clearly a benefit for our students. Nothing has changed in that regard. 


We received concerns from neighbors near Nixon Elementary School regarding rodents in their yards near our school fence line. PAUSD is responsible for a small portion of their backyards. Our team has thinned out vegetation and removed the rodents.


We are still working through some portions of our MOU with PAPD. It is unlikely, although possible, that we will have an agenda item prepared for September 25. We were also recently informed that PAPD will begin using body cameras. PAUSD and PAPD are discussing the logistics of Resource Officers or responding officers using body cameras on our sites. At this point, Resource Officers are not wearing the cameras on our campuses. This topic has complexity and will require some time to reach agreement.


In the past, mass communications have been routinely sent out to mixed audiences. I am trying to separate messages to address the target audience. A message to parents may not be appropriate for students and vice versa.  As an example, I sent the message below to all secondary students today:

Dear PAUSD Students,

My name is Don Austin and I am your new Superintendent of Schools.  I have recently moved to Palo Alto from Huntington Beach in Southern California.  You will see me often on your campuses and I would encourage you to say hello.  There is nothing I enjoy more than meeting students and hearing about their experiences.

I plan to write directly to our students once or twice per month.  The messages will be designed specifically with you as the target audience.  I also want to hear from you about issues of importance from your perspective.  You don’t have to wait for a survey or formal invitation to share your thoughts and opinions.  My email address is

Today, I want to spend my time discussing the importance of kindness and civility.  I understand that our schools are rigorous and many of you have ambitious plans regarding your future.  It is my experience that kindness and civility will not get in the way of your aspirations.  In fact, I am confident that kindness and civility are cornerstones for a successful and meaningful life.

Kindness to others is free.  It can be as easy as a “hello” in the hallway, opening a door for someone, or returning a lost object.  When we all make efforts to default to kindness in all situations, it is more likely to make us all better.  Likewise, civility is an offshoot of kindness.  Through civility, we can disagree and compromise without disparaging others.  It is possible for two people to see the same thing through different lenses and perspectives.  Civility begins with assuming the best intentions of others and respecting their viewpoints.  Ultimately, there are times when we may disagree with another person.  When civility prevails, these disagreements are less likely to hurt feelings or damage relationships.

Everyone makes mistakes and it is impossible to be perfect in every interaction.  I would ask that we all try to be kind to each other and champion civility in our daily lives.  If we misstep along the way, let’s try to reflect and improve.  It’s a journey!


Dr. Austin   

Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA)

REA and the elementary TOSA team are supporting all 13 PK-5 schools with using end-of-year and beginning-of-year assessment data to identify students for Tier 2 literacy and math intervention, set goals for the first intervention round, and monitor student progress in the Response to Intervention (RTI) Monitoring Tool. This is the third year all schools are using this tool, and improvements include partnering with reading specialists to create a set of Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-based skills to target in reading intervention, focusing on 6-10 week intervention rounds, recording dosage, and recording next steps.

Six elementary sites are also using a Multi-Tiered System of Supports/Instructional Support Team (MTSS/IST) Google Form System to align Tier 1 classroom instruction and Tier 2 intervention practices and track student progress.

This year, the updated Naviance college readiness platform will be fully explored in an effort to better support students and parents in academic, college and career planning. REA will be working with students, families, administrators and counselors from both Paly and Gunn to better utilize Naviance as a planning tool for meeting the UC/CSU A-G requirements, standardized test prep (ACT/SAT), as well as other components of the California Department of Education’s college readiness index. Additionally, the District is looking at how to utilize Naviance to inform students and families about the wide range and fit of post high school and funding options available. The annual Counselor Retreat was used to understand the changes to Naviance and orient with the enhanced features and resources available to staff, students, and parents.

Piggybacking on work for the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and the employee climate survey, REA has been speaking with other Santa Clara agencies exploring the use of external expertise as part of their change management efforts. Changes in administrative architecture have highlighted opportunities for better alignment of staffing with priorities identified in LCAP goals and by the CA School Dashboard.

The Research team is on Twitter!

Business Services


Staff provided a budget update to the Board on Tuesday. The report indicated the preliminary property tax revenue data for 2018-19 will be revised downwards. Staff has now received updated numbers from the County Controller’s Office. The updated estimate for 2018-19 shows a growth of 6.42% (instead of 6.88%) over 2017-18. This revenue projection is $794,000 lower than the preliminary estimate. With this change, the net increase to the 2018-19 fund balance is now estimated at about $2 million (instead of $2.8 million). Staff will revise the budget report accordingly for Board action on September 25, 2018.


Our Transportation Department transports special education students, Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP) students, and also operates two paid bus routes. For more information on the two paid bus routes, please check the PAUSD’s Transportation page.

The J Route buses students from the Stanford West area and currently has 118 students riding to Nixon, Fletcher, and Gunn. There is a total of 18 students on the waitlist. In order to accommodate the waitlist, Route Z has been amended to include two bus stops in the Stanford West area. Six students have opted to ride Route Z as a temporary alternative. Route Z stops pick up approximately 25 minutes earlier.

Route Z buses students from the Los Altos Hills area to Nixon, Fletcher and Gunn; there are a total of 23 students riding on this route. 


The Student Nutrition Services Department shared the attached first newsletter of the 2018-19 school year.

One of the upcoming events for Student Nutrition Services in October is the Annual Tasting Week featuring the A-Z Salad Bars. Students will have the opportunity to try fruits and vegetables representing every letter of the alphabet.

In November, it’s election time, and students will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite entrees and share the entrées they would like to see added to our menu selection.

Check out some of the great things that are happening in Student Nutrition Services.

Human Resources


Unlike certificated onboarding, which typically occurs during late July and early August, classified hiring can take place any time during the work year. Group new-hire orientations are scheduled 2-3 times per month. New hires are expected to participate in a session within the first two weeks of their employment with the District. One of the reasons for the timeliness is the month-end deadline to add staff onto benefits plans.  During the group orientations, with up to eight participants, a PowerPoint presentation covers basic information on professional standards, payroll timelines, leaves, medical benefits, work schedules, staff intranet resources, and California School Employees Association (CSEA) contacts. The presentation is followed by forms, questions, and employee badge production. Site administrators allow new employees release time from their assignments to attend this mandatory activity, which takes 45 minutes. 


Abigail Hansen joined the District on September 4 as a full-time Title IX Investigator.   Before joining PAUSD, she was a Compliance Assistant for the Office for Equal Opportunity at Washington State University. Ms. Hansen holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and has experience in Title IX, legal compliance, policy recommendations and development, and legal research. She will be supporting the Title IX Coordinator in investigating allegations related to anti-discrimination legislation and state law. Ms. Hansen will also assist the review of District policies and procedures to further institutional civil rights under Title IX.


In August, the Title IX Office trained all staff at Gunn and Palo Alto High Schools and JL Stanford Middle School. So far this month, training has also been done for all staff at Greene Middle School, and Duveneck and Hays Elementary Schools. Upcoming trainings will cover all remaining work sites - the schedule and link to sign up are posted on the department’s landing page. Our Title IX Coordinator visits each site to lead this one-hour, mandatory training. This week, an enhanced session will be given for all wellness staff who deal with confidential student matters. These positions include psychologists, school counselors, district nurses, health technicians, and all health services personnel and contractors. 


On August 21, the Board approved our student teaching and intern agreements with 28 higher learning institutions. Human Resources was then able to sign and return updated agreements to universities. Some local schools include Stanford, San Jose State, Notre Dame de Namur, and San Francisco State. Student teachers from these colleges and universities are matched up with veteran, tenured teachers in the District. The classroom experience and mentoring are invaluable to the practicum requirement of credentialing programs. Placements usually last for a semester, and the process begins when placement offices reach out to Human Resources and site administrators for approval. All student teachers and interns must pass background checks, have Tuberculosis (TB) clearance, and sign confidentiality agreements before they may begin their teaching experience in PAUSD classrooms.

Technology Department


It was approximately 11 months ago that we implemented a security policy that required staff members to change passwords every 12 months. We are approaching to this anniversary, which means many individuals will be prompted to change their password in the coming weeks. If you would like to be proactive and complete this task in advance, instructions are available on our website.


You are invited to attend the English Learners (EL) family tech night. Topics will include Infinite Campus (IC) and Schoology, one-to-one Chromebook program at the high schools, and tech tips for home. Free childcare, snacks, and translation in both Spanish and Mandarin will be available. The event begins at 6:00 p.m. in the Board Room at the District Office.

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


The Office of Strategic Initiatives and Operations will begin the recruitment of District staff and community stakeholders for the formulation of the Family Engagement Advisory Committee (FEAC). This group will have a focus on the following areas of impact:

  • Identify the vision and mission of Family Engagement Specialists (FES) program, Districtwide
  • Understand and monitor the goals and actions of the PAUSD Equity Plan, specifically relating to the FES program
  • Create annual surveys to address service delivery, connectedness, and overall school and community satisfaction
  • Analyze and have a strong understanding of the PAUSD’s LCAP goals, actions, and resource allocations across all programs and departments
  • Provide site and Districtwide recommendations regarding all issues concerning culture and climate
  • Analyze specific site, District, and county data on a continual basis to identify trends and provide targeted professional learning and/or resources to identified groups
  • Through work with stakeholders, create and implement a Districtwide FES toolkit that leverages existing resources and supports that will serve schools and families

The official calendar of events will be published on the PAUSD website, once solidified and approved by the advisory committee.


FES has hit the ground running with outreach efforts that are intended to reach families in need of support. The specialists support multiple sites throughout the school week. Baseline services that all FES staff provide are the following:

  • Spanish and Mandarin translation and interpretation of important school information
  • Translation of emails or making phone calls for specific families as requested by individual teachers (families have shown great appreciation when they have been informed that homework is missing, and or how great their student(s) are doing in their classes)
  • Help scheduling appointments for Individualized Education Program (IEPs) (not 504 Plans), grade level conferences, or parent meetings with teachers
  • Help families with school-related resources (e.g. iConnect, after school programs, school-related forms, immigration, etc.)
  • Use of Blackboard to send emails, "robo" calls, and/or texts to families informing them of important school, District Office, and community events
  • Contact parents regarding information or news about different programs and offerings, such as AVID, DreamCatchers, summer school, and Special Education

As we continue to refine the Districtwide scope of the FES work, the staff and program shall remain dedicated to providing exemplary service to all. For more information about who your FES staff person is, please contact your local principal, school office manager or District Equity Coordinator, Keith Wheeler.     


The District has updated the language in the attendance letters to provide consistent communication and better partner with families in addressing obstacles to regular attendance. The updated letters are aligned with California Education Code, Board Policy, and recent efforts in California to address chronic absenteeism which is absenteeism for any reason for 10% or more of the school year. Miriam Stevenson and Lissette Moore-Guerra both from Wellness and Support Services, and Joshua Hung from the Information Technology Department, will be working with secretaries, attendance clerks, and support staff to utilize the new letters and support families.


On September 7, the secondary school counselors participated in their annual retreat. They collaborated on a wide range of topics including Social Emotional Learning (SEL), 504s, Home Hospital Instruction, Naviance (the academic, college and career planning tool), and supporting students with Title IX-related issues. In collaboration with Chris Kolar from the Research Evaluation and Assessment Department, the counselors also reviewed data related to student needs and services from the 2017-18 school year. This included the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) for their individual schools. CHKS is the largest statewide survey of students’ wellness-related behaviors including protective assets, risk factors, connection, coping, and school climate engagement. It is administered every other year to students in grades 5, 7, 9 and 11.  

The Wellness and Support Services Department hosted a community resource fair as a part of the retreat. PAUSD school counselors were connected with District, school and community resources in order to support students and families. Many thanks to our community attendees from Acknowledge Alliance, Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS), Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), El Camino Hospital’s After-School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education (ASPIRE), Children’s Health Council, Community Health Awareness Council: Well Within Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention (CHAC), Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY), Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD), Project Safety Net (PSN), Siren Bay Area, and Youth Community Service (YCS).


The Wellness and Support Services Department, in partnership with the Research Evaluation and Assessment Department and the PTA Council, will be presenting on the CalSchls Reports from the 2017-18 school year to PTA SEL school representatives. Attendees will examine the CHKS school and District results, have time to identify and prioritize needs that can lead to future school climate improvement work, and inform the LCAP.


The Student Wellness Council is kicking off its meetings for the year next Wednesday, September 12 at 4:00 p.m. in the Aspen Room at the District Office. The agenda for this meeting includes updates on attendance letters, SEL, Vaping, Board Policies 5030 - Student Wellness and 5141.52 - Suicide Prevention, WiFi awareness, methods for engaging students with wellness data including CalSchls Reports from 2017-18, and community requests for crossing guard.

All who are interested are welcome to participate. The Student Wellness Council is an open group for community members who represent both the school and the school community: 1) to provide supports on aspects of school wellness services to promote the link between health, safety, and academics; and 2) to assist schools as needed in the areas of student and staff physical, social, and emotional health. The council promotes practices in school settings in which students, staff, parents, and the community work collaboratively to ensure that all students and staff are emotionally and physically healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.


The nursing team will be holding their annual Training for Diabetic Emergencies on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at the Science Resource Center. Drop-in hours for employees will be from 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. The training takes approximately 20 minutes and teaches employees how to recognize and respond to a low blood glucose emergency. Individual trainings are scheduled at sites on an as-needed basis for staff.

Secondary Education


The Academic Supports Department is responsible for a variety of programs associated with student success.  Several of the programs have launched the new year with invigorated efforts to provide the best resources available to our students.  Here is a brief overview of shifts for three specific programs:

  1. ACADEMIC ENHANCEMENT: Middle school Academic Enhancement classes have updated the Read 180 curriculum from Read 180 Next Generation to Read 180 Universal. “Read 180 Universal is the leading blended learning solution that accelerates learning for struggling readers by merging the latest research in brain science, adaptive technology, professional development, and knowledge for school and life.” The District director will visit sites weekly to ensure that the program has a smooth transition and that teachers feel supported with the new standards-aligned curriculum.
  2. Advancement via Individual DeterminatioN (AVID): All five secondary schools sent teams to the AVID Summer Institute to reinvigorate the programs and to create site plans that reflect the use of multiple strategies that lead students to success. The AVID class is a great tool for students to seek out resources they need for success, learn how to be their own advocate, and become empowered in their own learning. There are currently AVID classes at all sites, and they are off to a great start.
  3. English Learner Program: PAUSD middle schools will be participating in Access for All through the Santa Clara County Office of Education, "A dynamic professional learning system empowering districts and school sites with the knowledge and strategies to enable ALL students to succeed in a global society." A team of ten teachers will attend a series of workshops, over the course of two years, that address how to embed best practices for English Learners through all content areas. The first session is this month.


Each of the middle schools is hosting a 6th grade parents’ math information night. These sessions are focused on preparing sixth-grade parents and their students for the laning choices at the end of grade 6. The presentations also preview laning choices from grades 7-12. To see the presentation, please visit the PAUSD Secondary Math Placement page. In addition, we will be hosting two sessions about the PAUSD Math Program at the District Office; one on Tuesday, October 16, 2018, and one on Wednesday, January 16, 2019.


The newly formed High School Computer Science Committee held its first meeting on August 29. The foremost focus of the committee’s work is to create access and equity to computer science for ALL students. Members will explore ways to integrate computer science into existing common coursework, and to create an attractive, but shorter (one semester), computer science offering. Ideas generated include creating “tastes” of computer science throughout the 2018-19 school year, to be designed with input from Gunn and Palo Alto High School students. In addition, the group plans to work with steering committees to brainstorm and explore points of integration within their discipline. Elementary and Middle School Computer Science meetings are scheduled. We anticipate that discussions and outcomes will be both practical and inventive, as we expand upon previously piloted work.

Elementary Education


The Elementary Reading Specialists met this week to discuss the implementation of the newly published Units of Study in Phonics by Teachers College for grades K and 1 (grade 2 forthcoming). These units were designed specifically to be used in conjunction with the Reading and Writing Units of Study. The Reading Specialists each have a set of these units. The lessons are written in a systematic sequence based on current research of the most effective methods of phonics instruction. Lessons are engaging and multi-modal, not only to support many different learning styles, but also to make them fun for both students and teachers. Each lesson gives students a solid understanding of important phonics principles, as well as how to use this knowledge when they are reading and writing, not just during the study of phonics. The Reading Specialists discussed the various ways they have already supported or plan to support teachers who are interested in implementing the Phonics Units of Study this year. The Reading Specialists meetings are facilitated by Kathleen Bransfield and Hilary Mark, with the support of the elementary TOSAs and every Reading Specialist in the District. Having the District fund a full-time Reading Specialist at each site this year has increased the opportunity for collaboration and alignment of best practices across all sites.


The Elementary TOSAs met with the Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) Department to discuss a support plan for elementary teachers in regards to the Creativity Project. AAR partnered with the Elementary Department to fund and manage "Creativity Carts" for 12 out of 13 (including Greendell) elementary schools. These mobile carts were developed to encourage and engage students in projects that promote the cultivation of skills in respect to design, research, and the development of self-advocacy by providing equitable access to a variety of tactile materials. The team decided to focus efforts on supporting creativity projects with Buddy classes this year. It fits with the AAR goals of creativity and mentoring. The Elementary TOSAs will partner with AAR again in the upcoming weeks to continue collaborating on this initiative.


With the start of each school year comes football season. Most high schools sponsor a marching band to support their teams. PAUSD sponsors “Pep Bands” at all home games. The goal of each Pep Band is to also support the teams and add to the overall spirit of the game. A traditional marching band requires hundreds of hours of planning and practice, a team of coaches to teach drills and design a show, and bi-monthly travel to competitions held throughout the state. These “marching machines” require a budget of $150,000 for a school the size of Gunn or Paly, in addition to hundreds of hours of outside practice for students. In lieu of marching band, PAUSD’s music program is grounded in rigorous performance expectations and musical literacy for all bands, orchestras, and choirs. Our programs offer a balance of musical rigor, community building, and opportunities for excelling students to participate in state and national auditioned ensembles.

Our concerts are free and open to the public. To see our schedule, check the PAUSD Performing Arts Calendar – K-12.